Fair Do’s: No One’s Going To Set Standards For You [Interview]

Manchester’s finest talk working-class roots, quality-control and how hard it is to learn your own songs sometimes!

Interview by Sarah Williams. Live photos by Alia Thomas.

Manchester’s melodic hardcore shredders, Fair Do’s, have just announced that they’ll be releasing their first full album Leopards on July 27th, through Lockjaw Records. I have been begging for this album since 2014 and I can’t believe it’s finally happening.

There are few bands that combine hardcore punk with metal in the way Fair Do’s manage to, and they back it up with a hard-earned technical prowess that makes them stand out from the crowd. They formed in 2009 and released an impressive EP Trying Times in 2014, going on to kill it on stage all over Europe, playing with the likes of A Wilhelm Scream, After The Fall, The Decline and H20, including major festivals like Punk Rock Holiday.

I caught up with vocalist/guitarist Danny Cummings and drummer John Holt over a pint, to learn about the hard work they’ve put into Leopards, their working-class sensibilities and why you might hear hints of Beyonce in Danny’s choruses.

You’re releasing a new album: Leopards! That’s exciting. What took you so long?

  • John Holt: Oh, Jesus.
  • Danny Cummings: It took a while recording it, because we did it over weekends.
  • John: I tracked the drums in September 2016.
  • Danny: It was a different beast to the EP. The EP was thrown together: recording guitar at one studio, drums at another. We made a vocal booth in the corner of Josh’s flat for that. Whereas this we’ve done it properly, tracked everything.

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Quality is clearly a major focus for Fair Do’s – it has to be to produce something so wonderfully technical. How do you keep the bar set so high?

  • John: There’s no one there to set standards for you; you can’t expect anyone to go, “You should be better than that.” It’s your job to do that for yourself. No one’s going to care that you had a bad show apart from you.
  • Danny: And the three people stood next to you.
  • John: When people see Fair Do’s as a band stood next to each other, they think we’re going to kill each other. You have to be able to say things and just move onto the next business. Harsh things need to be said occasionally, so sometimes you have to have a shouty, sweary match.

Do you argue with each other a lot, then?

  • John: One of the pitfalls of Fair Do’s is that we produce tunes before we can play them. The songs are written and composed but we can’t actually play them.
  • Danny: We can play them at that we demo them, or try some midi drums. We make sure we’re writing stuff that we can play.
  • John: Yeah, we’re not faking playing stuff, but we’ll come up with ideas that are not obtainable until after many moons of practice.
  • Danny: Dave’s alright, but for the rest of us it’s the sort of stuff we have to sit down and spend an hour a night working on it for six weeks to be able to nail it.

Continue reading “Fair Do’s: No One’s Going To Set Standards For You [Interview]”

A Wilhelm Scream: It’s a Long Hard Road Out There [Interview]

Sarah speaks to melodic hardcore powerhouse A Wilhelm Scream about their upcoming UK tour. “No one will survive. Not even you.”

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Melodic hardcore legends A Wilhelm Scream will be coming to the UK for a seven date tour in June, before heading over to the mainland for an epic month of club shows and festivals with bands like Descendents, Pennywise, Astpai and Darko! We at Shout Louder honestly couldn’t be more excited.

For those unfamiliar with A Wilhelm Scream, they are a 5-piece powerhouse of hardcore talent from New Bedford, Massachusetts. They’ve been killing it on stage since 1999, however the band are probably best known for their classic 2005 album Ruiner and 2007’s Career Suicide. They’re a band who’ve been said to scrap songs from their albums because they’re just ‘fast’ rather than ‘very very fast’, running in the same category as Strung Out, Strike Anywhere or Propagandhi.

As personal heroes of ours, we jumped at the chance to speak to drummer, Nick Angelini, ahead of their UK tour.

Hi Nick! Thanks so much for talking to me.

No problemo.

You’re planning a killer month-long tour around Europe and the UK in June. How do you plan to survive such an awesome few weeks?

No one will survive. Not even you.

You’re touring with Darko, Pennywise, Descendents and Astpai, plus a handful of festival dates. That’s a hell of a line-up. What are you most excited for?

