You’ll recognise Charlotte Richie as Oregon, one of the student gang in Channel 4’s university comedy-drama Fresh Meat – which coincided with Culture or Trash’s own rocky ride through academia. Oregon’s occasional impieties, Charlotte reveals, were quite an act.
‘I was such a boring student myself. I wish I had a great story but I just don’t,’ she admits. But the brother’s got a cracker. ‘Being chased by muggers in a long black coat,’ reminisces Luke Ritchie. ‘Clutching a giant novelty cheque I’d won from a battle of the bands. They didn’t get it from me.’
As well as acting, Charlotte sings; and as well as his Benny Hill tribute act, Luke sings. Recently, they’ve sung together, and their debut EP ‘Light of Another’ is released on 9 June.
One of the more concise online autobiographies of the new twosome reads: ‘Luke and Charlotte Ritchie are brother and sister, and occasionally make music together’. Siblings first and foremost, then. I put it to them that they must have worked hard to keep work and family quite so separate until, in 2012, they ended up on a stage together. But I’m mistaken. ‘Actually’, says Luke, ‘we sang together in 2010. And we grew up around music. It wasn’t a peaceful household.’
Flesh and blood are one thing, and true songwriting spark quite another. But it’s all worked out rather dandily. There, on ‘Light of Another’, is the desolate aesthetic as cultivated in Luke’s solo work; its beat-driven choruses possessed of brilliant urgency when Charlotte’s there to enforce the refrain.
The video shows an anonymous couple executing a mechanical, silent night-time dance in a car park. An encounter between similar-yet-different elements, where the chemistry all unfolds very automatically, feels emblematic of a reunion of siblings with complementary talents but quite distinct career trajectories. She: (contradictorily) a darling of both the C4 viewership and – thanks to her work with All Angels – of Classic FM. He: a dogged songsmith and networker who almost got in there with the remnants of Limp Bizkit.
With that in mind, there’s no reason the Ritchies ‘ought to’ sound any better than your next recently-cobbled-together twosome. How did those studio sessions pan out? ‘Surprisingly fun’, says Charlotte; for Luke, ‘surprisingly great’. There’s a no-holds-barred policy on criticism, but it’s a lot more constructive than, say, the old Oasis policy.
Granted, there are squabbles – Charlotte here dobs in her brother for ‘stealing all my food, or taking things out of my hands and throwing them on the floor’, while Luke recounts his ‘coping’ strategy which sounds like a variation of playing dead – but in the studio, it’s all business. ‘We’re both idiots,’ concludes Charlotte, ‘but we work well together in tandem, as idiots.’ Culture or Trash wonders if the ‘hard sell’ has always been a Ritchie forte.
A track from the EP called ‘Hammerite’ has an appropriately shiny complexion thanks to some splendid harmonies which only bandmates who share DNA can achieve. Its plonky bass and slide guitar harken to a golden era of folk music, but the video takes an ambivalent stance towards memory – as a toddler toddles through a disordered house of smashed wine glasses, half-picked chicken carcasses, and absent parents. The symbolism is through the roof, but Charlotte is coy about ‘meanings’. ‘You can kind of take whatever you want from them. There isn’t a specific agenda in the lyrics.’
But certainly there’s an agenda on ‘Four Track Tapes’, in which the duo sweetly sing an attack on the music industry, and the ‘strange fuckers’ who populate it. Surely the pair aren’t in a state of disillusionment ahead of their EP tour?
Luke is reflective. ‘Although it’s undeniably cynical, it’s also upbeat. There’s nothing better for me than recording music.’ Charlotte agrees. ‘The song applies to any ambition anyone has. It’s sometimes such hard work getting to where you want to go.’
It’s a sentiment they both know, albeit they’ve formulated it separately. But now, together, about to tour and perhaps to record a second EP (provided Charlotte isn’t whisked off on ‘some random shoot’, says Luke), this is the Ritchies vs. the world. Brother and sister doing it for themselves, and playing nice together.