Ah, Anya Pulver. It’s sooooo good to have you back.
The Bristol singer/guitarist is best known for her time in her previous band, Soeur, alongside Tina Maynard and James Collins. Soeur combined a grungey math-rock approach with some wonderful melodies, truly a unique sound. They never made it as big as they deserved to, but they nevertheless had a strong following in their hometown and beyond.
Sadly, Soeur came to an end during lockdown, but from that sadness, beautiful shoots are starting to grow. Maynard has already made an impression with her new band Masca, as well as occasional stints as touring guitarist for Bristol’s favourite boy band, IDLES. Now Pulver is back with her new project, Exit Child, alongside Joanna Bacon (guitar), Aron Newell (drums) and Max Killing (bass), and early signs are very promising indeed.
Recent debut single, ‘Dormant’, was an incredible opening gambit for the new band. Pulver has said about the track that it “spilled out of me one day when I was staying in a mental health crisis house,” and it is a hugely powerful track. “I live in torment, I count the pieces of myself, that I left dormant, trying to reach a state of health.” Incredible stuff.
Tonight is the second night of the band’s debut tour, supporting excellent Canadian punks The Dirty Nil. With rowdy California-based Brits LOWLIVES also on the bill, Exit Child were going to need to really bring it to make an impression, and they do not disappoint.
Resplendent in bright green hair, Pulver is no Joker, putting all her emotion into the fiery vocals. Second song, ‘Stay Away’, has shades of Soeur all over it, with a brutal heavy riff, some sumptuous melodies, and a signature change that takes you by surprise.
Yet, this somehow feels quite different to a Soeur show – it is heavier, and yet lighter. Heavier, because the riffs have definitely been taken to the next level, particularly on the pummelling ‘Insidious’. But also lighter, in terms of the vibe of it. Soeur shows were often quite intense experiences, but while the subject matter is just as challenging here as on Pulver’s previous band, she looks like she is having a lot more fun now, at one point climbing over the barrier and singing to individual members of the audience, and the show is all the better for it.
The tightness of the band after only a handful of shows is hugely impressive. Bacon and Killing ooze quality on the gits, and Newell is explosive behind the kit. At one point, Pulver has some technical issues with her guitar (that side of the stage seemed to be jinxed all night), and the band don’t miss a beat while she’s fixing it; take control of the situation, total calmness. How long have these been together again?
The main story is the quality of the songs, though. ‘Dormant’ is even more impressive live than it is on record, ‘Stay Away’ has ‘next single’ written all over it, and the punky-grunge set-closer ‘Fit In’ is really great too.
It’s hard not to compare to Soeur, of course, but one gets the sense that Exit Child will establish themselves in their own right very quickly. Either way, it’s great to see the return of a unique, talented and inspirational voice.