“Alice came in and said ‘I have to be honest. I don’t want to be in a girlband’. I was like ‘Yes. She’s perfect!’”.
Perhaps the most reluctant girlband of all time, Kitchen Party might be an all-female trio, but they smash just about every stereotype you might expect from your average girlband. Tanisha Spring, from South Croydon, Alice Rhodes, from Brighton and Jessica Martin-Campbell, from West London write their own music, drink rum and wear what they like. Sometimes, they even swear.
Imagine a 2013 TLC, an Origibabes line-up or a Destiny’s Child 3.0 and you might arrive somewhere in the vicinity of Kitchen Party. The trio is engaging, funny and creatively adventurous. “We’re not the girl next door and we’re definitely not the girl on the corner,” laughs Tanisha. “We’re more like the girl down the road. Like, we’ll have our ratchet moments but we’ll still get up and go to work. Work hard, play harder.”
Formed just over a year ago, Jessica joined the group when she learned that Cameron McVey (Neneh Cherry, Sugababes, All Saints) was involved as a producer. “As a huge Massive Attack fan it was a no brainer for me,” says Jess. “I was obsessed with Blue Lines as a teenager. Plus, they wanted us to write the material too. It sounded exactly like something I’d always wanted to do.” Jess met Alice through a mutual friend who had persuaded an unconvinced Alice to check out a girl group who were looking for new members. “Initially I thought I was way too cool for a girl group”, grins Alice, “but then I met Jess and realised what type of project it was. Also the music didn’t sound like a typical girl group, it was so much darker.”
Alice and Jess saw each other again the same night at a house party and bonded over several rums. It was there that Alice introduced Jess to her other friend, Tanisha. “When we were looking for another member, I was like, ‘Remember that girl at the party that kept giving us drinks? Her,’” remembers Alice of suggesting Tanisha. “I was like “She’s in”, laughs Jess. Booze was also their inspiration when it came to naming the band. ”We just like getting drunk in the kitchen,” says Alice, who, like Tanisha spends most of her time at Jess’s West London flat, which acts as the Kitchen Party HQ . “It’s a social thing; life revolves around the kitchen. We chill, socialise, listen to music, write music, get drunk… it all happens in the kitchen.”
Their influences are far-reaching, all encompassing and depend on the time of day. It’s Brandy (the singer, not the drink) for putting on make-up and getting ready, Frank Ocean and Jessie Ware for studio inspiration, Rihanna for pre-party. “We will drink a bottle of rum and listen to Rihanna before we go out and act up. Rihanna is the definition of acting up, so she’s perfect before going to a party,” points out Alice. For that long night bus home, Tanisha prefers Paramore, particularly Ignorance from their second album and almost anything by Haim, Bastille, The Roots and Sampha. When they get home, it’s J-Lo and classic 90/00s R&B. “SWV, Ja Rule, Ashanti, Fugees, maybe a bit of UKG. I’m obsessed with the Ben Affleck/ P. Diddy era J-Lo. I mean, judge me,” shrugs Alice.
The three have spent the last year throwing their respective influences into the proverbial pot for their forthcoming mixtape, 11th Floor. Mixed by Rinse FM’s DJ Cable, it’s a dark, witty, sonic implosion that reflects their tastes, personalities and age perfectly.
They describe the deceptively dark Straw In The Wind as a “Seedy little fairytale; a twisted nursery rhyme”. Co-written with Cameron McVey and Paul Simm (Amy Winehouse) it delivers a threat with a huge smile on its face. We say ‘Yank your chain, crush your brain’ but with really bright, happy music underneath. It might take people a second to catch that it’s actually a really dark tune,” explains Jess.
Hate Those Girls, is a tightly observed, arch poke at cynical, self-obsessed girls who ‘flirt with your bloke when they’re fucked up on coke…’ Produced by K-Gee (All Saints) and composed by Julie Thompson (Tiësto, Freemasons) it’s the only song on the mixtape not co-written by the girls. “We just thought it was funny so we wanted to record it,” says Jess. “It’s not about hating on girls, it’s more like, ‘Lets live. Live life. It’s not so serious.”
Lights co-written with McVey and Oscar Scheller which has the slightest hint of a Nas sample (Life’s A Bitch) is an amazing four-to-the-floor UK Garage smash and is the girls’ “acting up” track. “It’s a bit ratchet,” admits Tanisha. “You’re on a night out and you’re basically being a bit like the girls from Hate Those Girls! Sometimes you just have to act up though.”
Combat World is a challenge to their generation to stop watching 24 Hours In A&E, be a bit better read, and engage with life a little more. “You can’t just sit about and not have an opinion or comment. And don’t believe everything you see on the news. Do your own research and form your own opinion.” Closer Fitz’s Poem was a poem written by Jess and turned into a song by McVey. It is based on the Assassin Apprentice trilogy by Robin Hobb. A fantasy tale about fate and foreseers, it’s one of Jess’s favourite books. “I don’t normally read a book and write a song, but sometimes inspiration comes from the most random things,” she points out.
There are also two covers on the album; Aaliyah’s One In A Million (re-produced by Gerald ‘SoundBboy’ Logan), and the Supremes Can’t Hurry Love. There’s also a clip of Brandy’s Wanna Be Down. “We did Aaliyah because for every girl our age, she’s just ‘The One’ and we wanted to pay homage to her. She was so sick and we’re not sure people always really appreciate how amazing she was. Same with the little Brandy nod,” says Alice. “With The Supremes, we all grew on Motown through our families. Plus we’re all huge fans of Diana Ross. She was so iconic.” The song is laid over a J Dilla beat and is appropriately renamed You Can’t Hurry Dilla.
Their debut album will follow later this year; the girls are currently working with McVey, Paul Simm, Scheller and Grime producer Z.Dot (Wiley. Marina & The Diamonds). As with the mixtape, there will be no fist-pumping, generic urban R&B dance lolz, dodgy dance routines, nor do they wear similar coloured dresses from Coast. This is restrained, subtle music that wouldn’t sound out of place next to a Disclosure, AlunaGeorge or Jessie Ware playlist. “We are a little bit emo,” the girls admit. “We want our music to be thoughtful and understated. We’re not your stereotypical, placid, girlband puppets. It’s important that we have success but none of us is prepared to sell ourselves short for it. It’s not about writing a hit for radio; it’s about making interesting music that lasts the distance.”