Harley Young chats with the Doom Punk four piece ahead of this year’s 6 Music Festival

BBC Radio 6 is back once again with another stellar lineup of new and emerging musical talent.

The station’s flagship live music festival, which is now based permanently in Greater Manchester, will once again feature performances you won’t see anywhere else, new music debuts, unique collaborations and surprise guests.

I caught up with the Mancunian Doom Punk four piece Witch Fever ahead of the festival to talk about all things dream riders, fan favourites, and the personification of ‘punk’.

Witch Fever are Amy (vocals), Alisha (guitar), Alex (bass/backing vocals), and Annabelle (drums). 

2024 02 06 Witch Fever 2
From left to right: Annabelle (drums), Amy (vocals), Alisha (guitar) & Alex (bass/backing vocals) Image: @nicbezzina/Instagram

It’s great that heavier music is getting the recognition it deserves and isn’t getting totally overlooked. That’s pretty cool.

All of your names begin with an ‘A’. Pure coincidence, or do you think it was the universe’s way of telling you you needed to form a band?

Annabelle: People weren’t allowed to join otherwise.  [laughs] 

Alisha: Yeah, unless you’re an ‘A’, you’re not getting in.

Alex: All of my family’s names begin with ‘A’ actually. So maybe it’s because of me? I’m the dominant one. 

Amy: You joined the band last!

Alisha: The universe brought us together to find you. [laughs] 

Amy: People get us mixed up all the time.

How does it feel to be selected to perform at BBC 6 Music Festival? How did you find out about it?

Alex: I think there was talks of something happening for a while and then the offer came through. But yeah, it should be good. I feel like it’s about time we did it. I’ve had quite a few friends in bands in Manchester that have done it, so we’re excited. 

Amy: Yeah, it’s cool that they’ve chosen quite a heavy band to represent as well. A lot of these festivals are quite indie and poppy, so it’s cool that they’re now looking at heavy bands, too.

2024 02 06 Witch Fever Amy
Witch Fever's vocalist, Amy Image: @witchfever/Instagram

Why do you think events like BBC 6 Music Festival are important for up-and-coming bands like yours?

Alex: I think the BBC has a certain prestige to it that’s nice to be involved with. I think it’s a very credible organisation for people looking to find and discover new music. I think it’s especially good for more alternative bands that might not necessarily get the same kind of mainstream press or whatever. 

It’s also a really good opportunity for BBC audiences to branch out and listen to things they might not have already listened to. 

Amy: Yeah, Radio 6 and Radio 1 are really good at picking up on new, alternative music - really heavy music sometimes, as well. It’s great that heavier music is getting the recognition it deserves and isn’t getting totally overlooked. That’s pretty cool.

Any bands or artists you’re looking forward to seeing at the festival?

Alex: I want to see Young Fathers.

Annabelle: I was going to say the same.

Alisha: Gossip.

Amy: Yeah, that’d be cool. Porij are playing the same night as us - I’ve not seen them before so that should be good, too. 

2024 02 06 Witch Fever Alisha
Witch Fever's guitarist, Alisha Image: @witchfever/Instagram

Which one of your songs is guaranteed to generate new fans?

Annabelle: I feel like we always get this wrong, because what we think is going to be popular is always the opposite. According to what’s streamed, anyway.

Alisha: We just like playing the ones that we like. Not what everyone else likes. [Laughs]

Amy: In Birth, a song we wrote like seven years ago, is one people always ask us to play live. We don’t, we hate playing it. It’s so old to us now and not what we’re about anymore. But if you’re watching us live, I’d say Bully Boy is a good one.

Alex: Congregation, too. It’s a staple for us I think. We always get one dad in the crowd loving it. 

Describe Manchester’s music scene in four words - a word each, if you will?

Amy: Erm, ‘vibrant’.

Alisha: ‘Varied’…stealing your ‘V’ there, Amy. 

Amy: Please don’t. [laughs]

Alex: ‘Versatile’? I don’t know, I’d say predominantly indie.

Annabelle: I don’t think it is any more actually.

Alisha: Right now, there’s a lot of good music in the area. I think there’s a difference between what you think of when you hear the phrase ‘the Manchester music scene’ and what it’s actually like now.

Amy: When we first started, it was a lot of indie, a lot of BritPop-

Alex: A lot of boys in leather jackets-

Amy: -and flares, and shit like that. But now, it seems to have opened up a lot more and people are trying to get away from the whole ‘Madchester’ kind of thing.

2024 02 06 Witch Fever Alex
Witch Fever's bassist and backing vocalist, Alex Image: @witchfever/Instagram

Your music has been described as ‘confrontational racket’. Why do you think it's important for today’s bands to speak their mind and be boldly unapologetic whilst doing so?

