Category Archives: Interviews

THE SKELETON KREW

The Skeleton Krew band photo

THE SKELETON KREW (from l-r): Cameron Briley (bass/vocals), Hunter Cross (vocals/guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From the town of Jackson, Tennessee, between Memphis and Nashville, The Skeleton Krew are a two-piece who describe themselves as “young, hungry, and not wasting any time“, and specialise in a heavy, experimental, and original combination of rock, indie, blues, and Americana, influenced by such bands/artists as Bob Dylan, The Cure, and The White Stripes, which has left quite an impression on music fans across their home state.

Having released two well-received EPs, and with a new track planned to be unveiled early next year, the duo took the time to speak to me, in-depth, about all of this and more.

How did the band initially form?

CAMERON BRILEY (bass): We got together pretty much by accident: It was a matter of Hunter starting what he intended to be a solo record after his previous band split, which was emotionally draining for everyone involved, because they still really care about other, and we’re very close.

This new record was supposed to be his way of starting over with a clean slate, and he recruited his musician friends from our local area to all join together on different tracks, and when he and I started to play together, there was a nearly-audible CLICK!

As cliche as it sounds, it really was like that – like you read in interviews with a lot of acts, and it was extra crazy, as we were so young at the time we formed – I had just turned 16, and Hunter was 19, and we’ve been trucking along ever since.

How did the name The Skeleton Krew come about?

CAMERON: Our name comes from the fact that we, as the “band“, are just two people who hire out session players and live players on an as-needed basis. We have a small team that works behind the scenes as well, but we’re certainly and truly are a skeleton crew.

As far as where the “K” in “Krew” came in, we just liked it spelled that way, as it looked cooler on a logo than a “C” did. I wish there was a deeper answer to that, but there you have it!

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

HUNTER CROSS (vocals/guitar): Bob Dylan always said – and I’m paraphrasing here – that the songs already exist, and he’s just a sort of lightning rod; he just channels the frequencies that are floating around in the atmosphere, and puts them to paper.

I like to approach songwriting in the same way. I think if you start to force it, it stops being genuine. I may not write for two weeks, or I may write non-stop every day for a month – it just depends on how dense the concentration of static is at the time, and if my antenna is tuned to the right frequency.

What inspires the band lyrically?

HUNTER: I think you should always write what you know, but I also take the approach of putting on different characters based on the stories I pick up that float around in the air. It’s a fun thing to balance, almost like writing stories of ghosts – like being a human spirit box or something.

And of course, being that we spend so much time in our hometown of Jackson, Tennessee, those ghost stories tend to be rooted in a Southern Gothic vibe – our town used to be booming back in the day, and now its history seems like it gets forgotten. It inspires a lot of the undertones of my writing.

So far, you have brought out two EPs – 2016’s ‘Evil’ and last year’s ‘The Fall’. How were the responses to them for you both personally?

CAMERON: We couldn’t have asked for better, I don’t think. It’s easy for us as artists, and relatively unknown ones at that, to get down on ourselves. I don’t think people outside of the business realise how isolating it can be for an independent act, when you’re not only responsible for writing and producing content at a high volume, but also for taking care of all of the business side of things that would previously have been the responsibility of a record label.

Most days, we’re locked away on our computers just doing business things, and we don’t get to socialise much outside of shows. All that to say, when we put out ‘Evil‘ and ‘The Fall‘, the response we got was so rewarding, because it was like, “Okay! All of this is not just falling on deaf ears! We’re doing something that other people find value in as well“, and I think that’s the best feeling ever – being able to be wholly yourself and other people finding intrinsic value in that as well.

And in the new year, the band will be unveiling a new single, entitled ‘Shine’. How has the recording process been for that?

CAMERON: ‘Shine‘ was a really fun one to record, because Hunter wrote that one in a whirlwind of inspiration: It seemed like, at that time, he was just bursting with songs. It’s been extra rewarding because we sort of officially-unofficially unveiled it at Summerfest in Milwaukee, so we just get all these good vibes from it, aside from it being one of our more upbeat tracks.

We did it at Room & Board Studio in Nashville, with Ray Kennedy, who’s a close friend of our producer [Pat Foley]. We’re all good friends now, so recording it was like having a little party! It was great! And on top of it all, we’ll be releasing it as a 45 single with a surprise B-side, which we’ll be announcing a little later. It’s actually being pressed as we speak, and we’ll be announcing the release date soon.

