We’ve exhausted every witty comment we can possibly make about Sadness and Complete Disappointment’s band name – they both meet, and don’t meet, the expectation in a myriad of ways. Their tunes might be gloomy, and their conception might be the fruit of every challenge the music industry can throw at them, but mixed up in all the misery there’s an absolute force of good. We sat down with vocalist and drummer Esme Baker to get to know S&CD after they were crowned our band of the month, prior to the release of their dark, delightful EP Fun.
First thing we need to know: how would Esme introduce S&CD, as a band? “One of our friends called it Kate Bush-core! Or just… Sadness and Complete Disappointment… We’ve started calling it misery grunge which is good… slut dropping the choir soloist?” What a selection of descriptors. We’re definitely into it.
How did S&CD arrive at their hypnotically gloomy sound? Effortlessly! “The thing about this band is that more than ever, we’ve not had something we want to go for,” Esme tells us. “We’ve had a lot of negative experiences, and I was never self-assured. I’m not self-assured now, day in day out I have that anchor of self-doubt holding me back from the things I wanna do and the person that I wanna be.
“When I was younger that meant I would just try and imitate music I like, I would listen to music and think, they are who I wanna be. So rather than developing a sound of my own, I started doing that, and everyone who I was working with was doing the same thing, it was very analytical. But this time, we’ve maybe got nothing to lose. We’ve done this before, we’ve been let down before, there’s not anything anyone can do to hurt us now! SO it’s really liberating, so when it comes to writing music, whatever just falls out, we’re gonna run with. I used to try and put on someone else’s voice when I sang! But now we’re just gonna make the sounds that we’re feeling.
We just sat down, brought ideas, jammed a sound out altogether and it sounds natural! There’s nothing fake or manufactured or artificial about what we’re doing. And I think a huge amount of it as well has come from when we grew up, a lot of Portishead, a lot of nirvana, we were very lucky to be just on the tail end of grunge, trip hop, this very sexy but also kind of despairing.”
There’s a very distinct kind of theatricality to S&CD’s music – was this something they were conscious of? “We never aimed for it as a band!” says Esme, “but when you meet the three of us, we’re very similar people and we’re very dramatic in different ways. Kit’s a guitarist, and they’re dramatic in a really funny way. We work together as well [as tattoo artists], and me and one of my apprentices had to have quite a serious chat and I was like OK I’m not a disciplinarian so I asked everyone to be serious so I could have this serious talk, and Kit ran in cos it was a slightly hot day and started cutting their jeans in half in the middle of the room, shouting why is no one helping me! I’m boiling! Like oh my god they don’t even realise that they’ve had this massive reaction to ‘oh I’m slightly warm today’, I had to completely put my chat on hold…
“Beka is not dramatic in an oh poor me kind of way, but Beka is AMAZING in front of a camera, the most amazing performer, they’re really good at styling themselves, a really good model, actress, so they have that performer element to their personality anyway. And I think as you will have noticed. I can talk. About anything. For EVER. So all three of us have our ways we like to perform. But I think we’d all class ourselves as shy people as well!”
Getting the drama and the energy across in lockdown has, of course, been difficult. “It’s been completely soul destroying. It sounds so dramatic saying that cos I also know the pain that people are in. You lose so much not being able to be in a room with someone and say these things, we can’t just make a cool beat and jam to it, speaking on the phone is not good enough! We had the writing ready before lockdown but I don’t think we finished it in a way that any of us would have liked. We recorded it by sending bits over and there wasn’t any natural progression –it’s not bad, cos in the end we did achieve something this year, but it is sad at the same time cos I know it could be so much better if we’d had that chance to feel it together.”
Lockdown did pave the way for a new kind of creativity, though, in the form of S&CD’s striking music videos. “Getting the meaning of a song across is so so important to me,” Esme says. “I’m always trying to write about stuff that I think other people will connect to and understand and things that I would have liked to hear ten years ago. So the videos are just another way of getting more depth to the story. And in lockdown, we’ve had to become content creators! So we’ve had to actively think, what can we put on a tiny screen for people when you can’t get in the room and dance around and get sweaty with us, which is what we really want?”
Thoughts of that beautiful, sweaty, wild gig are almost close enough to touch, with S&CD just having announced an appearance at Ghost Road Fest across London and Leeds in November. “HONESTLY! Ahhh, my mouth has just filled up with spit thinking about it.. oooh… aaahh.. ohhh!!” Sounds like we’ve got a treat on the way then? “YES! But I’m nervous about drumming and singing cos I’ve never drummed and sang before on stage but the good thing about being locked in the house for a year is we’ve been practicing like crazy!
“The chances we’ve had to get together and jam on songs we’ve already got, sometimes we all finish and our eyes are like oh my GOD did we just play that did we just do that – maybe it’s because we’re not getting to do it so much that it feels so good? But what we’re working on next, we’ve got future plans, and when we last got together and played some of the music, it’s. Just. SO GOOD. When we’re doing it live, like some of the bits that you can’t really do on a recording cos you do a breakdown, you can’t go anywhere with it, but when we’re with a crowd and we’re feeling it, we will just do this bit for ten minutes.. Any time anyone tells me they like the EP I’m like just wait! Just come and see us live if you get the chance, it’s so much bigger it’s so passionate it’s not nearly as tight as we sound on the recording of course it’s a fucking mess, but it’s the MOST fun and I just can’t wait to be doing it.”
Neither can we! Fun. is out now, and tickets for Ghost Road Fest are available here.