“This is a textbook ‘I’ve been to therapy’ song.’” says Shit Present vocalist and guitarist Iona Cairns, when musing on the band’s new single ‘Voice In Your Head’, out now. “It really did come as breaking news to me in 2016 that I am not my thoughts and I might learn to have some agency over them. The melody was inspired by a song from the hit movie ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ and I wrote it in my head at work and recorded it on my phone in the toilet.”
Alongside the release of this new single, Bristol-based emo power pop outfit Shit Present have announced their long-awaited (seven years in-the-making) debut album ‘What Still Gets Me’ will be released 5th May via also-Bristol-based indie label Specialist Subject. A new era for the trio was heralded last month by the arrival of a boldly brilliant single ‘Fuck It’.
Shit Present’s previous EPs ‘Shit Present’ (2015) and ‘Misery + Disaster’ (2016) are also being repressed and are available to pre-order now. The releases garnered acclaim for Cairns’ fervent vocals, exploring themes of anxiety, depression and solitude. While ‘What Still Gets Me’ doesn’t shy away from these heavier topics, there’s more of a playful reprieve, a kind of comfort among the chaos. “I was trying to let my 13-year-old self out, the one that loved all the embarrassing pop-punk,” Cairns explains. By leaning into the joy that made her love music in the first place, ‘What Still Gets Me’ urged Cairns to express herself more freely than ever before, with the help of bandmates Thom Weeks (guitar, bass, vocals) and Ben Cottam (drums).
For almost three years, Iona Cairns struggled to write a song. The Bristol-based front person of emo power pop trio Shit Present had been creating for as long as she could remember, so this stagnant period felt like she would never get it back. It was the result of a hospitalisation, and coming to terms with her mental health issues, and while Cairns was in a much healthier place, she felt as if she couldn’t return to the person she was before. Then, without any epiphany or grand catalyst, Cairns picked up the guitar again and began writing what would become their first full-length album ‘What Still Gets Me’.
“The first song on this album was the first song I wrote after that period in 2019,” she explains. “I realised that it still felt good; I do want to write an album.” Opener ‘Cram The Page’ is a propulsive release, starting with a collage of looped, crunchy feedback. Through detached, driving strums, Cairns details the strains of coming to terms with her bipolar disorder. “She’s lost all her friends, doesn’t blame them at all / They watched her climb to the edge and couldn’t bear the fall,” she sings, commanding and steady. But this isn’t an introduction to an LP about the constraints of mental illness; instead, it’s a cathartic statement of perseverance, shedding the stigmas of stiff upper lips and embracing the vulnerability in sharing your story, even if it helps just one person.
Shit Present have fully flourished into a no-holds-barred powerhouse. The album’s title track, with guest vocals from Camp Cope’s Georgia McDonald, unwaveringly points the finger at dangerous men who claim to be harmless. “It’s not always a stranger in the dark / It’s the person you trust that goes too far,” the pair yell in a call-and-response style that showcases the strength in allowing yourself to finally feel angry. This anger permeates the album, like a friend amping you up to finally face a reality that you’ve long shielded yourself from. Power-pop banger ‘Beyond Tonight’ is a snappy, ear-worm chant, as Cairns sings “Trust me I can’t fall apart, I’m too strong now I’m so enough,” while ‘Crossed The Line’ barks “What a colossal waste of time, Reassuring you we’re fine” over booming guitars.
‘What Still Gets Me’ deals with weighty emotions, but it’s not an album about helplessness or intimidation. Through Cairns’ exorcising vocal delivery and the band’s relentless sonic arrangements, there’s a kind of rebirth that announces she is not a victim of herself nor anyone else. It’s a surrender to the feelings that make us uncomfortable, pushing them to the forefront instead of hiding them behind a curtain. By owning the messy, ever-changing landscape of our interior worlds, Shit Present offers up a collection where we can find solace in even our darkest, scariest moments.