Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]

We speak to Rob Piper of Darko / Lockjaw Records about their intentions for 2018 and their sterling album Bonsai Mammoth, ahead of its first anniversary.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

If you have haplessly stumbled across Shout Louder in the past, you may have heard us mention Darko once or twice. They were our Album of The Year 2017, one of the top acts at Punk Rock Holiday and a lot of other shows. Okay, so maybe we’re a little obsessed with them. Shuttup.

We love them enough that we have convinced them to play our birthday party (Feb 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich) as a warm up for their album anniversary party on February 3rd. They are throwing a big shindig at The Boileroom in Guildford to celebrate a year since the release of their incredible melodic hardcore opus Bonsai Mammoth.

Darko have been around for quite a few years and have always struck me as one of the most talented, hardworking and savvy bands in the scene. Their recordings and their live shows are delivered with stark in-the-moment passion, but there’s an intellectual undercurrent that shines in many of their lyrics and their complex compositions.

To get to know them a bit better, I spoke to guitarist Rob Piper, who also looks after the infamous Lockjaw Records, home to some impressive punk and hardcore acts.

It’s nearly a year since you released Bonsai Mammoth. I’m sure I’m not the only one to put it in my top picks of 2017. How have you found the reaction to it?

Well firstly, thanks loads for your support and kind words about the record; it means alot to know people are enjoying the album. This year has flown past. We’ve had a lot of fun touring the new tracks, hearing people’s reactions and seeing people sing or scream along with us.

Darko had been together for a long time before Bonsai Mammoth, so it feels like success has been a slow burn for you. Do you think there was a particular turning point for the band?

For me I think the biggest success with Darko was finding four other members that can put up with each others shit and share the same ‘can do’ attitude to just go for it, unphased by how popular the genre is, just doing it because we love playing our music live. When we first started the band I had no idea we would be touring Japan and touring to Greece and back. Since releasing our very first EP in 2010, we have hit lots of milestones which I would class as successes. I think myself fortunate for the experiences we have shared and hopefully will share in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the title Bonsai Mammoth come from?

From what I remember, the original phrase was coined on one of the many long van journeys across mainland europe, most probably scooting the autobahn. A plethora of seemingly random phrases and noises are produced from the cabin on these journeys. A lot of it is bollocks but some is thought provoking and meaningful… In some opinions.

With Sea of Trees, Bonsai Mammoth and a lot of the lyrical content in a lot of your songs, there seems to be an underlying nature theme. Is that a deliberate choice? If not, why do you think that theme comes across?

From Trust to Conformity and the Sea of Trees EP both follow a concept which involves nature versus machine, so I’d say it was more intentional in those two records than the full length. Nature is a such an epic spectrum; it encompasses the reasons why we are alive and how we interact with the earth. I think it’s important for all of us in the band to recognise this and, when writing, it makes sense to use nature to help describe scenes and relay emotions with metaphors. I think each of our personal ecosystems can be compared to the planet and being aware to treat ourselves with respect, as we need to do to the world, to try and avoid the heavy pressures causing poor health. Continue reading “Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]”

Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]

Joe Tilston discusses Random Hand’s hiatus, their return to the stage and what they’ve been plotting in the meantime!

Interview by Sarah Williams. Photos nicked from Bev, from RH’s ‘last’ Manchester show.

It is hard to measure the impact that Random Hand have had on my life. They’ve been going since 2002, but I think I stumbled across them in 2007 when I first heard Scum Triumphant. They were one of the first small bands that I became properly obsessed with, so therefore they became my gateway into DIY. Literally, this website would not exist if Random Hand hadn’t been there to kick-start my gig addiction. I also wouldn’t own half as many sweat-encrusted band t-shirts.

For many years, Random Hand were one of the most explosive bands in UK ska-punk. Back in 2015 they announced that they were going on hiatus for a couple of years. Although they never used the words ‘break-up’ themselves, there was uproar in the punk community and many promoters billed their farewell tour as their last ever gigs. The news was especially shocking coming from a band who were a mainstay of the live circuit. No matter how many gigs they played, they always gave 110%, guaranteeing the best loud, sweaty and raucous performances you could wish for.

