Camille Debray (Mille): vocals, bass, acoustic bass (2004–present) 

Noemie Debray (Mie): vocals, guitar, acoustic guitar (2004–present) 

We are delighted to bring you this feature on the Soap Girls. This talented duo of rockers have just completed a tour of the UK and are geared up for hitting the US, so we caught them just after the last UK date for a wide-ranging conversation about the music industry, touring, music and drummers. 

We sometimes talk to new artists who have those rose coloured glasses on, but these guys are astute and have seen the business through all its ups and downs.

I’m not spending too long on background, but the girls are French-born and reside in South Africa, albeit touring for about 6–7 months each year. 


They started off as child street performers before they were even 10, selling hand-made soap for charity alongside singing (which is why they got the name). The girls were with Universal Records and had a huge hit album in South Africa, “Xperience” (2011), that led to television, four hit singles in South Africa, and national tours. It also saw them walk away from the contract and releasing fully independent material after 2014. The following albums are all independent, all self-produced with their own material. We are proudly independent here at the magazine, and that’s partly why we have so many independent artists. But there is also the fact that we respect talent, the application of melody, storytelling, and that punk attitude that comes with being street smart.

However, having tasted hits and success, we wondered how the Soap Girls considered success today—were they still looking for world dominance, or has their notion of success changed?

Mie: That’s interesting, and I feel we may have differing answers on this. For me, success is being able to travel around the world and play around the world. Our music can be taken to the people, and we can record and be self-funded. If you can then financially survive on what you do, that is, for me, success.

Mille: For me, having a fan base that resonates strongly with what you are doing is what matters. It’s not having to say certain things to be accepted by the general mainstream public, whether you believe in what you are saying or not. We have done pop music  where its all about how people perceive you and you have to be mindful of what you say and what you stand for. You can never be 100% true to yourself and what you believe in in case you piss someone off. So success for me is being 100% true to myself and standing up for what I believe in. But, obviously, money does come into play as well. Living off music is success and there is a long road still ahead. We have much that we still want to achieve. Music is our whole life.

Turning next to a 2014 piece written on the girls, they were described in the article as: “They’re pop, they’re dance. They’re two super sassy girls with linked minds.” How much of that is still true today?

Mie: In 2014, we left the record label after being stuck in a horrible contract for four years, but by 2013, we were very much independent. 

Mille: But I do agree that our minds are linked. But by 2014, we were definitely not doing pop music, so it sounds like a rehashed article or an old article, but sassy, yes.

There is a George Bernard Shaw quote that reads, “The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people.” We are not sure here at the magazine that we agree with that. But some bands, like the Sex Pistols or Wendy O’Williams of The Plasmatics, probably did set out to offend for shock value. We don’t feel this is the case for The Soap Girls, although, of course, some people will always get offended. 

Mille: We don’t set out to offend people, but we do end up offending people who are intolerant of the freedom of others, especially those who dislike the right of a woman to express herself in her own skin. Also, maybe some of the things we say may offend, like when we stand up for some issues going on in the world, then people will tell us not to bring politics into our music. I said to this one person at a show that actually we should, because when you have a platform as a performer, you can connect to people. You have a duty, whether you want it or not, to open up discussions with people. We may offend, but sometimes if you don’t make people uncomfortable, then you cannot create change. At the end of the day, however, if someone is offended by someone else’s freedom, then they should look at themselves and wonder why they are feeling this way. Why should a woman not be able to express herself as she chooses? I always think that if I am shocked, then I should ask myself what is creating that shock within me. 

Mie: Sometimes people choose to take offense. For us, just because we are true to ourselves, we get a lot of shit for it. We don’t necessarily go out of our way to think about who we should piss off on a daily basis!

Mille: And with the Sex Pistols, at that time in the latter seventies, the working classes lacked a voice, and they were the voice for the youth who wanted to say “fuck this” and point toward how they really felt. They did affect change, and that’s a good thing.

