Stitching together a DIY riot | Cryptic Street

Ahead of the launch of their upcoming album Titty Monster, the lead guitarist for local Cryptic Street, Jeanelle Borg, speaks to TEODOR RELJIC about what makes their all-female brand of post-punk tick

Women and sisterhood: “On an international level, the huge revival of female punk bands is inspiring to see”. Photo by Matthew Attard (sponsored by Yuva House of Beauty)
Women and sisterhood: “On an international level, the huge revival of female punk bands is inspiring to see”. Photo by Matthew Attard (sponsored by Yuva House of Beauty)

How would you describe the evolution of Cryptic Street so far, and what would you say have been some of your most important milestones?

Cryptic Street today is very different with regard to line-up, style, image and branding when compared to Cryptic Street when the project started out. If we could sum up the evolution so far, I would describe it as a “roller coaster ride”. Some important milestones since the band started out include winning the Best Newcomer Award in 2012 at the Bay Music Awards, releasing the first EP entitled ‘Stranger’ in 2015, changing the style and line-up in 2016, our first gigging experience abroad in Barcelona in December 2016, recording our debut album ‘Titty Monster’ at Temple Studios in July 2017, and embarking on our first proper tour at the end of 2017 which saw us visit various places in the UK, Spain, and some events in Malta.

Was the desire to form an all-female band a deliberate decision that was always part of your ethos, and if so, was this in reaction to an “imbalance” you perceived in the scene?

We started the band when we were 13 – at that point we were in an all-girls school and we were involved in a school project – therefore, it was definitely unplanned. However, when our ex-drummer and ex-keyboardist left the band, Leona and I, the two remaining original members, really wanted to find a female drummer since Cryptic Street had somehow developed into a project involving women and a sisterhood.

Thankfully, we managed to find Michelle (drummer), and also asked our friend Leanne (bassist) if she wanted to join as an official member. Obviously, there is an imbalance in the scene, however our main aim was to continue working with a dynamic and chemistry that had worked well.

Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming album? How long have you been working on it, and how do you think it crystallises the Cryptic Street sound?

We have been working on the album since late 2016, when Michelle joined the band. Initially, we did not start with the intention to do an album since Michelle was just joining and we were trying out what works and what doesn’t. However, since at that point all of us were going through a rough patch, the various life experiences gave us the drive to write and write. What developed was a style fusing a hint of psychedelia with a riot grrrl punk vibe. Topics revolve around issues such as loneliness, mental health, sexual harassment, the experience of love and loss, and inner and outer conflict and anger.

When we started showcasing the songs and people started describing it as punk, we were initially surprised. However, when we became better acquainted with the history of punk, we realised how the punk revival is very relevant in today’s context. The album definitely shows a development in the sound, as well as an indication of our future direction.

What would you say have been some of the most notable bands and developments within the indie scene in particular?

Internationally, even when we were touring, we noticed a huge revival in punk, as well as the involvement of females in punk bands. It was quite inspiring to witness. Furthermore, it is great to see a lot of bands internationally being DIY and successful – since we are a DIY band this motivates us to push forward and establish ourselves as a band and as a brand.

Speaking more broadly, what do you make of the local music scene? What would you change about it?

The music scene has definitely grown, with music spanning across all genres. It would be cool to see more girls involving themselves in bands, events and festivals. We think this is important to break the glass ceiling. We are trying to push this forward too – in the first party we organised under the name Żiblata Party all of the DJs that took part in the event were female.

Furthermore, we would like to see a better community vibe with regard to the Maltese alternative scene, as well as more opportunities and platforms available for Maltese alternative artists and bands to exhibit their work in international platform – such as SXSW, Great Escape and so on. Other countries have their own platforms at these festivals – why can’t Malta have one? That is the question.

What’s next for you?

We are currently in the middle of preparing for our album launch – which will take place on March 30 at Razzett l-Ahmar in Mosta. Furthermore, we are planning a lot of events in Malta as well as touring abroad. We also partnered up with Trackage Scheme for a crowdfunding campaign. Preparing for an album launch requires a lot of cash - and every euro counts! We are launching a website as well as a new merch line - so keep your eyes pealed for all our projects and events!