Also, how will the track differ stylistically to your previous work?

CAMERON: Like I mentioned before, it’s a really upbeat track sonically. Like pretty much everything we do, though, the lyrics are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but that’s just us being young, hungry, and full of piss and vinegar, and I hope we don’t ever lose that!

A lot of our previously-released tracks have been more parallel in the music and lyrics, but with this one, we’re experimenting with a little juxtaposition.

The band have performed live at venues across their home state of Tennessee. How is the experience – for you both – of playing on stage?

HUNTER: The stage is the payoff. We work all week behind a computer screen, reading, researching, writing…When I get onstage, it’s time to let off all the pent-up energy.

Of course, the audience plays a huge part in the experience for us as musicians: If they’re really feeling it, and we can play off of them, and they can play off of us, it’s like magic.

CAMERON: The stage is the only place I’m not anxious, and where I feel confident. I’m pretty shy in person, I like to be by myself – I don’t usually even tell my server at a restaurant if my food is wrong, but onstage, I can be everything that I’m not when I’m out in my everyday life.

Getting ignored by the audience really hurts, but it’s part of the game sometimes, especially as a self-booked, self-promoted, and self-managed indie act. When they’re into it, though…I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. I just get lost.

Single aside, what are your plans for the near future?

HUNTER: Our goal for 2020 is to really nail down home recording, making it sound incredible, and by the end of next year, we want to be putting out one song per month, whether it’s a demo, cover, or a new version of an old track, so 2020 is going to be a big learning experience, but we’re so ready for it.

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

CAMERON: Long-term, we want to be able to sustain a comfortable living doing music. I personally don’t have any huge dreams of being “the next big thing…” Obviously, I wouldn’t mind if that were to happen! Don’t get me wrong there, but at the core of it all, we just want to be our own bosses, doing what gives our life meaning, and being able to sustain ourselves well while we do it, and we want everyone we meet – everyone who listens to us or comes to our shows – to know that, as far as any scientific evidence can tell us, we get to live one time. Once.

Do what you find purpose in, and do it now. Success isn’t a limited resource, and you can always make more money, but you can never get back your time. Do it for your future self, so you’re not asking “What if?” on your deathbed.

‘SHINE’ – THE NEXT SINGLE FROM THE SKELETON KREW – WILL BE RELEASED AT SOME POINT IN EARLY 2020, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

 

 

CIVIC GREEN

Civic Green band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From South Yorkshire, Civic Green are an emerging four-piece – comprising of vocalist/guitarist Dan Hall, guitarist Matty Walker, bassist/vocalist Andy Lowman, and drummer Gav Darley – who play a sound that they personally describe as “loud as fuck indie rock n’ roll“.

So far, the band have mainly performed live shows around their local area, including a set at iconic Sheffield venue The Leadmill to full capacity, and having recently unveiled a new single – entitled ‘Sunlit Shore‘ – the quartet chatted to me about all of this and more, giving out some humorous answers along the way.

How did the band first get together?

It started back in 2016, when Dan and Andy (who have been mates since they were around four years old) finally found a drummer for the band they had been looking to form for years.

Three years, and numerous line-up changes, later, Gav responded to an advert online, and brought Matty in (who he has also been mates with for a number of years), and the line-up finally feels complete.

How did the name Civic Green come about?

Civic Green came from our first drummer, who used to get pissed as a 14-year old on the grass (green) outside the Civic in Barnsley, hence the name. We never got around to changing it when we left as a) We couldn’t think of anything better, and b) Quite frankly, we couldn’t be arsed.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

We’ve got a wide range of influences from different genres, ranging from 1950’s music to the present, and everything in between. We feel that gives us the ability to create tunes that are original, yet feel familiar. (Basically, we rip everybody off/people are too obscure to notice – we don’t wanna make it too obvious and get sued, although if they want to sue us for our earnings, then they’re fucking welcome to the £7 each we made in gig earnings)

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

There are a few ways of coming up with ideas, but it always starts with the music and a melody, then progresses from there. It either starts at practice where someone comes up with a bit of a riff or a chord progression that turns into something more, or Dan will bring something in to work on, then we will slowly build on the idea.

The lyrics come last, and take the longest. Dan will go away to finish them, then do an acoustic demo for everyone when they’re finally done to use as a reference.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Various things inspire the lyrics, sometimes we’re not sure what they mean, but they make sense in a strange way, but the main theme of a lot of our songs seems to be escapism and looking towards better things, the prime example being our song ‘Better Days‘.

