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16 August 2023

Sad Girls Sex Club

Based in Eora/Sydney, on Gadigal land, post-punk duo Sad Girls Sex Club (SGSC) was born from heartbreak. Unsurprisingly, emotions run high for the two band members, Alys Hale, model turned lead-singer and music editor, and bassist Ollie Henderson, model turned lawyer. Sexy and sad, the sound emanating from SGSC is equal parts Belinda Carlisle and Alan Vega.

After an intimate performance at Sydney’s Burdekin hotel, I sat down with Hale to discuss all things music, sex and heartbreak. It wasn’t too long into our conversation that I discovered her self-deprecating sense of wit and throwback 90’s DIY sensibility, which both permeate beyond her song lyrics.

When asked how SGSC came to be, Hale let me in on the band's personal backstory. “Sad Girls Sex Club was originally an in-joke that began as Sad Girls Song Club”, she explained, “a text message exchange of miserable music through dark times with a friend who was also doing it tough.” “After getting my heart broken the last time, I decided that the only way forward was to have a closed heart, open legs and a largely open mind. I began recording again and saving the files under Sad Girls Sex Club.”

Originally from Cambridge, Hale and Henderson first met when their then model agent set them up on a playdate in London. “Even though Ollie is happily married to an incredible woman, I still refer to her as my wife. She’s more than my friend and bassist, she’s a dream wife. We’ve been playing in various line ups for years now, but SGSC seems the most perfect fit for us. Probably because there are no men involved.”

On stage, Hale’s enigmatic presence is met with her signature self-effacing and sarcastic humour. Sipping on a glass of house red, she apologised to the crowd “for any lasting damage” and then launched into the first song, ‘Burden of Oxygen’, an honest and vulnerable ode to a brief period of time when the singer lived in her car. Reflecting on this time, “The song is quite self-explanatory. When you're depressed even breathing can become arduous. I briefly had to sleep in my old Corolla in shopping-centre carparks after an altercation with a champagne flute.” (I chose not to pry on the topic of said champagne flute.) “At least it was a crystal flute, glass would have been far less romantic,” she shares. 

Alys Hale. Photography SOPHIE MARTIN

Drawing inspiration from each other’s musical strengths, Hale and Henderson work in unison to create tracks that are symbiotic. “I've been borrowing/stealing drum machines and then putting a bunch of synths and soft synths over the top, swamping my guitar in reverb to hide mistakes and letting Ollie hold it together with straight eights and the occasional slide. My lyrics swing from purposely veiled in metaphor to painfully honest. So much so that no one believes it’s true,” says Hale.

When asked about SGSC's position in Sydney’s underground punk scene, Hale reveals, “Sydney is a small scene consisting of even smaller groups. SGSC is kind of elusive and doesn't belong to a particular scene. I'm always having an identity crisis.” Hale’s perpetual identity crisis was solidified when she performed an unexpected cover of one of my all-time favourite pop songs, ‘I Believe in You’, by Kylie Minogue. Through an imagined lens of heroine and grit, the down-tempo, gothic rendition evoked a nostalgic sense of Australian pop. A fellow Minogue fan, Hale jokes, “My partner says I am similar to Kylie, especially in her Impossible Princess era. So, covering her made sense. Plus, covering Kylie is probably the closest thing I'll get to sleeping with Nick Cave....” On her other music idols Hale shares, “I love Suburban Lawns, Gina X, Karen Marks. I’ve been listening to a lot of Telex. I still love big acts like Sisters of Mercy, PJ Harvey, Bikini Kill, Pavement, Silver Jews, Bill Callahan... my taste often doesn't always directly relate to SGSC. SGSC is about cathartic self-carelessness, for the most part. It is cheap therapy and questionable stand-up comedy.”

The performance concluded with a raw and introspective track titled ‘Black & White’, which encapsulated how Hale utilises music and songwriting as a means to delve into the cataclysmic themes of depression and loneliness. Hale explains, “‘Black & White’ is about a strange dream I had in black and white. I guess it's about having a ‘half-life’ when you're struggling and experiencing a watered-down version of the world. It came from a pretty chaotic place. It’s also one of my oldest songs with numerous iterations, so who knows what it's really about. The listener can impose their own meaning on it. When it's released, I hope a critic psychologically analyses it and diagnoses me with some new trendy disorder.”

Sad Girls Sex Club will be playing with Jack Ladder at the Brunswick Ballroom 19th August.

Tickets are available here.

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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