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  • Tiana Speter

INTERVIEW: Kate Olivia (SECOND IDOL)

 

For Eora/Sydney-hailing rockers Second Idol, the road to their latest single Boxing Ring was not without its own unique hurdles.


But alongside the real-world happenings along the way reflecting the material within, the quartet thrive with their potent new release, with the compelling lyricism and lush instrumentation of Boxing Ring ultimately emerging as a knockout winner.


Detailing the realities of being a woman in the music industry alongside smatterings of grit and 90s alternative rock flavours, Second Idol come out swinging while also powerfully showcasing their burgeoning trademark sound; and, as vocalist Kate Olivia recently revealed to The Soundcheck, the single, which also arrived armed with a perfectly nostalgic-hued music video, is an exciting sign of big things to come from the band moving forward.


Photo: Ben Westover

TIANA SPETER: Hi Kate, thank you so much for chatting today! Let’s talk Boxing Ring, firstly - thank you for crafting such a genuinely meaningful song. Obviously thematically it’s coming from a bleak reality - but Boxing Ring has captured something so vulnerable and real and dives into stuff that is not always spoken about transparently while also sounding awesome. Can you take me back to the start of this track, when did it first start to grow legs?

 

  • KATE OLIVIA: Hey Tiana! Good to talk to you too. The track started as a lot of Second Idol tracks start, which is me finding a riff on my guitar. I laid down some guitars and vocals as a bit of a ‘song sketch’. This was kind of a situation where some lyrics kind of fell out and were moulded by the opening lines – “Here comes another daydream”. I guess, this is guided from when I discovered rock music as a teen - it was something that I really fantasised about and a sphere that I wanted to see myself in. It was an art form that I felt drawn to and somewhere that I could express myself. From that opening line, the lyrics came quite easily, shaped by my experiences and struggles in the industry. Once I had the outline of the song, I threw it to the rest of the band and we sculpted it and honed it into what you hear today.


 

TIANA: Stylistically, there’s plenty of trademark Second Idol sounds going on, but things feel sharper and fresher. What inspired the single creatively, do you all tend to channel things when you’re writing or do the ideas usually just flow organically?

 

  • KATE: Anger and cynicism haha! It came off the back of a lot of gigging and really feeling secure in our sound, so I think the song has more confidence injected creatively. For me, as a lyricist, vocalist and guitarist, this song was about organic flow, and it was quite instinctual in its composition. Sonically, I think I was listening to a lot of The Kills when I had an idea for some really bitey, aggressive guitars. At the time as a band, we were all pretty enamoured with Fontaines D.C.’s album Skinty Fia. Our wildest reference probably comes from our drummer Afeef, who cites The Prodigy’s Firestarter as inspiration for his drumming on the track.




TIANA: Lyrically you capture some very resonant ideas with the clever metaphor of the boxing ring…it genuinely has felt, particularly in heavier genres, like women are treated as novelties or fetishised or they are automatically assumed to be competing. Having a song like this is so important as it speaks to so many people’s own experiences through a very real and lived lens. Not meaning to be broad here, but what do you ultimately hope a listener takes away from listening to Boxing Ring?

 

  • KATE: I would hope that the listener would reconsider how they navigate themselves in the world; to be reminded that biases exist and that we still live in a patriarchal society. That people (especially cis men) will pause and consider the privilege that they hold. I would also want people in the music industry to have the song be a reminder of the barriers that exist for women, non-binary and trans people and that we're sick or being diversity trophies and being novelised.   One thing which is my personal bugbear, is the fetishisation and very one-dimensional view of women which I tried to encapsulate in the lyrics ‘you should act more femme’ and ‘stop acting like men’. These lyrics are a criticism of the societal expectation for women to be feminine, pretty and pleasant, and that if you’re outside of that - if you’re outspoken, butch, queer or have strong opinions, if you're being more masculine, you’re undesirable and ultimately not valid or unimportant.   I’m passionate about empowering minority groups, and I hope that although this song is born out of negative experiences, anger and the frustrations that come with being a woman and gender-non conforming in this industry, that if you see yourself in this song, it can make you feel validated and stronger. There are people out there cheering for you!

