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ASYLUMS

Asylums band photo

ASYLUMS (from l-r): Mike Webster (bass), Jazz Miell (guitar), Henry Tyler (drums), Luke Branch (vocals/guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Essex, Asylums are an ambitious, fiercely-independent four-piece who specialise in a well-crafted, artistically-led alternative rock sound, which is accompanied by thought-provoking lyrical content that relates to a wide range of personal and contemporary political and social issues.

As well as focusing on their own development as a band, the Southend quartet also run a record label, Cool Thing, which supports and encourages emerging like-minded musical collectives.

I spoke to the outfit about all of this, and more, following their set at the recent Camden Rocks Festival, and here is what they had to say to me:

How did the band initially get together?

LUKE BRANCH (vocals/guitar): Basically, we were all in different bands, but in around 2013, they all came to a natural conclusion, for all sorts of different reasons. My granddad could see I was getting stressed out about it, so he gave me £1,000, and told me to keep pursuing my musical dream.

I then called Mike up, and asked him if he fancied working on some songs with me, then we called up Jazz about two weeks later, and then Henry after that. We went on to develop some material as duos, and then – I think it was around Christmas 2013 – we all got into a room, and started to jam on what we had been working on.

It just started like that, really. We didn’t go, “Let’s start a band! Let’s be the greatest!“, and I thank my granddad for giving me that money, because without that, I don’t know if we would have ever got off the ground.

How did the name Asylums come about?

LUKE: Many years ago, I used to play in a band with one of my best friends, and he said to me, “Fuck me, mate! We’re either going to end up living in mansions or asylums doing this!“, and as time went on, and that band finished, and so on, I was walking up a hill one day, and I thought, “Yeah, I think I’m ready to live in an asylum!” (laughs)

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

LUKE: Up until recently, we kind of had a factory line, as I would first work on a song by playing the piano or the guitar, and try and flesh out what I got from that as much as I possibly could, and then I would usually go to Jazz or Mike, who would then make their contribution, and whichever one of the two came next would then also contribute, with Henry usually being the last to contribute, and that seemed to be the way we always did it, and after that, we would add lyrics, chords, and melodies, and then record it.

However, with the album we’re working on at the moment – our third – we’ve tried a new approach. Rather than doing what we’ve done before, where we have all done stuff and sent it to one another, we’ve gone for a more collaborative process. I will play something I’ve come up with on the piano, and then Jazz will improvise on his guitar, and so on, so we’re still achieving pretty much the same thing, but it’s fresher, and it gives the record more of a flavour, so that’s something we’re getting rather excited about.

We had to do what we did before, mainly because of lack of time, so we had to be strict with ourselves, but now, we can be more relaxed.

What inspires the band lyrically?

MIKE WEBSTER (bass): Horror films.

LUKE: I read a quote somewhere recently from the author Martin Amis, who said, “Every line needs a minimum of elegance“, and I think I know what he means by that, because you have to set a bar for yourself lyrically, and words in general, as every line has to justify itself by being beautifully constructed, which is a hard thing to do, as you have to be conscious of the bar you set yourself, and it needs to feel right, as the feeling is more important than anything else, so you have to try to balance these two things, while also not diminishing the meaning of it, and that’s where the instinctive, playing together, drawing from the lyrics as you remember writing them rather than lifting them directly from the page, helps to bridge that gap.

In terms of inspiration, our lyrics can range from subjects such as gender politics, austerity, generational stereotyping, nostalgia, and even to a greater degree on our next record, the conflict between biological and genetic means of pro-creation against an increasingly right-wing world.

So far, you have brought out two albums, which were both very well-received. Honestly – especially in regards to your first album – did you ever expect it to get the response they got at all?

MIKE: We really didn’t expect anything, to be honest, because I think we were at a stage where we had been in separate bands, and we had decided to come together, and it was like, we decided from the very beginning that we wouldn’t go down the traditional route of working towards getting a deal with a major record label – any label in fact – and that’s why we decided to start our own one up, Cool Thing Records, so whenever we brought a record out, and it got great reviews, we felt better about it than how we would have felt had we released one through a label we had signed to, so the fact that we have been able to do that, as well as being able to sustain ourselves through Cool Thing, it’s been a fantastic journey for us, so far, and for us, over the past couple of years, it’s always been about the label, more so than ourselves, really.

On the subject of Cool Thing Records, a few other emerging talented outfits have been signed up, for example, Indian Queens were invited to play at the Meltdown festival in London when it was curated by The Cure frontman Robert Smith last year. That must have been quite an experience for them, as well as for you all.

MIKE: Indian Queens have a great agent, and they’re actually playing here tomorrow, but unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to see them. They are a great live band, they have a lot of talent, and they also work very hard, as do all of the other bands who are on the label, but yeah, Meltdown was a particular highlight for them, as well as for us.

LUKE: Yeah.

MIKE: I mean it was a fantastic thing, as I saw The Cure‘s ‘Disintegration‘ performance at the Sydney Opera House the other day on YouTube, and it was really, really good. Did any of you guys see it at all?

JAZZ MIELL (guitar): Yeah, I did. I respect Robert and the rest of The Cure so much.

MIKE: They also tuned in on my favourite song of theirs, ‘Fascination Street‘, and when that came on, I was like, “Yeah!

