Sacred Paws is a Scottish rock band, comprised of Rachel Aggs and Eilidh Rodgers, who met as members of the band Golden Grrrls. Their debut album Strike a Match won critical acclaim as well as the 2017 Scottish “Album of the Year” Award. Tom Tom caught up with Rachel to talk about her musical roots, influences, and plans for the coming year with Sacred Paws. Watch their new video, “Almost It,” below. Their new album, Run Around the Sun, will be released on May 31st! Check it out here.
[Tom Tom] First of all, can you give us a bit of background information about who you are and what inspired you to become a musician?
[Rachel] My first instrument was violin and I’ve been playing folk music with my family since i was really young but i didn’t pick up an electric guitar until I was about 20. I think typically for a mixed race queer kid I never saw myself fitting in with the kind of confident cool people and white dudes that made music at my school so when I was a teenager it never occurred to me to learn to play. I loved playing fiddle with my dad and his friends tho and i got hooked really young on the feeling that you get from playing with other people. I remember being aged about 11 and getting pointed to during a jam session and asked to do a ‘solo’. It was probably really bad but I can still remember the rush of spontaneous terror but then total joy when I landed the right notes and everybody cheered! When i went to art school and discovered weird No Wave bands like DNA and the Contortions I got really excited about music that captures that feeling of wild chaos. That lead me down a rabbit hole of punk, riot grrrl and queercore bands like Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Le Tigre. Hearing that music for the first time felt like I’d found a community of people who were like me and I knew instantly that I had to be a part of it.
How did Sacred Paws form as a band? Does “Sacred Paws” have any particular meaning?
Eilidh and I met on tour and became friends really fast. I lived in London at the time so altho it seems crazy now, we decided that starting a band would be a good way to keep hanging out despite the distance between Glasgow and London.
I think a lot of bands can relate when I say we had our first show coming up and needed a name FAST! Eilidh was texting me random joke names, one of which was Sacred Paws. At the time she had these great cats, so I guess we named ourselves after them?? I liked it because the sacred part sounds so earnest but the paws is so soft and silly. I dunno, it doesn’t mean much tho, band names are hard!
Tom Tom is turning ten this year. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy yourself! I spent a lot of time wishing I could fast forward to being able to play better or daydreaming about being in the headline band when really being totally anonymous and learning to play our instruments on stage was so much fun and i do miss the magic of having no idea what sound was going to come out of my guitar! Sometimes that can lead to the best song ideas!
Your new album, Run Around the Sun, features a mix of reflective melodies and hard-hitting beats; how was making this record different from making music in the past?
We definitely went into writing these songs with way more specific production ideas in mind than for the first album but it also still comes from a very similar place. we pretty much always write together in the same room, just jamming the songs live. I struggle to come up with melodies or guitar parts without Eilidh’s drums there as they are so unique and vibrant, i find her playing super inspiring. This record is a little more reflective but that wasn’t necessarily intentional, we just try to keep making music that cheers us up and keeps us excited.
Do you have a favorite track from the album? If so, why?
I really like “Shame On Me,” it’s one of our happy songs with sad lyrics that I hope tugs at the heart strings a little.
I hope it captures that slight feeling of regret or loss that can come along side looking back on some of your fondest memories. I was also singing about how close you can sometimes feel to giving up on something you love when you have moments of doubt or a wavering of commitment and passion. I love writing songs with Eilidh so much, we’ve often promised each other that we’re gonna do this forever but before we wrote this song we were literally lying on the floor of the practice space despairing that we’d lost it and should just give up! Thankfully this song just sprung out of nowhere and i now i really like it!
Has being a woman impacted your experience of being a musician in the industry? If so, how?
I think anything rooted too firmly in ‘industry’ rather than community has always made us feel pretty uncomfortable so we’ve managed to circumnavigate a lot of it mostly by having genuinely kind and encouraging friends… I think we’ve been really lucky in the amount of support we’ve received from peers and older musicians alike. In general, people have helped us a lot. I do think our own lack of confidence and self belief has been the only thing to hold us back at times and that definitely happens to a lot of female identifying musicians. Sometimes you do feel like an outsider or an amateur in the eyes of a lot of men in the industry and that can be a struggle. But yeah we are lucky to have a lot of good people around us that push us forward and pick us up when we’re feeling unsure or under-confident.
Your recent video, “The Conversation” is so bright and fun—driving in a car with friends through what seems to be a colorful vortex—and yet it’s also reminiscent of earlier, New Wave aesthetics. How does the concept for each video come together?
It was directed by our really close friend Jack Barraclough, who has done all our videos so far (apart from the vid for our first single Everyday which was made by another excellent friend Roxanne Clifford!) He is really good at taking an idea and just running with it. I love how it ended up looking a bit like an old 80s tv show, I don’t even think that was intentional but its super fun! Neither of us really enjoy having our picture taken or being filmed so we often find it hard to think about video concepts, luckily Jack has so many ideas we just send him songs and say ‘what do you reckon?’
Which records have been most influential to you personally?
I find it hard to pin down specific records cus there are so many! Definitely The Hot Rock by Sleater Kinney would be one. I was always so excited by the way they traded vocals and guitar melodies so frenetically. There were just so many ideas on that record and hardly any actual ‘chords’ which i thought was so cool. not to mention the intensity of the emotions there were laying out there for my teenage self to sink straight into. Its such immediate and heartfelt music and for a queer kid having a pretty isolated time in rural England, Songs like ‘Get Up’ felt like life rafts.
When you’re not playing music, what do you like to do?
Currently i love playing video games, i take my Nintendo switch everywhere with me! there are some amazing indie games coming out for it at the moment, Undertale, Night In The Woods and Gris to name a few! I also love reading comic books and some of these new games have such amazing art that they feel like interactive graphic novels which is just my ideal way to unwind; I love being able to get lost in something so wildly imaginative and absorbing.