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 and beloved indie acts of the past 30 years. Their collaboration together can trace its origins to the knotted and complicated web connections between each of the band’s members: Individually Berenyi and McKillop are considered shoegaze pioneers with their own respective bands, releasing a number of applauded albums before getting married and starting a family. With 1995’s acclaimed self-titled debut, Elastica quickly became internationally recognized Brit Pop stars — and as a result Berenyi and McKillop were intimately familiar with Welch’s work. Conroy joined McKillop’s band Moose after Modern English broke up the second time. Welch eventually joined the reunited Lush in 2015. And when Lush needed a bassist for their final show in Manchester, Conroy filled in.
As it turned out, the rehearsals for the Manchester show are what laid the foundations for Pirsohka to happen — but I must add some much needed background: After Lush’s Chris Acland committed suicide in 1997, his grieving and devastated bandmates felt that it was impossible to continue as a band. The band split 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 professional obligations, Berenyi didn’t agree to a Lush reunion and touring until 2015. Welch, who coincidentally was a close friend of Acland was a logical choice to lovingly fill in. And as the story goes, at some point Welch asked Berenyi if she’d be up to doing something new after the final Lush show. As Berenyi recalled in press notes up until that point in eh 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.’”
There are several more layers of that entangled and complicated web of personal, professional and creative connections at the heart of Piroshka, of course: 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. 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.
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.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about “Scratching at the Lid,” a shimmering and ethereal pop anthem centered around Berenyi’s imitable vocals, twinkling keys, a rousingly anthemic hook and a forceful motorik groove. But underneath the big hooks and breakneck gallop, the song is a deeply conflicted meditation focusing on McKillop’s relationship with his father and one’s relationships with their parents. Love Drips and Gathers‘ second and latest single, the brooding “V.O.” is dedicated to the band’s longtime friend and collaborator Vaughan Oliver. Centered around arpeggiated synths, shimmering guitars, Berenyi’s wisps of smoke-like delivery, a propulsive rhythm section and soaring strings, “V.O.” fittingly is a Cocteau Twins-like track full of heartache and unfathomable loss delivered in an impressionistic fashion.
“I wrote this originally as an instrumental but the rest of the band convinced me to put a vocal on it,” Piroshka’s Miki Berenyi explains in press notes. “The lyrics are snapshot snippets of Vaughan Oliver’s funeral in January 2020 – lines from the speeches, fleeting impressions of the day. I’m getting to the age where the people I grew up with are dying and I find funerals a comfort in the sadness, formal but emotional, a celebration of a life, a space for the living to reconnect.”
The recently released video continues Piroshka’s ongoing collaboration with director Conor Kinsey. The video follows an ominous and shadowy being and its relationship with a woman. Throughout the video there’s love, sacrifice, dedication, heartbreaking loss and fear. “We wanted to put this ominous-being centre frame and allow the viewer to reflect on fear and loss whilst also embracing hope and futurity through its life experiences,” Conor Kinsey explains. “Giving the subject no recognisable features meant that it’s emotional journey through the different timelines felt more relatable to a wider audience.”