“I don’t know. Has it even gone away?”. I’ve just asked Emily Capell whether there is a mod revival on the horizon, and the question seems ludicrous to her. It would to many of those that have existed within this sub-culture ever since it disappeared from the mainstream consciousness in the 80s. For them it has been a constant thriving source of soulful genres, dapper fashion and joyful parties, a sentiment Capell agrees with: “There’s always places you can go and wear nice clothes and dance to Doris Troy and Desmond Dekker.”
Emily Capell stands out in a current youth musical climate that places much weight on relevance and zeitgeist, but being greatly inspired by sounds and styles of forty years ago. Her music resembles more your dad’s record collection than anything top 40 yet is completely contemporary and authentic. Her music mostly takes cues from ska, but you can find a tinge of calypso and The Clash (Joe Strummer is her main influence) in there as well. Lyrically, she is astute, witty and brimming with personality. She is positive (No Worries) but also political (Brixton Prison). Joey is a fun knees-up track which flips Hey Little Rich Girl into a light-hearted tribute to the footballer Joey Barton by a ‘skinny white girl from North-West London’ (the video in which she performs the track surrounded by elderly women in pink wigs is endearingly simple). “I always sing about stuff that I know and what’s happening to me. I don’t mind a love song but I don’t really think I’d be very good at writing them.”
She is genuine and has both feet firmly planted to the ground. She thinks alcohol is overrated (“ it makes you fat and gives you a headache. The majority of people are dicks when they’re drunk”). She has only just watched Pulp Fiction and “didn’t realise how handsome Bruce Willis is”. She is also socially conscious yet optimistic about her generation’s disfranchisement. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on young people and social media does have a big effect on mental health and that’s very sad. You can’t help but compare yourself. It’s very hard to buy your own house, the cuts in education and the NHS are shameful and I’m worried we might get nuclear bombed but otherwise it’s fine”.
Time and place is important in shaping an artist. For Capell, music was an integral part of her life. Her first album was the soundtrack of High Society due to a youthful love of Frank Sinatra. When it came to her upbringing “no one actually played an instrument but music was always on.” She continued “I remember Joe Strummer dying and my Dad crying and wondering why everyone was so upset about someone dying who we didn’t know. And I remember my Mum and Nan singing There’s Power in a Union with their fists in the air at a NUT rally.”
She has come along way since those days having supported two-tone legend Rhoda Darker, receiving a feature on Fred Perry ‘Subculture’ website and playing Reading and Glastonbury which was also her favourite gig to date. Playing the Billy Bragg curated Leftfield stage, she said “It just felt surreal. I’d cried all weekend cause I was so nervous, but it was amazing.” And her biggest musical highlight so far? “Meeting Mick Jones. I have no idea what I said to him, I just know it was insane. I love him”.
Moving forwards, she is excited at the prospect of playing The Great Escape and seeing the other acts on display (“Trampolene are one of my faves. I’ve done a few things with them before and they’re always great.”), and is planning on releasing a new EP within the next few months after which she will record her debut album.
Don’t call it a revival. “Otherwise you end up with loads of crusty bands doing it all wrong just cause everyone else is.” Watch this one.
Words William Craigie