Some of the lyrics are based on real things, and some of them are stories and things that just sound good when put together.

Recently, you unveiled a new single – entitled ‘Sunlit Shore’. How was the recording process for that?

The recording process for ‘Sunlit Shore‘ was a really quick one. We recorded it with Alan Smyth at 2Fly Studios (the genius behind the first Arctic Monkeys album), and we did it in two takes, the first one we think we ended up using. It was mixed and mastered pretty much in one day, then came out within a week or so. Laughing.

And how has the response been to the track so far?

The reaction so far has been superb. In the feedback we’ve had, people have compared us to quite a few bands from a few different genres, so it’s encouraging to know that we’re appealing to audiences across the musical spectrum (Also, no-one has told us yet that we are shit, and to pack the band in). So far, so good.

The band have mainly performed live in Sheffield. How is the experience – for you all – of playing on stage?

Playing live can be quite a tumultuous experience, as one week, you’re playing to a packed out Leadmill, the next, you’re playing to three people (one of them being the sound engineer) in Barnsley, because the fourth person has been kicked out for throwing a chair through a window.

As for the actual playing on stage, it can be one of the best feelings in the world, when everything is just going right, and people are getting in to it, but equally, it can be one of the worst experiences and make you want to never pick a guitar up again, or wrap it around your bandmate’s head when you play a bad gig.

What are your plans for the near future?

Our plans for the future just involve playing as many gigs as we can possibly fit in, and to keep getting better as a band. Also, we want to record and release a new single with a snazzy little video to accompany it.

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

The long-term aim is to take the band as far as it can go, whether that is playing stadiums, or lingering about in boozers with the windows missing, because a quarter of the crowd has put them through.

Ideally for Dan, said stadiums would involve Oakwell [Barnsley], whereas the rest of the band would prefer Elland Road [Leeds United].

Civic Green Single Cover

‘SUNLIT SHORE’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM CIVIC GREEN – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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YOUTUBE

 

DISTRICT 13

District 13 band photo

DISTRICT 13 (from l-r): Asen Milushev (drums/vocals), Jon Wild (vocals/guitar), Richard Vanderpuije (bass/vocals)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by DARINA BONEVA

Taking influence from a diverse range of bands and artists, both classic and contemporary, London three-piece District 13 have created a unique combination of heavy metal, rock, and punk, along with dark lyrical content, which has seen the band make a real impact on the city’s underground music scene this past year, and their vocalist/guitarist Jon Wild spoke to me about such things as these, the trio’s acclaimed debut album ‘Soma‘ – which came out this July – future plans, and much more.

How did the band first get together?

District 13 began when Asen and Richard were holding auditions for a lead singer. I had previously been in a band called Romance, who were signed to Fiction/Universal Records. I turned up, we jammed a few covers, and we seemed to click right away on a musical level and personality.

As Asen explains, “We had loads of talented people apply, but when we heard Jon’s voice and awesome guitar playing, we knew then that he was the guy for us. We all clicked immediately from the beginning, it’s been awesome!

How did the name District 13 come about?

We were thinking of names for a while, and Asen suggested District 13. District 13 is from the area in ‘The Hunger Games‘ books/films where there is a positive chance of rebellion. We found the name to be memorable, and it also fit in with some of the lyrical topics in our songs.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

Our song ideas come about in a mixture of different ways. I have written the tracks for the ‘Soma‘ album, but some of the new material we have written together.

When writing a song, I often come up with the music first, and I wanted to create high-energy up-tempo hard rock/punk music that sounds like Black Sabbath meeting the Ramones.

However, on the album, we do have a couple of slower songs, for example, ‘Is This The Way‘ takes a different vibe to the rest of the album, as it was partially inspired by Simon and Garfunkel, and I decided to harmonise the lead vocal line throughout the song. We have recently shot a video to this track, and it will be released early next year.

What influences the band lyrically?

When writing lyrics, I try to steer away from typical lyrics of boyfriend/girlfriend etc…Our first single, ‘Wild Flowers‘, talks about being disillusioned by a lot of the media, politicians, and press, and not seeing the truth behind what people in power say.

Some songs take a more light-hearted/comical approach, however, as ‘Cantankerous‘ and ‘Sweet Talk‘ are more tongue-in-cheek, and talk about an explosive relationship.

