by ZAK SLOMAN
Since forming in the spring of 2016, five-piece Bunkerpop have been building up a devoted legion of followers, initially in their home city of Hull, and now spreading across the UK, with a truly unique, mostly instrumental sound drawn from an eclectic range of musical influences, as well as live performances that actively encourage audience participation.
However, the genesis of the band happened to be a complete accident. “We were originally practicing just for a David Bowie tribute night at the Adelphi (a popular live music venue), which Jonathan – our keyboard and synth player – had organised.”
During the practice session, the five members suddenly began to jam with their instruments in unison, and sensing positive vibes from this impromptu musical collaboration, they all decided to meet again for another practice, where the quintet put together their first track, entitled ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘.
With a name stemming from both an unforgiving windowless concrete space underneath a stand at the city football team’s stadium, and a song by Mancunian post-punk singer-songwriter LoneLady, Bunkerpop got to work on honing their approach to songwriting.
“We have a three-pronged approach to songwriting. Sometimes, somebody will start playing something, and then the rest of us join in, which is sometimes very successful, and occasionally awful. Other times, we’ll start from scratch in the studio, build a tune up that way, and then practice it for live performance. We also combine those two approaches to come up with a third way, where we will record a live take, then splice it up, add things, take things away, and spew it out the other side.”
The latter approach is what the quintet opted for when it came to recording their recently-released debut album.
“We recorded it over three sessions, and we got our friend Bob Wingfield to engineer and press record whilst we basically played live. We then took the recordings, and worked, re-worked, and worked on them again. Some stuff was dumped altogether.”
This is something the Humberside collective would consistently do over the next 12 months, taking many hours and days making everything as perfect as it could possibly be, and once they were completely satisified, the band sent it over to mastering supremo Pete Maher, who has worked with the likes of the White Stripes and U2, who – in the five-piece’s words – “gave it a shiny finish“.
Unlike the majority of bands and artists out there, Bunkerpop mostly eschew lyrical content in favour of samples of dialogue and sound effects. It plays a big role in what they do, and how the outfit present themselves, and this way, “the songs are open for interpretation, and we trust the listener to have enough integrity to come up with their own thoughts and feelings.”
This is something that also applies to the album as a whole, with the offering comprising of three songs on four sides, all named after colours. “We decided not to number the sides, as we didn’t want to have the listeners to think which one is best, so instead, they’re coloured sides. Each side is a mood, so the listener can choose a mood instead of an order.”
And this is reflected in the overall sound, which the band have described as “gorgeous“. “It’s groovy and strange. You can dance to some sides or you can chill out to others. Some of it is very pretty and nostalgic, whilst other parts are aggressive and fuming with the state of it all.”
Now the album has finally been released, the quintet are currently on a summer tour, which will see them play festivals and venues across the UK, and although rather gruelling, playing live is something they simply love doing. “We do not stand for mediocre, because why should anyone stand for that? The audience play a big part in any of our performances, and stage invasions are encouraged. We include the whole room in a performance, and there is no boundaries between band and audience. We have our uniforms as we are a team, and we play together to create joy and happiness.”
So far, the new release has had an overwhelmingly positive response, and the band have managed to sell half of its initial vinyl pressing, not bad for an outfit who have no major label support, and do pretty much everything independently.
However, the five-piece are not going to let this success get to their heads any time soon. “What really makes us happy is being creative and playing, and we’ll be moving onto recording new stuff soon as with the momentum we have currently, we can’t really afford to stand still. This time next year, Del Boy…”
THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM BUNKERPOP IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THIS – AND THE BAND – CAN BE FOUND HERE.