I am super excited to play more shows with Darko. I listened the crap out of the last CD they gave me.  I’m excited to watch them play, knowing the songs now. They are all great bands. Legends. Darko is really kicking my nuts off at the moment.

You’ve got an impressive back-catalogue. Of your recordings, which are you most proud of and why?

I am really proud of all our records. It is hard to pick just one. It’s like having five human babies and saying baby Fernando is my favorite.

What’s your favourite thing to play live?

My favorite thing to play live is my Wail City Drum Kit. I dreamed of building a full drum kit for many years. When I finally pulled it off, I was so happy and proud. Every time I play it on stage I am like a proud pappy. Continue reading “A Wilhelm Scream: It’s a Long Hard Road Out There [Interview]”

Triple Sundae Interview: Hard-Earned Peace of Mind

Mark speaks to Hassan from London’s indie-punk lovelies Triple Sundae about their smashing new EP Peace of Mind.

Interview by Mark Bartlett.

London’s marvellous melodic-punk 4-piece Triple Sundae have just released their new EP Peace of Mind through Umlaut Records. It’s the perfect primer for the summer and the bands most focused, accomplished effort to date. It’s full of amazing songwriting and sugary, addictive melodies across its three great tracks.

I caught up with lead vocalist and guitarist Hassan Afaneh to talk about the band’s future, his inspirations and the state of the UK music scene.

How did Triple Sundae come to be?

Triple Sundae came around at the tail end of 2013 when I had hit up Mike [Smith, guitarist] about wanting to start a band. I was in a really dark place following some pretty shit events within my personal life and it had been two years since I’d played in a punk-oriented band. That outlet was very much needed. A couple of months of finding members and song-writing sessions went by and then boom Tripsun was born in February 2014.

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Have you all played in bands previously or do any of you moonlight in other projects?

Each of us have played in bands prior to Triple Sundae (and during!).

I’ve played in punk bands, emo bands, hardcore bands, ska bands, acoustic bands, neo-soul bands… it goes on. I was only ever good at playing music, so to preserve my sanity I was jumping on project after project!

As well as TS, I play in On a Hiding to Nothing, Zandro drums for Lead Shot Hazard and Andy had started a project named Postcards. One thing is for certain though – we have all played in ska bands at one point in our lives. Ska lives bro.

How would you describe your sound to someone? Is there a genre within punk you feel especially akin to?

If you like anything on Side One Dummy, Jade Tree Records or Quote Unquote then you’ll probably dig it. Continue reading “Triple Sundae Interview: Hard-Earned Peace of Mind”

EAT DIRT: Shaking Up The Scene [Interview]

EAT DIRT are the latest London riot, taking no prisoners as they sweep through the city. Sarah spoke to vocalist Ben Mills to their future and their unique style.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Meet EAT DIRT. As their all-caps moniker suggests, they’re going to shout until you take notice, so jump on this bandwagon as early as you can. This unusual quintet are the latest storm to shake the music venues of London.

In the flesh they’re a raucous bunch, unable to stay on stage and choosing instead to get up close and personal with their audiences. They’ve taken a dose of their riotous live performance and injected it into their new EP Welcome to Shithouse-On-Sea, which was released on Umlaut Records on April 27th. It’s four punk rock tracks that are short but nonetheless memorable, like getting punched in the face by a beautiful woman in a dream. Musically, I hear it as sleazy rock ‘n’ roll with a hint of 80’s metal, but their ballsy attitude is 100% punk.

There is a lot more to these guys than just the music. They have their own scrappy, hilarious podcast and their own YouTube channel. We’ve been watching them tear the scene to pieces for months, so we took the chance to speak to vocalist Ben Mills to learn more.

How did Eat Dirt come about? You’ve all been in multiple bands previously – tell us a bit about your earlier musical endeavours as well.

Myself and Richie have known each other since Hevy Fest 2012, we met before I went on stage with my then band The Smoking Hearts. Also Dai our guitarist played the day before in his band at the time Adelaide, I’d met Dai in Luton in like 2010 when we played with each other. Richie and myself started a side project called Dead Beat, with a few friends, one of which is our new bass player Joey Black (Shortcuts, Angst, BodyHeat). Any way I was taking a break from music from 2014 – 2017 after touring relentlessly across the world from 2010 – 2014. One day I heard the PearsGreen Star album, and I asked Richie if we wanted to start a band in that vein. Then we wrote EP 1 over email, drafted in some old friends from bands and started playing shows.

