Hailing from the South of London, frenzied post-punk outfit Scrounge is the gruesome twosome of Lucy Alexander (guitar, vocals) and Luke Cartledge (percussion). The duo have mastered the art of crafting arresting tunes driven by shrewdly compelling riffs and percussion so immediate that it’s physically impossible to ignore.
Calling Scrounge a “band” doesn’t exactly do them justice. A more apt description would be a clamoring two-piece wrecking crew with a serious knack for rhythm and melody. Lucy’s dynamic riffs and Luke’s thrashing percussion on songs like “Purpose,” and “Badoom,” craft a distinctly stirring soundscape that draws from an array of influences, from Sonic Youth to Warpaint.
Their most recent single “Leaking Drains,” which closely followed the release of their 2019 EP Ideal, ruminates on the decaying state of society with slashing guitars, primal lead vocals, and whiplash percussion.
I spoke to Scrounge frontwoman Lucy Alexander about the origins of the band, her love of Tyler, the Creator, and teaching the history of punk to primary school kids.
How are you today?
Good! I just finished teaching. I’m a music teacher, so it’s very Jack Black. My class has been making zines this afternoon. The kids are ages 10-11 and I gave them a project to make zines on radical forms of art and why music matters to them. They came up with some really cool stuff, actually.
How would you describe Scrounge to new listeners?
We’re a noisy two-piece post punk band from South London.
What was your first favorite band?
Oh god. I was listening to really terrible stuff at an early age. But as soon as I started seriously getting into music and saw Warpaint play live for the first time, I was sold. That made me realize this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What made you and Luke initially click when you first met?
We met at Goldsmiths where we played together intermittently. Luke originally played the guitar, and I thought he was the best guitar player I’d ever seen. After we first played together we had a chat about music we both liked and we started going to gigs together. We were in loads of different bands together before we formed Scrounge. We didn’t really know what we were doing and we originally wanted to call ourselves Mint, which is British slang for dope or cool. We eventually stumbled into Scrounge because it was snappy and quick.
What attracted you to the post-punk realm?
It’s so immediate. I love the urgency of the sound and how it demands the listener’s attention. A lot of our favorite bands do that, and we’re just in awe of how effortlessly they attract attention with the sounds they produce. There aren’t many rules in post-punk, which was also a great way to express ourselves and work out where we fit into the world after leaving University.
I was out of breath just listening to “Leaking Drains.” What’s it like to play that song live?
We actually start all our sets with it now, cause it’s such a quick song and it’s a great way for us to get in the zone, especially when it’s just the two of us. It really propels us forward to keep going.
What song are you most proud of?
I would say “Purpose.” That was the first song of ours that was played on the radio. That song allowed us to go from recording in a shed to acquiring studio space and putting hours into our work. Another one I’m particularly proud of is “Starve.” That was the second song we wrote together and it’s the one moment where we actually get to relax and center ourselves in our sets.
How on earth did Luke come up with those cacophonous drum breaks on “Purpose?” That might be the most jarring sound I’ve ever heard.
Luke has a really great ear. He wanted to create the sound of two bin lids crashing together and eventually found some midi keyboard with that specific sound and just went off the wall.
What is a band you’ve been compared to that’s either surprised or flattered you?
Well, because there’s two of us people are really quick to put us in a box. One that we get compared to quite a bit because we’re a two-piece is The White Stripes, which is nice. But we’re nowhere near their level, and our sound is nothing like theirs. I wouldn’t put the White Stripes in the category of post-punk at all. It’s definitely more straight blues rock. I find it nicer to be compared to individuals rather than to other bands, because that’s how we operate. We don’t come in a package. But one publication recently compared us to Sonic Youth, which was a huge compliment.
You’ve said that your guitar playing is inspired by the likes of Sleater-Kinney and Warpaint. What is it about their particular guitar parts that draws you in?
Watching someone like Carrie Brownstein play, her guitar style is so dynamic. The sounds she manages to wrangle out of her guitar is just phenomenal. When I first saw Warpaint play, they made these incredible melodic sounds with their guitars that I’m just mesmerized by. If I could make anything as good as that I would be quite pleased with myself. Whenever Luke and I are in the studio we’re able to lay different parts down that meld together so well because our brains work completely differently.
Are you a big consumer of music-based media and/or books?
Definitely. I loved reading Kim Gordon and Carrie Brownstein’s autobiographies. I’m a big fan of music-based podcasts as well. There’s really geeky ones like “Switched on Pop” and “Song Exploder” that I’m just obsessed with. Mark Ronson’s podcast is great as well. He recently had Japanese Breakfast on and I’ve been dying to read her book.
How does personal identity and the culture around you pour into your work?
I write from my own experience quite a lot, whereas Luke writes a lot about the social and cultural stuff. At this point in time with so much going on in the world it’s almost impossible for that not to filter into our work. This past year for everyone has been incredibly tough. That experience has filtered into our upcoming projects as well and I hope we’re able to convey our own experiences in a substantial way.
How does the way you listen to music filter into your work?
When I first started performing I was really focused on sounding a certain way, but it’s really about trying different things until we come up with something cohesive. Luke will listen to various drum patterns and find ways to articulate them in his own way, whereas I always draw from live experiences. I just saw Róisín Murphy at Brixton Academy, and she’s renowned for being an incredible performer. The one thing that blew my mind seeing her was that her guitar player played the same loop for almost five minutes, and I was just mesmerized.
I love Róisín! How was that show?
It was absolutely mad. I had actually never seen her before, but my girlfriend had seen her loads. The last time my girlfriend saw her she had the costume department on stage so she could wear whatever she wanted and would dress as different Shakespeare characters. When I saw her she started out backstage on the screen, giving the audience a tour and doing her quick changes with all these elaborate wigs and suits. It was a very cleverly structured performance and she ended her set in the corridors of the venue which was just amazing to watch. If I ever decide to put on a massive spectacle in a live performance I’m definitely going to have to take a page out of her book. If you ever get the chance to see her you definitely should take the opportunity. I’m not sure what touring in the U.S. is like n0w but it seems like it’s up and running again.
For sure. But after what’s happened with Astroworld in Texas, I’m not so sure how I feel about going to the pit at festivals anymore.
That was so awful. Horrible. I actually watched the Travis Scott documentary on Netflix last year, and from what I saw of those live shows I remember thinking, Someone’s gonna get seriously hurt. I went through a serious Odd Future phase when I was younger. I still love Tyler, the Creator dearly, but that was the most chaotic environment I’d ever been in. I could never handle that atmosphere with a bunch of entitled white boys at hip hop shows again. Looking back, that was just extremely toxic. The men there were just… ooooof. Not good. It was really claustrophobic. I remember all the men shoving to the front and a man next to me put his arm up for five minutes and my face was literally right up in his armpit. I went to the Igor tour a year and a half ago, and that environment was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. There were less bros and more of a mix of people from different backgrounds, which was nice to see.
When you’re experiencing stress what is the first song you put on to relieve yourself?
I’ve been listening to so much Self Esteem. She has this amazing song called “The Best,” so she’s my number 1 at the moment. She just released an album called Prioritise Pleasure that’s topping all the best album lists. She used to be in an indie band, and this album is purely intelligent pop. It’s very feel-good but it also speaks to the female experience in a very sincere and honest way.
We’re all about discovering new music here. What should we be listening to right now?
Like I said, if you’re looking for relief, Self Esteem. And if you want some bangers to smash around to, Special Interest.
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