A high-school punk rock band out of Chicago
Maeve Hannigan
11:00 5th August 2021

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A high school punk rock band may sound like they preach that classic ‘stick it to the man’ energy, but nu-gazers Horsegirl succeed in making an ageless sound that both inhabits and rebirths the past without dismissing the present - in fact, they use it to its full advantage. Norah Cheng, Penelope Lowenstein, and Gigi Reece may only be at the end of their high school years, but they already hold a deep understanding of what their present youth is missing: punk rock. 

They insist the band is born out of trio-telepathy, a certain punk rock ideology, and a DIY scrappiness that nods to major influences like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Stereolab, and My Bloody Valentine. Reece concludes, “What we think the world might need right now is this resurgence of punk. But it's not like post-punk or anything, it needs to be this new form of punk, because punk is also ever-changing.” 

Lowenstein adds: “You just have to think about not getting stuck in whatever you're doing. I'm sure what will work for us now won't work in a few years. It will always be changing and I think we are always trying to keep it fresh.” 

Self-released track ‘Ballroom Dance Scene’ trembles delicately over a Belle and Sebastian melodic trail of Cheng’s tangled up observations and intimate imagery. The creative process? Cheng hesitantly admits: “If we write a song it’s kind of like a test - I imagine it being played in a dark corner of a bar that's really depressing and if there's nothing there keeping it a little bit decent then that means you gotta change something.” 

Reece assures, “We weren’t born in the wrong generation. We were born in the perfect one to bring back the old generations.” But of course not in a copycat way. The trio’s pre-lived nostalgia goes further than finding your dad’s old CD’s or rummaging through authentic record shops. Their rawness is supported through what they describe as ‘determined’ and ‘organised’ Chicago kids: a network of art collectives and a DIY culture that treasures a certain stitch of scrappiness, where playing gigs in your mate’s basement is a regular occurrence. 

Lowenstein: “We felt so empowered as young people watching old videos and discovering old scenes, but I think we have this desire to see other people have that feeling… we want to exist with those scenes in our real day and age.” 

And what’s next for Horsegirl? “Yo La Tengo followed us on Instagram”, signing with Matador Records and “Hi Dad” don’t really fit into the same conversation.

Lowenstein: “Kids have been dm-ing us that we’re gonna bring punk rock back”, a 21st century revival… “I think that people want it, kids want it and so we’re just feeling really empowered.”

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Photo: Press