The main lyric in ‘Is This The Way‘ is, “I look into the sky, but I don’t see the light today, is this the way, is this the way back now“, and this is about feeling lost in life, and never knowing whether you are on the right path.

Soma‘ is the last track of the album, and takes inspiration from one of my favourite books, which is ‘Brave New World‘ by Aldous Huxley. I find many parallels to our society in this book, and ‘Soma‘ reflects on some of this, but is not directly about the book.

This summer, you brought out a debut album, entitled ‘Soma’. How was the recording process for that?

We recorded the album in Bulgaria in four days. I created demos for all of the tracks, and Asen recorded his drum parts to the demos in just one day.

Richard then recorded his bass parts on the second day, I recorded all my guitar parts on the third days, and on the final day, I recorded all of the lead and backing vocals. It was a tiring process, but most tracks were recorded with two or three takes.

The mixing took longer, as our producer Georgi Stanev had a busy work schedule, so we had to wait a few months, but he did an excellent job, and we definitely want to work with him again.

And how was the initial response to the album?

The response has been great. It has received excellent reviews from various websites, and we were also reviewed in Powerplay magazine. There is a variety of songs on the album, and something for everyone. Our album is available on several digital platforms, including Spotify, Amazon, iTunes etc…and we also have CDs that we sell at our gigs.

Last year, the band played at the Hills Of Rock festival in Bulgaria, which was headlined by Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. That must have been quite an experience for you all.

Yes, it was a great experience, and we hope we can do it again next year, as it was a great feeling to be playing at a major festival, and we put on a high-energy show. We got an excellent review in which I was described as a cross between Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious (laughs), and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden both put on a great show too!

And you have performed at venues across London, including Nambucca, the Dublin Castle, and The Rocksteady. How is it overall playing on stage?

We love being creative writing songs, but playing live is what we enjoy best, as nothing beats the energy and feel of live music, and we were happy to get to play at the Big Red before it closed, which turned out to be a great experience.

A few weeks back, we had shows at The George Tavern, and at The Rocksteady, which we had never played before. We go down very well with audiences, and we try to engage them as much as we can. One of the best shows we also played recently was at The Grand in Clapham as a support.

What are the band’s plans for the near future?

We have recently shot three new videos which we will be releasing in the near future, and we are also in the process of organising some European shows next year, but nothing has been confirmed just yet.

We also want to continue to push our album as much as possible, and to try and organise a tour, either as headline at club shows, or support for another band. Our next show in London will be at the New Cross Inn on December 8.

And lastly, what is your long-term aim?

Our long-term aim is to expand our audience as much as possible, and be able to do this full-time. We are all 100% committed to the band, and believe in the music that we play.

We certainly will want to record a follow-up album to ‘Soma‘, and we have already written a lot of the songs for that. The music industry is very competitive, but we will keep driving at it, and see where it takes us.

District 13 Album Cover

‘SOMA’ – THE DEBUT ALBUM FROM DISTRICT 13 – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

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YOUTH ILLUSION

Youth Illusion band photo

YOUTH ILLUSION (from l-r): Tim Storey (drums), Matt Ungaro (guitar), Zach Almond (vocals/guitar), Rory Deans (bass/vocals)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

For emerging London punk four-piece Youth Illusion, 2019 will go down as a productive year, as they brought out a debut single, performed at the Camden Rocks festival, and most recently unveiled their first EP, ‘Terms Of Submission‘, which was mastered at the iconic Abbey Road recording studios, and the band were happy to talk about all of this and more with me.

How did the band initially form?

Zach and Rory met through Gumtree, and it went from there. After a couple of line-up changes, we met Tim, also through Gumtree, and Matt contacted us around the same time about adding a second guitar…that was around April this year.

How did the name Youth Illusion come about?

It’s a bit of a play on the fact that we are a bit older than most bands trying to break through. Zach suggested it, and it stuck.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

Zach writes most of the songs, and Tim has started contributing music too. We bring an idea or a bunch of parts to a rehearsal, and we just play them through and change them up to make songs.

Zach then goes away, and comes up with the lyrics…and it doesn’t always come about quickly…we play a couple of songs now which we’re sure will have different lyrics by the time we record them.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Most of our songs so far have been about toxic relationships, but it’s starting to evolve a bit with the new tracks.

Earlier this year, you brought out your debut single – entitled ‘Better Off’ – to an overwhelmingly positive response. How was the reaction for you all personally?

