Arxx: “We’re an alt-rock band who really want to be pop stars”

On the eve of their debut record, ‘Ride or Die’ – an exhilarating grab bag of bittersweet emotions and alt-rock zeal – best pal duo ARXX take a trip down memory (aka. Brighton’s North) laine. PHOTOS: Charlotte Gunn


“I feel like a baby… but a hundred-year-old baby,” Arxx lyricist (and guitarist) Hanni Pidduck giggles. “It seems like we’ve been at it for years because we have, but at the same time, I feel like we’ve just got to the start now.” It’s the week of Pidduck and best pal/drummer Clara Townsend’s debut album release. An occasion they’re celebrating with “reminiscing and lots of admin.”

Clara Townsend Arxx
Clara Townsend, Arxx

Luckily, the duo were able to escape down to Brighton pier for a semi-sunny shoot with The Forty-Five. “We were having a really stressful day and then [The Forty-Five Editor] Charlie took us out for ice cream and put us on a ride!” gushes Townsend, “that’s our idea of a perfect day out, honestly.” This blend of giddy enthusiasm and dedication is the beating heart of ARXX’s success. After previous projects disbanded five years prior, neither Pidduck nor Townsend were ready to give up on their musical ambitions and joined forces to form their own super-group. Think boygenius but British and Bridgers-less (although equally gay).

Arxx on a carousel
Ride or Die, they said…

“I’d seen Hanni play before when we’d been on the same bill,” the drummer recalls, “I never usually buy EPs but I bought hers because I thought she had a great voice. So I was really a fan before I joined.” The pair joke about the “audition” process in which Townsend was the only candidate. “We already had that mutual respect for each other’s musicianship so it was really just about seeing if we got on,” Pidduck reminisces, “so when we clicked straight away, things just started to fall into place.”


Beginning in Brighton, the UK’s hallowed queer hub, ARXX began their steady ascent. One which would call upon their talent and tenacity in equal measure. “We spent the first four years of our career totally DIY,” Pidduck explains, “we booked UK tours, European tours, we put out two EPs. There was no way we were going to sit around and wait for things to happen for us.” The pair reached out to their peers, like Nova Twins, for advice and searched for budget-friendly ways to get their music down on record – making their own luck every step of the way.

Hanni Pidduck Arxx
Hanni Pidduck, Arxx

“Dedication implies that there’s a choice and for me, I’ve tried not being a musician and hated it – I couldn’t be happy in the same way,” explains Pidduck. “We’re both in the same boat where we just genuinely love it and are willing to give up a lot of our outside life,” Townsend continues, “we’ve missed so many birthdays and other big events because we had gigs or rehearsals. You have to be completely into it to make it work.”

“That’s why we haven’t got a third member!” her bandmate quips with a wry smile, “no one else was willing to make the sacrifice.”

Dedication implies that there’s a choice. I’ve tried not being a musician and hated it – I couldn’t be happy in the same way.

Hanni Pidduck, Arxx

As ARXX have grown as a band, so too has their sound. Early tracks were rage-filled flurries that once served a purpose for Pidduck, the duo’s principal lyric writer, who first started writing songs as an “angry young person searching for some kind of emotional outlet.” As she dealt with the issues that were causing her anger – “therapy, I got therapy” – she no longer felt the need to thrash out punk riffs and scream about the state of things, and ARXX’s sound began to gradually mellow.

Arxx at the seaside

As time passed, the songs became poppier and more polished, excavating the hooks that have always been at the heart of hits like ‘Y.G.W.Y.W. (You Got What You Want)’ and ‘Stuck on You’. “Clara’s always had this super pop sensibility about her drumming so she was kind of leading me in that direction which I loved,” explains Pidduck. She cites being brought up on country – aka “slow pop music” – as one reason why their songs have gravitated in that direction, while Townsend also grew up on a diet of pop’s greats, taking early inspiration from playing along to the likes of P!nk, Katy Perry, and Mika in her bedroom.

