“There's such a specific and good energy that comes from it being a female space.”

Fresh from recording an album of original material, DEEP THROAT CHOIR are fronting the new wave of indie ensemble singing and challenging our perception of “the choir”.  

Words by Amy Murphy

Images by Dan Wilton

Images by Dan Wilton

Words: 958
Approx reading time: 5 mins

“The best thing is having loads of beaming faces looking back at me when I am conducting.” Weekly practice, set within the strong acoustics of a beautiful Dalston church - this is when Deep Throat Choir founder, Luisa Gerstein, is in her “happy place”.  

“There's something so powerful and uplifting about throwing our voices in all together and making something beautiful and strong.”

With an album due early next year under Bella Union, and a host of high-profile collaborations and festival appearances under their belt, Deep Throat Choir are not your average bunch of choristers. Although, it’s safe to assume most cathedrals won’t be filling their Sunday slot with anyone that goes by the name Deep Throat. 

“I suppose we're alternative within the realm of what you might expect from a choir, but I always wanted it to feel more like a band. That's the world I know so it's the one we've stepped into.”

Taking their vocal cues from the likes of the Dirty Projectors and the Bulgarian State Choir – they have managed to steer clear of anything “too well known or poppy.”

“Up to now we've been doing arrangements of other people's songs, albeit distinctly Deep Throat. Now we're adding in our own songs, putting in new elements carefully and sparingly.”

Indeed, their choice of covers, Bjork, Sade, Electrelane to name a few, has placed them firmly in the indie, alternative sphere. Reflected similarly with the artists who choose to work with them, such as their upcoming project with Simian Mobile Disco, cementing them more as collaborative artists rather than backing singers.

“Last year we sang with Matthew E White, and did a performance spectacle at Wilderness with La Fura dels Baus which was pretty incredible.”

Formed over two years ago when it was a small group, Luisa wanted to trial the idea of arranging female voices. “I had a back catalogue of songs in my head. I reached out to friends that sing and we started getting together once in a while. I think there were only six of us to begin with, so not really a choir. It grew from there.”

With over thirty members, the choir has indeed grown. Though logistically “challenging” the creative process is, if anything, deepened rather than hindered by the swelling talent pool who are as Luisa says, “all incredible musicians and song-writers in their own right”. Far from the ensuing battle of egos one might expect to emerge from a group this size, Luisa draws on the creative possibilities with “so much potential and so many places to go."

Deep Throat Choir are indeed a testament to the power of the human voice as an instrument. Except for the addition of drums, their stripped back performances and treatment of individual voices against harmonies is hypnotic and incredibly captivating. It is said that before men could speak, they would sing their feelings. Indeed, true to the potency of the collective voice, singing is in its purest form for both the singer and the listener, an expression of humanity. As Luisa says, “the thing that makes it good live is how straightforward and raw it is.”  

Images by Dan Wilton

Images by Dan Wilton

“Every sound has a source that you can see, and there's a power in bringing music back to that simplicity, just voices and drums. The solos are good for bringing the focus right down to a single voice, and we're bringing in more percussion to work into the dynamics of the set.”

Just back from their third stint at Green Man festival or as Luisa calls it the, “big four day love-in”, the enigmatic ensemble are going from strength to strength.

“This year we sang on the main-stage which felt really exciting. It was so good to be able to spread out and really hear each other properly which can be hard on lots of stages where there aren't enough mics or monitors.”

The energy which comes with the all-female composition is palpable and one which they have played to their strength. “There's such a specific and good energy that comes from it being a female space.”

They were recently invited to perform at an installation by artist Katie Schwab as part of the Jerwood Solo Presentations; exploring the power of voice and the collectiveness of women as part of a homage to female designers, artists and musicians.

The recent rise in the popularity of choirs has no doubt attributed to their growing appeal. Indeed, with the stress and chaos that comes with inner-city living, the renaissance of the choir is not at all surprising. Recent research has highlighted the strong emotional and psychological benefits that communal singing has on mental wellbeing - not only the endorphins released whilst singing but with the strong sense of community and belonging it invokes.

“Everyone has come into this primarily for the love of singing together and to have a good time. That's the principle force that governs most of our decisions.

“It pulls us together and forges a closeness like nothing else, it's such a positive and supportive environment.”

It is an exciting time for the group. Their move into writing and recording has brought them closer to the band territory Luisa had envisaged.

Except for those who rushed to the shelves to buy the Military Wives Christmas special, choral ensembles haven’t exactly topped many a Saturday night Spotify playlist. Though that seems set to change, and Deep Throat Choir are leading the pack.

 “I'm excited about what else we can make together; what a resource of music, we've only just scraped the sides.”