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”

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.