Gorgeous bittersweet euphoric pop of Piroshka hits Sussex

Posted On 21 Dec 2019 at 7:10 pm

Piroshka live at The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea 20.12.19 (pic Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography) (click on pic to enlarge!)


I can remember first hearing about the new ‘supergroup’ Piroshka back in the Spring when they were flagged up in The Great Escape list of acts. It was one of those ‘blimey really’ moments and was most certainly added onto our ‘must see’ gigs fixture. We attended and reviewed their all-too short set at the Sallis Benney Hall in Brighton on 11th May. We were left wanting more……..

Thankfully our thirst for all things Piroshka, would be remedied this evening as we headed off to the east of the county to a venue that we had not frequented before, this being The Piper (formerly The Norman Arms) in St Leonards-on-Sea, which is located off of Warrior Square, which is a short distance from Hastings Pier.

This is a cosy affair for a supergroup and was reflected in the packed attendance that eagerly gathered on the first floor. I should actually have said ‘eventually eagerly gathered’ as the soundchecks were running late and instead of the first act coming on stage at the planned 8:15pm, it was 8:52pm instead. This had a slight knock on effect for the rest of the evening, but did thankfully result in swifter turnarounds of tonight’s three acts and proceedings ended circa 11:25pm.

Upon entering the room, no doubt the very first thing that everyone would have spotted is the lush swirly psychedelic graphics being beamed onto the back wall behind where the acts were going to be performing. Clearly Chris from Innerstrings is in the house! He was on graphics for the Bella Union Records showcase at The Great Escape when we first saw Piroshka perform live. It adds so much to a performance and totally absorbs the crowd into a bands performance. No wonder Innerstrings are popping up more frequently these days.

Eva Katharina and friends live at The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea 20.12.19 (pics Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography) (click on pics to enlarge!)

First up tonight was German born Brighton based Eva Katharina, and her chum, multi instrumentalist Tim Cotterell, who she has recently collaborated with on her 20 minute 5-track Salt-Sand Wave EP.

Eva is a versatile vocalist and writer. She writes, performs and records contemporary repertoire with a range of projects, as well as working as a classical soprano.
After completing a BA (Hons) Professional Musicianship Degree in Vocals at BIMM Brighton in 2005 (where incidentally she now works as a Diploma Vocal Lecturer), Eva studied opera and classical voice and was awarded the Licentiate of Trinity College London (LTCL).
Her compositions and recordings have been released on various labels and have been used for film, TV and video games. She works with opera companies, bands, composers, electronic artists and as a singer/songwriter, session singer and voice over artist.

Clearly class is on offer this evening right from the off as Eva and Tim complete a concise 21 minute 5 song performance. I personally felt that we (the punters) should have all been sitting on the floor cross legged and thus letting Eva’s otherworldly fragile vocals waft over our heads like an atmospheric ‘Bisto gravy’ advert trail. The collection of songs, were often haunting and certainly reminded me of AK Patterson, Emma Gatrill, Kate Bush and Björk.

For the first three songs Eva was on guitar, whilst Tim was on keyboards, then on their fourth number, ‘Snowqueen’, Eva took control of the keys, whilst Tim picked up the violin. This most certainly had a Christmas vibe going on. For their final number, ‘Is It Still Dark?’ they were joined by Piroshka’s drummer (Justin Welch), which was a more uptempo affair.

What was pleasing to note was that Eva had actually swapped order with the other support, Winter Gardens, and yet all four members of the band stood at the front stage right and eagerly watched Eva’s set – good call guys! Nice to support the other acts! Eva’s set came to a close at 9:13pm.

Eva’s setlist reads: ‘White Noise’, ‘All I Feel’, ‘Stop Tonight’, ‘Snowqueen’, ‘Is It Still Dark?’ (with Justin Welch from Piroshka on drums).

Find out more at: www.evakatharina.co.uk

Winter Gardens live at The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea 20.12.19 (pics Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography) (click on pics to enlarge!)