Ballad has the most perfect 7 seconds of any song ever in the chorus. Have you considered a second careers as 80 power-ballad masters?

What bit do you mean? The bit where me and Richie harmonise beautifully without any help from computer programming? Yeah, that was the second chorus for Ballad and it’s my favourite chorus I’ve ever written ever. Would love to incorporate those pop punky sing along bits in the next record.

You guys take a much more confident approach to a lot of the bands in the current DIY scene. Who do you take the most influence from?

I’ve learnt from years touring the toilet venues around the country and the world that you have to make an impression. It’s important to be remembered and to leave your mark. But I take a lot of influence from the likes of Davey Havoc, Fat Mike, Greg Puciato, and I spent a lot of time as a teenager in the UKHC scene so that up-close-and-personal, high energy performance attitude. I like to leave it all out there, if I don’t finish the set covered in sweat and gasping for breath I haven’t given it my all. Continue reading “EAT DIRT: Shaking Up The Scene [Interview]”

SBÄM Interview: Austria’s festival, record label and artist are ready to take on the punk rock world

Watch out for SBÄM! We speak to Martin Atteneder about their sold out festival and their brand new record label.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

I’m stoked to be jetting off to Austria today, just in time for SBÄM Fest! If the name SBÄM isn’t familiar yet then get prepared to hear a lot of about it in the coming years: these guys are poised to take on the punk rock world.

Now in it’s second year, SBÄM is the work of Stefan Beham and Martin Atteneder. Although it’s a relatively new venture they’re booking quality bands like Propagandhi, Iron Chic and Satanic Surfers, and they sold out months before the event. They’ve begun from a grassroots DIY background, growing from Stefan’s instantly-recognisable graphic design work into this epic festival and now their very own record label.

fertigplakaterl

As SBÄM are about to explode, we thought it’d be a good time to talk to Martin about their plans for the festival and the label.

I’ve been starting to hear more and more about SBÄM lately, so it’s great to have a chance to chat to you. Where does the name SBÄM come from?

SBÄM is the artist name of Stefan, who is the other part of the organisation and of course the artist behind all the artwork we have.

How did you first start out? I see you’re known for your artwork.

Stefan started the whole thing a few years ago by doing tour posters for punk bands like Joey Cape, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Lagwagon. Then his reputation started to get bigger and with that we also had the idea of promoting shows and a festival. That’s where my part in the organisation started.

You’re now expanding into a label and it’s your second year of putting on SBÄM Festival. Tell us about the label – what have you got in the pipeline?

We do a sampler for our festival with all the bands playing the festival and the feedback we’ve had from people was just amazing. So, off the back of that, we thought ‘why not start a label’? Of course both of us had the idea of owning a label somewhere in our minds, but now with the festival being soldout and the artwork, we thought it’s the right time to start a label.

One of our first signings was Consumed from Nottingham, who will release their first record in 16 years this summer via SBÄM-records. In June we will put out the first and previously unreleased solo-record of Yotam Ben Horin from Useless ID and, by the way, Useless ID are also recording some new songs right now, for a release via our label.

One of our main goals with the label is also supporting local bands from Austria and our first Austrian release will be the debut-record of a band called Hurricane Season. And of course there are more releases in works!

Martin SBAM.jpg

I saw you’ve gotten some sick looking office space for the label! What’s the most exciting part of this for you?

Yeah, we just moved in a few days ago. It’s pretty cool to finally have an office. It’s great cause now we have a place where we can meet up and just get all the work done for everything and of course it’s also used as a storage, because we already have lots of stuff to sell!

Who have been your role-models? Which festivals or labels do you admire the most?

Both Stefan and I come from the DIY scene and we still try to do everything on our own. So of course our role-models are DIY festivals. When it comes to labels it’s easy, cause we grew up listening to Fat Wreck and Epitaph so the style and also the philosophy of Fat Wreck Chords are inspirations to us. Although we are trying to go our own path.