Touching on the political comment. We are also a non-political magazine, and we generally dislike most domestic politics. BUT, we will raise certain issues. In the May editorial, we raised the case of Toomaj Salehi, a rap artist based in Iran, who is currently sentenced to death for writing and performing songs critical of his government. “It’s a shame you’re blood sucking leeches,” he sings in the “mouse trap” about his government apologists in the West. “If you cover your eyes, then your hands are drenched in blood.” Also, as we have an Iranian friend who helps us out, we raise the plight of the Iranian woman and seek to support their right to live and dress as they choose without morality police chasing them and killing them. If one person reads an editorial and goes away thinking, then we have done some good with the platform.

Mille: I agree. We are apolitical, but we will stand up and make people question authority when it is misused. We want people to think for themselves, and, like you said, even if one person does that and they question things, then that is a good thing.

Obviously, image matters in modern music. Those great bands with an image—Kiss, for example—can be seen as driven by image. But as Kiss has pointed out, the image may attract attention, but if it were as simple as putting on face paint, then every band would do it, and they would all be millionaires. The music has to underpin the image. Same for the Soap Girls, the image is fine, but the music has to be there too. Is the image still thought out, and is it still evolving?

Mie: It’s just us as we are. Obviously, with every tour we do, we change the style a bit. A few years ago, we couldn’t afford clothes on the tour, so we wore paint. Actually, at one gig, I left an outfit behind, and I was, ‘f*** what do I do?” And there was this tub of paint as they’d been painting the bathroom, so I just thought, “f*** it” and painted my outfit on. 

Then we thought it was pretty neat, and we couldn’t really afford stage outfits, so we made do with what we had: feathers, glitter, glue and paint. 

And those big headdresses.

Mille: A few years ago, we did wear massive headdresses. But someone stole mine at a show in Italy, and so next year we decided to wear wigs! So we had these huge, big wigs.

Mie: On stage, you really want to create a show for people. Of course, you can just go on stage in a T-shirt and jeans and not make an effort in that way, and fair play if that works for someone else, but it doesn’t for us. I want people to come to our show and forget their worries, their debt demands and their home or work stresses. I want an audience to be transported to the moment. I want a freeze frame of the moment, in this musical universe we inhabit. Our image reflects how we were at the time. On some tours, I have worn these huge granny pants that I bedazzle. I wear what I choose; the same is true of my sister; we just create the outfits. 

Mille: We don’t conform to what other people want us to be. We do have people tell us that we shouldn’t have to dress as we do. But who is saying that we have to? We dress exactly as we choose. 

Which is more than the women of Iran can do.

Mille: Exactly, and people are stupid. If you erode rights, it is always counterproductive. In 1958, women were arrested for wearing a bikini on a beach, and they got fines. FFS, do people really want to return to those days?

We don’t agree with restrictions like that. As soon as someone bans something, it makes it more attractive. If you try to make something compulsory, then it becomes less attractive. Dress how you want and live how you want.

Mille: That is what we stand for. In our show, we want to create a space for people to express themselves as they want. Music should not have that sense of judgment. Look at the artists who try to push the boundaries, I’d say Billy Idol is very cool. But Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust, is wonderful. He was so androgonous. 

Freddie Mercury, with those ridiculous false boobs during “I Want to Break Free,’ on stage in Brazil, was pelted with things for that; they just didn’t get it. 

Mille: These are the artists that paved the way. And Madonna, the freedom of artists that we have now if it weren’t for those artists who got shit back in the day, where would we be?

Mie: Sometimes people will take issue with how we dress on stage, but I like to highlight to people, especially when younger people are in the audience, that though people are happy to judge us, we must never make them feel that its okay to bully you for what you look like or how you dress. You must know that you have the right to be yourself.

Mille: That intolerance creates extremism, which is never good. When one person feels superior to another person based on appearance, then that is bad.

Mie: Some people will say bullying is bad, then they see someone dressed differently and call them a F. freak. Then they are the bully. Society needs to know that there are people who will be different and just let people be. Just embrace the freedom of being an individual.

Returning to the music, favourite tracks from the girls here at the magazine are “Psycho” and “Blood.” Musically, the tracks take us into the sound territory of the Bombpops, with the ability to have these gritty lyrics with the melody overlapping. How does the songwriting work?