Amy: I think it’s really easy to get caught up in trying to be super professional and polished all the time. Especially with the rise of social media and things like TikTok becoming a big part of being a musician these days. 

It’s scary to speak up and say stuff that’s controversial. I think it’s easy to fall into the trap, as a band or person that’s in the public eye, to just not say or do anything that’s going to push any boundaries, because it’s easy to do that. But I think we’d be doing a disservice to ourselves and to everyone else if we didn’t speak up about stuff that’s important to us.

Your debut album Congregation has been described as ‘the sound of punk without boundaries’. What’s the most punk thing you’ve done, if you can tell us?

Amy: I’m probably the least punk.

Alisha: What are we considering punk?

Amy: When the Queen died, we played a gig and I screamed “The Queen is dead.” That was pretty punk, I guess.

Alex: I think there’s a difference between punk as an attitude and punk as more of a philosophy. 

Alisha: Yeah, people think it’s just all about drinking and being crazy. Which I do as well, but…

Amy: I was watching an interview with Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters where he said that the only way to be in a rock band was by literally becoming an athlete. That’s the only way he could sustain himself. Like, that’s becoming what punk is about.

Alex: I don’t think punk is smashing up a hotel room or going out and taking loads of drugs. That’s lame. I think it’s speaking up about controversial issues. Like, we have a pretty staunch approach to being on bills with abusers and stuff like that. I think asserting yourself in that way is probably the most punk thing you can do, really.

Alisha: Yeah, I feel like the original meaning of punk was to be quite political and speak against things you don’t agree with. I feel like we’re good at doing that.

2024 02 06 Witch Fever Annabelle
Witch Fever's drummer, Annabelle Image: @witchfever/Instagram

One song on your playlist when you’re on the road? 

Alisha: We go through phases. Each tour we seem to have a song. For example, when we toured Europe, it was I Was Dancing in The Lesbian Bar by Jonathan Richman.

Alex: One time, mine was Crocodile Rock by Elton John

Amy: I hated that.

Alisha: Amy just plays her own music. [laughs]

Amy: Yeah, I just zone out. 

Alisha: We usually listen to a lot of Lana Del Rey, too.

Annabelle: Venom by Little Simz, that was a popular one for a bit.

Alisha: You wouldn't have guessed that we would listen to this stuff, would you?

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What would be your dream rider, if you could have anything on it? 

Alex: Diet coke, vapes…

Alisha: Irn Bru.

Annabelle: Weed would be good. 

Alex: A nice, natural wine.

Alisha: Prosecco. And nice food. Something we can make sandwiches with.

Annabelle: I’d be making crepes in the green room.

Alisha: Crepes? Who makes crepes? 

Annabelle: Well, this is part of the dream isn’t it?

Alisha: I was going to say, where was I?

Amy: This is really tame. Half of that we have had on our rider.

Alisha: Mini Eggs. I like Mini Eggs, too.

Alex: Vietnamese and Thai food. We eat a lot of that. Baby animals on the rider would be great, too.

Amy: To eat?!

Alex: No, not to eat. To pet. Like, a few puppies, a kitten, a little pony, a pig and one of those tiny sheep. 

Alisha: Now I want this.

Amy: A hairdresser and makeup artist.

Annabelle: A masseuse. 

Alisha: Oh, hell yeah… Sorry, we went off on a tangent with that. 

2024 02 06 Witch Fever 6 Music
See Witch Fever at Band on the Wall Image: BBC Radio 6

If you could each pick a band (alive, dead or broken up) to headline ‘Witch Fever Fest’, who would you choose and why?

Alisha: Nirvana.

Alex: Deftones.

Annabelle: Every band ever has gone out of my head…erm, The Velvet Underground.

Amy: Rage Against the Machine would be pretty solid. Or Spiritbox, I love Spiritbox.

What’s next for Witch Fever? Any tours or new tracks coming our way?

Alisha: All of the above. We have quite a long tour coming up - we haven’t announced it yet so watch this space. Then, we’re in the final stages of writing an album. We’ll have music released this year, for sure. 

Annabelle: We’ll play some of the new music at the festival.

Alisha: Yeah, I think we’re going to play some new stuff. I’m bored of the old set. 

Amy: Yep. We’re ramping it back up again. 

Witch Fever are playing the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival taking place in Greater Manchester from 7 - 10 March. Tune in on 6 Music, BBC Sounds, BBC Four and BBC iPlayer.

Follow Witch Fever on Instagram to keep up to date with their latest announcements. You can catch them, along with Porij and Oneda at Band on the Wall on 7 March as part of BBC 6 Music Festival 2024.

See the full list of bands and artists performing at this year’s festival here

Header image: Sam O'Leary

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

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