What about you, personally? Have you been involved in the punk scene for a long time? How did you first get involved?

I heard Smash from The Offspring when I was about 14 years old and it hit me. Then I got into all the Fat Wreck-Bands and since then I’m into punk rock. I started promoting shows when I was 17 and that’s how it started. 15 years later I’m promoting a soldout SBÄM-Fest which sounds pretty surreal.

SBAM Fest

Tell us about the Austrian punk scene. Is it thriving at the moment or are you looking to grow it? Or both?

I think it’s a good and healthy scene with a lot of great bands. If you look at the SBÄM-Fest lineup we have some of those great bands on the bill.

Basically the scene is based around the bigger cities like Vienna, Graz and Linz, but there are also some crazy venues on the countryside. So, yes, there is a living and healthy punkscene in our country and that’s also one of the reasons why a festival like SBÄM-Fest can work.

What bands should we be checking out?

Definitely: Astpai, Deecracks, Deadends, Missstand, Hurricane Season, Never Been Famous, Antimanifest, Stockkampf and many many more….

SBÄM Fest is only in its second year and yet you’re booking huge names like Propagandhi, Iron Chic and No Fun At All. What are the best and worst parts of organising the festival?

There are only good parts! It’s great when you get a feedback like we got when we started the whole festival thing. I mean if you would have told me last August that our festival would sold out in January… Of course it’s a lot of work when you are just two people organizing the festival, but if you ask me it’s totally worth it.

Tell us about the venue – Alter Schlachthof. It looks like a pretty special place?

In my opinion the venue will be one of the things the people will like the most at the festival besides the lineup of course. It’s an old slaughterhouse and you have graffiti everywhere, a skatepark outside where we are doing a skatecontest on day two, and of course no barricades in front of the stage.

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What would be your advice for someone looking to get the most out of SBÄM Fest?

Just enjoy the festival and be there early cause also the opening bands are great! It’s also about meeting people, cause we have people from more than 20 different countries coming along. If you see one of us, come by and say hi! We really want to know everybody coming to our festival.

What are you ambitions for the future? Are you thinking of even bigger things next year?

We will do a one-day autumn edition of SBÄM-Fest which will be announced soon after the festival. The concept for 2019 is alreay planned. The festival will be 3 days from May 1st to May 3rd 2019 and we will create a small second stage in the youth-center at the venue. So we will have 45 acts playing SBÄM-Fest 3. Early bird tickets for SBÄM-Fest 3 will be available at the festival and more informations will be coming soon.

 

Keep an eye out for our coverage of SBÄM Fest over the coming weeks – we can’t wait! Check them out on Facebook or direct through their website.

 

 

The Affect Heuristic: Melodic Hardcore’s Best Kept Secret [Interview]

Scottish/Belgian melodic hardcore newbies The Affect Heuristic are the most exciting thing to happen so far in 2018.

Interview by Joelle Laes / Intro by Sarah Williams.

The Affect Heuristic are one of the single most exciting things to happen so far in 2018. They teased a short burst of Tightrope last year, before releasing an absolutely stunning split with Money Left To Burn in February. This is a record that deserves to be spun to breaking point; we’ve had it on non-stop since we got our hands on it.

Shout Louder aired an exclusive stream of Vs because we think it’s the most exciting record we’ve heard all year. It’s now out in a gorgeous digipack format on Lockjaw Records. If you haven’t heard it yet, you need it in your life. It’s intricate, technical melodic hardcore with a sweet twist of metal, erring more on the side of Shai Hulud or Between The Buried and Me, but maintaining all the wider appeal of Darko or F.O.D.. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s been mixed by PMX’s John Harcus, so the end product is tight as fuck.

Conveniently, Shout Louder’s writer and Less Talk More Records’ lovely Joelle happens to live with The Affect Heuristic’s guitarist Dave Gourlay, so he was easy to pin down for an interview.

Hello. I know you quite well but maybe our readers don’t. Can you introduce yourself? Who are you, what is your role in the band?

I’d like to just kick this off by saying it’s a real honour to be doing this. I bloody LOVE Shout Louder and what you’re all doing for punk and music in general. Podcasts are a tour de force of relevance, bizarre ranting and comedy. (All credit to Sarah!)

