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

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

Article by Sarah Williams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you both get started in your respective businesses?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 www.shamcityroasters.com

 www.ridewithwolves.com

Article by Sarah Williams.

Interview with Grand Collapse’s Calvin Sewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did Grand Collapse first get started?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”

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.

EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke

Tim Loud and Revenge of The Psychotronic Man translate a drunken idea into a beautiful reality.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men’s little EP Some of These People Have Come From Stoke is one of those marvellous bits of nonsense that make the DIY punk scene the best place to be.

The EP is a three-song collaboration between Revenge of The Psychotronic Man (famous for delivering ridiculously fast, fun noise) and Tim Loud (famous for fronting long-dead aggro-folks Bootscraper, and for his own antifolk solo material). Whilst on tour in April they drunkenly decided that a joint recording would be a great idea; the result is three quite different tracks, reflecting their individual tastes rather than their normal musical output. It’s a rollicking ride through punk rock mayhem, and it’ll be a great gem to look back on in years to come.

The EP opens with an Alan Partridge quote that explains the title, although it’s also a nod to Tim Loud and (drummer) Big Hands’ Stoke heritage. The first track The Queen is Dead, Long Live The King Singers is pretty classic, catchy anti-establishment punk, talking about knocking people off their pedestals. 

The second track Oh Yeah, Motorcycle is all hair metal, with a huge doom-laden build-up that’s every bit Motorhead. The song descends into some shreddery before returning to the heavy introductory riff, closing on a decrescendo of feedback and distortion. It’s masses of fun to sing-along to the lyrically profound chorus, “Ooooooohh yeeaaah, motorcycle!” although the song’s actually about what wankers motorcyclists can be. This is premium pit-fodder, and I really hope Revenge start playing this one live. 

The third and final track Sensible Party is a return to a fuzzier punk rock format, although it’s still got plenty of rock ‘n’ roll guitar licks. The clear highlights of this song are the brilliant tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “If you’re still here then grab a coffee son, the party has only just begun,” or, “If it’s too busy we’ll find a fucking book and hide.” One almost gets the impression that these guys may not be inclinded to have a ‘sensible’ party as they’re so virtuously proclaiming. This is my new favourite party anthem, and it’s been firmly lodged in my head for over a week. Continue reading “EP Review: Tim Loud & The Psychotronic Men – Some Of These People Have Come From Stoke”

Gig Review: The JB Conspiracy @ The Waterfront [09/11/2017]

The JB Conspiracy play This Machine in full to celebrate 10 years since its release, at The Waterfront in Norwich.

Reven by Sarah Williams.

When The JB Conspiracy announced that would be touring to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of This Machine I nearly fell of my chair.

Have I seriously been listening to This Machine for 10 whole years? God knows how many times I’ve played it. It was on constant repeat through most of 2008-10 for me and I regularly revisit it. I can honestly say that it is one of my favourite albums of all time, and certainly one of the only releases from 10 years ago that I still feel is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

The record has a timeless quality that has enabled it to surpass many of the other albums of it’s time. Although they’re a ska punk band, it’s an awful lot more than that. The instrumentation is second to none; there’s a huge amount of intelligence and love that’s gone into all of the parts, especially the sterling horn section. They keep a dancing pace throughout the record that’s impossible to resist. This eight-piece from London have been going for an awfully long time and they’re still just as lively as ever.

Before the show I run into Bobble (of Faintest Idea fame) and ask him how the tour is going so far, as he’s playing trombone with The JB. “I get to play This Machine every single night!” he says, “Every night! This is the best thing ever!”

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I amble into The Waterfront in Norwich just as Jim Higgs is starting his set. He’s got a roster of heartfelt pop songs, which he accompanies with some springy acoustic guitar. He’s got a delightfully smooth voice to go with it, and throws a Dido cover into a set filled with appealing original tunes.

Local three-piece Other Half are up next. When I picked up their album earlier this year it quickly jumped up the list of my favourite recent releases, so I’ve been quite excited to see them live again. It’s angsty, atmospheric indie-punk with a brilliant blend of male and female vocals, very much on par with bands like Hard Girls.

Disaster strikes at the end of the first song when Cal’s guitar string breaks, starting off a quite hilarious series of quips and tales of awkwardness. “Mr Soundman,” Cal asks, “Can I turn up the distortion on my guitar to hide all the mistakes?” He asks bassist, Sophie, to fill in on the talking while he tunes up. She he looks discomforted by this prospect, but she goes on to tell us a story of how bad her day has gone, which has the entire audience in stitches. Their stage presence is delightfully awkward and works perfectly with their moody, introspective sound. The highlight of their set is Misery Movement, the title track from their album, which I recommend you all check out.

Tree House Fire are on tour with The JB Conspiracy, and you can tell they’re super-comfortable and played in. It’s by far the tightest I have ever seen them; their show is slick and proffesional. They incorporate a lot of samples and backing-tracks with synthetic horns into their dub-reggae performance, throwing in the odd rave-horn for good measure. They’ve clearly put a lot of work and planning into their set and it really pays off. The vocal is incredibly smooth, and the mood is incredibly sunny for a wet November evening.

The audience is a little sparse and static for the beginning of the night, but it really starts to heat up during Tree House Fire. My only slight criticism would be that the set might be a little too honed for a Wednesday night attic show in Norwich. They deserve to be getting out on tour with a band like The Bennies or playing to huge warmed-up festival audiences; they would excel in front of a giant party crowd.

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As The JB Conspiracy are preparing to hit the stage, the audience seems to significantly grow. This Machine is a somewhat legendary album in the ska punk scene, and there’s clearly a lot of excitement about getting to hear it played in full. As they build into the opening bars of the title track everything kicks off – a maul of 30-something ska punks ready to party like they’re 20-something ska punks. Everyone’s singing along and punching the air for every chorus, mimicking the brass sections and throwing elbows and boots around the keep up with the bouncy upstrokes.

They run through the album in order, apart from a few protracted bars of Drop Your Anchor thrown in to confuse us at the beginning of The Manhattan Project. There are songs like that and The Patriot that I don’t think I’ve ever heard them play live before – it’s unbelievably exciting. It’s during The Patriot (a slower number) that there’s the irresistable call for a human pyramid, which the band later congratulate us on. The whole set is a showcase for some of the best brass playing in the DIY scene; they’ve got all the skill and clever composition of a big brass band, but political sensibilities to transform it into a riot that would appeal to any punk fan.

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Singer and guitarist, Lank, doesn’t say a great deal, but he gets an huge laugh for saying, “Please everybody check out our Myspace page.” He also gives us a few snippets of background on the band: how the song Superhero was inspired by some internet bullshit and how the band were already playing when they were in school in 1999. He briefly mentions their previous ‘90’s ska-punk incarnation, Duff Muffin, inspiring a huge cheer from the audience, before disappointingly having to warn everyone that they’re not actually going to play any Duff Muffin songs. However, for the encore, they do treat us to a 90’s ska punk tune in the form of Less Than Jake’s Scott Farcas Takes It On The Chin. They close out the show with The Escape from their second album, The Storm. The final highlight of the evening comes in their exit music for leaving the stage – the jangly key sample used on the secret track at the end of This Machine – a really beautiful touch.

It’s been a brilliant, exciting evening. I want to say it’s been nostalgic because we’ve been celebrating a 10 year old album, but This Machine has never felt old to me. Even tonight, The JB Conspiracy feel just as alive and vibrant as they did 10 years ago.

 

It’s not too late to catch the end of the This Machine tour – this week The JB Conspiracy play Plymouth tonight and Bristol tomorrow culminating in a London show on November 17th. You can also pick up This Machine on vinyl for the first time ever, in a lovely shiny blue.

Punk Rock Weddings Special: Claire & Craig [Part 3 of 3]

Part 3: Claire and Craig get hitched at Punk Rock Bowling Festival in Las Vegas, then celebrate with some amazing bands!

Feature by Sarah Williams.

Welcome to Part Three of our Punk Rock Weddings Weekender! In our final instalment, we talk to Claire Core and Craig McGarry, who got hitched at Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas. They’re huge punk enthusiasts and regulars at many of the big gigs around the country. Although they live only a few miles from Shout Louder HQ in Suffolk, I run into them more often at events like MPF, Wonkfest and Rebellion.

Craig’s originally from Rochdale, whereas Claire’s born and bred in Suffolk. They are one of the most heartwarmingly lovely couples you could possibly imagine; whenever I see then they’re utterly enamoured with one another. The story of how they got together is beautiful and, after meeting at a punk festival, it seems only fitting that they should get married at one too.

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Firstly, tell me a bit about yourselves. How did you first get into punk?

  • Claire: My sister and cousins got me into punk when I was 7 years old and it’s always been a big part of who I am.  I have a huge love for punk in all its forms and really enjoy discovering a new favourite band.  Current favourites include Pears, who never fail to exhilarate live, Pizzatramp, Direct Hit! and, of course, I’m a huge Wonker.
  • Craig: I got into punk and metal when I was in high school, hanging out with friends skating and going to the odd gig here and there. There was a punk night locally that we went to regularly as getting served was a cinch. Loved it all since then. I’m a huge Misfits fan and an unashamed AFI devotee. I’ve also got a bit of a thing for most psychobilly as well as with celtic or folk punk.

You guys have had a fairly speedy advance through this love stuff. That’s no bad thing! Talk us through how you met.

  • Claire:  It was at Manchester Punk Festival 2016 after the bands at the Zombie Shack.  Craig was bouncing around trying to make everyone have MORE FUN, as he is inclined to do, and I propositioned him.  I liked his dance moves and his big daft face.

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How did your relationship grow from there?

  • Craig: Well, after spending a blissful long MPF weekend together, we kept in contact and met up a few times over the following weeks. It soon became apparent that we were both head-over-heels for each other. The long distance thing wasn’t going to be good enough for too long. We both recognized that we were each in the right place for a proper lovely full-blown relationship and didn’t want to spend time away from each other if we didn’t have to. So I packed up and moved down to Suffolk.
  • Claire:  Yep, you can’t sustain long distance without complete openness about how you feel plus an end goal to close the distance.  We were originally expecting it to take longer for Craig to find a job locally but that happened really fast, and it just felt right.  He moved in between Wonkfest and Rebellion!

When did you get engaged?

  • Claire:  Valentines 2017. Awwww, I know, right? My birthday is the day after, so I was nicely surprised that Craig treated me to a night away but I wasn’t at all suspicious.  In fact a proposal couldn’t have been further from my mind. We had both admitted neither of us had any interest in marriage and I was all ‘marriage is slavery, antiquated nonsense…’ But then in a Gin Bar he was down on one knee with this diamond ring with little skulls on, trying to propose above the sound of me going, “What’s going on? What are you doing? Is this for real?” Then I said yes and started to cry and we got free prosecco with gin in it.  Tasted rank but hey, free booze.
  • Craig: This after months of me insisting “No, I never want to get married” and “No, I am never going to propose”. I really had to work to keep it a surprise. For the longest time it was the case that marriage wasn’t for me. But then I met Claire.

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When and where was your wedding?

  • Craig:  28 May 2017, Little Neon Chapel, Downtown Las Vegas.
  • Claire:  It was day two of the Punk Rock Bowling festival. The chapel was over the road from the festival and one block up from our hotel, in a skeezy little shopping area.

You’d planned to go to Punk Rock Bowling before you got engaged, right? When did you decide that you wanted to get married out there?

  • Claire:  Yeah, I’ve been to Punk Rock Bowling the previous two years and we booked this in the October, intending to celebrate Craig’s birthday.  Following the surprise proposal we considered a few options but a Vegas wedding was always my preferred option, both because it was unbeatably cheap and so simple.  I wanted to be married to Craig but I’d never wanted a wedding, if you see the difference.  One day I was listening to The Lippies’ song Hot Air Balloon and they were singing ‘we’ll fly away’ and ‘fuck everything’ and it all became clear: Vegas was the only option.

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Who else did you have there?

  • Craig: We invited some folks Claire already knew who were out there for the festival, awesome Canadians Nat and Maria. We also invited a couple we met the day before while having a few beers and a mooch around Vegas; who we got on with famously: Candice and Devlin (also PRB attendees).
  • Claire:  Nat and Maria took me under their wing on my first trip out there as I was on my own and didn’t know a soul, so it meant a lot that they attended. Candice and Devlin are very much our kind of people; good hearted, fun and up for attending the wedding of people they only just met!  Over the course of the festival we became firm friends

Talk me through the whole day – how did it happen?

  • Craig:  I was watching infomercials and strange TV in our hotel room, trying to ignore the knots in my stomach and waiting for Claire to get ready.
  • Claire:  Curling my hair took ages, and I’d kept the dress a secret from Craig so he’d be surprised.  Craig had been a tiny bit pukey the night before so I expect he was hungover.
  • Craig: After being blown away by how gorgeous she looked, we had a big cuddle and a mad dash down to the chapel. Whilst nervously waiting, we posted a cryptic message on Facebook about how people might want to check out the chapel’s page in the next few minutes.  They were livestreaming our ceremony and most people didn’t know we were getting married.

If you want to see it for yourselves, you can still watch it here (they get started about 1 minute in): https://www.facebook.com/TheLittleNeonChapel/videos/1903353146610755/

  • Claire: After the ceremony we had photos taken, then went with Candice and Devlin to a bar at The Golden Nugget, where we had mimosas and shorts to toast our wedding.  I think we must have gone to the festival right after that.  After the festival we returned to a different bar at the Golden Nugget where we had many drinks, including a mix of Rum Chata and Fireball whiskey that make Craig excuse himself for a quick vomit. Then we drank tequila until I felt my brain start to burn.

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What did you both wear?

  • Craig: Claire had hinted that there may be green involved and I may want to dress myself accordingly, but assured me that whatever I wanted to wear was fine. So I opted to stick to the brief and went for a lairy green tropical shirt – you know, cause of the weather – and a pair of 501’s. Claire had also given me a splendid silver pin with a bee on it as a present that morning, which I donned with pride.
  • Claire:  I was in a green satin and black lace tea dress from Lindy Bop, Irregular Choice shoes from Ebay, a vintage bracelet and a very cheap and cheerful silver choker.  The whole lot came in at under £100, of which I am very proud!  The shoes hurt like fuck though, so I changed into my cheap generic trainers after a few photos.

Did you have any of your own music / entertainment or did the music festival cover that for you?

  • Craig: We were going to have Silly Voices by Wonk Unit for the ceremony (after weeks of consideration) but we didn’t plan it at all well, and forgot up until we were asked what we wanted.  We instead had a few stock Elvis songs provided by the chapel, which were fitting enough.
  • Claire:  Having the Elvis playlist actually was really good because, well, Vegas equals Elvis. Craig had selfishly vetoed my request for the wedding package where the ceremony is performed by a small-statured Mexican Elvis. The rest of the day’s music is somewhat of a blur, but I remember The Real McKenzies, Dickies, Bouncing Souls, Choking Victim and Fidlar.  The night was rounded off by Bad Religion. Seeing them for the first time on our wedding day in Vegas was ticking off a punk-rock bucket list item in the best possible way.

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What traditional elements of the wedding did you keep?

  • Craig: Vows, rings, ummmmmm, we didn’t do much that was traditional
  • Claire: Traditional Vegas Elvis songs.  Being madly in love is quite traditional I guess?

How was Punk Rock Bowling itself? Who did you see?

  • Craig:  Punk Rock Bowling was very fun, very hot and Bad Religion were a highlight.  The Club Shows (indoor shows at various bars after the festival each night) were a blessing and a real laugh. The show of the weekend was Tartar Control’s set. They were out of this world.
  • Claire:  It always interests me to see how super excited our transatlantic punk rock cousins get about bands like The Adicts and Cocksparrer.  Iggy Pop played, I guess that’s worth a mention.  But Tartar Control were so funny, fast and fucked-up, they were a highlight.  And I loved seeing Pears and Direct Hit! albeit in a frankly terrifying biker bar staffed by the most sexually aggressive female bartenders you’re likely to encounter.  Pears are so intense in a smaller venue, and Direct Hit! made me sing and dance their entire set.

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What was the reaction of the people at Punk Rock Bowling to the fact you’d just got married?

  • Craig:  We had lots of congratulations and friendly smiles but people were not phased because it’s Vegas. There were lots of other newly-weds knocking about even at the festival.
  • Claire:  Disappointingly few free drinks, damnit!

Is there anything you would change or do differently?

  • Craig: Absolutely nothing. It was a perfect day.
  • Claire:  Shoes.  I’d get shoes I could walk in.  And I hadn’t written my own vows because I assumed Craig hadn’t. It turned out he had, and I felt like a bit of a dick when it was my turn and I just kinda went, “Oh. Yes. Very well done.”

What advice do you have for anyone else looking to incorporate a punk/DIY aspect into their wedding?

  • Craig: Do it on your own terms. Think about yourselves first and foremost and make it as fun as possible.
  • Claire:  Elope.  Seriously.  Buy a package that covers the whole shebang.  Time it to coincide with a festival and you have a built in reception and a whole heap of drunk new best friends to share it with.

What was the best thing about the whole day (apart from your betrothal!)?

  • Craig: Spending a special and manic day with the woman I love.
  • Claire:  I was gonna say seeing Bad Religion but now I seem like a dick.

If you enjoyed this interview, why not check out Part One: Will & Felicia and Part Two: Kaz & Big Hands.