Mille: Neither of us is especially into punk music, which is funny because we are often called punk. We have a punk attitude for sure, and I resonate with the message of punk, but I don’t listen to it. I think we have very different musical tastes, with a middle ground of grunge and alternative rock. Generally, my sister prefers classic rock. But I’m more into the Lamb of God, so we compromise. We both love A Perfect Circle, and Alice in Chains, my favourite band of all time, we both appreciate. We find a middle ground, and that lends itself to the balance in our music. There is always a strong melody.

Mie: Eclectic is good. Sometimes people are silly in that they will only listen to one thing. I’ll give anything a try. Imagine you went through your whole life and would only eat fish and chips. Look what you are missing out on. All the flavours of the world.

One of the things we really enjoy here at the magazine is listening to new music, discovering new artists and telling our readers to give them a try. 

Mie: I can’t wait for you all to hear our next album, it won’t be released until next year, and it will be our fifth independently released album. You will find it very different, and that is what I love about being independent, we are not boxed in any way. It is always our song, but we diversify.

At the magazine, we love the album “Elephant in the Room” (2017). We see that as a bit of a transitional album?

Mille: There are a lot of different songs on there, for sure. But this next one may not be titled yet, but we are excited about next year.

We sometimes hear artists talk about being on tour as a marriage!  Two siblings on a van! We watch your Instagram reports sometimes and it all looks great. Do you cope well with each other while on tour?

Mia: We love it!

Mille: There is no annoying thing about it. We both have the same thought, like, “Damn it, dude!” She can read my mind! But there is nothing annoying. We are each other’s best friends, and I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. It wouldn’t work.

Mia: I was laughing about the linked minds thing. There is a test where they scan the whole body and tell you bone density and so forth. And we are so similar.

Mille: Because we have had the same life, we are so similar. But there are session drummers working with us and that becomes interesting! Some of them are great. But it can be annoying. We have been The Soap Girls since 2004, street performing and selling soap at the start. We have the variations, but when you put someone else in the mix, it isn’t easy.

Mia: You get people from the outside thinking, ‘this poor male’ is supporting these girls. But I’m more like, ‘Look, you are a session musician, a hired gun. Please just do your job properly.’ On a tour, don’t be selfish, be a team player. 

Mille: Sometimes you find yourself stuck with someone that you have hired and there is an “Oh my God” moment. 

Mia: But with my sister, it’s never like that. 

Mille: With other people, there is light and shade, good and bad. Some session drummers are interesting, but sometimes it really is a nightmare. There is sometimes a lot of patience required, but you end up with some strange memories on the road. When in close proximity to strangers on tour, it can be awkward for sure, and you never know what a person is like properly until stress happens.

Mia: Or you are in a van with them for months on tour.  There are moments when we have had someone we would bluntly pay to just go and not play, just f off and leave! Then we call up someone and get the other one gone.

A professional session player should turn up, collect their money and deliver the goods. That is what being a professional is. 

Mille: Some are brilliant, and some are nightmares. We have had drummers on drugs, and one lied that he was a drummer, he was really a bass player! He just lied, he was on a show in London, a big show, and you just want to hang yourself. 

Mia: We have played shows with some people and I would happily turn around mid-show, take my guitar and just beat them to death! These are our lives and reputations. 

Mille: Then the public will say, ‘He’s so lovely’ and we are thinking quite the reverse! But, whenever we tour Japan, we have the same guy, he is so professional and so cool.  What a pleasure.

And do you self-produce your material, or hire an outside producer?

Mia: self-produce.

Mille: We do everything ourselves. Same with the drum parts, we write them in and program them in; send them to a drummer and they send them back. 

And as a last question, which band or solo performer that you never saw live would you most like to have seen, and at what stage in their career?

Mia: Michael Jackson in the nineties. 

Mille: Tina Turner in the eighties, when she was a firehouse.

And there we are! What a great interview!

For those who want to stream the Soap Girls music, you can do so  here.

The band’s website is here.

As a finishing point, to keep us improving the magazine, we really do need your support, and if you can go to the ‘Support Us’ button and buy us a coffee, it helps us feel appreciated and keep improving the magazine. We also have our merchandise shop, Lorraine, looking great in the gear! Read on, check out our many great features and reviews, and do bookmark us on your pages!

By Mark C Chambers


Lorraine Foley

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