Virvon Varvon are a punk band from London

Virvon Varvon Photo By: Karolina Sekula

Virvon Varvon are a punk band from London. Well that’s not entirely true. Why does this band insist on making it so difficult to write about them? They assure me they are very sorry about this. They feel sufficiently sorry about all of it.

There’s one yank in the band (Andrew Low), but he’s lived in London for a long enough stretch that he qualifies as being “from London”. I swear when he’s drunk he sounds more British than Jersey. I believe his partner is British, and they’ve gone ahead and had some of the most darling British children you ever did see, and so it’s been decided: “Gabba Gabba We accept you We accept you One of Us“.

Aside from Matthew aka Lemmy Caution (ex-Black Time), all of the members of the band have international origins. Drummer Stix (ex-Black Time) is from South Africa, On vocals you have Finnish real life bad girl and P.R.D.C.T. Hanne Highway (ex-Candy Highway), and now they’ve gone ahead and acquired Cunha (Trash Culture) on bass, and he’s from Portugal.

Like, what even was Brexit? I thought they kicked out everyone that wasn’t from Sunderland or couldn’t understand much less do a Mackem accent.

In the interest of brevity we’ll just say Virvon Varvon are a punk band from London. They formed about a decade ago and released nothing while they were initially playing shows with bands like Good Throb, and Red Cords, I had my eyes and ears on em and I had what they’d recorded. I was a fan of pre-Virvon Varvon band Candy Highway, and had worked with Black Time in another life.

There was indeed a Virvon Varvon single that was supposed to come out on another label, but that label ended before it began. It happens. I had a couple of false starts myself. The single was to consist of the slicker version of “Mind Cancer” that ended up as the final song on the debut LP of the same name, paired with one called “Trouble” which also found it’s way onto said LP.

There was enough interest surrounding the band at the time that it muddied waters around the status of the recorded material enough that I felt compelled to request that they record something entirely new for a comp, so they recorded “Listen” for Various Artists – Stupid Punk Boy in 2015. This was the first “official” appearance of Virvon Varvon.

I continued to comp them over the next couple of years while a couple of them were raising young families, and the single they had in the can for the other label never materialized. Once all the recordings were fair game, I released Virvon Varvon‘s debut full length Mind Cancer as a cassette limited to 100 copies.

For the artwork I worked with an Indonesian kid (Dueteromali) who did crust and metal artwork. Virvon Varvon sounded mean and vicious to me. Angry. Claustrophobic. Paranoid. A bit of madness in the sense that they could laugh at it all.There’s a sense of humor, but it’s dark. I liked the idea of having super metal looking artwork for this.

I got to choose what went on the record and what did not (I reserved a track to comp later) I got to sequence it.I got to decide that the very best recording was the demo version of “Mind Cancer”, not the slicker (also very good version) slated for the shelved single, and I opened the record with said demo because I wanted to introduce the listener to that particularly raucous and unhinged sounding version of it, as it’s statement of intent.

As far as bedroom punk label releases go, Mind Cancer was a runaway smash hit. It’s had three pressings so far. One on cassette, and then two vinyl pressings. The record was a critical success but people often couldn’t find the words to describe the sound or find bands to compare them to. If a band is any good this is probably a very good thing.

The interesting mix of musicians that make up Virvon Varvon make them sound special. It comes down to the unique makeup of the band. Not just the hodge podge of international musicians who had somehow found one another, but also the different musical worlds they came from.

Andrew cut his teeth in The Jazz June who are (first wave, 90’s) emo in the post hardcore sense (not “midwest emo”) Matthew and Stix were two thirds of garage punk titans Black Time, who had several long players on In The Red and a smattering of singles on international punk labels ala Billy Childish and his Headcoats. Hanne & Stix from brutalist dumb punk/friend core band Candy Highway, which provided the basic outline of what they would further flesh out as Virvon Varvon.

YouTube player

There was something genuinely charming and special about Candy Highway and people wanted to be a part of that. They were aggressively rudimentary and crude. Then you add literal genius and aesthete Matthew, who elevates everything he touches, and Andrew Low who is just as accomplished, but coming from the emo scene, which adds an entirely different set of references and textures, and more recently Cunha from Trash Culture who was able to come in and write “Voices” which acts as a sequel to “APP” “Mind Cancer” and “What Did You Say?” and very much sounds like “classic” Virvon Varvon, which is now it’s own sound. Cunha was able to join the band and contribute a song that sounded like Virvon Varvon.

With the aforementioned disparate elements, you get that rare thing which is a punk band with something that elevates the sound and makes them just a cut above. This is accomplished by a constellation of smaller elements that come together to form the whole. What they have to say and how they say it, attention to texture and the smaller details in sound. Some of it is intangible or a happy accident – Hanne sings in English with a Finnish accent and it adds interest.

As co front-person, vocalist, and one of Virvon Varvon’s songwriters, Hanne is fearless. She’s smart, curious, she lives unapologetically, and she’s a girl’s girl that can clearly just as easily hang with the boys. But she’s also often shouting about frustration with the tech dystopia and also human frailty. But that’s what makes a person “fearless”.