It was amazing finally having something out there so people could hear what we were doing. The reception was great, the feedback has been really positive, and it lets us know we are on the right track.

And the track was taken from the band’s recently-released first EP, ‘Terms Of Submission’. How was the recording process for that?

It was long, but it was a great experience. Looking back, we were a bit naive about it, and weren’t as prepared as we could have been, but we struck gold with our producer (James Curtis-Thomas), as he really helped us build these songs into something we are very proud of.

The record was mastered at the iconic Abbey Road Studios. That must have been quite an experience for you all.

Zach was like a kid in a sweet shop! Rory was a bit more focused on getting the job done, but it was amazing to experience it, and actually be in the building. We know how lucky we are to have had the opportunity to visit the studio, but it’s even better that we managed to get our record mastered there.

And for those who have yet to hear the EP, what can they expect from it?

It’s four tracks of guitar-driven punk rock, fast-paced and upbeat, and we hope that everyone enjoys listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it.

You have supported the likes of Crosslight and The SoapGirls, and you also played at this summer’s Camden Rocks festival. How were they as experiences?

We’ve had so much fun! Shows are our favourite time, and getting to play with those bands was great, and we have been lucky enough so far to meet and play with a lot of awesome bands.

And how is it overall – for the band – performing live?

So much fun. We like to enjoy ourselves, and our shows are like nights out for us, as there’s beer, sweat, loud music…what more could you want?

Now that the EP has come out, what are your plans for the near future?

We are hoping to play as many shows as possible, and we are also looking at a potential tour in the new year, as well as maybe a new single in time for next summer. Also, we definitely want to do as many festivals as possible!

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

It’s the same as most serious bands. We want to do it as much as we possibly can, and maybe at some point, we will get the opportunity to do it full-time.

Youth Illusion EP Cover

‘TERMS OF SUBMISSION’ – THE DEBUT EP FROM YOUTH ILLUSION – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

SMALL PLANETS

Small Planets band photo

SMALL PLANETS (back, from l-r): Phil Drazic (drums), Ryan Silo (guitar) (front, from l-r): Jeff Love (guitar), Jess Hernandez (vocals), Josh Spincic (bass)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Los Angeles, Small Planets are a five-piece who take pride in being completely independent of the influences of record companies, leaving them with the freedom to produce a sound that is very much influenced by post-punk and shoegaze, and effectively showcases the best of their creative talents.

Having unveiled a self-titled debut album last month – which the quintet had spent eight months working on – I spoke to them to find out more about that, and a host of other band-related subjects.

How did the band first get together?

JOSH SPINCIC (bass): Jeff had a handful of songs when he asked me to join. I really liked the musical direction he was heading in, and I thought that I could really add a lot to those songs.

We tried a couple of drummers after that, but nothing worked out. Phil and I had been in bands before, and he’s one of the best drummers around, so I brought him aboard.

We went through quite a few singers and guitar players before getting lucky with Ryan and Jess. They both brought the level of songwriting and musicianship up to the next level.

How did the name Small Planets come about?

JEFF LOVE (guitar): I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, and as I was researching one of the ‘Sandman‘ storylines, and the two words kinda evolved. Band names are really hard to come by, as everything seems to have been taken, so in a way, I think we got lucky with this one.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

JOSH: Musically, it’s all about the riff. It has to be something catchy and meaningful.

PHIL DRAZIC (drums): We all have a different approach to songwriting, but for me, I like to put my idea down as a full song, complete with drums, guitars, bass, and share it. The goal for me is to share my vision, see what the others like and dislike, and build it out from there.

JEFF: For most of this album, one of us would come in with a demo, and we would sit in a room and work it out.

What inspires the band lyrically?

JOSH: For me, it’s that age-old theory that you write from the heart.

JEFF: Getting the words right for each song was an important step, and I’m quite proud of the words on this album, and in some ways, we aligned certain themes. A perfect example of this can be found in the opening and closing lines of the record.

The album opens with “Just hold on, I can feel your grip slipping, slipping away from me“, and closes with “And don’t you see, we’re not the same“. It opens with the struggle to make something work, to care so much you fight for it, and then 45 minutes later, we close with “That’s it, we tried but, in the end, it didn’t work“. It’s fucking tragic.

Last month, you brought out a self-titled debut album, which you spent eight months working on. How was the recording process?

JOSH: Amazing. Our engineer Josiah Mazzaschi at Cave Studios makes the creative process easy, and it helps that he knows the genre, and can see the direction we want to go in. Having the ability to take our time doing what’s best for the song really shows in the end product.