LUKE: Anyway, going back to your original question of did we ever expect the responses the albums got, I think – especially in the run-up to the first album coming out – we had given up using traditional methods, and we had all learnt the same lesson of – it this makes any sense – “All art is created for its own sake“, so there was really no point of us trying to second guess how well it was going to do on the radio, how it was going to be received by the press, and that helped to free us in a big way, because from there, we could just be as expressive, and have as much fun with it, as we wanted, and I think that was another reason why we started Cool Thing up, because we didn’t have to answer to anybody, so we felt we could take the piss, and be as anarchic as we liked, and that’s really how rock n’ roll should be.

It shouldn’t be about red carpets being rolled out, and musicians getting ideas above their stations, and unfortunately, those things have reduced the sentiment of the whole thing, I think.

You have just played a set here at Camden Rocks. How is the experience – for the band overall – of performing live?

JAZZ: Generally, for me, I try to embody what we try to do with the music, so the stage performance is like a physical representation of what is on our records, but every gig is different, I find, whether it’s the crowd, the venue, the weather, you never really know what’s going to happen on the day, so I think you owe it to the audience to produce a unique experience every time, as we can’t just stand there and not do much.

How was the band’s set today?

JAZZ: It was really good. We had a great time, and we really enjoyed ourselves. The venue we played (Fest) did a good job of looking after us, and every time we’ve played here at Camden Rocks has been a really good experience.

LUKE: We did our first gig here four years ago, at The Stables in Camden Market, and we tried something recently. We were mentally exhausted from the process of making music, don’t get us wrong, we still very much enjoyed it, but it was draining us mentally and physically, so we decided to take six months off playing live, and we used that time to re-focus our friendship and relationship with music, so today was the first time we had done a gig in six months.

The last one we played before then was at the Camden Assembly, but it honestly hasn’t felt like it has been six months, but we have used that time to re-adjust our personal lives, because I think it is important to do that, especially when it involves our mental health.

Even though mental health is now a very big topic, I still don’t think it’s discussed enough what a human being can take in terms of touring, making records, and promoting them, as I still think that there is a lot of pressure on an artist to compromise their mental health to a degree where maybe they start to feel that they are in a dark place.

That’s just my opinion, but I know from the experience that we are a hell of a lot better, a lot more creative, we have more music in the can, so I think our break was just our way of saying we needed a breather, which is something I would almost certainly recommend for anybody who is reaching a point where everything is becoming too much for them.

What are your plans for the near future? You earlier mentioned that you’re working on another album.

LUKE: Yeah, we are doing another album. We’re doing it in circumstances that we’re really excited about, but unfortunately, we can’t say too much in regards to that at the moment, but I think it would be something that people might be pleasantly surprised by.

We’re going to be making a documentary called ‘Join Us On The Small Wave‘, which will be about Cool Thing, and we have a wider agenda of getting three albums out by three of our acts on our label, so currently, the plan is to get out our next album, and I suppose the point of all that is really that we want to expose sustainability, an approach to existing in the arts with a message of positive mental health, community in the arts in a positive and stabilising feature of independent work.

THE THIRD ALBUM BY ASYLUMS WILL BE RELEASED SOON THROUGH COOL THING RECORDS, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

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BUNKERPOP

Bunkerpop band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Comprising of five talented musicians – Mark Blissenden, Carlos Macklin, Paul Sarel, Trevor Simpson, and Jonathan Wainberg – from the city of Hull, Bunkerpop draw from an eclectic range of musical influences to deliver a truly unique, diverse, mostly instrumental sound that leaves the listener free to make their own interpretation of it.

The band have been building up a devoted legion of followers over the past couple of years, initially in their home city, and now spreading across the UK, with this, as well as live performances that actively encourage audience participation.

Having recently brought out a self-titled debut album, the quintet spoke to me about what can be expected from it, as well as a lengthy recording process, which saw them work their fingers to the bone in order to produce the best possible release.

How did the band initially get together?

Bunkerpop came together in the spring of 2016 by a succession of flukes and accidents. We were originally practicing a David Bowie song in preparation for a tribute night to him at the Hull Adelphi, which Jonathan – our keyboard and synth player – had organised.

This led to a couple of new tunes squeaking out of his equipment, which we liked, and that then led to a hastily-arranged recruitment of mates to form a full band practice. The first tune we played all together was ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘, which is on our debut album.

How did the name Bunkerpop come about?

The name comes from a space at the place of work that Paul was working in. It was a windowless concrete room underneath the south stand of the KC Stadium (home of football club Hull City) with flickering strip lighting which caused twitchiness and mental health problems to all who worked there. We called it “The Bunker“.

This was coupled with the fact that Paul was playing a lot of tunes by an artist called Lonelady, who has an excellent tune called ‘Bunkerpop‘, so it seemed to fit the mood of the music too. It’s a terrific name.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

We have a three-pronged approach to writing songs. Often, they will start with the five of us playing together at practice. Somebody starts, and the rest of us will then join in, which is sometimes very successful, and occasionally awful.

We are very good listeners, so we are kind to each other and nobody overplays, as we like to keep it simple. Other times, we’ll start from scratch in the studio and build a tune up that way, and then practice it for live performances.