Now, to business. Hiya, I’m Dave, I play guitar and awkwardly fumble with any dates we’re given to the point of utter confusion of everyone else in the band.

Hi Dave. Congrats on your first release!

Oooh! Thanks so much for the enjoyment of the finished record! Glad you’re digging it after hearing it ad nauseum while I wrote it in our flat.

The fact that I still enjoy it after having to sit through it a million times shows how brilliant it is. I rather enjoyed watching it come to life.

Seriously surprised at that.

I’m not.

I’m more excited about the launch of the hot sauce than anything else. Bernie Bumhole is an aptly named winner. It actually dissolves toilets. First time I had it, I left teeth marks in the sink. If you didn’t pre-order it, you’ll have to wait to try it.

I’ve heard it numbs buttholes to the point where you can’t tell if you’re farting or not. Risky business that.

Every fart’s a gamble. It’s sneaky cause it can be a slow burner. It definitely isn’t slow the next day.

Yes, I’ve seen your face change and run for the bathroom a few times…

Apart from that time I sharted on the chair.

May it rest in peace in the tip.

Now let me ask the obvious questions first. You and the singer (Sean) are from Scotland. You’ve lived in Belgium for a few years and you’re about to move back to the UK. The rest of the band is Belgian. How does that work? How do you write songs or rehearse?

So far as writing and rehearsing goes, I’ll have to really knuckle down and start demoing more. I absolutely hate that stage of writing cause I can’t play it tight yet and hearing all those duff notes drives me mental. But this is going to be key.

I absolutely love those spontaneous moments we have in the room together where I have an idea and by the end of practice, we have a song (in this case, Tightrope). But this is a double edged sword, since I can sit down with Sean and involve him waaaay more while maintaining a regular actual practice schedule with the band back in Belgium.

So we’ll demo everything, do our homework and hopefully by tour time, it’ll all be sorted. They’re incredible boys, they never disappoint.

So you’ll be going back and forth to rehearse?

As much as I can. Ideally I’d like to get over twice a month. Or once a month but a full weekend of rehearsals. Practice is everything.

Ooft! Expensive! So if people want more new music, they better go buy your CD to help fund trips, eh?!

You are the main songwriter, correct? What is your writing process like?

Incorrect! I usually come up with a cool little lead riff and maybe a few other parts, we go over it in the room til we’re all happy. Or I write stuff I can’t play in Guitar Pro and pitch it to the band. Guitar Pro is both an amazing song writing tool and a curse (give me free stuff Guitar Pro).

Those bloody midi tracks… Very enjoyable.
Who have been your main influences as a songwriter? Who do you look up to?

I love guitarists like Billy Corgan, Erik Mongrain, Noel Gallagher, James Dean Bradfield, Graham Coxon but the guy that really kicked it all off for me was Matt Fox. I saw Shai Hulud for the first time and I was just glued to his hands. No-one on the planet can mix aggression and melody like he can. He really got me started on the through-composed, endless riffing, weird chords thing. (Note: check out Shai Hulud Food Puns on Facebook)

I also worship Paul Waggoner of Between the Buried and Me and Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan. I have many guitar heroes but we’ll keep it PG for now. The only real, ‘punk’ guitarists I’ve ever truly worshipped have been Jake Kiley and Jackson Mould.

What type of music do you listen to when writing? Does it differ?

Anything but punk of any kind. Mainly techy/metal bands like Animals As Leaders, The Helix Nebula, Within The Ruins, (old) Veil of Maya, Black Dahlia Murder, etc. I also love all the pop music. J-Pop, old school rap, grime and that. I am fully down wit da yoof. Notable mentions go to Save Us from The Archon and CHON.

Now, moving on to the actual songs…Those lyrics, wow. My heart broke. When it comes to mental health there’s still a lot of stigma and taboos, especially when it comes to men’s mental health. What’s the core message you want to deliver with these lyrics?

Sean would be the best person to answer this since he wrote those lyrics but I can definitely relate. Toxic masculinity on the whole is just another part of the bullshit patriarchal society that should be dying out.

