PUPPET REBELLION (from l-r): Henry Rogers (drums), Dave Christian (guitar), Oliver Davies (vocals), Craig Gibson (guitar), James Halliwell (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Puppet Rebellion are an alternative five-piece based in Manchester.
Since forming in 2013, the band have gained much acclaim and a legion of followers with an edgy and upbeat sound, which some have compared to outfits such as Bloc Party and Interpol, heartfelt lyrics and a powerful live presence.
The hard-working quintet have also had their music played on Dermot O’Leary’s BBC Radio 2 show and have supported the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen and Reverend and the Makers.
I chatted to them before their recent headline gig in Stoke-on-Trent, from where two of the group’s members hail.
How did the band originally get together?
CRAIG GIBSON (guitar): We’ve had quite a few line-up changes since we formed the band. Our original singer Simon put an ad out on a website which I responded to, we started writing some songs together, we recruited more members and over the last four years, we’ve had a few line-up changes, with Ollie joining us a couple of years after.
From where did the name Puppet Rebellion originate?
CRAIG: When we first formed, we put forward some names, of which Puppet Rebellion was one. The name was Simon’s idea, which was in reference to a band he was previously in where their management had been overbearing.
What would you describe your sound as?
CRAIG: Well, I would guess that it was kind of post-punk, but I think it has kind of evolved over the last three years, so I guess now it would be within the alternative umbrella. We’ve got lots of different styles going on, so it’s hard to piegon-hole it.
What are the band’s main musical influences?
JAMES HALLIWELL (bass): It’s sort of Noughties indie, Kasabian, The Strokes, that sort of big indie boom that was going on back then.
The band are Manchester-based, so I would presume that there are bands/artists from the city that have been influential to you. Would I be right in saying that?
JAMES: Manchester has a rich music history, so take your pick.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
OLIVER DAVIES (vocals): It usually starts with one of us doing a verse or a chorus, and then the rest of us will listen to it. If we, I mean Craig, like it, then we’ll carry on. (laughs)
DAVE CHRISTIAN (guitar): We just get a bunch of ideas together, we’ll play some basic melodies and stuff, we’ll choose the best ones out of them, we’ll flesh them out, turn them into a tune and then we’ll refine it.
OLIVER: We also tend to record a lot of stuff as well, because we found sometimes when we’ve written a song in rehearsal, we thought “This is a banger!“, but when we’ve heard it back, we found it wasn’t so good.
CRAIG: We do a lot of pre-production, we have our own recording facilities. We spend quite a lot of time refining a song before we go in and record it. It’s quite a long process, so probably from when we had the initial idea, it may take as long as six months until it’s properly finished.
The band’s music has been subject to much acclaim. Did you expect all the positive reaction at all?
JAMES: Yeah, because from day one, we have worked as hard as we can to get everything right. We always aim with a new record to make it better than the last one.
CRAIG: We’re confident of what we release, because we are our own worst critics. We will spend a lot of time actually going through this process where by the time we’ve recorded something, we’re really confident of the songs ourselves.
OLIVER: There’s a constant flow of ideas.
JAMES: A very small percentage of which actually makes it to release, so we know that what we put out is the cream.
You played London recently. How did that go?
CRAIG: It went really well, thanks for asking. We played a venue in Dalston called Birthdays. We were really well received by the audience, and we think we made some friends there. It’s one of the places in London we’ve played quite a bit, and we always seem to get a good reaction. Aside from here and Manchester, London is a place we very much always look forward to playing.
For two of you, tonight’s gig is a homecoming. What is your opinion of the current music scene in Stoke-on-Trent?
OLIVER: I think it’s good, but the problem is that there aren’t many venues.
CRAIG: What are you going to do about it, then?
OLIVER: I’m going to go around Burslem town square naked, with the words “WE NEED MORE VENUES” written on my body!
CRAIG: Good idea.
JAMES: We get the benefits of coming from both Stoke and Manchester. We’ve played BBC Introducing in both areas, a few times now.
What’s planned for the near future then?
CRAIG: Our last couple of singles will be on an album which we’ll be releasing in November, we’ve already recorded half of it with Gavin Monaghan at Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton.
We’ll also have another single out in September, which we’re going to be performing tonight, and then yeah, we’ll be pushing the album, doing a lot of promotional stuff for it, so that’s what we have planned for the rest of this year.
Will you be playing any festivals over the summer?
CRAIG: We’re playing the Tramlines Festival in Sheffield in July and we’re also playing the Blackthorn Festival in Stockport, on the same day actually, so that’s going to be interesting.
JAMES: Basically, we’ve had to ask for a early slot at Blackthorn, so we can load our stuff and get off to Sheffield in time for our set there.
CRAIG: It’s going to be fun.
JAMES: It’s going to be just like Phil Collins at Live Aid!
Where does the band see themselves in the long-term?
JAMES: One of us will be dead, one of us will have started a family…
DAVE: Our aim is to carry on for as long as we can with our music, getting all the tunes out.
CRAIG: I think we will continue to assess things as we go along anyway. We kind of work in cycles, so we’ll probably be doing what we’re doing now in a few years, except we’ll hopefully have a more substantial fan base.
JAMES: We know where we want to be, it’s just turning it into a game plan.
THE NEW ALBUM FROM PUPPET REBELLION WILL BE RELEASED THIS NOVEMBER.
FOR FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND, CHECK OUT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.puppetrebellion.com