We also combine the two approaches mentioned to come up with a third way, which is to record a live take, then splice it up, add things, take things away, and spew it out the other side.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Most of our tunes have no lyrics, but we do like to have a narrative of sorts running through them on recordings, with things like samples of dialogue or sound effects playing a big part in what we do and how we present ourselves.

Without actual lyrics, the songs are open for interpretation, and we trust the listener to have enough integrity to come up with their own thoughts and feelings.

With our debut album, we hope to capture a mood with each tune. We are quite an upbeat band, but we do have a darker, more cynical side which runs throughout it.

You recently brought out a new single, entitled ‘(Are You Ready) For Something’, to an overwhelmingly positive response. How have you been dealing with that?

The tune is a great track, so we knew it would get a positive response. It was one of the first to be finished for the album, so we had to sit on it for about a year before officially releasing it as a single, and we never got bored of it during that time, so we guess we knew it was a goer for a single.

Also, we made a brilliant video for it with our friends Mark Richardson and Anna Bean, who are both very talented. It only cost £18.80 to make, and it was all shot in around 90 minutes.

And the track was taken from the band’s recently-released first album. How was the recording process for it?

The basic live tracks were recorded over three sessions at Gorilla Studios and the Hull Adelphi. We got our friend Bob Wingfield to engineer and press record whilst the band basically played live.

We then took the recordings and worked, re-worked, and worked on them again, with some stuff being dumped altogether. We then did all that again and again for 12 months, adding extras such as the samples, overdubs and edits, with Mark – who plays percussion in the band – taking hours, days, and eventually months mixing, splicing, sliding, and perfecting until we were all happy with it.

We then had it mastered by Pete Maher – who has done mastering for The White Stripes and U2 – and he gave it a shiny finish. It’s a terrific record.

And for those who have yet to listen to the album, what can they expect?

So far, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback, and a lot of musicians like it. It’s a double album with three tunes on each side, but no numbered sides, as we didn’t want listeners to think which side is best.

Instead, they’re coloured sides which represent a mood, so the listener can choose a mood instead of an order. The sound is gorgeous on it, and there is a lot of space with very clean production, which is perfect for the tunes, as they’re mostly instrumental.

Our influences range from Kraftwerk, to Daft Punk, to Can. It’s groovy and strange, as 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.

The band are from Hull. How is the contemporary music scene there?

There are a lot of good people doing great things in Hull, and most folks are more positive about the city nowadays after years of there being a lack of confidence.

Bunkerpop exist in a bit of a vacuum doing our own thing musically, but we’re appreciative of what is going on elsewhere. There seems to be a real vibe, and people are being braver in putting on bands and experimenting with different genres.

It’s healthy, and after visiting another major city in England only a few weeks ago, we have come to appreciate that we have a vibrant music, arts and creative scene going on in Hull. It’s a unique and brilliant place to live. It’s edgy, and it has its problems, but by jiminy, we love it.

How is the overall experience – for you all – of playing live?

The band are brilliant live. We adore playing live, it’s where it’s at for us all. We will not stand for mediocre, because why should anyone stand for that?

We are visually and sonically on another planet, which is perhaps the moon, or in a shuttle on the way to Mars, when we play live. The audience play a big part in any of our performances, and stage invasions are encouraged. We include the whole room in a performance, as there are no boundaries between us and the audience.

We have our uniforms, as we are a team, and we play together to create joy and happiness. Boom!

Now that the album has been released, what are the band’s plans for the near future?

We have just played the first couple of gigs of a summer tour. The gigs shall see us take our stage show to many other exciting places, including festivals and parties in such exotic places as Nottingham, Rugby, Hull, London, and Barrow-in-Furness.

We’ll be bringing the Bunkerpop dancers to some performances, and we also have a loyal following of friends and fans who often jump on the Bunkerbus to create chaos and joy at gigs.

We’re also continuing to push the album, which has already sold 50% of its first vinyl pressing, and we will also be bringing out a new video out soon, which has been made by our beautiful friend Mr Nicholas Broten of Fonda 500.

We may have a little rest in September, but we are planning another blast of gigs for this autumn, and then we will be moving onto the next batch of recordings. We are totally independent, and we do all of the bookings, promotion, artwork, recordings, social media, and organisation, so it’s pretty full on.

And lastly, what is your long-term aim?

I guess the long-term aim is to keep going, and to enjoy it as much as we can. We’d also like to be very rich, so we could concentrate all our efforts on this, but realistically, we’re happy to cover costs, get experiences, and meet incredible people.

We have already met smashing folks who are doing this for the love of it, such as Richard McKerron in Derby, Will and Jason in Nottingham, and the I’m Not From London record label, and it’s always great to see old friends too, like Jimi from Gigantic.

What really makes us happy is being creative and playing. We’ll be moving onto recording new stuff soon, as with the momentum we have, we can’t really afford to stand still.

This time next year, Del Boy

 

Bunkerpop band logo

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

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YOUTUBE

A

A band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by IAN GAV

Since first forming as A back in 1993, the Suffolk alternative rock outfit have been on an eventful journey that has seen highs – signing their first record contract, releasing a string of critically and commercially successful albums, and playing gigs and festivals at venues across the world – and lows – the record label they were a part of suddenly collapsing, getting into a dispute with the label that took over their contract, resulting in them being dropped, and the band splitting up for three years in the mid-2000’s.