The idea that we’re so near the technological singularity and I can get pizza from a train station vending machine 24hrs a day but we still have gender inequity is a wholly archaic notion along with DVDs, shoes with wheels in or getting slapped for crying at a film and called a ‘poof’ (has never put me off The Outsiders or Stand By Me). It’s fucking laughable. Examples of this are everywhere and we can only do our best to be better and to do better. Writing songs about it is a definite start.

How has music affected your own mental health?

I’ve been pretty up and down lately. I suffer from depression and anxiety and this band has been a massive help in controlling my loud brain. There’s a real catharsis in playing/writing music. It gives me something to focus on and control when everything else around me seems to spiralling into oblivion.

If it wasn’t for music, I probably would’ve hurt myself a long time ago. Which isn’t good.
But it comes with its hazards. I get the worst post-show/tour blues. I hit a really rough patch especially after tours, particularly when I was trapped in that dead end job. Mind that? Carpets and the people who clean them are shit.

I think it’s quite common amongst musicians:you’re on the road, hanging out with like-minded and wonderful people, only to come home and be treated like what you’re doing is, ‘Not real’ if you get me?

Kind of… it’s like post-trip depression for me, only a hundred times worse I assume.

We probably feel it the exact same. Going back to the real world after an experience like that is soul crushing.

It really is.

Your first gig was at the Bonsai Mammoth anniversary party in Guildford in February. It was amazing. What are your plans as a band for the rest of this year? I see you have a weekender in Belgium planned (El Topo Goes Loco/Brak&Skate) But you also mentioned ‘Tour-time’?

Yeah! That first show with Darko was just unbelievable, what a great weekend. That day was so nerve wracking! All the best bands and us singing about monkeys, it was scary and utterly amazing.

And El Topo is going to be an awesome party! Jason and the crew have really outdone themselves this year and I’m seriously happy to be opening cause that means I can watch bands and have a Gincident.

NO INJURIES PLEASE! Some explanation: our best friend split her knee in half and broke some ribs at El Topo (2017) whilst watching The Human Project. There was a pool of blood, some duct tape and a visit to the doctor the next day for stitches. Since referred to as the “Gincident”.

No! The original Gincident was when Byatt (No Contest) got leathered at Balloonfabrik in Augsberg on gin/radler and he fell out the van while trying to puke and he cut himself to ribbons. And landed in his puke.

Wonderful! We’re getting off track here. Back to the plans!

As for the rest of the year, we have a show in Glasgow in June then in July, we’re touring the mainland the 10 days leading up to KNRD (10th – 21st). We have some dates available, just get in touch if you want us to noise you up. We’re on the road with Head Honcho from Seattle. Ananananada is a KNRD regular and a wonderful guy. Cannot wait to introduce him to Slovenian Schnapps!

Love Ananda. Great news! If you had to pick one band that is your collective favourite, who would it be?

This is actually pretty impossible. We all listen to different yet similar things.
Collectively…Might be Vengaboys.

Excellent choice. Can’t go wrong with that.

They like to party, I hear.

Tell us something about TAH we don’t know yet…

We’re heading into the studio this Saturday to start recording drums for the album.

I already knew that.

Yeah, you do cause we’re roomies… for the next couple of weeks.

Ahh, don’t blow my cover now!

Mimimi. You’re too nosey for your own good.

…Shut up Dave. When can we expect this new album? How far along are you?

You can expect it next year, would be awesome to have it ready to go on the one year anniversary of the, ‘Vs’ release but we’ll just have to see. We’re still very much writing it but we’re ready to start the process so that’s always good. Either way we’ll be looking at 10-12 songs, some of which are monkey themed.

Awesome! If there is one Scottish saying you’d like our readers to know about, what would it be?

We’ll cover, “Hee-Haw” which is what you get when you’re not getting anything.

“He who hingeth aboot getteth hee-haw”

Exactly. Long may your Still Game obsession continue. Just try not to force it upon Belgians or Southerners again. It doesn’t work.

I tried and failed miserably.

Zat us?

That’s plenty. Thanks for taking time out of your busy guitaring-schedule to answer my questions.

Thanks to you for taking the time. And thanks again to everyone at Shout Louder for liking the songs and sharing and mentions and all that, very much appreciated.

Nae bother.