 

 

TIANA: Boxing Ring of course also comes with a brand new music video, the perfect accompaniment. Concept-wise, I know you teamed up with Cameron Davies for this one, how did the concept evolve for this one, did you all have a clear idea of what you wanted for the end result?

 

  • KATE: I left it pretty open to Cameron, to be honest. I love his VHS style aesthetic and asked if we could incorporate some of that style in the video, but apart from that, I left the brief pretty open to him. I gave him the lyrics and told him what the song was about, and he came back with the entire concept, which I was totally on board with - the band shoot, location in Brighton Le Sands, the graffiti artist/activist and chucking me on the back of a motorbike. One thing that we did workshop together was the phrases graffitied which the activist is scene ‘erasing’. These phrases were born out of a list of which I pulled together which are things that men in the music industry have said to/at me. At first, it was a pretty long, depressing list! In the clip, these phrases include ‘whiny women bands’ and the most lazy and undercutting phrase and backhanded compliment - ‘good effort’.



TIANA: This song is not the first time that Second Idol has raised awareness about power and gender concepts; as a band you’ve definitely showcased some powerful messaging alongside a mix of post punk, grunge and rock over the years. In terms of Second Idol in 2024, what do you want to see for the band and beyond Boxing Ring what else do you have in store music-wise?

 

  • KATE: We spent a large chunk of 2023 writing new material and in the studio working on our debut album. We have some meaty material both concept and sound-wise that we’re really excited about. Gender and power are always a part of the Second Idol world, but we’re looking to bring some new perspectives and stories to the table, and the sound is big.  That’s all I can really say right now! But we’re super excited about what we’ve created.



TIANA: Let’s dip into live music, are fans going to be able to grab a chance to christen Boxing Ring live in person anytime soon? Has it been a track you’ve busted out live previously before officially releasing it to test the waters?


  • KATE: The track has been a part of our live repertoire for at least a year, so we’re pretty itching to have it finally released into the wild! We’re hoping that the recording gives us the opportunity to get our message out to a larger audience.

 


TIANA: And still on the subject of live music, looking back at your touring history alongside the likes of The Buoys, Teenage Joans, SCABZ and many more…what Second Idol moment instantly springs to mind as a standout Second Idol live music memory, what will you never ever forget whether it was good, bad or other, and what made it so memorable?

 

  • KATE: Probably my worst time on stage was supporting Crywank from the UK, and getting electric shocks from a microphone every time I went in to sing. It was really painful! In terms of a positive memory, one that stands out for me is supporting Jen Cloher in 2022. Jen is literally one of, if not the coolest musician I have met and so down to earth. When we supported Jen, they were road-testing tracks that would be on their album I Am the River, the River is Me. Just being a witness to a genuine artist in front of a room of dedicated fans was super special. We played to a packed-out room before Jen and their band and it was just an incredibly welcoming atmosphere.



TIANA: And finally, you’ve had an incredible journey building Second Idol into what it is today, you’ve pivoted the band’s trajectory along the way while ticking off other amazing accomplishments in and outside the band, including launching Manifesto, airplay and also undertaking the Women In Music Mentorship. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in this Second Idol journey (so far)?

 

  • KATE: Oh gosh. I think just learning to believe in yourself, and that we’re stronger together, as cliche as that may be? I’m a person with a lot of anxiety and prone to depression, so it’s very easy for me to get down on myself and think that my efforts are fruitless. I think having the opportunities to be around other people who have similar experiences in the industry, and realising that I’m not alone with how I feel has been massive for me. That was definitively a massive realisation that I had when I did AIR’s Women in Music mentorship. This realisation led me to launch Manifesto, which is a zine and initiative that focuses on platforming women, non-binary and trans musicians and artists. The motivation there was to give back to people in the music scene who really inspire me and who I’m cheering for. But in general, I think being on this journey in Second Idol, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt has been to own your difference, and to not be afraid to not fit in a conveniently labelled box.


 

SECOND IDOL

New single Boxing Ring out now.

For more info, head here.





 

BY TIANA SPETER


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