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The news of the hiatus was delivered alongside a crowd-funding campaign for a self-released album as a farewell gift to their fans. Hit Reset dropped on 13th September 2015, just as they came off stage at their final, incendiary gig at The Camden Underworld. The album was an unusual parting gift (particularly as they weren’t playing it live) and an opportunity to record with the final iteration of their line-up.

Robin Leitch (vocals/trombone), Joe Tilston (bass), Dan Walsh (guitar) and Sean Howe (drums) recently announced that they would be reuniting in 2018. Their first gig back is in their home town of Leeds, followed quickly by Manchester Punk Festival. They are also releasing their first album Change of Plan on vinyl via TNS Records. It’s a gorgeous red record, encased in an updated version of Si Mitchell’s classic artwork, due for release on February 9th.

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I sat down with Joe Tilston to discuss their plans for the new year and to get some insight into why they left us in the first place.

Random Hand are back! Why now?

We were very honest about it being a hiatus. I know some promoters weren’t quite as honest and said it was our last gig on occasions, but on our social media statuses and at every gig we always said it was a hiatus. It’s a break. If anyone asked anything beyond that we said, “We need two years off.” That was the watershed; having two years off and seeing where that took us.

It literally ticked over two years. I was on the phone to Robin just after he’d finished one of the projects he was working on and we said, “Shall we have a practice then?” That was it, really! It was one week less than two years that we had our first practice back. I think we all just needed the head space. We needed to let it go, not think about it and become our own people. Continue reading “Random Hand: Can’t Stop Changing Plans [Interview]”

Interview: Shoreline on German Punk, UK Tours and Their New EP

We talk to German melodic punks, Shoreline, about the Münster punk scene, what it’s like touring the UK and the release of their new record.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Shoreline are a melodic punk band from Münster, Germany. They are due to release their debut EP You Used To Be A Safe Place on 19th January 2018 via Uncle M Records. They’re celebrating by touring Germany with Great Collapse plus a stint in the UK, including dates in Manchester, London, Nottingham, Cardiff and Worcester.

I’m a huge fan of You Used To Be A Safe Place already. It will appeal to fans of angsty melodic indie-punk like The Menzingers and Gnarwolves although it’s got a gritty quality to it that only a smaller band can deliver. The current single Breakfast (at 5pm) is a memorable little tune with brighter guitars and a grittier vocal; it gives me flash-foward fantasties of jostling sweatily through a drunken crowd at The Fighting Cocks, singing along at the top of my lungs. The final track on the EP, Silent Friend, has future-anthem written all over it. It’s so close to Cavalcade-era Flatliners that I’ve struggled to stop listening to it.

Shoreline You Used To Be A Safe Place Interview

I always think that a band travelling from the European mainland to tour the UK is a good sign – it’s not easy to get bookings, so they tend to know what they’re doing both musically and within the DIY scene. We spoke to singer/guitarist Hansol Seung about the Münster punk scene, the differences in touring the UK vs. Mainland Europe and their new release.

Hi Hansol! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Hi Sarah! Thanks so much for having me.

Tell us a bit about the band. How did you get started?

We started the band in fall 2015. At first it was just Julius [guitar/vocals] and me [guitar/vocals]. I think we met through some weird Facebook students group, in a comment section about our music taste, where he’s listed some of my favourite bands. We eventually met at shows and became friends – that was around 2014, I think. We were always talking about starting a really fast-paced, melodic punk rock band, just like NOFX or The Flatliners.

We searched for a drummer for such a long time, it was mental. We finally found one in Martin, who was playing in his old band Words Ring True back then. To be honest, we’d known each other for quite a while! I even filled in on bass for them once or twice, but it took a while for us to ask him if he wanted to join us. He seemed really busy with Words Ring True and Julius and I were looking for someone who would dedicate as much time as we would, rather than seeing our band as sort of a side project. Turned out Martin was ready to do so and ever since then he has put so much effort into Shoreline that we’ve never ever questioned his dedication for this project.

