Deriving their name from the Hungarian version of Little Red Riding Hood, the acclaimed All-Star act Piroshka — Lush’s Miki Berenyi (vocals, guitar) Moose’s KJ “Moose” McKillop (guitar), Modern English’s Mick Conroy (bass) and Elastica’s Justin Welch (drums) — features members, best known for their work with some of the most acclaimed indie acts of the past 30 years. And their latest project together can trace its origins to the knotted web of connections between them: Berenyi and McKillop are considered shoegaze pioneers, who have released a number of applauded releases before getting married and starting a family. With the release of 1995’s self-titled debut, Elastica quickly became internationally recognized Brit Pop stars — and as a result. Berenyi and McKillop were intimately familiar with Welch and his work. Conroy joined McKillop’s band Moose after Modern English broke up for the second time. Welch eventually joined the reunited Lush in 2015. When Lush needed a bassist for their final show in Manchester, Conroy filled in.
As it turned out, the Manchester show rehearsals are what laid the foundations for Piroshka to exist — but admittedly, I need to add some background here: After Lush’s Chris Acland committed suicide in 1997, his grieving and devastated bandmates felt it was impossible to continue as a band. The band eventually broke up. Berenyi was so heartbroken by Acland’s death that she quit music and spent the next 20 years as a working mother. Because of personal and personal obligations, Berenyi didn’t agree to reunite Lush and tour again until 2015. Welch, who coincidentally was a close friend of Acland was a logical choice to lovingly fill in. At some point, Welch asked Berenyi if she’d be up to doing something new after the final Manchester show. And as Berenyi recalled in press noters, up until that point in her life, she hadn’t made music outside of Lush and solo work never really appealed to her. “I need someone else to motivate me, and in this case it was Justin. He sent drum tracks with guitar parts and odd words, so I wrote some vocals and lyrics, which became ‘This Must Be Bedlam’ and ‘Never Enough.’ When Mick added bass, it sounded great. When Moose added guitar and keyboards — I’d never written like that before, it was such good fun.”
“We sounded great!” Welch added in press notes. “Like a proper punk band. Mick brings a huge amount of enthusiasm and livens up the room, and I thought this is the kind of band I want to be in again.” Conroy agreed, adding “I’d seen Lush so many times, it was like playing with old friends. Miki agreed and it was good fun, too. And with Moose available, we thought, ‘let’s all have a bash, see what happens.’”
Of course, there are several more layers to the entangled and complicated web of personal, professional and creative connections at the heart of Piroshka: Bella Union’s label head Simon Raymonde was among the first people to hear the Brickbat demos and he quickly signed the band to the label. Plus, I should add that Raymonde’s former Cocteau Twins bandmate Robin Guthrie produced Lush’s debut album. And Raymonde’s current Lost Horizons bandmate Richie Thomas was a former member of Moose. In any case, Raymonde introduced Piroshka to Lanterns on the Lake‘s Paul Gregory, who mixed all but one track on the album. Lastly, Fiona Brice, who was once a Bella Union recording artist, wrote string arrangements while The Higsons and Blockhead‘s Terry Edwards, who played on Lush’s final album played brass.
Deriving its name for a slang term for missile, the band’s 2019 full-length debut Brickbat managed to have a deeper symbolic meaning for the band: the title also hit upon the fact that the album was a marked departure from the individual members’ best known work. Written through the anxious prism of parenthood in a world gone made, the album lyrically and thematically touches upon the fear, loathing, envy and strife at the heart of our current — and ongoing — sociopolitical moment.
The band’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Love Drips and Gathers derives its title from a line of a Dylan Thomas poem. Slated for a July 23, 2021 release through Bella Union, Love Drips and Gathers reportedly follows a more introspective line, with the album thematically focusing on the ties that bind us — in particular, as a lovers, parents, children, friends. Berenyi and McKillop split lyric writing duties, and the album features songs about Berenyi and McKillop’s relationship, their family, the deaths of McKillop’s mother and father and the death of longtime friend and 4AD in-house art director Vaughan Oliver, who died suddenly at the end of 2019. Sonically, the album finds the indie rock legends employing a much more ethereal sound while still reveling in energy and drama. “If Brickbat was our Britpop album, then Love Drips And Gathers is shoegaze!” Piroshka’s Miki Berenyi says in press notes. “It wasn’t intentional; we just wanted a different focus. I’ve always seen debut albums as capturing a band’s first moments, when you really have momentum, and then the second album is the chance for a more thoughtful approach.” The band’s Mick Conroy adds “Brickbat was a classic first album; noisy and raucous. On Love Drips And Gathers, we’ve calmed down and explored sounds, and space.”
“Scratching at the Lid,” Love Drips and Gathers is a shimmering and ethereal pop anthem centered around Berenyi’s imitable vocals, twinkling keys, a rousingly anthemic hook and a motorik groove. But underneath the euphoria inducing hooks and breakneck gallop, the song is a conflicted meditation on McKillop’s father and one’s relationship to their parents that sonically sounds a bit like a synthesis of Brit Pop, indie rock and shoegaze.
Directed by Connor Kingsley at Home Picture Films, the recently released video for “Scratching at the Lid” follows a rambunctious and energetic little girl, who’s one of the best things a kid can heart — there’s no school today. Throughout her day, she does all the things that kids do: running around the house causing chaos; plays with her dog, puts on makeup and pretend she’s an adult singing star. And in this girl’s world, we rarely see an adult, which probably allows her to be even more of a kid. The main thing for me is that the girl is adorable — and in some way, a reminder of our own childhood and childhood dreams.