05:15 and I’ve accidentally set my alarm for 5pm, so Luke Yates, guitarist in The Human Project has to knock on my door to wake me up. I have one job (to get out of bed on time), and I’ve failed it.
It’s an early start, as are many of these trips. Loading merchandise into the back of a van at 5am, after staying in Luke’s spare room in Leeds the night before, I start considering why we bother. As a teenager, I imagined going on tour would involve a big Nightliner – a tour lorry with bunks beds, big screen TVs and a bar. As an adult I look forward to jumping in the back of a Mercedes Vito to travel in boredom for 10 hours, just to watch a band play for 30 minutes.
There’s an acceptance to it. It’s not glamorous, but it is fun. Luke jumps in the drivers seat of the van and we taxi round Leeds in the pre-dawn darkness to collect the rest of the band.
As he jumps in the van, Joe Dimuantes, bassist in The Human Project says, “I wonder if, when you start at 5am, cabin fever sets in straight away?” He’s right – as soon as all four guys jump into the van they dive into early-morning, half-awake in jokes about eggs and internet memes.
It seems like a novelty early on, especially when the sun starts to rise and the horizon becomes tangerine-dream surreal. A massive sandwich is consumed. Facts are created. It wears off a bit when everyone goes a little quiet around 8am, somewhere 30 minutes north of London.
Matt Wise, drummer in The Human Project (who has his own blog here), is fortunately up for an 11am ferry beer. Lager is an essential part of the Dover to Calais crossing in my opinion, so I’m chuffed too have company, even if it is before midday. It’s apres midi in France, right?
It’s nice to have a proper chat on the ferry. We have a couple of beers and a coffee some time to relax a bit. This illustrates my favourite thing about travelling with bands: there are deadzones of time when you can’t do anything useful. It’s relaxing. You get to know each other better in these moments of emptiness.
It’s another three and a half hours on the road to Leiden for the Coral Springs album launch show. I’m excited to be travelling over for it; the Netherlands seems far, but it’s not when you’re getting to see a great up-and-coming band. I’ve enjoyed Coral Springs on record, but they stunned me live at Dugstock in London in 2018. They combine technical skate-punk with pop-punk in a way that’s seriously electric live. Getting to catch them at an album launch in their home town feels like a rite of passage.
On route, it all goes a bit Linkin Park, and vocalist/guitarist Jonny Smith starts talking about buying a trebuchet for, Matt, as a gift. I’m feeling a little out of my depth in keeping up with the band’s in-jokes – they’re so deeply ingrained in the group’s language and dynamic that you’ll never completely get it if you don’t understand the original roots of the pun.
As a group of friends, The Human Project clearly gel perfectly together – there’s barely a hint of argument or animosity, just a pure enjoyment of everyone’s company. This is best illustrated when, 30 minutes way from our destination, they all make a mutual decision to write a poem in tribute to Princess Diana – one verse each, all with the same cadence and opening line. They sit in silence, occasionally bursting into giggles, as they write their stanzas on their phones:
“What if we spent this time writing actual song lyrics?” Joe points out, after 10 minutes of staring seriously at his verses.
Arriving into Leiden we’re instantly struck with just how Dutch it is. Canals, windmills, gorgeous terrace houses and cyclists. Cyclists everywhere! I’d liked to have admired the town more, but instead we spent 10 minutes yelling in midly-xenophobic Dutch accents at Luke, who’s driving, to make sure he doesn’t accidentally hit anyone. I’m sure he really appreciates all the shouted advice.
Tonight’s gig is at Gebr de Noble (or Gobble de Nobble, as we dub it). The venue is stunning. We’re introduced to a stage manager and shown to our green room. There’s food, there’s pinball, there’s coffee, there’s a fishbowl-like indoor smoking area. We chill out with Coral Springs in the most characterful dressing room I’ve seen – velvet sofas, a fridge shaped like a Marshall amp overflowing with beer, lit mirrors and a pyramid ceiling decorated with wood panels.
Although this is a moment of relaxation, there are nerves and excitement in the room. There’s a celebratory air, as this is the launch of Coral Springs’ debut album Always Lost, Never Found (which is out now on Umlaut Records and SBAM Records, with additional distro through Lockjaw Records). There’s prosecco, but the band are a little subdued at this stage: singer Jo is running around trying to sort out band food, and I suspect there’s some underlying nerves about both headlining a big hometown show.
I’m chuffed to run into my friend Deny, who I know from Dowzer and Harsh Realms. It turns out he’s recently joined the ranks of Camp High Gain, who are opening tonight’s show. I’ve heard of Camp High Gain, but wow I’m so impressed to hear them for the first time.
Camp High Gain play riffy, shouty classic skate-punk, with a mainland-Euro flavour that reminds me a lot of old-school Swedish skate-punk. I’m instantly enthralled by them, and I wish I knew the words so that I could sing along. They’re certainly a headline-quality band, which bodes well with them as an opener.
Between bands, I go to help out with The Human Project’s merch. Standing squeezed into the corner by the merch desk, it’s lovely to see people filing into the gig with huge grins on their faces. There are clearly a lot of old friends here, and I even have a brief chat with Jo’s parents. It’s also great to see Coral Springs’ album and t-shirts flying off the shelves; people are really keen to pick it up here, direct from the band.
I grab myself a beer and go to watch The Human Project. They have a little trouble setting up, but they treat it with professionalism and leap straight into the kind of electrifying, technically-adept live set that they’re best known for. The room’s packed with fans at this point, and the big stage and the high-ceilinged cavern of a room lends itself perfectly to their live show – each harmony and flourish is crystal clear through the PA so you can appreciate the show at record quality. This is far from the scrappy venues we’re accustomed to in the UK.