Tobias, our bassist was the last one to join us. I knew him from university, since we shared a lot of the same lectures. He wasn´t too much into punk rock back then, but it came together nicely ever since the first rehearsal.

 

 

 

I’ve never been to Münster. What’s the punk scene like there?

The punk scene in Münster is awesome. There are so many bands and people creating things, promoters and people who dig this kind of music. Most of the bands of our genre know each other; we´re all friends really. A lot of the bands also tour a lot and get themselves out there. I think I have hung out with Michel from Hal Johnson in sweaty DIY Venues all over Europe. I´d say there are few cities in Germany or in Europe in general (that I personally know of) that have such a personal, close and flourishing punk scene like Münster has. We are really fortunate to be a part of it. Continue reading “Interview: Shoreline on German Punk, UK Tours and Their New EP”

Stand Out Riot: Reunions, Releases and Rumours [Interview]

“We might be older and slower than we used to be, but that won’t stop us having the most fun.”

Interview by Sarah Williams.

In a year that’s been blessed with exciting ska-punk reunions, Stand Out Riot are the latest to bring us exciting news. It’s been four years since the Manchester/New Mills sextet have played together regularly, but they’re joining forces once again to release their 2007 album The Gentleman Bandits on vinyl for the first time.

The Gentleman Bandits is a stomping, brassy riot of fast ska-punk – good luck standing still when you get this on your turntable for the first time! Stand Out Riot take cues from bands like Streetlight Manifesto in their more complex composition, incorporating heavier hardcore sections and party-folk elements that are reminiscent of Gogol Bordello. Announced last week, the record is now available from TNS Records, in a gorgeous translucent blue and yellow splatter. If, like me, you want to expand your unnecessarily large collection of merch from defunct ska punk bands, you can also order a new t-shirt while you’re at it.

They’re also getting together for a one-off reunion show, headlining Anarchistic Undertones’ New Year’s Eve shindig at Gullivers in Manchester, accompanied by the likes of Revenge of The Psychotronic Man, Riggots, Wadeye, Habits and The Mighty Bossmags. On top of there there are rumours of more appearances next year, although nothing’s announced at the moment. Very exciting times indeed.

Sarah recently jumped at the opportunity to catch up with bassist Will Garland, to find out more about why they’ve chosen to get together now and what else there is to be excited about in future.

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Apart from a oneoff gig at Manchester Punk Festival in 2015, Stand Out Riot havent been together for quite a few years. Whats prompted your return to music?

Yeah, we haven’t had regular gigs since our last European tour back in 2013! Most of all, we really miss playing. It’s strange because we never really said we were going away – there was no farewell gig or last hurrah. The gigs just became less and less frequent because we got busy with our other lives. But now it’s been far too long and we’re very exciting to be playing again.

The band went through some lineup changes over the years. Whos involved in the current incarnation of the band?

We’re back to a classic line up – almost the same as when we recorded The Gentleman Bandits back in 2010. We’ve known each other in one way or another for 25+ years now which is pretty crazy. Ben Streets on Drums, Francis Hunt on vocals and trombone, Hannah Hunt on sax, Tessa Hunt on violin and vocals, Ste Anthony on guitar and vocals. I play bass and do some vocals too.

Whats been keeping you and the rest of the band busy in the years without Stand Out Riot?

We’ve all done a lot of travelling, but also started settling down and getting real jobs. Hannah has gone around the world a few times. Tessa was in France for a year. Francis is in the US right now on tour with the Front Bottoms. I moved to Denmark to be a research scientist; that’s kept me super busy for the past 3 years. A few of us are now teachers. Ste is married and has a baby! Real life is pretty damn time consuming.

At the moment it looks like a temporary gettogether for a few shows. Would you consider a permanent reunion?

