5,288 miles is a long way to go for a trio of girls to play a few gigs; although if all you need is a drum kit, a bass guitar and a synth to captivate live audiences, just like you have all over the USA, then travelling to the moon wouldn’t be a problem.
When the release of your debut album is coupled with the highly respected French photographer and fashion designer Hedi Slimane’s request that one of your tracks be used for Paris Fashion Week last September, in particular the soundtrack for Celine (Slimane is the creative, artistic and image director for this high end fashion brand), you know things are looking up.
Automatic are Izzy (synth/vocals), Halle (bass/vocals) and Lola (drums/vocals). When they formed in 2017, they set out on a mission to create music with simplicity and clarity. Do not be fooled, though – they are academic brainboxes. In the swathes of post-punk, avant-garde bands, these three are standing out, and are definitely being noticed for their debut album Signal.
I had looking forward to the Pins gig at Belgrave Music Hall so much anyway, when I heard that Automatic were supporting, I just turned into a daft little kid. I think I actually punched the air (this is not like me). A barrage of excited texts went back and forth between me and the photographer assigned for this one. Then it was a case of waiting seven sleeps. Tough that.
As I walked into Belgrave Music Hall I saw Automatic just setting up for soundcheck. The second Izzy pressed a few keys on her Sequential Prophet REV2-8 (for the geeks) synth, filling the hall with what sounded like a gang of classically trained ten foot long wasps, I knew it was going to be a good night. That pure analogue sound, with no digital muzzles throttling it, was quite literally a real buzz. Over this, a simple motorik beat from Lola, a beautiful ramble up and down the bass with Halle. Less is more all the way with this cool fashionista outfit from L.A.
A great conversation with this band came to a close (you can read it here) and it was time for the gig.
Their set was beautifully chilled, clear and very driven. Izzy’s vocals are so moody, charismatic and strangely British in articulation, in a good way though. It’s funny how when they’re singing, a lot of Brits pour their heart out in an over the top, contrived American accent, and here’s a bona fide American girl singing in the Queen’s English. Quite refreshing! Izzy holds the stage well – the minimal vibe really works. The simple yet so powerful riffs that Izzy and Halle bounce off each other are class. Leading this analogue rhythm and groove is a masterful scientist, sitting behind her drum kit! My days, Lola creates some crisp, clear punches and beats that just lock the tracks together.
While I was in the stage wings for a little while mid-set getting some additional shots, waiting to interview Pins, I heard Suicide In Texas and Electrocution. Hearing these live and in the flesh for the first time from that vantage point was so cool. All in all, I was genuinely impressed with the sound, the image and definitely the up close personalities of these three artists. After 18 UK/Europe gigs, they’re embarking on 27 gigs stretching across the US. They are certainly flying the Bauhaus philosophy flag!
How well the whole ‘no guitar’ thing works too, a justifiable artistic choice that’s really paid off in their style and delivery. You really do pick up on, and buy into the stark yet captivating mood they’ve created. A band personality reminiscent of Kraftwerk, Kleenex and thinking about it, quite obviously Bauhaus, too…stark nostalgia all the way. Automatic really nail that live. A few bands fake it, anAll photographs by MarkWheelwrightd that’s rank, but Izzy, Halle and Lola really do deliver the bespoke, avant-garde post-punk vibe, in a genuinely classy way. Let’s not forget, this is also a review of a gig they played after just one hour’s sleep! The zealous determination to deliver is there.
The album Signal is stunning, arresting, crystal clear. There’s no fluff, just very stark nostalgia. Their brilliant debut album brings together elements of Kraftwerk, Kleenex, Joy Division and of course the timeless gentlemen known as Bauhaus. There are some incredible artists listed in this piece. Go have a listen.
All photographs by Mark Wheelwright.