“Heaven isn’t what they tell you it is”: Softcult Showcase Their Authentic Activism & Songwriting Craftsmanship on ‘Heaven’ EP

Softcult © Kayleen Widdoes
Softcult © Kayleen Widdoes
Softcult’s Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Horn discuss their new EP ‘Heaven’ – a ‘90s grunge-meets-riot grrrl record that reinvents the concept of “heaven on Earth,” lyrically dismantling systems of corruption and inviting listeners to embrace inclusivity.
Stream: ‘Heaven’ – Softcult

We wanted to write about the contradictions within our society, what an ideal world looks like, and how close or far we are from achieving that reality.

For fans of ‘90s grunge, riot grrrl, and shoegaze alike, there is one new band whose name you won’t want to let slip under your radar this year.

Softcult have been releasing a steady release of singles, EPs, and DIY zines since 2021, progressively gaining both traction and a reputation for putting their own spin on classic genres within the alternative world. Their new EP, Heaven, showcases the duo’s strong suits: Elaborate guitar compositions combined with heavy-hitting lyrics that highlight the band’s maturity, intellect, and activism.

Heaven EP - Softcult
Heaven EP – Softcult

“Heaven isn’t what they tell you it is,” explains Mercedes Arn-Horn, one-half of the Toronto-based grunge duo, Softcult, alongside her twin sibling Phoenix. “Heaven isn’t a place where you have to earn your spot by living by someone else’s perception of who they think you should be. Your Heaven isn’t defined by other people. Heaven can be whatever you want it to be, and everyone deserves to be happy.”

Washed-out guitars and reverberated vocals introduce listeners to the world of Heaven on its opening track, “Haunt You Still.” The sonics of this first song harness an ethereal aesthetic – a shoegaze interpretation of a siren song, if you will. Except the “siren” in this song is looking back on her past relationship with newfound maturity and a hint of regret.

Do I reappear in your bad dreams?
When you think of me, is it fondly?
Or do I haunt you still?

“Looking back on our past and the people that have come and gone, we have to reflect on the parts we’ve played in our relationships and the damage we may have un-purposefully inflicted and left behind,” the band reflects on the meaning behind “Haunt You Still.”

The record continues with the latest single, “One Of The Pack.” The song shares a feminist message aimed towards inspiring a more inclusive environment within the movement itself. “When we wrote ‘One Of The Pack,’ we wanted to write a song that celebrates women supporting women, and of course that includes POC, and transgender women,” the band recalls. The result is a triumphant and rocking statement of hopefulness, proving that Softcult can pack the punch of an inspirational anthem while staying true to their usual grungy guitar arrangements and thoughtful lyricism.

But girl, if you need me
You know I got your back
I hope when you see me
You know you’re one of the pack

“We pride ourselves on being intersectional feminists, even introducing riot grrrl feminism and activism to the shoegaze community in our own way, and we want anyone listening to our music to know that POC, trans women, and non-binary people will always be a welcome and crucial part of our grrrl gang.”

Other singles released as part of the EP rollout included “Spiraling Out,” a laidback track about anxiety featuring a contagiously hooky guitar riff, and “Shortest Fuse,” an eloquent criticism of our current capitalist society.

When asked what the next step in creating a better future should be, the band remarked, “We may not have the power to change things on our own, but everybody has the ability to make ethical choices, from the companies they support to who they vote for. We need to act in ways that reflect our morals and beliefs, even if it’s hard.” After hearing Softcult’s thoughts on the subject, the lyrics sound extremely close to home.

Yeah your boss forgot the payroll again
he’s such a capitalist
Don’t even know what we spent it on
Now you’re selling your guitar to pay rent

If you are wondering how Mercedes and Phoenix became so eloquent in expressing their ideas, it might be worth noting their wide assortment of artistic influences and literary references. In “9 Circles,” for example, they even reference Dante’s Inferno.

Condemning myself to your circle of hell
I don’t care, just as long as you’re there
God knows where you’ve been, when I see you again
I won’t care, take me anywhere

“I’ve been reading some feminist literature like The Anti-Social Family and When Women Were Dragons that has been very empowering and inspiring in my personal life and in my writing,” Mercedes mentions, “I’d also recommend On Disinformation, which is a very eye opening and empowering read.”

The band also gives good advice to anyone who cares about similar issues as themselves, encouraging people to create a community around their respective art: “Through representation and solidarity, when we see people who look like us on stages, in studios and online, we feel like our dreams and goals are attainable and we become inspired to chase them… If you get discouraged, channel any frustration or rage you might feel into something positive like music, poetry, art, and activism.”

Softcult © Kayleen Widdoes
Softcult © Kayleen Widdoes

The closing track, “Heaven,” is also the title track of the album, and describes an “idealistic utopian future,” which Softcult hopes to make a reality, “where everyone is accepted for who they are.” More of a slow jam, the song perfectly encapsulates and brings full circle the themes of the EP as a whole.

And I don’t mean to blaspheme
But God doesn’t love me like you do
I was given a body that doesn’t fit on me
I can’t stand the mirror’s point of view

“The concept of this EP is about what an ideal Heaven on earth would look like. It would be an inclusive place where people are free to be who they are, the most authentic version of themselves. It would be a place where we take care of one another, where we aren’t corrupted by greed, a place free of discrimination and bigotry. Where we’re surrounded by the people that love us, and where we love who we love free of judgment or prejudice. This reality can exist here on earth, in our lifetime, but it will take some serious changes to the institutions and constructs of power we have in place.”

Softcult’s Heaven is out now via Easy Life Records!

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:: stream/purchase Heaven here ::
:: connect with Softcult here ::

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Heaven EP - Softcult

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? © Kayleen Widdoes


an EP by Softcult

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