However, they have risen above those past negative events to become a collective who are highly-respected by their musical peers, and still bring much fun and enjoyment to their live shows.

Following the current five-piece’s set at the Electric Ballroom – as part of the recent Camden Rocks Festival – I went backstage to speak with frontman Jason Perry, who spoke to me frankly about his and the rest of the band’s experiences over the years.

How did the band initially form?

In the womb! Me and Adam (Perry, drums) are twins, then Giles (Perry, keyboards/vocals) popped out four years later. We were always into creating and playing music, which then eventually evolved into us starting a jam covers band when me and Adam were 11, and that was it, really, as we’ve just carried on ever since.

How did the name A come about?

We wanted a name that didn’t really mean anything, which wasn’t pretentious or anything, easy to remember, and wouldn’t tie us down to a specific genre. Also, we wanted a name that looked good on a T-shirt.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

I don’t know, to be honest. Mainly, I will walk around, an idea will suddenly come into my head, and I’ll put it down on my phone or whatever.

We’ve never just sat down and written a song. Mark (Chapman, guitarist) will often come up with a bit of music, so did Dan (P. Carter, former bassist), when he was in the band, back in the day, and then we’ll join up all of the different dots to create a song. That’s the way we’ve always done it.

In 2002, the band brought out their third album, ‘Hi-Fi Serious’, which did really well critically and commercially. How did you all deal with the response to it at the time?

Honestly, we wanted it to do better! (laughs) No, it did well, but we thought it was going to take off in America, because we had been touring there a lot, putting down all of the groundwork, and a few of our tracks had been played on K-ROQ (an influential radio station in Los Angeles, which specialises in playing alternative rock), which was a big deal, so just before the album came out, we were really excited, all of us were thinking, “This is going to be it! We’re going to crack America!“, but unfortunately, Mammoth Records – the label we were with at the time – suddenly collapsed.

We first heard that news while we were all in France, snowboarding with Jo Whiley of BBC Radio 1, and Mis-Teeq, who were this pop group. We had had a great couple of days, but then we got this call about the label collapsing, and that it had been taken over by Disney, so we had gone from being part of this really cool record label, to being part of Hollywood Records, which was owned by Disney.

You went on to have a dispute with them, didn’t you?

Yeah, we did. We were gutted, because we had brought out a big album, which was doing well here in the UK, it was also doing well in Japan, Germany, France, all of these different markets, and when the MTV Awards were being held that year – I think it was hosted by Jack Black – and they were giving out the award for best band, they played one of our songs, yet in the middle of all that, our label had collapsed, and we subsequently lost our record deal, so it was really bad luck.

In 2005, the band decided to take a break. At the time, was it just meant to be that, or did you honestly think this was the end of A?

We had just brought out another album (‘Teen Dance Ordination‘), which didn’t do very well, it didn’t land anywhere, and when you had had a big album on a major label, to then come back and not get any radio play, it wasn’t good.

We did another tour after that, but we didn’t want to end up being this band that just kept hanging around, complaining all the time, so we decided to take the “no complaining” route, and during our break, I began to write and produce music for other bands.

Over the years, you’ve toured all over the world, playing numerous venues and festivals. What have been your main highlights from those times?

I think touring Japan was our best experience, and the rest of the band would probably say that as well. The main reasons being were that the audiences were cool, and we also got an amazing amount of time off.

We were over there with The Streets – who were our label mates at the time – and The Wildhearts, and we also played with The Offspring and Guns N’ Roses, and on our days off, we would hang out with Mike (Skinner, The Streets frontman) and the other guys from The Streets, and I remember just having an amazing time, as we all had lots of fun. It was really cool.

Also, playing at festivals in Germany, and on the main stage of Reading & Leeds, they were high points for us as well.

When the band first formed, did you ever expect it to still be going now?

No, not now. We wanted to be big, we wanted to write big songs, we wanted to play big venues, but along the way, we scored a few own goals, as we were just silly, because we spent more time trying to make each other laugh rather than doing other things, and I think – looking back – that was detrimental to our careers.

However, having said that, we have always been able to put on a good gig, for example, today could have been a complete disaster, but it ended up being fun, and I think we’ve always been good at being able to do that, as well as connecting with crowds, and that’s always been our favourite things to do as part of being in this band, because at the end of the day, the crowd are cooler than we are, and we’ve always thought that.

I don’t know why, but playing live has always come so naturally to us, as we’re the same on the stage as we are off it, also, we don’t rehearse for any of our gigs, so what you see on stage is genuinely real. In the early days of the band, our manager would try and get us to rehearse, but we quickly got bored and just went to sleep! (laughs)

What are your plans for the near future?

We’ve just written two new songs, which we think are really good, so we’ll soon be recording them in the studio, and then we’ll be going back on tour in November, playing the ‘Monkey Kong‘ album in full.

Will the band be releasing another album at all in the future?

An album seems so old-fashioned to do nowadays, so we’ll just keep on getting out new singles, because it does actually cost a lot of money to record a professional-sounding album, so it would really be of no use for us to release an album that sounded crap.

Also, there’s some really good music about at the moment, and we seem to be heading towards another great era.

And lastly, what advice would you give to any emerging bands and artists out there?

