Someone is dangling a baby over their garden wall to get a better view of Moist Crevice. A slew of fantastically named hardcore bands are playing in a backyard in Haringey, North London (other acts include Skitter and Stingray), which is attracting some attention from the local residents. Angry or fearful regard, you would think, but mostly people are curious about the oddly dressed but very respectful goths causing a racket next door. In fairness, it’s a wholesome—if chaotic—scene. It’s someone’s birthday. There’s a fire pit. Fairy lights are strung about to mitigate October’s impending 6 p.m. darkness. Naturally, a few neighbors pop their heads round to see what’s up. “I was expecting them all to be quite pissed off but it was alright,” recalls Matt Green of the oft-described-as "deranged" and "genuinely troubling" outfit Sniffany & the Nits. “The baby was the best bit.” According to the baby, who gave each band a warm, gurgling reception, the show was very enjoyable.
Even on a line-up of GBH-style punk and vocalists in pagan ritual dress, Sniffany & the Nits stand out like tough love at a pity party. With Green on guitar, Max Warren on bass and Owen Williams on drums (all from the Welsh capital of Cardiff and mainstays of the U.K. DIY scene, with hands in multiple projects including Joanna Gruesome and Ex-Vöid), the band connects the dots between the bleak cacophony of early British post-punk and the high speed, bad manners attitude of hardcore found on labels like Total Punk and Static Shock. The heart of Sniffany & the Nits, though—underpinning everything from the grotty subject matter (song titles include “Chicken Liver” and “Pearl Rope”) to their oddball artwork and menacing live performance style—is vocalist Josephine M.K. Edwards, a.k.a. Sister Sniffany.
Sniffany’s vision for the band is rooted in the comics she started making when she was a teenager. Described as “a dizzying mix of humor and gothic surrealism,” her art explores female abjection through lurid images packed with broken glass, scissor-wielding nurses and dark desires. With Sniffany & the Nits, the same universe jumps off the page into an even more confrontational dimension. Set against churning, rip blade guitars and a relentless rhythm section, Sniffany’s delivery swings between schoolyard sing-song and bunny boiler, like Violet Beauregarde gone Joker mode. Punk and hardcore obviously aren’t short on anger, regardless of who it’s coming from, but very rarely do we hear a feminine voice—especially one who leans so heavily into heterosexuality and hysteria—say: actually, the problem is me.
The band’s debut album The Unscratchable Itch, released in July through the London-based experimental label PRAH Recordings, is a carnival of humiliations performed by a host of deplorable characters. Jealous lovers, wronged wives, bitter grandmothers—each of them dramatizations of private thoughts and tendencies that Sniffany views as shameful. On “Chicken Liver” the narrator is jealous and competitive, hungry for male attention and resentful of other women (“What’s she got that I haven’t got?” she chides. “And how could I ever / Make myself look any better?”). On “Clam Chowder”, a disgusted secretary airs her cheating husband’s laundry (“I can smell him from here / A mix of vaseline, foot cream and Stella beer”). On “Piggy Bank”, a song about transactional relationships inspired by Sex and the City (Sniffany’s favorite show), the perspective is flipped to a red-pilled incel who sees women as manipulative, gold-digging swines. Overwhelmingly though, the songs center “dark triad” women—narcissists, psychopaths, Machiavellians—with ways of being evil that are, as Sniffany once put it to Loud & Quiet, “far more interesting than boys can be.”