Muncie Girls from Exeter, U.K., returned with their sophomore full-length, Fixed Ideals, on Aug. 31 via Buzz Records in North America and Specialist Subjects in the U.K. and Europe. It’s a strong follow-up to 2016’s From Caplan to Belsize and contains some incredible standout tracks. For a band who have been active since 2013 but have mainly released splits and EPs, it is a real treat to get two LPs in two years.
Their present lineup consists of Lande Hekt on vocals and bass, Dean McMullen on guitar, and Luke Ellis on drums. Hekt also jumped in on second guitar for a large portion of this record, which helps to round out an already lovely full-length. She says there are a few other new things they tried out in production this time around, such as adding far more reverb than they have in the past. “Making music as a ‘four-piece’ naturally invites more layers to be incorporated, so I’d say the songs are musically a bit more complex than the last record—which isn’t necessarily a good thing,” she ruminates. “We’ll find out what people think soon.”
While two years between records may seem like a long stretch of time, Muncie Girls certainly didn’t spend it resting on their laurels. In fact, they had so much material going into recording Fixed Ideals that they had to scrap six tracks that just wouldn’t fit. Hekt shares, “It was difficult deciding which songs would end up on the album, especially because we’d spent so much time recording them all. In the end, we were just ruthless with them.” She adds that they cut any songs they weren’t totally sure about and, fortunately, there was consensus about which ones to skip. When asked what’s going to happen to those cutting-room-floor tracks, Hekt says, “We’d love to release a record of the off-cuts and B-sides! We’ll see.” Fingers crossed!
One of the many things that separates Muncie Girls from the pack is the quality of their lyrics. They have a high level of literacy effortlessly injected into their music in a way that isn’t overly intellectual or inaccessible. Vulnerability, honesty, and integrity flow through every situation they sing about.
Fixed Ideals’ first single is “Picture of Health,” which tells the tale of a pair of best friends looking out for each other. It’s a platonic love song focusing on two people who struggle with mental health. “I guess the best thing to offer a friend who needs you is just your company and your time,” Hekt says. “I’d ask them what they need and be patient with them if you can’t cheer them up immediately.” The track is a modern anthem of friendship and self-care, as well as a go-to song for those who need a boost. “It can sometimes feel impossible to ask for help,” Hekt adds. “It might be embarrassing or you just don’t want to be a burden on your friends, but talking to people is totally essential if you’re struggling! You have to show your vulnerability in order to strengthen yourself.”
Another track that jumps out is the opener, “Jeremy,” on which Hekt tells her dad to piss off—in so many words. When asked if it’s difficult to write so openly and truthfully, Hekt replies that she’s “never been able to write songs any other way. For me, it’s a chance to work through how I feel about stuff, so it’s not difficult, because it’s sort of a way of coping.” She goes on to say that while she was “luckily never close to [her] father, it’s just something that needs to be said.” Setting boundaries in toxic relationships, even if it means severing contact altogether, is such an important thing. “I did find it empowering to write, and that’s why I insisted it go at the start of the record,” Hekt shares. “I’m a bit nervous for that song to be released, but mostly excited!”
Part of what informs the subject matter of her songs and the way they’re presented is the books Hekt fancies. The titles of Muncie Girls’ two LPs are inspired by Sylvia Plath, and Hekt gives the impression of being an avid reader. “There are a few books I read around the time of writing Fixed Ideals,” she says. “‘Sober Living for the Revolution: [Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics]’ edited by Gabriel Kuhn, ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf, ‘Blood and Guts in High School’ by Kathy Acker, and ‘I Love Dick’ by Chris Kraus.”
Another fairly informative and positive change for Hekt is her sobriety. She shares that she quit drinking over a year ago, just before going into the studio to make Fixed Ideals. “So, rather than there being songs about sobriety, it’s more that there are songs about drinking too much,” she explains. “It was surreal being newly sober and hearing a lot of lyrics back about alcohol and the effects it was having.”
Within the last couple of years, Muncie Girls have grown quite popular, garnering international attention. That can be a tricky change to navigate, but it seems like the band are rather happy to lean into new opportunities such as playing places they never thought they’d go, from Japan to Australia to Texas. “We feel incredibly lucky to have experienced so much—and in the context of playing in this band, which we love doing,” Hekt says. “It’s also been a lot of hard work making this new record, so the whole project has become much more of a full-time thing for us, although we have jobs as well.”
Muncie Girls have an eight-day U.K. tour scheduled in support of the new record starting Sept. 26, followed by 11 dates throughout Belgium, Germany, and Austria in October. On Nov. 5, they kick off their eight-day North American tour in New York City.
Photo by Paul Silver