Hanne Highway, Photo: Karolina Sekula

Fearlessness isn’t actually a thing, it doesn’t exist. We all have fears, but confronting them is in and of itself what fearlessness looks like in practice. Shouting about fear on stage or on a record for public consumption for the whole world to see is what fearlessness looks like in practice. Embracing rage, confusion, frustration as a way to process fear is what being fearless looks like in practice.

Fearlessness in practice is finding and conveying the absurdity of modern life and how it’s melting peoples brains and choosing to laugh, create, dance, sing. Whether you’re alone in your room, or with a group of friends that collided together and formed a punk band in London, and you created this great thing, even though it seemed like maybe no one was listening – and it didn’t really matter if anyone was or not. But someoone on the other side of an ocean was listening, and they wanted the rest of the world to hear it too.

After the success of Mind Cancer Virvon Varvon started playing out again more regularly. The invites to play international punk fests started coming in. First it was Get Lost Fest in Hamburg, and of course last year they played Gonerfest in Memphis. In late summer 2023, Virvon Varvon recorded what would become an EP for Gonefest called Voices, which served as the first single from their new album Four Bars Of Hate.

YouTube player

When we were trying to pick songs for the Gonerfest EP, the cut “Four Bars Of Hate” was my first choice, and I was roundly dismissed by the entire band in the most polite way. They sort of vaguely suggested what they wanted as the single. After I finally caught on, they told me Four Bars was “more of an album cut” than single material, and honestly there wasn’t time for me to fight for it. By the time they turned in the recordings there was about 3 weeks remaining until the fest. Well, four weeks, but we had no artwork, the songs hadn’t been mastered. I had to figure out if my cassette guy could turn it around in time, so that ate up a week. I submitted Voices to my cassette guy 3 weeks before Gonerfest.

I had shipped records down to Goner months prior. I ended up taking the Gonerfest EP down as carry-on because it arrived just prior to my flight to Memphis. At the airport in Minneapolis/Saint Paul I accepted $400 to take a later flight cuz….well cuz $400. So me and the EP spent the day at the Delta terminal, meanwhile Gonerfest-ivities had already begun and I popped into the fest basically minutes before first night fest headliner Osees went on.

I met all of Virvon Varvon for the first time ever (they are the best and nicest people ever) and I had a 3 minute long reunion with John Dwyer who I had not seen in 20 years, and who was the only reason I was able to even go to the fest (Osees got me a weekend pass)

I’m an introvert. The whole day was both thrilling and my personal hell.I was exhausted. I went and sat alone at a table while Osees played and my ears perked up when the punkers from Foul Form started and kinda bobbed my weary head.I went back to the Airbnb to get some sleep.

Virvon Varvon played the following day. In my opinion it was the best day lineup-wise of the fest. Optic Sink, Virvon Varvon, Sweeping Promises, and THE GORIES, like, are you kidding me? I had records to give to Sweeping Promises as they were one of the big draws on a comp I’d just put out. As a live band they are exceptionally good, and Lira Mondal is a powerhouse vocalist that sounds even bigger and better live than on their thrilling records.

I’m not a fest person. Like, what am I a raver? A hippie? I hate large crowds. My senses get overwhelmed and it’s hard for me to have meaningful interaction or pay attention. I like dives, basements, and the bands that thrive playing them. I enjoy doing the merch table gig cuz it gives me something to focus on, but then there’s the pesky social interaction.

The best set of the Memphis trip was Virvon Varvon playing a small room at one of the after parties. They also killed at Gonerfest when they played broad day in 90 some degree heat. I had just met Turntable Report writer and record slinger Tracy Wilson (Dahlia Seed) and she was such a ray of sunshine. We bopped around to Virvon Varvon and she helped make that moment somehow even more memorable.

That Gonerfest EP basically isn’t even mastered. I mean I mastered it as best I could. When I got back from Memphis I had everything mastered properly for Four Bars Of Hate by Patrick Haight. At the last minute one of the songs was axed, so we added a previously unreleased demo of Mind Cancer favorite “Trouble” perhaps played with similar aplomb and abandon as the demo of “Mind Cancer”.

I can’t even believe that any of this is real. I was a fan of a band that, due to circumstances beyond their control were initially underrated and overlooked. The timing of it ended up giving them time to focus on their young families while I started comping them and put together their LP. They probably thought I was nuts. The record resonated with people in a way I don’t think I could’ve imagined. Like, heroes of mine like The Oblivians Eric Friedl, and now I have these new friends and there is a brand new Virvon Varvon release called Four Bars Of Hate for everyone to go buy on Girlsville.


About author View all posts Author website

Courtney DelMar

Aside from writing about bands for 50THIRDAND3RD, CJDelMar runs the Girlsville Records imprint out of Portland, OR. Girlsville is home to bands like COACHWHIPS, HOOD RATS, TOWANDA, MR. AIRPLANE MAN, VIRVON VARVON, & THE PRISSTEENS. girlsville.bandcamp.com