You might recognise them from The Mighty Boosh but electropunk act Robots in Disguise have plenty to offer beyond being cool in a television programme, including a feminist anthem! Hayley Foster da Silva joins the party and catches the band for a quick chat
I’ve been a fan of the all-female band Robots in Disguise for at least five years now, ever since I read about them on the feminist friendly website Mookychick as a recommended band to check out. I fell in love with their music the first time I heard it, and immediately got every song I could lay my hands on. The more I found out about the the frontwomen, Sue Denim and Dee Plume, the more I liked them. I started going to their live shows because not only did they make awesome music but they had appeared in The Mighty Boosh and had a fantastic creativity about them that I have yet to see in any other band. The very first show I went to (around 2008) included dancing robots and people dressed in fancy dress outfits. I have gone to as many London-based gigs as I can manage ever since.
The moment I see that Robots in Disguise have announced a show on 10 February in London this year I make sure I don’t lose out. Especially as I have seen the gig falsely advertised as their ‘last ever’ show. Thanks to The F Word, this time I also have the opportunity to meet the band and interview them.
When I get to The Lexington, Fran, Robots in Disguise’s manager (also known as ‘Franager’) greets me and says “I’ve just got to find where they are” and, after a small chat with the very friendly merchandise girl Emily, I’m led across the room and into a tiny room full of people and a very strong waft of herbal tea. There are drawings on the wall and the table is covered in rice cakes and other various treats. I spot Sue Denim and Dee Plume almost immediately sitting on one of the sofas. I introduce myself, getting a handshake from Dee and a friendly hug from Sue, and they make some space for me to sit in-between them on the sofa after complimenting me on my necklace and showing off their just received hand-made initialled clutch bags, made by a fan as presents.
The first question I ask them is about the gig mysteriously being advertised as their ‘final’ gig, curious as to why the promoter would have got that idea. As it turns out it was merely a case of misunderstanding, as they had thought they’d been asked if it was their ‘latest’ gig and it was only when they had a flood of tweets from fans that they even realised what had happened.
“But hey this is a sold out gig… Maybe all our gigs should be our ‘last ever’ gig!” Dee jokes.
I ask about their plans for the year ahead. They explain that they aren’t planning to record together this year but are both bringing out solo records.
When asked about being in an all female band, I’m greeted with cheery laughter, “It’s like being in a never ending hen party!” they exclaim and Dee points out that was the whole point for her: she only ever wanted to be an all girl band after seeing band after band with just men in them. She really wanted to see other women performing. They have noticed themselves that their main fanbase is female, which Dee feels proves that other women were also hungering for people like themselves playing music they could enjoy. They also have the undeniably feminist song ‘Girl’ which is inspired by a feminist textbook about language and lists many of the derogatory terms used for females.
My final question is obvious. I ask if they consider their selves a feminist band and there is absolutely no hesitation, just a unanimous “Yes!”
Making my way as close to the front of the packed venue as I can, the gig has sold out and it shows. Having experienced several Robots in Disguise live shows before, I know that to really make the most of it we need to get as close to the stage as possible.
One great thing about Robots in Disguise is that they change their look fairly often, usually going for some sort of theme in their outfits, which are always fantastic. For tonight’s performance they have black outfits with big white buttons attached. The band are creative and it shows in their fans as well, after seeing just a few of the handmade presents they have been given this evening.
The set starts off with ‘Happiness V Sadness’, the title track from their latest and fourth album (fan funded using PledgeMusic). From the very beginning of the set, the gig is like one big party and they play several other tracks from ‘Happiness V Sadness’ including ‘Chains’. During ‘Lady and the Flies’ they invite fans from the audience to come up and dance with them. Two girls get up and there is some gaffa tape on stage which they willingly play around with.
The songs are not strictly confined to tracks from Happiness Vs Sadness though. There are also crowd pleasers ‘Turn It Up’, ‘DJ’s Got a Gun’, their cover of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ and, of course, their feminist anthem ‘Girl’, with its chorus “G.I.R.L, It’s not a dirty word”. Indeed, it feels like all the girls in the venue (and there are a lot of them) are singing and dancing together and identifying with this song.
For the encore, Robots in Disguise play a blistering version of the angry but very danceable ‘Argument’ complete with crowd surfing over the crowd.
There is no doubt that an almost cult-like fan base for Robots in Disguise exists partially because of their connection with The Mighty Boosh but it is quite surprising that more people, in particular women who identify as feminists, are not familiar with them yet. After all, this is a band that is all female, have songs with feminist lyrics and possess the ‘DIY’ ethic of the riot grrrl movement of the nineties. To top it all off, I personally can’t compare their music to any other band. They are original and unique – combining electro, punk, rock and dance. If this appeals to you, or even if you simply like music you can dance to, I highly recommend you check Robots in Disguise out, and get to a gig. It will no doubt be one hell of a party.
Pictures of the band performing by Hayley Foster da Silva, shared under a creative commons licence. The first shows a close-up of a pink fringed Dee Plume, the second shows both band members onstage, with a red light between them and the third shows Sue Denim with her guitar.