Their debut album emerges as the eccentric lovechild of these countless influences and experiments. “We’ve been through a lot of genres in our time and we’ve landed on this sound we’re really happy with. ‘Ride or Die’ sums up a little bit of the journey we’ve had to get here and draws on all the genres we love most.” There are plenty of forward slashes involved – and that’s just how the duo like it. “Alt/rock/pop…” reasons Pidduck, “we’re basically an alt-rock band that really wants to be pop stars.”

Arxx in the arcade
Photo: Charlotte Gunn

This message of ambition and absoluteness is one woven into the very foundations of ARXX’s new album and emblemised no more resolutely than in its title, ‘Ride or Die’. “When we wrote that song, we very quickly knew it was the title track of our debut record,” Townsend nods. “It’s so fun and authoritative, and as time went on, we realised it perfectly sums up who we are, our commitment to this band and to one another, and what we stand for.” “Plus, it sounded cool and we could have a horsey theme!” Pidduck adds.

At its core, ‘Ride or Die’ is a bold, bright record that puts the singer’s candid personal experiences – primarily, with mental health and queer romance – front and centre of proceedings. “It generally tells a story of things getting hard and then getting fine, you know. And I quite like that sense of by the time you’re at the end of the record, you feel OK and like you’ve got through it all,” Townsend muses, “and the big drums and more polished riffs towards the end of the record kind of reflect that.”


Earlier this year, ARXX’s bubbling pop-rock sensibilities (and “persistent emailing”) took them on tour with genre royalty Yungblud. Another milestone moment in the duo’s career and a chance for them to soak up some gigging experience on a larger scale before taking their own album on the road. “The first night was the smallest of the entire tour and it was the biggest show we’d ever played… and they just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Townsend laughs. “It was so fun and just crazy – Hanni kept saying it was like we’d been pranked.”

Fortunately ARXX’s live show is their pièce de résistance. A thrilling, high-octane feast for the ears and eyes where Pidduck’s vocal prowess and percussion à la Townsend coalesce at new heights. “It was amazing touring with someone like Dom [Yungblud] who really matches our energy,” Townsend shares. “He was surprisingly well-behaved too… by his standards anyway! Although he did knock out his veneers twice which sounded painful (and expensive).”

Arxx 2023
Photo: Charlotte Gunn

“We also met Avril Lavigne,” whispers Pidduck, as if she didn’t quite believe it herself. “We lost our minds… I screamed in her face.” Lavigne had been in the French capital for Paris Fashion Week and joined Yungblud on stage to perform their song, ‘I’m A Mess’ together. “She was unbelievable and we were losing our shit in the crowd. Then obviously they finished up and went backstage and Hanni and I both looked at each other like… ‘we can go there’. So we just threw our beers to our mate and ran.”

It‘s in lieu of pioneers like the Canadian singer, who paved the way for female-driven, punk-influenced pop music in the early 2000s, that bands like ARXX can thrive today in an increasingly uplifting and inspiring sphere. “I don’t think there’s been a better time to be a queer, female band than right now,” Townsend admits. “We’re obsessed with people like MUNA, Haim, and St Vincent. Also boygenius, obviously. I’m gonna buy their album tomorrow… instead of mine.”


“Sometimes in the industry, there’s this feeling of ‘oh we’ve already got one of them,’ but in the queer space, everyone shuffles up to make room for each other.

Hanni Pidduck, Arxx

“Sometimes in the industry, there’s this feeling of ‘oh we’ve already got one of them,’ but in the queer space, everyone shuffles up to make room for each other. We all bring something different to the table,” Pidduck smiles. “I don’t think our message is as direct as some of those bands but we’re very unapologetically ourselves. We’re obviously a queer band and we don’t hide that in any way – in fact, we actively celebrate it in our music. ‘Ride or Die’ is all about queer love and putting a bit of joy back into the world.”

It’s a mantra that’s impossible to argue with, especially when served up via ARXX’s slick pop hooks and wiry, experimental grooves. This is a band brimming with ideas and unafraid to go to new or unusual places with them. Though the duo joke about being pop stars, their ambitions for the future remain humble, to be able to sustain the band as a career and “maybe one day even be paid for it” – but as ‘Ride or Die’ testifies, nothing for ARXX is a pipedream.

‘Ride or Die’ by ARXX is out now.