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My secret band :: Cryptic Street

Denise Gilford (left) performs on keyboards while Janelle Borg plays guitar

Brave New Girls


It's not often that you get the chance to meet an all-girl indie rock band from Malta.


Or anyone from that tiny island state. Even in cosmopolitan Brussels. So I leaped at the chance to meet Denise Gilford and Janelle Borg from the five-woman rock band Cryptic Street.


We arranged to meet in a gloomy branch of Starbucks in Rogier underground station. I had no idea what to expect from an all-girl rock band. Would they be Malta's answer to the Spice Girls or maybe Belgium's K3.


But these young women are creating a different type of music to the girlie pop that dominates the airwaves. More edgy. Somewhat Nordic.


Dark indie songs


The five teenagers have known each other for as long as they can remember. They went to the same girls' school and formed a band four years ago when they were just fourteen.


They sing dark, intellectual songs inspired by George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Their lyrics touch on social problems, feminism and the loneliness of social media.


They now have an online fan base of young women and minorities. But the band wants to take its music beyond the small conservative island with a population of just 423,000.


Here they face a problem in getting play time on risk-shy radio stations. "Sometimes they tell us we are too mainstream," Gilford explains. "Other times they say we are too alternative."


"this is a mature and

thoughtful debut album"


They have a further hurdle to overcome because they are a girl band. "Women are sexualised by the music industry," says Borg. "People want us to look pretty and sing love songs. But we want to concentrate on the music."

Cryptic Street are determined to carve out their own niche. They recently released a five-track CD called Stranger. It is a mature and thoughtful debut album featuring edgy, experimental songs driven by powerful, confident vocals.


Now they are thinking about bringing their sound to mainland Europe. But they are realistic about the difficulties involved. "We know it's hard to make a living from music, so we also have a plan B," says Borg.


Hopefully they will continue working on Plan A for a while longer.


Listen to Stranger here

Lost in Brussels


Gilford and Borg arrived in Brussels expecting to find a grey bureaucratic city. "But we loved it here," Borg says.


They liked the art exhibitions and concerts at Bozar, Antwerp's café Korsakov and even the Brussels metro. "We don't have a metro in Malta," Borg explained.


They also enjoyed wandering late at night through the streets of Brussels and sleeping in a park in Bruges. "Fortunately we didn't get robbed," Gilford says innocently.


I left them in City 2 shopping centre heading off to buy a notebook. I was hoping they were planning to write a song about Brussels.

Album cover artwork by Maltese designer Sean Camilleri