PHIL: The process was long because of our schedules and wanting to make the best possible record, but I always enjoy the studio because you hear the songs in a different way, and hear parts that sometimes get lost in the rehearsal studio.

JEFF: It took a long time, and it was very detail-oriented. Josiah really encouraged us to do whatever we wanted, and was really patient with us. We then sent off the mixes to Abbey Road Studios, and Andy Walter mastered for us.

And how has the response been to the album so far?

JOSH: It’s been positive. People seem to really get what we’re doing, which is a great feeling.

JEFF: For the people who have heard the album, the feedback has been great. The trick is, with so much competition, how to jockey for position is key, as it requires an insane amount of time, dedication, and drive.

If you’re not driven, you’re going to get pushed to the side and overlooked. You literally need to be relentless, strategic, and not take your foot off the gas.

The band have performed live at venues across Los Angeles, including The Viper Room and the House Of Blues. How were they as experiences?

JOSH: Each show is a learning experience. To focus on what worked, and what didn’t. Every time you play, it makes you a better band.

PHIL: To be honest, they weren’t the best shows for us, but as Josh has just mentioned, they were a learning experience. Those shows were in the early period of the band, so we were still feeling out the songs and each other.

We built upon those early shows, and when we played The Troubadour with the Twilight Sad, for example, we had become a much more cohesive unit.

JEFF: I remember the House Of Blues show being really good. It was in a beautiful room, and we only had a few weeks to prepare, but it came off really well. We had a few key people in the audience who are brutally honest with me, if we sucked, they would have let me know.

The Viper Room was great, because it’s a historical landmark venue, but I don’t think it’s my favourite place to play.

The Troubadour was my favourite place so far, the pressure was intense, most of it being self-induced, but in the end, the care for what we do showed.

And how is it overall playing on stage, for you all?

JOSH: It’s the best. One of the reasons why I play music is for that live connection with a crowd.

PHIL: Comfortable. It’s funny because I don’t like large crowds or large groups of people, but I’m most comfortable on the stage. Maybe the stage is my safety blanket.

JEFF: Playing live shows could be a key differentiator for us. Between this and the unreleased EP, we could make a very interesting and engaging show. We have just enough diversity in our catalogue of music to really draw the audience into something really special and memorable. I think it’s utterly pointless otherwise.

And lastly, now that the album has come out, what are the band’s plans for the near future?

JOSH: We have an EP in the works. We also want to play live as much as possible, and work on a second full-length album. Oh, and world domination.

PHIL: Planning a vinyl release of the record, and playing live. I would love to hit the road for some short stints on the west coast, but we shall see what the future brings.

JEFF: We strategically recorded an EP of five songs that are more shoegaze-driven, musically mid-Cocteau Twins era on two on the songs with words. We just need to add some production in the mixes, some more guitar from Ryan, and we should be set.

Since we are without the financial support of a record label, we need to be really creative in how to leverage cross-functional marketing opportunities while giving our fans enough content to stay with us for the next 10 months as we work on the second full-length.

Small Planets Album Cover

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM SMALL PLANETS IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

SPLURGE

SPLURGE band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by ALVARO LANTERO

Last year, three-piece SPLURGE unveiled ‘Dopey‘, their debut album, which, despite it being positively received by the band’s fan base, was a commercial flop.

After taking some time to reflect on what must have been a major disappointment, the punk trio have dusted themselves off, and have decided to just enjoy the buzz of performing live and being part of a band, and Joe Kennedy – their vocalist/guitarist – spoke to me in-depth about all of this and more.

How did the band initially form?

In the pub. Four years ago.

How did the name SPLURGE come about?

The name came from a poem I sent to a friend. It means something in excess. We add Sabbath to our social media handles because SPLURGE was already taken, and Black Sabbath is our favourite band.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

Sabbath, obviously. Punk in generally is what we go for, but every now and then, I discover an artist so strange and beautiful that we go into a phase of obsession with them, for example, at the moment, it’s [1980’s new wave outfit] Wang Chung. I do take influence in writing from different genres, Gary Numan has some good riffs. 

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

Mostly, we will write a song, and go something like, “Oh, that sounds quite like The Bronx, let’s keep going with that one.” [For anyone interested, I’m talking about ‘Misery‘ (compare it to ‘Heart Attack American‘)]

A new song we’re working on has a progressive riff that has elements of 90’s punk, you know like the interlude bit between ‘Chump‘ and ‘Longview‘ on Green Day‘s ‘Dookie‘ album? We’re trying to add something like that to the new tune, and it’s sounding pretty good at the moment – it’ll be on our new record.