As they’re running a little behind, the band smash through 35 minutes of music with few breaks, mostly from their latest release Clarion Call. It’s clear they have an established fanbase here – there’s fists in the air for every chorus, dancing and words sung back. The band look like they’re loving it and, much to my surprise, they even come out into the crowd at the end of Desperate Measures (check out the video over on our Facebook page). Joe jumps down off the stage and Luke and Jonny follow him. Floor shows aren’t unusual at punk rock gigs, but I’ve never seen The Human Project do it and it’s bloody brilliant. The crowd lap it up.
There’s a palpable thrum of excitement by the time The Human Project come off stage – the crowd are buzzing from their set, and they can’t stop talking about Coral Springs. It’s lovely seeing so many friends here, so far from home. The band and I have a good chat with far-flung friends, another reminder of why we’d be willing to travel so far for an evening of fun. I see Dorian from Drunktank, Bjorn from Bearded Punk Records, Jaap from Black Volvo/Batwolf and my good friend Mirjam, and I meet a lot of new people too.
We don’t have to wait long for the main event, and I hand over merch responsibilities to a very post-stage sweaty Luke. You almost can’t open the door, there are so many people packed into the room to watch Coral Springs. I weave my way down the front.
Coral Springs have had a new lease of life in the last year, and you can tell from the quality of their song-writing. The new tunes from Always Lost, Never Found are fiercely melodic, with an undercurrent of pop-punk that come across much heavier live than it does on record. Some of the songs tackle some tougher, more emotive subject matter, which singer Jo conveys with an enthralling energy on stage – she’s singing her lungs out, it’s thoroughly impressive.
I’m most excited to see guitarist, Joris, who’s become quite a good online friend because he follows what we do at Shout Louder. The reason I’m so excited is because he’s wearing a Shout Louder t-shirt – it’s the first time I’ve seen someone wearing one, let along on-stage during a headline set in a foreign country! It’s so fucking cool, I’m oddly touched by it.
It’s heart-warming to see the reaction that Coral Springs receive – the crowd singalong to all the choruses, even on the newer songs that I’ve only been released today. There’s enthusiasm in the room that the band clearly feed off of – they know this is their time, one of the most exciting shows they will have played as a headliner for sure. They needn’t have been nervous about following The Human Project – they absolutely slay this stage.
By the end of the show, the room’s hot and sweaty and people spilling out of the room can’t stop talking about how great Coral Springs are. I cannot wait for this incredible band to see the same recognition from a wider audience, and to have time to fully absorb the album and the deeper meanings behind the songs. Camp High Gain, The Human Project and Coral Springs were all stupendous tonight, and I’ve got the feeling this will leap into my ‘top gigs of 2019’ list, even though it’s only February.
After the show, people are reluctant to go home. There’s a crowd of people in the hallways near the merch, all keen to talk to the band and congratulate them on great sets. Matt and I dive into some beers while we wait for the crowd to clear.
After booking the band, feeding us and giving us beers, Jo and Seibe are also kind enough to put us up in their beautiful house, where we get to enjoy playing with their Nintendo and their cats. It’s a restrained party, but I enjoy getting to have a proper catch up with Jo and Siebe with the stress of the gig over, and Joe, Matt and I stay up well into the early hours of the morning, chatting. This is another reason why it’s worth the long drive: you get to have these unique evenings and become closer friends with those you might otherwise only chat to on Messenger.
Faced with a 9am van call, leaving good time to get a 2pm ferry from Dunkirk, there’s a distinct air of ‘kill me now’ in the back of the van. I’d banked on sleeping on the drive, but it’s proving impossible. Instead, we descend into the cabin fever absurdity of in-jokes… reaching a peak as all four members of the band start yelling ‘oeuf’ in sync at the top of their lungs, for reasons I genuinely can’t understand. However, now initiated in the ways of the THP van, Joe takes pity on me and shows me a string of YouTube vines that instantly explain much of the conversation of the past 24 hours. I feel included; I’ve reached the inner sanctum. I almost wish I hadn’t, but I do want to keep saying ‘egg’ now. Egg.
We stop at a service station somewhere in Belgium. I grab a Jupiler purely because we’re in Belgium and it seems like the thing to do, but Joe grabs ‘pepermunts’, a banana milkshake and a chocolate dessert cup of the variety that you’d recognise from the grab-and-go section of a Marks & Spencers. Tucking into it, Joe very quickly realises that it’s not all it seems – instead of a creamy dessert it a misleading chocolate-flavoured jelly substance with some cream on top. The face he pulls is priceless.
We don’t have have a bin bag so Joe instead upsends the dessert cup into a clear plastic glove we’d grabbed from a petrol station the day before, filling the plastic fingers with disgusting brown goo. The van banter reaches peak we’ve-only-had-an-hour’s-sleep god-I’m-hungover-and-bored as Matt starts saucily suckling on those brown goo fingers and moaning. We’ve got an hour left before we reach the ferry and it can only go uphill from here. I will take the memory of this moment to my grave.
The Human Project are one of the nicest (and strangest) bands I’ve had the good fortunate of travelling with. There is no question that watching them and Camp High Gain was worth the trip alone, and I’m so glad I got to see Coral Springs release their debut full-length into the world. From the intensity of van boredom, the rich, absurd tapestry of in-jokes, spending quality time catching up with far-flung friends and the intense excitement of the live shows… it’s always going to be worth the 24 hour drive.
Want to hear more?
- Listen to our KNRD Festival podcast, which starts with an interview with The Human Project
- Pick up a copy of The Human Project’s album Clarion Call
- Listen to Coral Springs’ album Always Lost, Never Found
Article by Sarah Williams.