“Everything genuinely beautiful has a certain darkness, a sadness about it.”
Literate punk pixie, adopted Londoner and upright social crusader Gabi Garbutt knows a thing or two about beauty. And darkness, for that matter. Her latest record ‘Lady Matador’, inspired by a performer she encountered at spoken word hangout The Poetry Brothel, tackles these themes with an lively Iberian twist.
“I’m fascinated by the culture of Southern Spain, especially Flamenco,” says Garbutt. “The poet Frederico García Lorca in particular. He was around in the 1930s, and was huge on the concept of ‘duende’. It’s the notion that something can be gorgeous, striking, uplifting, transcendent but still reflect on mortality. The fragility of the human experience.”
Fear not, the record itself (out Friday) is no ghoulish, castanet-laden dirge. Thanks in part to Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ stalwart Sean Read at the production desk, it’s a ballsy, brassy, blow-the-doors-off riot. “That’s the duende. That excitement of being out in the city at night, but there’s a heavy energy. Everything’s beautiful, yet just on the point of breaking up. Brass is so perfect at expressing that. It’s otherworldly. Tender, but also biting and harsh. There’s a heftiness. A loveliness, sure, but a complicated loveliness.”
Check out the ‘Lady Matador’ video premiere here:
Ever sensitive to nuance, Garbutt is a vocal Labour supporter and avowed Jeremy Corbyn fan, but wouldn’t dream of trashing anybody who voted Leave, or who lionises the likes of Donald Trump. “These things make me angry, of course they do, but I truly believe that normal people who voted that way aren’t evil,” she insists. “A lot of them voted that way because they’ve been let down. They should be listened to and understood if we’re going to make any progress.”
Her political pontificating, by the way, isn’t your classic wannabe punk carping from the sidelines. She works tirelessly at the coalface of social care, helping older people with dementia access essential services. “That’s the real scandal. When you look beyond the shiny headline stuff about Brexit or Trump. I see literally every day how Tory cuts destroy quality of life.”
It was while running a benefit gig at The Monarch in Camden, supporting Age UK and LGBT older persons charity Opening Doors, that Garbutt first got to work with Frank Turner, who was so impressed he signed her up as full-band warm up act at his massive indoor Lost Evenings festival, just over the road at The Roundhouse on May 11th.
“What’s really special about Frank Turner shows is how every single person sings along with their hands in the air, even when it’s just him and a guitar,” gushes Garbutt. “When I told him about our charity show we were both drunk. He still showed up and smashed it. We made over four grand. And now we’re going to the Roundhouse. I think it’s lovely when someone keeps a promise they made, six months ago, in the pub.”
Full of praise for fellow artists, Garbutt is also a colossal fan of Chicago’s Ezra Furman, whose 2016 doo-wop track ‘Teddy I’m Ready’ is the B-side to ‘Lady Matador’.
“Covering that track gives me more joy than any other song in the universe,” she says of the tune. “I genuinely think it’s my favourite song ever. It’s totally earnest. The lyrics are so profoundly uncool, he’s just freaking out about life being overwhelming. But somehow he finds refuge in rock and roll. Like I do, and a lot of people have during bad times.” Beautiful, then, but also dark. Sounds about right.
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Words: Andy Hill
‘Lady Matador’ is out on April 20th through the Famous Times label. Single launch: Roadhouse, Covent Garden at 7pm, April 19th. Free entry
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