The process of us writing a song usually starts with me recording a riff on my phone, and then sending the video to our Whatsapp group, the lads will say if it’s any good or not, and then at the next practice, we’ll try it out. We actually have this ongoing joke that our drummer Rob has special gold dust that he sprinkles over every song, and he has written some of our best riffs to date.

A few of our tunes get written in sound checks, and we love those songs, for example, ‘I Don’t Care‘ was just us soundchecking on one note, I remember saying to our bassist Jake, “Just play a ‘G“, and then we were looking round at each other and going, “This sounds proper good“. I love that song, and I think it’s probably my own personal favourite of ours. The solo is pure ZZ Top.

What inspires the band lyrically?

When we started out, our lyrics were all sad and depressing, about how life was bloody horrible, the drugs don’t work, and blah, blah, blah. Rob used to ask me on a daily basis if I was okay.

Since we started writing ‘Dopey‘, I haven’t been in a bad head space, so the lyrics haven’t been negative, which is bloody annoying, as they tend to be better when I’m sad, and we joke that I need some trauma to happen to me soon, because I can’t think of any lyrics.

However, my phone was stolen the other day, so maybe there will be a new song about getting robbed, I don’t know, but to be honest, I write lyrics when I have to these days, as I’m more interested in playing guitar, but I used to love songwriting, so hopefully, the spark will return.

Last year, you unveiled ‘Dopey’, your debut album. How was the response to that for you all personally?

Terrible, as no-one wanted to release it, and therefore, no-one bought it. I think, in total, we only made £20 from the album. We were so disheartened when the album came out, and it wasn’t picked up by the press, but really, that was our fault, as we didn’t do any post-release promotion, because we had spent so much money and energy on the record and the artwork that we were just too exhausted.

Actually, someone came up to me at a show recently and said, “It would be lovely to have a copy of ‘Dopey‘ on 12-inch“, and I agreed with him, because it would be.

To be honest, the best part of that album was doing the release show, as I think it was the best gig we’ve ever played.

The band recently released a live EP – entitled ‘Live From Kesbri Studios’. What were the main reasons for doing that?

We were playing a one-off gig in Manchester, and Ant from Kesbri Studios in Bolton got in touch with us about doing live sessions there that were going to be filmed, which is something we’ve always wanted to do, so as we were already playing up there, and had all of our gear, it was an obvious thing to do.

Also, he was fucking dirt-cheap, as well, and for the first time in the band’s history, earnings from the band paid for recording in total. I think we even got lunch on the band that day!

Ant got such a good sound out of us that we thought we might as well release it as a record, and Jake did the artwork from old photos of us.

We always tell people we’re much better live than we are on record, because the music is so rough, it sounds better when it’s right in front of your face.

The live record has a song from our second record, ‘Mood Swings‘, a few off the album, a new one, and there’s a cover on Bandcamp that we weren’t allowed to put on the streaming services. It’s basically a condensed version of the set we’re touring with at the moment.

And how has the reaction been to the EP up to now?

Good. We didn’t actually plan a release for this one, it cost us fuck all to make, and it’s not for sale anywhere, so we’re not gutted like we were with ‘Dopey‘. We’ve learned from the mistakes we made there, and our next record won’t be coming out for a while, but will be promoted very differently. I think we’re a bit more professional now.

Recently, you supported Australian hardcore punks Clowns at The Old Blue Last in London. How was that as an experience?

We’ve played with them before, back when we were just a two-piece. They’re all really nice. That show was mental because the promoter John asked me to DJ afterwards, so we spent the days before making the best playlist, and we killed everyone’s hearing with the tunes.

Towards the end of the night, and the more drunk we got, the songs got worse, and they were silly enough to give me a microphone, as I just kept screaming down it, singing the lyrics to the songs, skipping songs, and making up fake deals at the bar.

I was more keen on the DJ set than I was actually playing, although I think we played okay?

And how is it overall performing live?

It’s a release from reality, as I don’t think about anything else when I’m on stage, and all three of us have a great connection. We’re not muppets.

What are the band’s plans for the near future?