Just eleven minutes later (at 9:24pm) and Austerity Records very own Winter Gardens proudly take to the stage. My word they have certainly have come a long way since we first caught up with them, at only their third ever concert performance back on 12th November 2018 up at The Hope & Ruin in Brighton. They seem so much more confident and polished these days, which could be a reflection of them having performed at ‘Rockaway Beach’ festival with Gary Numan, Echo & The Bunnymen and Maxïmo Park.

Winter Gardens are an East Sussex based quartet that consists of Ananda, Jim, Matt and Alex. We have enjoyed their entertaining sets during 2019, with the first being on 19th January at Love Thy Neighbour’s annual ‘Triptych’ trilogy mini-fest. The idea behind that is to promote 9 up-and-coming acts across three day, where the artists have time to perform decent length sets of their showcase material. Details on the 2020 ‘Triptych’ can be found HERE.

We also reported on Winter Gardens 7” debut single, ‘Coral Bells’ and Austerity Records launch concert, back in February, where they impressively had none other than ‘Dev’ from IDLES on the decks. This was held at the Blackmarket VIP, which is located just along the road from where tonight’s gig is taking place. Read our review HERE.

On every occasion that we have seen them perform, they get a tad better every time. In fact tonight, their dreamy shoegazing soundscapes were most certainly being lapped up by the appreciative crowd during their 34 minute set, which sadly concluded at 9:58pm. I could always enjoy a few more tunes from these guys.

Tonight, during their decent seven song set, they played the lead track from their forthcoming debut EP, which was ‘Tapestry’. It’s set for early 2020 release and has Gaelic style vocal performance courtesy of Ananda. I wonder what colour vinyl this one will be in, as ‘Coral Bells’ was unleashed in a coral colour.

Thankfully they have still maintained their elements of the New Order sound and arguably the set highlight, their wonderful rendition of ‘Pearly Dewdrops Drops’ by The Cocteau Twins, although their final number, ‘Hyacinth’, was a close call, which always sees Jamie building up a sweat as he goes all out action!

Winter Gardens setlist reads: ‘The Honeymooners’, ‘Coral Bells’, ‘Tapestry’, ‘Zigzanny’ , ‘Wonders Bleak’, ‘Pearly-dewdrops’ Drops’, ‘Hyacinth’.

Find out more HERE.

Prior to the headline act’s performance, we were entertained with a 20 minute set over the speakers that included such classics as ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ by Japan and the timeless wonder that is ‘Pocket Calculator’ by Kraftwerk.

Piroshka live at The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea 20.12.19 (pics Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography) (click on pics to enlarge!)

At 10:18pm on came Piroshka, who are former Lush vocalist/guitarist (and former redhead) Miki Berenyi, former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop, Modern English bassist Mick Conroy and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch. On live performances they become a sextet and as per their Sallis Benney performance back in May are joined by Justin’s wife ‘Mew’ on Korg, drum pads and backing vocals and also the striking Sukie Smith on main backing vocals.

The 6-piece were certainly going to entertain the happy punters gathered in the Norman Road venue this evening. We were to be served an enjoyable thirteen tune set which lasted around 70 minutes. However, I suspect that a majority of those attending tonight, were (like myself) blissfully unaware that Piroshka had in fact previously played a secret concert right nearby at the Hastings And St Leonards Sailing Club under the pseudonym ‘MMMJ’ (obviously meaning Miki, ‘Moose’, Mick and Justin) as part of their ‘Sailing Club Sessions’ on 23rd November 2018, where they performed a seven song set. The Brighton & Hove News Music Team covered the following ‘Sailing Club Session’ on 21st December 2018 which featured the Vile Electrodes – read the review HERE.

The history of how ‘MMMJ’ (Piroshka) came together as a solid unit is the accumulation of various factors. Before they lived together and raised a family, Miki and ‘Moose’ were notable figures on the so-called shoegaze scene, while Elastica were Britpop peers. After post-punk pioneers Modern English split for a second time, Mick became a latter day member of Moose, while Justin joined the reformed Lush in 2015. And when Lush required a bassist for what proved to be their final show (in Manchester) in November 2016, Mick stepped in.