Don’t split up! It sounds obvious, but the best way to succeed is by not developing massive egos, and they say the first rule of business is to stay in business, because some bands tend to forget that at the end of the day, they are actually businesses, so it’s no use arguing over songwriting credits, royalties, etc, because that could result in a band splitting up.

I think everyone who is in a band now needs to find their own specific role to play. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music-related, as now, as well as being a musician, you need to also be an entrepreneur, so finding a role to play is now as important as anything else to do with being in a band.

A WILL BE TOURING THE UK – PLAYING THEIR 1999 ‘A vs. MONKEY KONG’ ALBUM IN FULL – THIS NOVEMBER, MORE DETAILS OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND BELOW:

A tour poster

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

DERANGE

Derange band photo

DERANGE (from l-r): Justas Brazdziunas (guitar), Joe Macpherson (bass), Cat Pereira (vocals), Joe Farrell (drums), Nick Crosby (guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

In the autumn of 2015, London tech-metal collective Derange burst onto the scene with their debut album, ‘The Awakening‘, which appealed to fans and critics alike, with the likes of Metal Hammer and Powerplay Magazine giving it excellent reviews.

Since then, the band gave been building up their following further, with tours of the UK and continental Europe, appearances at festivals such as Bloodstock, and a string of well-received single releases.

Following a highly-energetic set to a packed crowd at The Devonshire Arms in Camden – as part of the recent Camden Rocks Festival – vocalist Cat Pereira and guitarist Justas Brazdziunas spoke to me about all of this and much more.

How did the band initially form?

CAT PEREIRA (vocals): The band initially formed while I was at university. I met Joe – our bassist – at a party, and he asked me if I would be interested in joining a band he was thinking of forming.

I replied, “Okay. Why not?“, and then I met Nick when he turned up to our first rehearsal, where I showed him a few ideas that me and Joe had come up with, which had been very badly recorded on my mobile, which he then transcribed, so I knew then that would be the right person to join the band, and Justas and Joe – our drummer – joined later.

JUSTAS BRAZDZIUNAS (guitar): I joined quite recently.

CAT: We already knew each other, as we were already good friends, so I knew that Justas was a great guitarist. We invited him to join us on tour last year, and we quickly realised that he was giving us that extra charge, so after the tour had finished, we made him a permanent member of the band, and that’s how our current line-up came about.

How did the name Derange come about?

CAT: It was completely random. In the summer of 2013, I was listening to a lot of nu-metal – bands like Rage Against The Machine and Linkin Park – and I would think, “I want to be in a band like that“, and then one day, I was listening to a track called ‘Deranged‘ by Coheed And Cambria, and afterwards, it kept coming back to me. Sometimes, people will call us Deranged, but it’s Derange.

JUSTAS: That’s why it helps to remember the name.

CAT: Yeah.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

CAT: Our songwriting approach usually starts off with Nick writing a cool riff, or having an idea for a verse or a chorus.

Usually, I will have lyrics at hand that I have written at other times, and I will suggest that we try them, so it usually starts just being me and Nick, and then when we’ve put together a melody, us and the rest of the band will jam it, and then one of the other members will come up with an idea or something, therefore, everyone in the band gets a chance to participate, and that’s the way the songwriting process works for us.

There’s none of this “something is better than the other“, as if something fails to work, it all fails.

What inspires the band lyrically?

CAT: It all depends on our approach, on how I’m feeling at the time. For our first album, ‘The Awakening‘, I was very much interested in the power of consciousness and spirituality, but I didn’t want it to focus entirely on me, because I wanted the lyrics to be of more general appeal, but recently, I have found that that doesn’t really work for me any more, as when the lyrics are more personal, I can get the emotion across much better.

I now write about that, as well as everyday things that happen, really, but I like to write about things that actually mean something.

‘The Awakening’ was released in the autumn of 2015 to very positive reviews. Honestly, was that something you were all expecting while recording it?

CAT: We knew that it was a good album, because it was written on a perception of the truth, but we have an even better album coming out soon, which we’ve been working very hard on.

However, we weren’t expecting ‘The Awakening‘ to get the response it did, which we got to fully experience when we played at Bloodstock the following year.

How was playing at Bloodstock as an experience?

CAT: It was amazing. When we were first told we were going to be playing at Bloodstock, we had no idea we would end up playing on the second stage, so that was awesome.

You earlier mentioned a new album. When are you thinking of getting that out by?

CAT: We’ve been working on the album for a while now, and we have actually released a couple of tracks from it already, but in regards to a release date, unfortunately, we can’t say at the moment. We’re not even going to reveal the album’s title yet.

The band have just performed a set at Camden Rocks. How is the experience – for you all – of playing live?

JUSTAS: It’s great, especially the set we’ve just played. It’s such an enjoyable experience.

CAT: We were genuinely surprised at the high turnout we had for our set, especially when it was at one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Camden Rocks is a great place to discover new bands.

JUSTAS: Yeah.

CAT: The bigger the crowd, the more energised we feel, so it creates a real buzz.

JUSTAS: It also makes you relax more, as there’s less pressure, therefore, we could play a really good set today, as we could see a lot of people who were watching and listening to us, and it gave us a very positive feeling.

And lastly, album aside, what have you got lined up for the near future?

CAT: We are going to be playing at Tech-Fest, we also have a tour lined up for this autumn, and we’re going to be releasing a few more singles, as the ones we have released from the new album so far have had great feedback.

We’re currently looking at getting the next track out in mid-July, so we’re not going to be having any rest from now on. (laughs)

Derange Single Cover

‘DIVIDE’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM DERANGE – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S SECOND ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR.

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WILD FRONT

Wild Front band photo

WILD FRONT (from l-r): Joe Connell (guitar), Josh Betteridge (drums), Mike Flowers (bass), Jack Williams (vocals/guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Over the past couple of years, Wild Front have established themselves as one of the UK’s top emerging bands with a truly distinctive, diversely-influenced, guitar-driven indie sound.

This has won the Southampton four-piece plaudits from critics and fans alike, including BBC Radio 1, the NME, and Emily Eavis – one of the main organisers of the Glastonbury festival, which they played in 2017.

After playing a set in front of a packed crowd at The Hawley Arms in Camden recently – as part of the Camden Rocks Festival – I spoke to frontman Jack Williams and drummer Josh Betteridge about all of this, their soon-to-be-released EP, and a packed schedule of gigs and festivals over this summer, which includes a few slots supporting Sting.

How did the band initially get together?

JACK WILLIAMS (vocals/guitar): Most of us met at college.

JOSH BETTERIDGE (drums): Mine and Joe‘s parents were friends, so we knew each other from when we were born, and we’ve played in bands with each other for a long time.

Jack used to have a solo project, and that’s going back around eight, nine years, which kind of then morphed into something more rocky, so we decided to get together and start a new project.

How did the name Wild Front come about?

JACK: When I was doing my solo project, I was thinking of doing it under an alias, and Wild Front was one of the names I considered, and then when it came around to starting up the band, I went back to looking through those names, and it was one that stood out, as it gave off an image of being a wild place in the middle of nowhere, which I liked.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

JACK: We have a couple, actually. We’ll either start writing a song on an acoustic guitar, and then bounce that between us, or we’ll start writing a track in a room together as a band.

JOSH: That’s fun to do, because we’ll all jam together, creating random guitar riffs, which will then become the basis for a song, and we’ll add to it that way. I think a lot of it is like that.

JACK: Yeah, because me and Josh will then take the song away at that point, and then add some melodies and lyrics to it, because genuinely, that’s where we get most inspired.

What inspires the band lyrically?

JACK: A few different things, really, such as relationships with people – which is a big one – and then also we’ve all grown up having different relationships with faith and things like that, so I think a lot of the lyrics are based around that kind of stuff.

You recently brought out a new single, entitled ‘Confetti’. How was the recording process for that?

JOSH: We kind of just did it all ourselves at home. We’ve always done it like that, with Joe as the main producer, as we know how we want to sound.

JACK: A lot of the time, we will record a blanket of songs, and then we’ll choose which ones we think are the best, which ones work well together, and ‘Confetti‘ was just one of those ones.

This time, we actually had some help with the mixing, from a guy called Eduardo, who I think we’re going to keep working with actually, but prior to that, we would always try to do everything ourselves.

How has the response been to the track so far?

JACK: It’s been pretty good. It’s quite different to what we’ve put out before, as it’s rather heavy, because usually, we will work on a dreamier, funkier sound, and our live sets will often have moments where the music does become heavier, so we wanted to bring out something which showed that, so yeah, the response so far has been really good, as I think people have wanted us to bring out something like that for a while, you know.

The band played at the Glastonbury festival in 2017, and you were actually handpicked to perform there by Emily Eavis, one of its main organisers. That must have been quite an experience.

JACK: Yeah, it was, because it was relatively early days for us.

JOSH: And none of us had – up until that point – ever been to Glastonbury. It had quite a magical atmosphere to it, and it was almost like being in a small city.

JACK: I think on our journey, career, whatever you want to call it, so far, that has been a key highlight for us.

And how is it – for you all – performing live overall?

JACK: Well, we kind of like to think of ourselves as a live band.

JOSH: Really, it’s what we started doing this for.

JACK: Yeah, it’s definitely where we enjoy ourselves the most, as we always want to be playing, we always want to be gigging.

The band have quite a packed gigging schedule over the rest of this summer, including a set supporting Sting.

JACK: We’ve got a few supporting Sting, actually.

How did that come about?

JACK: He’s on the books of our agency.

JOSH: Growing up, Sting was such an inspiration for all of us.

JACK: Yeah, especially Joe. We will regularly talk about our top five albums, and for Joe, Sting will regularly sneak in there.

JOSH: And to get those slots – for all of us – is just amazing.

JACK: We were – and still are – pretty much over the moon with that one.

You will also be playing at festivals such as Isle Of Wight, so when this summer is over, what are your plans?

JACK: I think we’re currently talking about doing another headline tour, as it’s been a couple of years now since we did one. The last tour we did was pretty big, as we went to Ireland, Scotland, and everything, so we’re thinking of maybe doing a smaller, more focused tour. We actually haven’t decided anything yet, as so far, we’ve just talked about it a little bit.

And the band are going to be bringing out an EP soon, is that right?

JACK: Yeah, we will be dropping it later this summer, and I think we’re going to drop another EP after that as well, probably in around the autumn.

And lastly, what is your long-term aim?

JACK: We just want to play as many shows as we possibly can.

JOSH: It’s always nice when people come up to you and say, “Your music is really good“, so it would be great if our music is able to help people, and enable us to connect with them on a certain level.

JACK: Yeah, definitely.

JOSH: And in a way that we could never have imagined before we started this band.

JACK: To be fair, the few times where that has happened have personally been my favourite times of being in a band, you know, and that’s definitely an aim for all of us.

JOSH: We would love to play all of the big venues, headline festivals, and stuff, but the reason why we make music in the first place is to be able to connect with an audience.

Wild Front EP Cover

‘ALL THE THINGS I CARED FOR BUT IGNORED’ – THE NEW EP FROM WILD FRONT – WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS SUMMER, AND A FULL LIST OF THE BAND’S GIGS AND FESTIVAL APPEARANCES OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS CAN BE FOUND BELOW:

Wild Front tour poster

FURTHER INFO ON WILD FRONT CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

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THE CRUEL KNIVES

The Cruel Knives band photo

THE CRUEL KNIVES (from l-r): Al Junior (drums), Tom Harris (vocals), Sid Glover (guitar), Rob Ellershaw (bass)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by HANNAH MEADOWS

Having formed out of the ashes of Heaven’s Basement, four-piece The Cruel Knives burst onto the scene in 2017 with their well-received debut EP, ‘Side One’, which showcased a fast-paced, aggressive, guitar-driven alternative rock sound.

This is also reflected in the band’s highly-energetic live sets, which has taken them to venues across the UK, Ireland, and continental Europe.

Prior to the collective’s recent set at the Camden Rocks Festival, I spoke to bassist Rob Ellershaw, and drummer Al Junior, about all of this, as well as their eagerly-anticipated follow-up release, ‘Side Two’, coming out later this year.

How did the band initially form?

ROB ELLERSHAW (bass): Me and Sid had been in a band together called Heaven’s Basement, which we did for quite a while, but then we decided to move forward from that.

We continued to jam with our old drummer for a bit, and Tom has actually supported us a couple of years before, and we also had the same producer as him, so we spent a year writing songs and seeing what was coming up, then when our old drummer couldn’t really do the band any more, Sid contacted Al – who he had been in a band with while they were growing up, and who me and Sid had known for about ten years – and asked him to be our new drummer, so it was an easy change to make.

However, Al officially joined only eight days before we were due to go on a European tour for three weeks, but he took to it well immediately.

AL JUNIOR (drums): And we’ve been in love with each other ever since. (Both laugh)

How did the name The Cruel Knives come about?

ROB: Naming a band – for us – is always such a horrible experience, so we just wanted a name that effectively mirrored our music.

We went back and forth on some themes for a bit, and I thought I had a limited vocabulary, but my sister reads a lot of books and that, and she gave me George Orwell‘s ‘Animal Farm‘ to read, which I quite liked, and about four pages in, there’s this quote which says, “No animal can escape a cruel knife in the end“, so I thought, “Let’s just rip that off“, and away we went! (Both laugh)

What are the band’s main musical influences?

AL: There’s so many different styles and genres of music that we’re influenced by. Personally – for me – I’m influenced by old-school bands like AC/DC, Motorhead, just the greats, really, but I think Rob‘s more influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

ROB: Yeah. When I first started playing bass, I was very much influenced by Rage Against The Machine.

AL: He doesn’t do any white boy rapping, though.

ROB: Yet.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

ROB: Less is more. What we have together seems to work really well, but there is this triple-filter system in terms of what we write.

If someone comes up with something, it’ll get knocked about, so there’s no designated songwriter, as basically, it’s kind of whoever has the idea, which we’ll then run with as a group, and then mould it into shape, so it’s quite a good system, really, as it controls the quality, and everyone manages to get at least some input, which is what we really like, as we then get different approaches and characteristics.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

ROB: Less is more. What we have together seems to work really well, but there is this triple-filter system in terms of what we write.

If someone comes up with something, it’ll get knocked about, so there’s no designated songwriter, as basically, it’s kind of whoever has the idea, which we’ll then run with as a group, and then mould it into shape, so it’s quite a good system, really, as it controls the quality, and everyone manages to get at least some input, which is what we really like, as we then get different approaches and characteristics.

Later this year, the band are going to be unveiling their second EP, ‘Side Two’. How has the recording process been for that?

ROB: It’s been awesome, actually, because with ‘Side One‘ – our first EP – we recorded it having all been together for only a month, and for most of that time, we had been on tour, so it was a perfect time stamp of where we were then, but with ‘Side Two‘, we’ve been able to better establish who we are, and what our identity is as a band, as soon as we went into the studio to start recording, instead of trying loads of different stuff, we just went in with one sound, and ran with that, so it was a more cohesive recording process.

AL: Yeah, ‘Side Two‘ is heavier, a bit lairier, but we worked on the songs and their structures more, rather than experimenting with our sound and stuff. We wanted to make sure that every track on that record was great, as well as being a truly collective piece of music.

ROB: It was done very quickly, as well. We did everything in about two days, so it was nice and easy, and enabled us the hit the ground running. It was a very positive experience, I think.

When are you hoping to get the EP out by?

ROB: It will be coming out towards the end of August, the 30th, actually.

AL: You can pre-order it now at our website.

The band have toured across the UK, Ireland, and continental Europe, and have also supported the likes of The Pretty Reckless. How were they as experiences?

ROB: Banging! We had a lairy time. At the start of our European tour, Al and Tom had only known each other for about five days, but with all of us being squashed together in a van, travelling across Europe, doing gig after gig, and waking up each morning in a new country, it was an epic experience, and it started us off on the right foot, I think.

You’ve also become known for putting on highly-energetic live sets. How is it – for the band overall – performing on stage?

ROB: It’s where it’s at, isn’t it? It’s where we feel the most comfortable. We love recording, we love writing songs and stuff, but really – for me personally – it’s all about playing on stage.

And lastly – EP aside – what are the band’s plans for the near future?

ROB: I’m going to invest in some livestock now the market has gone down. (Al laughs) Honestly, we’re looking at doing some more touring, as we’re still quite young as a band, in regards to playing live. I think we’ve only played around 35 shows so far, so now, we just want to do tour after tour over the next 18 months, and then we’ll go from there.

The Cruel Knives Single Cover

‘BLACK EYE FRIDAY’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM THE CRUEL KNIVES – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND ‘SIDE TWO’ – THEIR SECOND EP – WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 30. YOU CAN PRE-ORDER IT NOW AT THE BAND’S OFFICIAL WEBSITE.

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GOLD KEY

Gold Key band photo

GOLD KEY (from l-r): James Leach (bass), Jack Kenny (drums), Steve Sears (vocals/guitar), Laurent Barnard (guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by CARLA MUNDY

Comprising of members of Gallows, SikTh, and Nervus, Gold Key acts as a space in which the four band members can embrace musical experimentation, as well as a broader range of influences.

Their 2017 debut album, ‘Hello, Phantom‘, was universally praised by critics and fans alike, and earned the quartet favourable comparisons to the likes of Pink Floyd, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Radiohead.

Following an impressive set at The Camden Assembly for the recent Camden Rocks Festival, I spoke to the collective’s vocalist/guitarist, Steve Sears, about all this and more.

How did the band initially form?

Laurent and I have known each other for years. We met on the DIY punk scene in our home town of Watford, and we’ve either played in each other’s bands, or supported each other travelling around on tour, but then we both realised that we wanted to do something that was out of our comfort zone, so we decided to start this new project, which then turned into this fully-fledged thing, and two albums in, we’re still loving it.

How did the name Gold Key come about?

Honestly, we just wanted something that was…I was more concerned with what it wouldn’t evoke, as I didn’t want anybody to think we were a heavy band. We wanted our music to be relatively neutral, which would provide a plain canvas to start with.

What are the band’s main musical influences?

It’s hard to say, you know. We are all massive fans of Pink Floyd, so I guess our sound is mostly our translation of that kind of music, which unfortunately – and I find it sad to say this – has been stolen by crap metal bands, so I would say what influences us are progressive rock bands.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

Well, I’m lucky enough to own my own recording studio, so I sort of sit at home writing stuff, then I’ll send it around to the rest of the band, then we will begin to work out the chords and everything, but having said that, with our last album, we wanted to make a point of doing everything live, however, for the one that we’ve just recorded, we rented a cottage in Wales, and that resulted in a more organic process, so we’ve done it both ways, and now, we want to take a more organic approach toward songwriting.

What inspires the band lyrically?

To be honest, at the moment, we’re definitely drawing towards more cynical, negative subjects. There’s no particular reason for this, it’s just come about naturally, and there’s enough bands out there who just write songs about girls! (laughs)

You’ve all been in bands before. You were in Gallows, James was in SikTh, Jack was in Nervus, yet the music of Gold Key bears little resemblance to the sounds of those outfits. Would you agree with that?

Yeah, absolutely, and I think that’s the whole point of the band.

And was it a conscious decision to do that when you first started?

Well, if we were putting a song together, we wouldn’t stop doing it because we felt it sounded too much like Gallows, Nervus etc, but having said that, for me, the main drive of the band is to create an environment in which anything goes, where we can do something that we weren’t able to in the bands we were in before.

You’ve just played a set at Camden Rocks. How is the experience – for you all – of performing live?

It was great, the set we played just now. We hadn’t actually played a show for a while before today, so we were itching to play some new material, which we’re keen to get out. We still love doing it, as it keeps us on our toes, but we try to make our sets as simple as possible for the sound guys! (laughs)

Earlier, you mentioned that you’ve just finished recording a new album. How has the process been for that?

Well, we’ve been sitting on it for a while now, but the album has been delayed for numerous reasons, which I can’t really be bothered to go into right now, so now, we have songs to release, a whole new album ready to come out, so after this festival season, we’ll look at getting that out, and promote it with a few tours and stuff.

Earlier, you mentioned that you’ve just finished recording a new album. How has the process been for that?

Well, we’ve been sitting on it for a while now, but the album has been delayed for numerous reasons, which I can’t really be bothered to go into right now, so now, we have songs to release, a whole new album ready to come out, so after this festival season, we’ll look at getting that out, and promote it with a few tours and stuff.

Do you have a release date for the new album?

I really wish I could answer that question now, but I honestly don’t know at the moment. In the run-up to its release, we’ll be bringing out a few tracks from the album, which we should really have got out by now, but numerous things have happened, which is just life.

THE SECOND ALBUM FROM GOLD KEY WILL BE RELEASED SOON VIA VENN RECORDS.

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