Scottish rockers Playing With Punkarella have had an eventful existence in terms of comings and goings, but seem to have settled into life as a rock duo. The current line-up of multi-instrumentalist Lee Blades and vocalist Kimberley Thomson cracked on with things as a duo a few years ago and have remained that way since, give or take additional members when required for live shows.
The Fife duo released latest EP As Low As We Are, We Can Only Rise last week, which epitomises their trademark high energy, engaging sound, which Kim describes as “heavy rock with a lot of melody and emotion.”
The EP kicks off in impressive style with opening track Neyrissa, with Kim’s engaging vocals hanging over chugging guitar riffs then flowing into big singalong verses supported by more laid-back guitars.
It gets a bit darker on Blonde Hair and Bandaged Hands, which begins with heavy chugging guitar chords that continue under a little guitar riff. The chords continue into a verse dominated by Kim’s engaging vocals, leading into a chorus of higher pitched vocals then dropping into the previous riff. Half-way through it drops into a low bass solo, then bursts of guitars and building drums gradually build the atmosphere towards a return of the opening riff, this time accompanied by awesomely dark, atmospheric layered vocals. That gives way to a guitar solo, which leads into a final blast of verse and chorus dominated by Kim’s big vocals.
The pace drops down a little for Allure, before the more edgy The Printer’s Devil, which sees more echoey vocals alongside chugging guitar chords and gradually builds towards a big ending of Kim’s vocals blasting over a big rocky backdrop.
The EP goes out in epic fashion with final track Kill Me Kate Pt I – interestingly following Kill Me Kate Pt II and Kill Me Kate Pt III from 2015 – which lasts over seven and a half minutes. It opens with a high-pitched guitar riff that drops into big chords that continue into a first verse, then a darting guitar riff underneath. Big guitar chords jump in, then palm-muted chords as the vocals return, then another cool fast-paced riff comes in underneath lyrics “Please kill me.” That riff returns in a fun building section with increasingly heavy drums supporting it, then drops down into a light floaty guitar riff that gives us time for breath.
Kim’s laid-back vocals kick in over the top, with a repeating riff building the tension then a big drum roll brings in a burst of guitars and more intense vocals and more repeats of the line “Please kill me, Kill me Kate.” It’s a pretty awesome ending to a really impressive EP.
The duo’s summary of their influences alone offers a tantalising prospect, fusing Lee’s love for bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Coheed and Cambria and Tool, with Kim in particular drawing inspiration from The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan. As Kim explains: “I listened to No Need to Argue a lot when I was younger and it wasn’t until starting with PWP that people told me I sounded like her. That’s when I noticed she was a huge influence on my style of singing.”
And Lee adds: “We draw a lot of influences from various genres and try to incorporate a lot of styles in our songs. We try not to limit ourselves to one particular sound and we’re always writing new songs so if you do like us we’ll always have something different and new for you. A lot of our lyrics are on the darker side. A lot of stories about less than happy subjects but we do try and have some positive topics from time to time.”
The EP only came out last week, while they only released previous EP Vessels in 2017, but the duo don’t hang around and are already working on recording a new album that they hope will be finished before the end of the year.