From four individual parts, with distinct musical pasts but also overlapping histories, a new unified chapter began. Then after a while, Piroshka headed off to the studio and recorded some demos. Enter Bella Union Records owner and former Cocteau Twin, Simon Raymonde, who was one of the first to hear the demos; he instantly signed the band. Clearly he has an ear for talent and could obviously see the potential here. The culmination of this has resulted in Piroshka’s debut album, (obviously out on Bella Union) titled ‘Brickbat’ – order your copy HERE.

The album is named after the word for a ‘missile’, which nails the record’s heavyweight lyrics if not the music’s gorgeous, bittersweet and euphoric pop. Think of ‘Brickbat’ as a wolf in sheep’s clothing – which suits the name Piroshka, the Hungarian take on the wolf-terrorised fairytale hero ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ – a subtle nod, too, to a certain red hairdo that stood out in the 1990’s Brit-guitar-pop scene.

Piroshka live at The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea 20.12.19 (pics Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography) (click on pics to enlarge!)

Tonight, the ‘Brickbat’ album’s tunes were all performed, but in a different running order, as well as a couple of tunes that I believe are currently unreleased, namely their opener ‘We Told You’ and ‘April’. There was also a surprise cover version at the very end.

Dressed mainly in black, the band crammed on stage and thankfully I had managed to hold my position at the very front all night, and so had a birds-eye of the proceedings.

I noted that Mick’s bass pleasantly dominated the aforementioned opener ‘We Told You’, in a sound akin to PiL’s Jah Wobble. The following number ‘Hated By The Powers’ oozed wonderful jangly guitar work and the crowd accordingly approved with whoops and claps after virtually every delivery.

Track three was the fabulously catchy and yet again jangly ‘Village Of The Damned’, after which vocalist Miki requested to the sound engineer at the back “more vocals in the wedges!” Clearly this an indication of either previously having played a well fought game of Trivial Pursuit or signs of a warm-up drink or two in the dressing room on the stage right – you decide! The wedges being the floor speakers!

‘Blameless’ followed and vocally reminded me of the sadly departed Kirsty MacColl. The unreleased ‘April’ came next and was a tad flat. Maybe a result of “pass me the wine” (‘This Must Be Bedlam’)?. Set rescued by ‘Heartbeats’, which came next, with Justin switching to the electronic drums for the first half of the track and Mew’s keys were thankfully more prominent. It was the turn of ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ next and Sukie was giving her tambourine placed on a pole a good old whacking, and Mew was seriously absorbed in her knobs and keys.

The uplifting drumming led ‘Run For Your Life’ was given a good outing as was the relaxingly dreamy ‘She’s Unreal’, but it was the following number, Everlastingly Yours, which was the highlight of the set for me. It could be 1990 all over again! The swirly synth notes (courtesy of Mew) combined with the Innerstrings graphics were outstanding! The faster tempo What’s Next? quickly came and went. Clearly things were leading us to the final number, the dancey but rocky corker ‘Never Enough’, which was most enjoyable. Mews synths were a highlight here, reminding me of ‘Silver Machine’ by Hawkwind.

Miki announced that was in fact their final number after it had finished, but then insisted they played one further song without even leaving the stage, and thus we were treated to ‘It’s Obvious’. A song by Au Pairs from 1980, which was later found on their debut 1981 ‘Playing With A Different Sex’ album. A nice surprise and really blended in well with their set, which finished circa 11:25pm. Fab evening out – a ‘Lush’ performance!

The Piroshka setlist reads:
‘We Told You’ (unreleased)
‘Hated By The Powers’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘Village Of The Damned’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘Blameless’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘April’ (unreleased)
‘Heartbeats’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘This Must Be Bedlam’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘Run For Your Life’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘She’s Unreal’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘Everlastingly Yours’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘What’s Next?’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘Never Enough’ (found on 2019 ‘Brickbat’ album)
‘It’s Obvious’ (Au Pairs cover)

More on Piroshka HERE.

Have a look at the forthcoming events at The Piper HERE.

Piroshka’s setlist

Gig flyer

The specials menu in The Piper downstairs!

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