Forged in the friendly fires of First Timers Festival (one of our absolute favourite South London institutions at which first time musicians can learn the basics, meet others in the smae boat, form a band and play their first gig), excellently named pop-punk four-piece Breakup Haircut first turned our heads with their warm and fuzzy lo-fi debut EP What Did You Expect? I Got It Off The Internet back in 2019. One global pandemic later and they’ve teamed up with the similarly awesome Reckless Yes Records to unleash their debut album Punk Dancing for Self Defence, and it is everything you could want from a pop punk record – fun and relatable with a solid political and ethical core and packed to the rafters with massive tunes that make you want to jump up and down until you can jump no more.
We asked singer/guitarist Ishani, bassist Ripley and guitarist Delphine to guide us through the album track by track.
This album is the culmination of a debatable amount of years, four lockdowns, four band members, six cats, one dog, three photographers, three kung fu movies, one asthma attack, and at least one episode of the Simpsons. Our recording process spanned far longer than we’d have liked it to, but we finally made it. Punk Dancing For Self Defence is 15 tracks – old, new and newer – touching on breakups, boundary-setting, social anxiety, bi-erasure, and above all, existing under capitalism.
Making PDSD has made us better friends and given us a void to scream into, in spite of everything. We have cherished this time together and we’re excited to share it with you.
I Don’t Wanna Be Your Friend
‘IDWBYF’ is about all the excuses you can come up with to not deal with creepers, but ultimately, no one should excuse creepers. It is one of the two songs we get to count in on, and without fail shreds Ripley’s hands every time we play it live..
Ishani: I wrote the words to ‘Marie Kondo’ after my housemate moved out and I had the brief luxury of a place to myself. It’s kinda about the fragility and false security of living in rentals, constantly looking out for where you might need to live next, aware that you might be asked to move any time, but also, wanting to settle in and actually buy some fucking houseplants that you won’t kill.
Can I Borrow A Feeling?
Ishani: This song is Bart and Milhouse deep lore. I wish it were deeper than that, but it isn’t.
Delphine: This song was written after a particularly difficult relationship and painful break-up. It’s mostly about the depression and anxiety I experienced when the person lied by omission because they didn’t want to hurt me. It shattered my heart in a million pieces but also messed up my brain and triggered quite a lot of intrusive thoughts. On the flip side, it also talks about how time is a healer and closure helps you towards letting go.
Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin?
Ishani: ‘Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough To Move To Berlin?’ is a song I wrote thinking about how every tech bro I’ve ever met has tried to move to Berlin, convinced that it will make them happy. This concept followed me around for quite a few years when I worked in the tech industry, of moving there and somehow your life being better. You know, you move to Berlin! You start drinking smoothies every day, you have cool friends and go to cool clubs and do cool Berlin things and you actually have the nerve to cycle in the city! But really, it’s possible to be in shambles literally anywhere, and Berlin is no different.
Ripley: This is about social anxiety and imposter syndrome holding you back when you want to join in at social activities and make friends. I frequently moved houses, schools and countries as a part of growing up, so I was used to being ‘the new one’ and an ‘add on’ to a lot of established dynamics and groups of people who have known each other for years. It’s about being someone who really genuinely enjoys meeting new people and making friends, but also the terror of taking the first steps to join in, go to events and talk to new people, as well as the fear of not fitting in and of being a temporary figure. Anxiety tries to give you a load of excuses to not do normal things that you want to do, so a part of this is trying to say ‘no excuses’ to these thoughts that try and hold you back in day to day life and to try and push through them (to varying levels of success).
I’d Say Yes
Ishani: ‘I’d Say Yes’ is just me being bitter about being a people pleaser. I am so afraid that my friends will not like me anymore if I don’t do things for them but instead of doing literally anything to overcome that I wrote a song about it!
Out Of My Way (I’m Not Getting On The Nightbus)
Ishani: I bill this as a song about hating parties, but I don’t actually hate parties. I just hate that I have to deal with the dichotomy of FOMO or being out past midnight and having to spend four hours or £60 (or both) getting home. I have held the belief for a while now that the best amount of people is four or less, so this song is in the spirit of that.
On The Fence
Ishani: ‘On The Fence’ is about bi-erasure. I’ve only ever publicly dated one guy, so people assume I’m straight all the time, which is not great in a lot of ways. But it does mean I’ve never had to come out to my parents, which is probably an incident we could all do without in my family.
Ripley: I was chatting with the rest of the band about office day jobs and all the wild and outlandish dreams you have of what you could be when you’re a kid, and so decided to write a song about the often huge aspiration gaps between your childhood dreams and what you end up doing to pay the bills. I based it around how I grew up with a fabulous selection of probably actively un-educational action cartoons and anime adventure shows, dreaming of travelling and having adventures like in those shows vs how I now spend most of my waking adult life working at a computer.
Mum, I Wanna Be A Greaser
Ishani: Ripley has a spiel she does on stage before this song about how she really wanted to be a greaser growing up. As far as I am aware, Ripley still really wants to be in a motorcycle gang. If anyone’s recruiting, hit us up, yeah? She is not very good at arm wrestling, but she is fierce, loyal, and knows how to do at least five kicks.
Ripley: This is basically my entire resume right here. Although I would be really bad at crimes and I hate the idea of actually hurting people…. So maybe just a cool biker gang that goes round trying to help people and fight injustice? I’d be up for that. This song is basically about how teenage me wanted to be this cool badass, travelling the open road and getting into adventures when I grew up, and the big gap between that and the geeky IT worker that I turned out to be today.
Ripley: ‘Dealbreaker’ is about not feeling ok and trying to resist the urge to find excuses to run away from the things and people you like, in order to spite yourself and isolate yourself when things are hard. Being washed and dressed by 10am is basically a baseline of being ok in my family, so that line is about trying to basically dress up as being ok while you’re having a difficult time and trying to push through it. It’s not a super positive song overall, however things did eventually get better and those particular bad times did eventually pass.
Life is Short
Ishani: ‘Life Is Short’ is a song I had been meditating on writing since working in a startup where I did nothing all day but still had to come to the office anyway. As I have grown older, I sort of feel resentful of having to work at all, even though my current jobs are fairly nice environments. I am always grappling with spending my waking hours working for a wage when there is so much other stuff to do on the planet, and when what we are doing right now is clearly not working. I also wanted to dwell a bit on the idea that having to work in the way we do makes us more complacent as citizens, because we have less energy to dedicate to the causes we care about and less energy to protest.
Ripley: This song is also affectionately known as ‘Jammy Boi’ to those within the band, as the composition of this song came from the first time we all jammed a song together from scratch in the practice room.
Am I Revolutionary Yet?
Ishani: Man, I wrote ‘Am I Revolutionary Yet?’ out of pure pettiness. I recall writing it in response to someone telling us that we shouldn’t bill ourselves as ‘female-fronted’ and meaning it as advice – which, in itself, was good, I guess? And while female-fronted isn’t a genre, that doesn’t mean that we’re not a minority or that we’re not slighted. And honestly, I don’t see a lot of people like me fronting bands – I can name, like, three South Asian women who do, and I am close friends with two of them. So even if it isn’t necessarily revolutionary, it sure feels like it a lot of the time.
Ishani: ‘Valentines’ is a pretty simple song about loving someone so much you kind of want to hurt them, but you won’t, and ultimately, you’re grateful for what you have. I know that’s not a very angry closer to the album, but I do think it is punk to care about things and I really care about my partner.
Introduction by Paul Maps
Photography by Owen Clark