Arts, Music

Softcult Returns With Political Messages in Its Music and Zines

In the early ’90s, American punk bands Bratmobile and Bikini Kill pioneered the Riot Grrrl movement. This feminist punk movement aimed to inspire girls to enact change regarding sexism and racism in their communities through the spreading of music and small magazines aptly called zines. 

Today, goth shoegaze band Softcult has the same mission with its music—zines and all. 

Softcult, composed of lead singer and guitarist Mercedes Arn-Horn and drummer Phoenix Arn-Horn, released its third EP titled See You in the Dark on March 24. 

According to Phoenix, the name of the EP draws inspiration from political issues in the world and how people perpetuate those same issues in their own lives. People can be in the dark and lack self-awareness about their own contributions to society, they said. 

“Obviously, there’s a lot of problems in the world and you know, it’s important to hold other people accountable for those problems,” Phoenix said in an interview with The Heights. “But it’s also important to see yourself in that.”

The EP consists of six tracks. “Spoiled,” the last song on the album, has an acoustic pop feel. In contrast to the heavy synth, dream-pop songs on the rest of the album, the gentle guitar plucking audible throughout creates a lucid, lullaby-like quality before building up to the chorus. 

“I’m water, I’m oil / I’m rotten, I’m spoiled,” Mercedes repeats in the chorus. 

According to Phoenix, the song feels like more of a sonic outlier on the album, but still has traces of Softcult’s recognizable sound in it. They said “Spoiled” is a song about self-doubt, which they feel is something everyone can relate to at some point or another. 

“It’s different from what we normally write about, but it was really like encapsulating of what we were both feeling at the time,” Phoenix said. 

Softcult released its monthly zine alongside the EP, addressing the main theme of See You in the Dark, “who are we in our darkest moments?” while also touching on gender equality. 

Softcult writes about a similar message on the second track of the album, “Dress.” The lyrics speak on how the way a someone is dressed is not an invitation for unwanted sexual attention. In line with the classic Softcult sound, “Dress” is accompanied by heavy vocal distortion, mainly in the chorus and Mercedes’s screams in the outro.

“Won’t ever feel the same again / I’ll never be the same again,” Mercedes sings. 

According to Phoenix, “Dress” was one of the first songs the duo started writing for the EP but was ultimately the track that took the longest to come together. Phoenix said that when they were writing the song, it felt like a story was unfolding, one that they said people can relate to all too often. The arrangement came together once Softcult showed the unfinished demo to its guitarist. 

“Dress” has a bit of a crunchy transition into the guitar rhythm, whereas “Someone2Me,” one of the singles off the EP, smoothly builds into the echoing melody.

“Pull me apart / See what’s inside / Am I everything you fantasized?” Mercedes sings commandingly to begin the song. 

The authority in Mercedes’ voice in “Someone2Me” translates well to the political statements the band makes both in the lyrics of its songs and in-between moments in its live shows. According to Phoenix, Softcult—which is currently on tour—dedicates certain songs to causes, such as climate change and rape prevention, during shows.

“It’s just something that I think is important, I guess, you know, when you have people’s attention why not try to have those conversations?” Phoenix said. 

See You in the Dark encourages its listeners to have those conversations both in and out of the concert halls.

March 29, 2023