We would love to be back playing regularly. For us in the past, we never made the band full time – it was always something we enjoyed doing in between everything else. When we were at school and university it was much easier to do that, but now we have proper jobs and responsibilities it’s very hard to co-ordinate that with all six of us.   Continue reading “Stand Out Riot: Reunions, Releases and Rumours [Interview]”

Beat The Red Light: A Force To Be Reckoned With [Interview]

Pook and Eddie discuss their reunion, moonlighting with The Filaments and the struggle of getting eight people together for band practice.

Article by Sarah Williams. Amusingly old photos by Bev/Hold My Pint Photography.

Once famously described as ‘Slayer meets The Slackers’, Beat The Red Light are a genre-defying collision of metal, punk and ska, probably best likened to Voodoo Glow Skulls or Capdown, if Capdown listened to black metal. Their combination of heavy, overdriven guitars, double-kick intensity and coarsely shouted vocals isn’t too hard to fathom, but the killer difference with this band is the way they use their four-piece brass section like an assault weapon. They flip from bouncy ska sections into hardcore beatdowns before your feet have figured out what’s happening, inspiring absolute chaos in a pit. It is a truly unique sound that’s perhaps a bit niche, but immensely enjoyable for those of us who’ve gotten our heads round it.

Sadly, Beat The Red Light officially disbanded in November 2015. Now, almost exactly two years after the split, they’ve announced that they’ll be reforming for Manchester Punk Festival in 2018: the most ideal reunion imaginable. Having released their album Salt The Lands on Manchester DIY label TNS Records in 2011, crowds in the Rainy City have always given them the best reception, even more so than in their hometown of High Wycombe.

At present, MPF is their only official booking, but rumours abound for more on the horizon! Salt The Lands on vinyl for the first time? Support slots with Lightyear? A mainland Europe tour with Faintest Idea? A Mexican mega-tour? I caught up with singer/trombonist Pook and sharply-dressed saxophonist Eddie O’Toole to dispel a few myths, and to find out why they’re coming back now.

Beat The Red Light have gotten back together! What have you got in store for us?

  • Eddie: I wouldn’t say that we’re ‘back together’. We’re just doing a few shows that we thought it would be fun to do. We’re being very choosy about them. We probably split up because it was so hard to do all the shows we wanted to do….
  • Pook: And to get everyone together for band practice.
  • Ed: Everybody lives in different places and they’ve got kids, so it’s not going to be any easier! It’s going to be very selective.
  • Pook: Hopefully the motivation of us wanting to do these shows should be more than enough for us to try and, um…. have some band practices.

So you haven’t managed to get together for a practice yet?

  • Pook: I don’t think we’ll be practicing until maybe the day before Manchester Punk Fest.
  • Eddie: Can I just note that it is exactly two years to the day since we split up?
  • Pook: It’s weird because we didn’t really have any plans. Andy and Bev from TNS messaged me asking us to do it. At different times when we all got together (which were very few and far between) we’d be like, “Aw, I miss the band.” It just seemed like the right gig. If we were going to do a reunion gig then it would have to be for the right reasons, and what better reason is there than going back to your band’s second home? We never properly did a goodbye gig for Manchester.

No, your last Manchester show was Manchester Punk Festival in 2015.

  • Pook: I actually announced it on stage, “This is going to be our last Manchester gig.”
  • Ed: That was kind of the break up announcement as well.
  • Pook: Half the band members didn’t even know! “Yeah, that was our last Manchester gig.” Deal with it! [Some other band members] were fuming! But I was right. That was our last Manchester gig.

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You played the after party in the Joshua Brooks that year, right?

  • Ed: The aftershow was much more fun [than playing in Sound Control]. It’s always nice to play in a bit more of an intimate space.
  • Pook: There were a lot of lunatics at that gig. I remember there was a lot of body diving, and then some guy got on stage. I thought he was going to go for a stage dive but then he rugby tackled me to the floor and started screaming in my face. I was hitting him with the microphone trying to get him off me. He was off his rocker; he was having a fantastic time. That was a nice hot, sweaty gig.

Continue reading “Beat The Red Light: A Force To Be Reckoned With [Interview]”

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. Continue reading “Fuelled by Caffeine: DIY Punk Collaboration in Action [Interview]”

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”