Since ‘Dopey‘ flopped, we’ve changed our ethos. This year, we’ve played about eight gigs, with the last one coming up next Saturday in Wigan. We’ve deliberately not gone round begging for gigs, and haven’t made much effort when it comes to the image of the band, as at the end of the day, we see it as a hobby, not a job, and it was becoming so boring.

We only released the live record because it was free, and it took us just one afternoon to do. We won’t be releasing anything next year, I doubt it anyway, but we’ll be going on tour, and we might even be going abroad, as someone in Russia has applied for a grant to get the money together to bring us over there, so that might happen.

And lastly, what is your long-term aim?

We’ve been chatting with a booking agent about getting some better shows for next year, so I expect we will probably have a good 2020. We’ve been a band for a long time, a leap year! The only way you stay a band any longer is by doing what you want, not what other people expect.

We actually used to think playing with bands like Clowns would be our big break, as somehow Fat Mike would be in the crowd, and sign us up on the spot, but I’ve decided I don’t want to dream that anymore, as I just want to play shows, write songs, and go on tour.

We’ve all been best mates for over 12 years now, but we’re moving on with our lives now, and this band is literally the only reason we see each other so frequently, as I live in Essex, and Jake and Rob live in Brighton, and it’s a good excuse to get drunk and have fun with your best mates.

The politics of the music industry doesn’t interest me at all – we’ll invest money into our project when we can, we’ll play as much as we can, and we’ll always give 100%, but only on our terms, not anyone else’s, as that way, it doesn’t damage us.

SPLURGE Live EP Cover

‘LIVE AT KESBRI STUDIOS’ – THE LIVE EP FROM SPLURGE – IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM THE BAND’S BANDCAMP PAGE, AND FURTHER INFO ON SPLURGE CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

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SLATER

Slater band photo

SLATER (from l-r): Daniel Baiolla (drums), Harry Slater (vocals/guitar), Reuben O’Connell (bass)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Despite having only formed six months ago, London three-piece Slater have made waves on the city’s music scene, and won plaudits from much of the underground music press, with a hard-hitting indie-rock sound and highly-energetic live sets.

With a debut EP, ‘So She Said‘, already out, and having recently released a new single – entitled ‘I Don’t Mind‘ – the band’s vocalist/guitarist Harry Slater spoke to me about all of this, their rapid rise, and much more.

How did the band first get together?

I moved to London, and basically searched the streets looking for other guys wanting to give their life to the music business…we met at the end of this May, and began gigging extensively on June 1, so it all happened super fast.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

I disappear for a few days. I lock my door, find all of the food I need, grab my guitar and notepad, and just play. My method is mostly a huge serendipity where I end up accidentally writing a song I didn’t intend to write.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Something that can touch you. I love intelligent literature that can be portrayed in multiple ways, depending on how you read it. In three words, I like simplicity, meaningful, and infectious.

Earlier this year, you unveiled your debut EP, ‘So She Said’. How was the recording process for that?

The best two-week holiday I’ve ever had. We spent a fortnight in Liverpool with producer Al Groves, taking 12 hours a day to pace our way through the five songs, and working with someone who knew his craft so well taught me so much about my own.

And how was the initial response to the EP?

Putting out music for the first time is like standing in front of someone you love, pulling your trousers down, and shining a spotlight right on you…it’s really intimidating at first.

However, people got right behind these songs, especially at our shows, as before we released the EP, there were more covers in the set, but we go down a storm with the original stuff more, and that was a great feeling.

On the subject of live sets, the band have been gaining a reputation on the London music scene for their high energy. How is the experience – for all of you – performing on stage?

Giving everything we have to our performances makes every gig count, as so many things change on a night-to-night basis, so when you’re throwing yourself around or singing your heart out, it feels like it truly matters, and people start getting involved with us more when they see that we can’t stand still on stage.

What are your plans for the near future?

The plan so far is to put out some more music, grab our guitars, and start playing, as we don’t like to sit around doing nothing for too long.

And lastly, what is the band’s long-term aim?

We want to get super famous, walk the streets with sunglasses on, bodyguards at the ready, and a Hollywood movie deal…but a little sooner to that, we want to break out of the home town, and go and see the world, and if people start singing our songs, feeling better after a bad day because they heard Slater, then that’s all we could ever ask for.

Playing music, being around your mates, and seeing the world, there surely can’t be anything better than that?

Slater Single Cover

‘I DON’T MIND’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM SLATER – IS AVAILABLE NOW VIA SLATER GROUP LABEL, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE