Fuelled by Caffeine: DIY Punk Collaboration in Action [Interview]

We learn how Sham City Roasters and Ride with Wolves have built DIY ethics into their businesses, and into their cool coffee-and-cycling collaboration.

Article by Sarah Williams.

As we edge ever closer to Christmas, it’s especially important to support small independent businesses. It is too easy to fall back on retail behemoths like Amazon and eBay for festive indulgences, especially when you’re rushing to shoehorn in shopping around work, gigging and all those awful work Christmas parties.

Instead of another banal gift box from Debenhams, why not check out Etsy or a small high-street retailer? Why not buy from a small record label, so you can share your favourite releases with your friends? Even gig tickets make an excellent gift. Choosing to spend your hard-earned cash with a grassroots business can support your local economy, your music scene, and it can enable someone to make a living out of what they love doing the most.

Collaboration and supporting one another is an essential part of the do-it-yourself ethic that makes the punk scene tick. As a result, I was excited to hear that two respected small businesses that thrive on a DIY approach had decided to team up on a new project. Hasting-based coffee aficionados Sham City Roasters and London-based reflective-clothing experts Ride with Wolves recently released a range called Fuelled by Caffeine, just in time for Christmas. Cycling and coffee might not seem like the most obvious bedfellows, but it’s a cool collaboration that really works.

“It’s so exciting to see other punks doing interesting things and starting businesses that aren’t necessarily music based. I think that this project pretty much came from a mutual appreciation.”

I spoke to Dave Cullern and Ester van Kempen, respective founders of Sham City Roasters and Ride with Wolves, to find out more about why they’ve decided to work together, and what DIY culture means to them.

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Dave, you run Sham City Roasters down in Hastings – we met because you absolutely saved me with a vegan grilled cheese when I was hanging after a gig! For those who don’t know about Sham City, tell us a bit about the business.

Dave: Probably one of the best things about running this cafe is that everything I serve is perfect for curing a hangover! I’m glad I could help you but I’m even gladder that I can help myself on a regular basis. Sham City Roasters is a small coffee roastery that I started in my spare room about 3 years ago. Initially I just sold online as a hobby but over time it grew and I started doing a lot of markets around London. After a few years I had a regular spot at The Truman Brewery on Brick Lane and it grew into a ‘real’ thing (whatever that means). Just over a year ago everything changed; I moved to Hastings and started a vegan café, and now Sham City Roasters is a lot of different things.

Ester, you’re the founder of Ride with Wolves, an ethical cycle-clothing company based in London. Tell us a bit more about Ride with Wolves! How long have you been going, and what sort of products do you offer?

Ester: Ride with Wolves has been trading for a bit over a year, but I’ve been experimenting with reflective ink for a long time. We make cycle inspired clothing, hand screen-printed with reflective ink on ethical clothing, like t-shirts, sweaters, bags, beanies, patches and bandanas.

How did you both get started in your respective businesses?

Ester: Before Ride with Wolves there was House of Astbury, which started five years ago in a punk house in South East London. Together with Monika Zamojska and Ren Aldridge [of Petrol Girls] I created reflective patches to sew on to your jackets or bags. We were sick of the awful looking builders-vest and the catcalling we experienced whilst riding our bike through the city and decided we could do something about that. Next to screen-printing reflective patches with smart puns we also made leggings, t-shirts, snoods and bags. After a couple of years we decided to go our separate ways, but I continued with our concept and grew it into Ride with Wolves.

Dave: For me, this business started initially just from a love of coffee and this all grew from there. I always had an idea that I wanted to be my own boss but never had the guts to really jump into anything, despite having loads of crazy ideas over the years. When I started really getting into, and understanding, the coffee world I became obsessed with it!

You’re both from DIY punk backgrounds. Can you tell me a bit about what you both do outside of work?

Dave: I’ve been into DIY punk since the late ‘90s. I thankfully discovered it at a very young age and it’s pretty much influenced my entire life since that time. I’ve played in a hundred terrible bands over the years since; I ran a record label a while ago, I’ve promoted gigs on and off for as long as I can remember and I wrote a zine for a while. Kinda dipped my feet into everything at some point. Currently I’m in a very inactive band called The Dead Anyways and have been putting on shows in Hastings since I moved down here.

Ester: I’m a coordinator for the Good Night Out Campaign, a campaign that focuses on training bar staff on how to respond to someone disclosing sexual harassment. We also guide businesses and universities to create a better policy around this theme and, with that, create safer and more inclusive spaces. I also co-manage an independent venue in South East London called The Montague Arms. And I’ve been organising gigs for the last few years within collective, Sicknote Promotions.  These can be shows from people crowd-surfing in our kitchen to over-capacity, sold out shows at The Montague Arms.

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Have you both known each other for a while, or did you meet through your respective businesses?

Dave: We met through our respective businesses really. I think we must have been moving in similar circles for a while beforehand and we share quite a lot of friends. From the perspective of the collaboration, I think it came about from us enjoying (and supporting) what the other person was doing. I loved the stuff Ester was doing with House of Astbury and when she started Ride With Wolves was blown away by that. It’s so exciting to see other punks doing interesting things and starting businesses that aren’t necessarily music based. I think that this project pretty much came from a mutual appreciation.

 You’ve recently been working together to bring out a new range called Fuelled by Caffeine. What made you decide to start working together?

Ester: I think the seed was planted during one of my regular coffee dates with my friend Clara. We were talking about what made me happy and how I want Ride with Wolves to grow. Collaborations are great because they pump a new wave of energy into a business and by doing something with someone who doesn’t directly in your field you reach new audience. It just made a lot of sense to work with Dave; we work with a similar ethos and have products that complement each other.

Fuelled by Caffeine is a brilliant name for the project. Tell me a bit more about it – what’s included in the range?

Dave: Ester is the brains behind the name for sure, I can take zero credit for that.

Ester: Again, the name just made sense. We were trying to come up with smart puns, but some of them were just too far out there. Fuelled by Caffeine combines the collaboration beautifully. The range exists of a t-shirt with a front and back print (perfect for cycling), a mug, coffee and patches that you can sew on to a jacket or bag.

 Dave: I absolutely loved the name as soon as Ester suggested it. I think it perfectly encapsulates what we were aiming to put across with this project.

There is a big link between caffeine and cycling. Are you both addicted to both?

Ester: Defo! I think I’m the living proof of Fuelled by Caffeine! I cycle everywhere in London for my coffee dates. Although, a few months ago I decided I had to cut down on the coffee because I noticed the addiction was taking over a bit. I love it so much, but if you think you can’t function without it you know you have a problem.

Dave: I think I might have a serious problem then! I don’t really cycle that much anymore (partly because I’ve had nowhere to keep a bike since moving to Hastings) but I used to ride in London and will again I’m sure. My attraction to Ride with Wolves before we did this project was less about the cycling element and more about the message and style, and it being a punk business. I would have signed up to the brand even if I’d never sat on a bike seat!

You guys aren’t the only DIY-types involved in the project: your awesome artwork is by Lucinda Livingstone of Bloodflower Design. How did Lucinda get involved?

Ester: Lucinda is another one of those people that roams in the same circles. She plays in the band Kamikaze Girls and runs LadyFuzz magazine. I approached her at the start of Ride with Wolves; I always loved her work and wanted her to be involved. She designed the house style and logo for my brand and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more collaborations in the future with her.

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You’ve said that part of the aim of the project is to spread the word of DIY culture and collaboration. What does do-it-yourself culture mean to you?

Dave: That’s a huge question! DIY culture means pretty much everything to me. Punk has affected my life in every way since I discovered it as a young teenager and undoubtedly made me the person I am. All of that music and all of the zines that influenced my life in such a profound way were made by kids like all of us. That is DIY to me, people doing things off their own backs that positively influence others. A voice that kids can hear that isn’t their parents or their teachers or the ‘normal’ people that surround them, a little oasis of likeminded people that do what the fuck they want. If it weren’t for punk would I know anything about politics, feminism, veganism, art? Would I travel? Would I happily live on little money? Would I have started my own business? I doubt it very much.

Collaboration and supporting others is a huge part of the DIY world. Are there any other businesses, bands or people you’re working with?

Dave: In the past I’ve worked with Dan Allen, Mark Bell and Daniel Baker in relation to my art and branding stuff. I’ve been talking to a few bands about making them their own coffee blends but nothing’s happened yet. I think it’s about to though – not sure if I’m allowed to mention specific names at the moment, but I really hope I can do a few of those. Maybe it’s not ‘working with’ but there are so many people that have supported me and this business since I started it. I do think that there’s a part of collaboration which is just supporting others who are trying to do interesting and awesome things. I consider most of my friends to be collaborators because, unlike a lot of people, they didn’t say, “Dave, what the fuck are you doing? This is never gonna work,” when I started Sham City Roasters. That’s what I really needed and I’ll never forget the support that came my way from my punk family.

What principles of DIY culture have you applied to Sham City Roasters and Rides With Wolves? Apart from the cool business names, that is.

Dave: If I hadn’t discovered DIY culture and punk rock, Sham City Roasters wouldn’t exist. I spent most of my life thinking I was actively taking part in DIY culture but it’s really only been since I started this business that I’ve really started seeing what ‘doing it yourself’ really is. I guess the aspects of DIY culture that I’ve specifically applied to my business are mostly the ethics and politics. From my perspective, I operate within an amazingly dull bourgeois world. If you look at the mainstream coffee world you’ll see horrible corporate nonsense and lot of twats doing a lot of annoying things. I think coming from a punk (or DIY) perspective has allowed me to remove a lot of the annoying aspects of the world I operate within and ground it a bit more. I think Ester’s done that too: mainstream cycling culture and coffee culture are both fairly dull at times and it’s great to see these positive messages coming from the cycling world and the coffee world.

Ester: I guess the main principles of DIY culture in Ride with Wolves can be found in literally doing it yourself. Finding ways of creating something new without large amounts of funding. Another aspect within in my business would be the feminist and inclusive ethos. It makes sense to me that anyone can be part of the pack, no matter what gender or size you conform to.

The Fuelled by Caffeine set would be an undoubtedly great Christmas gift for any punks/caffeine addicts/cyclists. How can people get hold of it?

Ester: They can either go to one of our web shops, to Dave’s café in Hastings, or they can find me at one of the Christmas markets I’m doing in London.

You can shop for Fuelled by Caffeine at either of the RWW x SCR websites. There’s coffee, t-shirts, mugs and patches available. What more could you want?

 www.shamcityroasters.com

 www.ridewithwolves.com

Article by Sarah Williams.

Interview with Grand Collapse’s Calvin Sewell

We chat to Welsh thrashcore heavyweights Grand Collapse about their song-writing inspiration, their recent tour and their ideal Sunday.

Interview by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Pay No More Than Photography. Article photos by Alia Thomas.

In recent years Grand Collapse have become one of my favourite bands. Their live performances carry enough force to knock your teeth out; they take seriously fast, intense thrash to new heights.

Although the sheer force of their music is in itself a pleasure, they stand apart from other hardcore bands by adding in classic 80’s metal grooves and fusing it together though sterling musicianship. There’s also a strong political undercurrent in the songs. Listening at home, this might only become clear if you’re reading the lyric sheet, but the band often incorporate it into their live shows by pausing to discuss some of the most pressing issues of our time. Watching Grand Collapse injects fire straight into your veins; there’s a fury and beauty that’s hard not to love. Their album Along The Dew, released on TNS Records earlier this year, is also a stunning demonstration of musical talent and hardcore force.

I was lucky enough to catch up with singer, Calvin Sewell, just before their recent gig at The Smokehouse in Ipswich (check out my review of the show here). For someone fronting a hardcore band, Calvin seems to write with his heart on his sleeve, putting a lot of emotion and care into his words and his approach. I was keen to find out a bit more.

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Welcome to Ipswich! You’ve come a long way – South Wales and Bristol, right?

We’re all from different spots around South Wales but myself and Jon have emigrated to Bristol.

How did Grand Collapse first get started?

Nothing spectacular; we’re all the around the same age, from the same area, and all into fast / heavy music so inevitably you find each other. The other lads had played in several bands like Four Letter Word, Rejected and Threat Manifesto amongst others and we all knew each other vaguely from going to gigs. I wanted to start a band around that time and those three people made sense, so I told each of them that the other two were involved before they had even agreed and on that basis they all said ‘yes’!

Your second album, Along The Dew, was released earlier this year. How have you found the reaction so far?

Pretty decent. We’re stoked with this one. I think we learnt quite a lot whilst making the first record that helped us whilst writing and recording this one. It’s a lot closer to the mark sound wise and stylistically to where we want to be.

You’ve got such a genre-defying sound that I think people struggle to know what other bands to compare you to. What were you listening to when you recorded the album? Are they are any acts that have really inspired you?

Zeke. Rush. Propagandhi. Bane. Def Leppard. Motorhead. Death. Sick of It All. Conflict.

It’s also a lot more polished than your average hardcore band. What was the recording process like?

We work with Lewis Johns at The Ranch in Southampton. It’s a great place to record and Lewis is a fucking wizard. We gave ourselves a bit more time with this one so it was less rushed and we had a better idea of how we wanted to it to sound as a whole record rather than just a collection of songs. It’s a lot more chaotic and aggressive than the first. Continue reading “Interview with Grand Collapse’s Calvin Sewell”

EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words

Gritty Scottish Americana that irresistibly combines confession, sadness and hope. FFO: Tim Barry, Chuck Ragan and growling, gruff vocals.

Review by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Gordon MacKenzie.

Tragical History Tour’s new EP Old Words is four tracks of great, gritty, emotive songwriting. This is the mostly-solo project from Make That A Take Records’ Derrick Johnston, the latest EP in a long and colourful history of similarly spirited projects.

Johnston’s a seriously accomplished songwriter, and Old Words continues to demonstrate the richness of his talent. A lot of sadness, sorrow and thought has gone into these songs, which allows them instantly to tap into your emotions. It’s feels like a slice of perfect Americana or alt-country, but with a Scottish backbone that’s both unusual and fucking delightful.

Title track Old Words is a hefty foot-tapper of an opener. The tones of the acoustic guitar remind me of Love Is Hell-era Ryan Adams, while Johnston’s vocal recalls Chuck Ragan if he’d spent the last five years smoking Marlboros and gargling glass shards. Towards the end the song lifts with an unexpected little electric guitar line that weaves into the rest of the tune seamlessly, contrasting beautifully with the pessimistic lyrics.

The lighter, finger-picked opening to Gratitude is a nice change to Old Words, and it feels like a good natural progression between songs. This mournful track starts to incorporate some more earnest storytelling, demonstrating how well Johnston’s mastered his craft. His Scottish accent still gives his chewing-on-grit vocal a unique sandpaper edge that works well in these gentler songs. Lyrics like, “I refuse to give into choices I didn’t choose,” match the bitterness and optimism that’s conveyed in the combination of the gruff vocal and heartwarming, bright acoustic guitar. Continue reading “EP Review: Tragical History Tour – Old Words”

Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In December

Skip your boring work Christmas party and get yourself down to one of these noisy nights out instead.

Article by Sarah Williams.

Christmas is coming. For many of us, December is a time of tradition, consumerism and excessive alcohol consumption. If you survive the guantlet of the office Christmas party (advice: don’t get off with anyone’s boss, especially not your own) then you still get to face the awkward questions from relatives you’ve not seen since last year. “What happened to that nice boyfriend?” Oh, the one that cheated on me three months ago? “Are you still doing that… ‘job’?” Yes, Gran, I’m still a world class fuck-up, thank you for asking.

As one of the busiest and most expensive times of year, gigs can sometimes take a back-seat. There’s no need for that as there’s plenty going on and, let’s face it, a room full of loud noises is a lot more fun than playing Cluedo with your in-laws. We’ve got all your Christmas and New Years treat wrapped up for you:

Gig Of The Month: Umlaut Records Christmas Party

  • When: December 16th
  • Where: New Cross Inn, London
  • Who: Consumed, Spoilers, Müg, No Matter, Ships Down, Launch Control, Our Lives In Cinema, Shark Party and Tape It Shut
  • Tickets HERE, Facebook event HERE

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This is such a banger. Scrap your stupid work Christmas party and all the other invites you’ve had (this is literally the busiest night of the whole month for me – there are 10+ gigs to choose from) and get your arse down to the New Cross Inn.

Consumed are legendary in the UK punk scene, having pioneered the British late 90s/early 00s skate-punk sound. They even reached the fabled heights of the Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 soundtrack. There are few bands in England that I ever get more excited about seeing, so Christmas is genuinely coming early for me with this booking.

The rest of the line up is all fast, melodic and awesome. Britain’s catchiest punks, Spoilers are on before Consumed, so get your singing voices ready. Umlaut label bosses Müg are also, in my opinion, one of the most underrated bands in London right now – plenty to rock out to. No Matter are trekking over from Ireland to give us some super-catchy pop punk. Ships Down are one of the best punk rock acts I’ve seen in 2017; they take cues from bands like Belvedere/Rise Against. Keep your ears open for Launch Control‘s Christmas song (I assume they’re doing one this year). Our Lives In Cinema are what you get if you chuck Alkaline Trio and Jeff Rosenstock in a musical blender, well worth getting down earlier for. Before them, catch Shark Party and Tape It Shut. What’s not to like?

Enjoy one of my All Time Top 5 Best Punk Songs Ever:

Anarchistic Undertones: New Years Eve Party

  • When: December 31st
  • Where: Gullivers, Manchester
  • Who: Stand Out Riot, Riggots, Revenge of The Psychotronic Man, plus more.
  • Facebook event HERE

New Year’s Eve is a consistently crashing disappointment, so I aim to keep my expectations as low as possible at all times. This gig represents a glimmer of hope in the mire of plastic champagne flutes and overpriced entry fees (seriously, one NYE I was charged £10 to get into a pub where I lived and worked). While I’m keen to maintain a cynical facade at all times, this is pretty fucking exciting!

Ska-punk heroes Stand Out Riot are reforming for this one-off show – it’s their first gig since MPF 2015. Revenge of The Psychotronic Man will no doubt play as fast as phsycially possible, hurtling you into 2018 at full speed. You can also look forward to  having spit, guitars and dischordant noises hurled at you by Riggots. If that’s not enough, there’s Wadeye, Habits and The Mighty Bossmags. Grab a ticket before they sell out – otherwise you’re going to be stuck in a shitty overpriced bar, or wanking alone on your sofa to the hollow charm of Jools Holland. Continue reading “Gig Guide: Bands You Need To See In December”

Album Review: Sounds of Swami – Furniture for Modern Living

Sounds of Swami’s second album delivers raw post-hardcore full of live energy. FFO: Fugazi, Fucked Up and At The Drive In.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

When a band says that their latest album is ‘recorded live onto 2″ tape in a converted chapel’ they instantly have my attention. Furniture for Modern Living by Sounds of Swami shows a raw and rough approach to recording that is lacking in today’s Pro Tools marketplace.

Sounds of Swami are a well known post-hardcore act who excel in mixing punk and atmospheric noise in an inventive, prog-influenced style, underpinned by lyrics that promote left-wing politics and DIY sensibilities. They’ve built up a strong reputation for exciting, aggressive live shows and they’ve captured that live intensity on Furniture for Modern Living. This follows their self-titled debut album and two EPs, all of which had had a uniquely raw production style that’s further developed on the new record.

Album opener Lull gives a lush post-rock sheen akin to ISIS and Godspeed. It draws you into a release full of dynamic shifts and a real sense of space. Guillotine takes the not-quite dissonant aspects of Lull but has solid riff work at it’s core. It is a more dynamic track that segues nicely into the next more traditionally hardcore song. Kill Me Already sounds like Fucked Up had a baby with Queens of the Stone Age and it grew up listening to Royal Blood. It is a phenomenal track, and a clear testament to the live ability of a band that have a real chemistry together. Continue reading “Album Review: Sounds of Swami – Furniture for Modern Living”

EP Review: Arms & Hearts – Fortitude

Arms & Hearts’ second release is a short, passionate EP full of heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting. FFO: The Gaslight Anthem, Chuck Ragan and Ducking Punches.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Arms & Hearts has just released Fortitude, their second EP, via Real Ghost Records. The short release sounds like a glimmer of lonely hope, with heartfelt lyrics and a big-room production feel.

First track, Fortitude is a bright, foot-tapping acoustic song. It’s our first taste of Arms & Hearts wistful, romantic and comfortingly cliched songwriting. “Home is wherever you happen to be that night,” is such a pure turn of phrase that it sends an arrow straight through your heart. The warm tones tells you their live show is going to be at its best in quirky, intimate venues; ideal for a candlelit date-night with your tattooed sweetheart.

The introduction to second track, Dagger Eyes has a reverberating big-room feel, not unlike The Gaslight Anthem’s slower pieces. The chorus has a gritty vocal refrain that would sound right coming from Brian Fallon, although there’s a clear Chuck Ragan influence also. The instrumentation across both tracks speaks similarly of Gaslight, but also of some of the more resonant pieces by City and Colour. The lyrics call up ‘broken glass’, ‘bleeding hearts’ and ‘blood on your hands’, further adding to the restorative Americana-type feel that’s present in both songs. That being said, there’s a British twang in the vocal that reminds me a lot of the solo Ducking Punches sound.

Arms & Hearts are touring with Chicago’s Andrew Paley, who’s known for similar heart-on-your-sleeve folk stylings. Make a date for one of the following:

  • 1st December: Manchester, Gullivers
  • 2nd December: Leeds, Singleshot
  • 3rd December: Nottingham, The Angel
  • 5th December: Peterborough, The Ostrich inn
  • 6th December: Brighton, The Pipeline

Fortitude was released on November 20th on Real Ghost Records, and it’s available for pay-what-you-want download from their Bandcamp. Make sure you check out Arms & Hearts on Facebook too.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride

The intense and heartfelt third album from Italy’s Thanx 4 All The Shoes is a solid skate-punk/thrash offering. FFO: Propagandhi, Strung Out, NOFX.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

Another Ride is the third album from Italian melodic hardcore outfit Thanx 4 All The Shoes, due to be released on November 25th on Disconnect Disconnect Records in the UK.

In their 11 years together, Thanx 4 All The Shoes have toured all over mainland Europe and Japan, building a reputation for their technical skill and thought-provoking lyrical messages. You can expect shades of melodic hardcore and thrash in the style of Propagandhi and Strung Out, however with a name like Thanx 4 All The Shoes I’m slightly gutted I’m not listening to a NOFX tribute band. Either way, I’m jumping in with gleefully expectant ears.

Opening track One Pen One Book instantly draws comparisons to Propagandhi, but I’m actually getting more of an 80’s thrash vibe from the quickly muted guitar attack and vocal approach. Think Anthrax and Megadeth if Chris Hannah wrote their newest tracks. It is a solid opening and a promising precursor to the rest of this album.

Title track Another Ride and it’s much of the same: fast and melodic with a twin guitar attack reminiscent of Propagandhi. What stands out most is the high-flying vocal harmonies and METAL AS HELL midsection where small guitar flourishes embellish another 80’s thrash thrill ride. This is what I want from this band: the sections where they truly let fly and break away from what’s ‘expected’ within standard modern hardcore are what set them apart. Continue reading “Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride”