The independent music landscape has experienced a dramatic overhaul over the past few years. No longer is indie rock and pop a catch-all to describe underground bands at the cutting edge of new and innovative sound. It’s gone mainstream. The popular appeal has led to homogenization, with unique songwriting and bold sound becoming increasingly rare. Enter confident Glasgow punk rockers The Ninth Wave, who will make their U.S. debut at Austin’s SXSW festival next week and are determined to do something new.
“I think we looked at the indie scene and realized a lot of it sounded the same,” vocalist Millie Kidd says. “From the beginning, we wanted to do something different and we felt that there was room for it.”
This pact to create rather than copy manifests itself in a band with a nuanced and developed sound. Despite having only two EPs under their belts, The Ninth Wave is decidedly unique musically. While there’s no missing the influence of The Cure, or recent bands like Editors through the reverberation of jangly guitars and Haydn Park-Patterson’s theatrical vocal delivery, The Ninth Wave also exists in a space much more frightening and violent. Aggressive drumbeats and driving guitars explode amid the synths, creating a hard-hitting post-punk sound.
“Our sound has changed dramatically since the band started. Before I was in the band, everything was far more shoegazy,” says Kidd, who joined following the departure of another member. “Now I feel we are really coming into our own with a post-punk sound.”
Kidd credits this progression to Dan Austin, who produced the band’s 2017 debut EP, Reformation. Austin’s credits are impressive. He’s produced seminal records for both The Doves and Massive Attack, two of the most influential British groups of the ’90s.
“He has been there since the first EP and has helped evolve our sound every step of the way,” she says. “At first I did not even feel worthy to meet him. How can you not be nervous to meet someone who has worked on some of your favorite albums of all time?”
Austin’s influence shines through on Reformation, resulting in rich production that’s both impressively clear and wonderfully chaotic.
With 2018 EP Never Crave Attention, The Ninth Wave is poised to make its SXSW debut. The band’s assured aesthetic makes it a good bet for sustained success. The group has an overall creative sense that extends beyond catchy singles and hearkens back to Glasgow’s diverse art scene.
Inspired by influences across a number of mediums, including literature and film, the band’s embrace of the arts has allowed it to flourish creatively.
“When I read a book or watch a movie, the first thing I think about is song lyrics,” Kidd says. Among the band’s chief influences is Twin Peaks director David Lynch, resulting in an eerie atmosphere, both musically and visually.
Kidd, Park-Patterson and bandmate Lewis Tollan also have an eye for fashion. Regularly sporting outfits that range from grunge to designer posh, they evoke an effortless cool. Kidd doesn’t downplay this. She attributes this understanding of style to her upbringing in Glasgow, long regarded as a hub for arts and culture.
“Dressing a certain way and presenting yourself confidently gives you control to manifest the sound in the way you want,” Kidd says. “Glasgow definitely helped me gain an appreciation for art as a whole. I remember going to museums with my mom all of the time as a kid.”
The Ninth Wave’s ability to exist at the intersection of the arts is on display in the video for recent single “Half Pure.” Cinematic visuals are broken up by fuzzy and distorted visuals that recall the MTV era. The video depicts a fashion show that begins innocently and devolves into something far more disturbing.
Pristine models are eventually replaced by tortured ones, parading down the aisle bloodied and battered, moving unnaturally. The moody and emotive song is a reflection on the shallow front that people put on. The visuals are hard to ignore, recalling experimental artists like FKA Twigs, who Kidd cites as an influence. Like Tahliah Debrett Barnett, Kidd wants to be both “original and unashamed,” and not listen to outside influence.
If The Ninth Wave continues to put out forward-thinking, genre-spanning tracks, the band is primed to break out in 2019. Having already gained a respectable following in the U.K., the band its sights set on the U.S., beginning with SXSW.
“We have never played outside of Europe and we are very excited to play in front of entirely new audiences,” Kidd says.
Follow writer Matthew Eaton at Twitter.com/MattnSoCal.