Sunday 08 September 2024, 7pm - 10:30pm

The Waterfront Studio


Tickets are subject to 10% booking fee

£18.00 (General)

+ killing me softly + boneflower

14+ (under 16s to be accompanied by an adult)

Every single song SeeYouSpaceCowboy have released since forming in 2016 has been deeply rooted in the life experience and trauma of frontwoman Connie Sgarbossa. It’s one of the things that makes the San Diego band’s music so compelling and visceral, because those oftentimes harrowing experiences flow through its veins. Whether that’s existential anguish, substance addiction or suicidal ideation (and attempts), Sgarbossa has never been afraid to detail her pain and torment in excruciating detail. She holds nothing back, and combined with the band’s intensely dark (and darkly intense) blend of sasscore, punk, mathcore and metalcore, it’s always made for profound and devastating listening. Coup De Grâce is no exception to that rule. The band’s third album, it follows on from 2019’s The Correlation Between Entrance And Exit Wounds and 2021’s The Romance Of Affliction. But unlike those two records, which were unadulterated, no-holds-barred accounts of her life at the time, Coup De Grâce takes a different approach to its lyrics. Rather than Sgarbossa baring her most private and innermost thoughts for all to hear, on these 12 songs they’re funneled through the lives of fictional characters within a noir-inspired world of the singer’s invention.

It makes sense, then, that the record begins with something utterly unlike anything the band has ever made before: a sax-laden, smoky, late night smooth jazz ballad. At least, that’s the identity “Allow Us To Set The Scene” assumes for its first 65 seconds, as St Louis-based singer Iris.EXE does just that. ‘A maze of alleys and havens for the delightful and depraved as our concrete backdrop,’ she narrates over the saxophone before bursting into song. It immediately draws the listener back to a time and place that exists decades in the past, a Moulin Rouge-esque club that’s not quite in the real world—and it’s within that parallel decadent and dystopian universe, and its various buildings, that everything then plays out. That ‘everything’ is just as personal as anything the band—completed by Connie’s brother Ethan (guitar/vocals), Taylor Allen (bass/vocals), Tim Moreno (guitar) and AJ Tartol (drums)—have ever released, but it manifests itself across Coup De Grâce’s 12 songs in an entirely different way than before. And with valid reason, too.
“The record started as a visual idea,” explains Sgarbossa, “because when it came to lyrics, I didn’t know what the fuck to write at first. I’m not a drug addict junkie anymore, so I'm not going to write another album like The Romance Of Affliction—I can't, and I don't want to. So my mind wandered to things that I love, like Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels, where there are all these stories interlaced within a city. That led me to think about noir and neo-noir, and then pulp comics and novels from the ’40s and ’50s, which started to make it all come together lyrically and thematically, where each different song can be a different tale of the city."

After the first minute and a bit of that opening song, however, the theatrics stop, their fuzzy, nostalgic warmth shattered by blast beats and screams, pulverizing guitars and exasperated spoken word, as the band deliver the kind of chaotic, violent noise they’re known for. And yet, as that gives way to second song “Subtle Whispers To Take Your Breath Away”, its ravaged, ferocious edges also reveal a new and surprising development in the band’s sound—a more catchy and accessible sense of melody influenced by what Sgarbossa terms “dancier indie-rock” influences like Bloc Party, Foals and Two Door Cinema Club. That came, she says, after she’d convinced, with some difficulty, the band to go with her proposed visual aesthetics for the record.
“I kind of wanted to do a fucked up Footloose situation with the dancier vibe of these songs,” she says. “The album’s supposed to take place in this artistic interpretation of the 1920s and 1940s to capture that pulpiness that I love. So you have songs like “To The Dance Floor For Shelter”, which uses this theme of the dance club being on fire but you keep fucking dancing no matter what.”

That song—which features Spiritbox’s Courtney LaPlante and offers a deliberate nod to My Chemical Romance—is, she says, a metaphor for the world being fucked up and how, in the hardcore world particularly, “our salvation is going to shows”. The whole city of this album, you see, is burning, and the world is in the middle of ending, but life and love and lust is still being played out. Indeed, the fire burns and engulfs everything from beginning to end—the very last words on final song “Curtain Call”, before Iris.EXE reprises her role of narrator and bids the listener Adieu’—are ‘flame for flame’. The song itself smolders too, delicate and haunting until the flames take over. That, in effect, is the crux of the entire album—the idea of, very literally, waltzing into oblivion. But the act of dancing is also a form of liberation for the characters on Coup De Grâce, and writing their stories allowed Sgarbossa the same kind of freedom for herself.
“I could let go a little bit in terms of writing lyrics,” she says, “and let it be a group effort, since there was this unified story and everything wasn't coming directly from me and my experiences. That was actually easier because I didn't feel like I had to accurately reflect my pain—they were looser concepts that a lot of people deal with. Of course, we put ourselves into these songs—I’m not going to write about something that's not happening to me—but it allowed for a lot more symbolism, rather than being, 'This is me. This is what I've dealt with.' It's a lot of fucked up stories about love mixed in with the themes that a lot of great records, whether it be emo or hardcore, were written about—about finding somewhere to belong—without just singing about ‘unity’ and shit like that. And it was a lot more fun to create an album that wasn't digging within myself, to be able to focus more on the visuals and the creativity.”

Recorded by Matt Squire at Mixwave Studios, Coup De Grâce is an album in the truest sense of the word. Wholeheartedly ambitious, it’s a graphic novel in musical form that not only succeeds in creating its own deliciously dark, noir universe, but one whose characters truly inhabit the world that SeeYouSpaceCowboy have invented for them. In fact, listening to it is more akin to watching it all unfold onstage. That’s partly due to the narration of Iris.EXE (who also appears on “Respite For A Tragic Tale”, a kind of intermission in the album’s middle), but also to the masterful execution of these songs. Take “Lubricant Like Kerosene”, which features Kim Dracula on vocals. It sounds like an evil incarnation of The Rapture (both the band and the event), and while it’s belligerent and intense, it drips with both noir-esque nostalgia and the bodily fluids from a night of unbridled lust. Elsewhere, “Rhythm And Rapture” featuring Nothing, Nowhere, is an epic depiction of an impending apocalypse, while “Sister With A Gun” combines typical SeeYouSpaceCowboy heavy frenzy with one of the band’s most singable choruses. Of course, it’s nothing new for the band to switch up their sound—they do that with every record—but the they’ve taken it to the next level with this one. And just as The Romance Of Affliction proved that art doesn’t always soothe suffering—Sgarbossa attempted to take her life two weeks after finishing that record—so Coup De Grâce proves that you don’t necessarily need to suffer to make great art. The singer is clean now and in a much better place than ever, but her band have also created the most ambitious, epic and accomplished album of its career.
“I hope,” she says, “that people can look at this as a complete expression—not just 'Oh, this song has a good breakdown', but at the whole story, the whole setting, the visuals of it all and the way the music all ties in. I hope they see the creativity of that and the risk we’ve taken by embedding Cowboy with more weirdo outside influences that you usually wouldn't see from a band like us. It's like a full, unified creative venture, and something we put a lot of work into, so I hope they appreciate the weirdness of it. I feel like a lot of times people hear clean singing and more melody from a heavy band and think they're selling out. But no—we're actually technically weirder on this record than we've ever been.”

With that, it’s time to put your best shoes on. You’re going to need them as you dance inside the fire.