Pick up a copy of Vs, the split from Money Left To Burn and The Affect Heuristic, from Lockjaw Records now. It could well be the best thing you hear all year.

Only Strangers: Growing Up But Not Giving In [Interview]

Only Strangers have produced one of 2018’s best melodic punk releases; we spoke to them to learn more about the journey that brought them there.

Article by Sarah Williams.

If you’ve read Shout Louder before before, listened to our podcast or spent any time with me personally, then you will already have some idea of how excited we are about Only Strangers at the moment. I am a real sucker for all things gruff: over then years I’ve falled in love with Leatherface, Hot Water Music, Red City Radio, Bear Trade…. the list goes on. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a record that really fills my need for melodic guitars and shredded vocal chords and Only Strangers are, without a doubt, next on my list of favourite bands.

As with many bands that I love nowadays, I’ve gotten to know them through the old-school ska-punk scene. 3 out of 4 members of Only Strangers were originally in Sense of Urgency, who put out a split on TNS Records back in 2009. It’s hard to see how they went from that brassy, aggressive noise to the melodies and harmonies of Only Strangers, so I was keen to learn more about their journey. This is a band that have grown up together, through school, through starter bands and now through kids and marriages. The sound you hear on their self-titled record is the music that has grown with them; it has an organic depth that you wouldn’t hear otherwise.

Moreover, it’s a quality record. This 4-piece from Stoke-On-Trent clearly favour quality over quantity, although here’s hoping that they get out there and tour it soon. We spoke to guitarist/vocalist Dec O’Reilly to find out more about the band, their ambitions and how they’ve grown both as people and as musicians.

Hi Dec! You have just released your self titled album on Horn & Hoof records. It sounds like a lot of love, time and detail went into the record. How long did it take to create?

Hi Sarah! It took a very long time indeed. We wanted to make sure it was something we were really proud of as, despite most of us playing in bands since around 1999 and in Only Strangers since 2010, none of us have ever put out a full length album, so it was a pretty big deal for us. The whole process probably took around the best part of two years. Even though we had so much material from the years we’ve been playing, we had to really be convinced that we had 10 tracks which we’d never see as being more than half decent, so we kept adding new songs and re-recording old ones. We had quite a few more which we recorded properly but didn’t make it on to the album. It feels more like a ‘best of’ to us, rather than just recent tracks rushed into an album.

What did you find most challenging about recording the album?

I think the biggest challenge was simply finding time. Everybody works all week and does some pretty long hours, so realistically weekends were the only time we could ever get in to the studio, and those weekends were limited just to everyone being so busy. We weren’t keen on going in at different times mid-week or here and there as we wanted to make sure everyone was involved in everything that was being recorded.

Also, it was a big challenge calling recordings complete. There were quite a few occasions where we thought something could sound better and so we would just go back in and do stuff over and over again but it’s something we’re all really glad we did. The amazing response we’ve had from reviewers, peers and friends is a really good pay off for all the hard work and tweaking we put into it.

Are there any themes you find yourself returning to when writing songs?

Lyrically, we tend to have all the music done first and then just agree between the two vocalists who it would suit best. Then that person goes away and starts sorting out the lyrics, usually on their own. Personally I never set out to pick a theme (as I’m pretty sure Gater doesn’t) and the musical style can often dictate the content. There’s quite a variation of subjects on the album from health struggles and health care, hangovers and people’s grim attitudes to racism to name a few. I think because we’re all at that point where we’re definitely realising we’re not spring chickens anymore and have a lot of work and responsibility, there’s a bit of a theme of looking back at the past and to the future also, as that’s always going to be prominent in our minds. Bit of a cliche, but it’s very much what we deal with day to day. Musically, we just mess with hooks until something begins to stick and progress from there, without thinking of what style it should be or anything like that.

Would I be right in saying that Only Strangers is a Bruce Springsteen reference? Is that something that’s had a big influence on you?

Yeah it’s a lyric from the song Streets of Fire. We’re all Springsteen fans but I don’t know how much of an influence is it in our music. I could never imagine trying to come up with something that would emulate any of those records as his band has such a unique and huge sound. Continue reading “Only Strangers: Growing Up But Not Giving In [Interview]”