Alex Rave and the Sceptical Interview - The band talk about their debut single 'Itch' and life in the lock-down
One of the many great things about the new wave of alternative artists, is their ability to shine a light on their generation’s feelings through their lyrics and their music. Take Manchester based Alex Rave and Sceptical for example, who in their debut single ‘Itch’ yearn for a time when things were much simpler than they are today.
Itch examines the world in which Alex’s Grandfather lived, working in the coal mines that surrounded Doncaster and his ability to just get on with his life without complaint. The Itch is Alex scratching his head to consider why he struggles to cope with his own reality, when outwardly life is far less demanding than that of his Grandfathers.
“Oh, why so serious? I think I’m going to need a hero grandad. See pop culture’s got me thinking it’s my God given right to be saved but maybe it’s not and maybe it never was.”
Itch is a fine debut, hardy yet anthemic post-punk with purpose. To coincide with the single’s release we spoke with the band, who consist of Alex (vocals), Joe (bass), Will (Drums), Connor (Guitar) and Josh (Guitar) to find out more about the pressures that inspired the single.
(Alex) We’re all at that weird age where you don’t really know what’s going on. Moving to Manchester opens your eyes to so many different experiences that we might not get in our own hometowns. At the same time, it’s a hell of a lot harder to survive here than it is in say Doncaster where I’m from. Leaving my teenage years and entering adulthood in a city as bustling as Manchester I believe gives you a big reality check for better and worse. But, to leave here would be a nightmare.
How many of those pressures stem from our ‘always- on’ culture and the use of digital technology?
(Alex) What I'm about to say may come across as slightly hypocritical, but I think that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have destroyed society and turned most of us into self-conscious, paranoid robots. Most of us now search for gratification via e-approval and if we don’t get it, then it makes us feel less of a person.
Take being a band for example. The music business as a whole, has made it pretty obvious that you can look the part without really having much to sing about and people will still invest in you. Nowadays, if you are a band without social media and pictures of you looking the bee’s knee’s, it can get difficult to get any attention at all. Popular culture dictates society and you don’t get that without the use of social media. Personally, that scares me.
The band describes their music as ‘Gloomy psychedelia with a cold dash of punk’ influenced by the likes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys. Itch is certainly grittier than Alex’s solo material, Am off and A Spark in the North. Alex explained how the addition of the band has made a difference:
(Alex) Don’t let the name deceive you, this isn’t a solo project we are very much a band who write together. This whole project started off in a bedroom with myself and Chaz (from Document). We were just recording some songs that I had been writing that were different to what I was doing with my old band at the time.
After releasing Am Off under a solo title, I thought it’d probably be best to get a band so I started recruiting. I didn’t really know what to expect at first but as luck would have it I ended up with a group of really talented people. I had an idea of what I thought it should sound like, but after we started playing together more and bouncing ideas off of each other, it evolved into something unique that appealed to all of us.
With everyone being on the same page it certainly gave me a lot of room to manoeuvre and think about how I wanted to present myself. That’s why its ‘and The Sceptical’, not because its me and them but because It seemed fitting to single myself out due to the nature of my delivery. What can I say, I love to whinge.
Ironically given the background to ‘Itch’, the band are quite stoic about life in the Lockdown, even considering what good may come from isolation.
(Alex) Yeah it's not too bad I suppose. I have literally just got back in from my first quarantine walk which was peaceful to say the least. Last week was certainly a lot easier with the sun being out. I couldn’t believe it actually. Myself, Joe, Josh and Chaz were on the balcony in vests drinking and smoking. It was brilliant! Just a shame we couldn’t go and do it in a beer garden…
(Joe) I think we're all trying to make the best of a bad situation... some days are better than others, keeping busy is undoubtedly important, but it can easily become a destructive obsession. It's a tricky one.
(Will) Business as per really, humbled to still be able to work.
(Alex) Once those restrictions get lifted, it'll probably be the closest feeling to winning a world cup that we’ll ever get. I reckon there’s definitely going to be a hangover period of about two weeks where everyone is out on the lash. And I’ll be there with you, spilling my pint and asking you for a paper and a filter. I can almost picture it now.
(Joe) The main beneficiary of this pandemic seems to be the planet, so it would be great to see a more universal attempt to protect the environment and encourage greener initiatives.
(Will) I feel everyone has been going through their own shit as of lately, I find people have been a lot shorter and ratty, and understandably so. Personally, I think the lockdown period has emphasised why we should not take anything for granted and cherish everything and everyone around us.
(Connor) Hopefully we’ll keep up some of the community spirit we’ve seen and not take for granted the little things such as the freedom to have a pint with your mates, probably a bit more hand washing going on as well.
To support the release of Itch, the band had originally planned a few gigs in Manchester and Sheffield, but invariably these have been shelved. Considering this we asked what was next for the band in 2020.
(Joe) It’s a waiting game really. All we can do is write and practice independently so that when normality eventually resumes, we're ready to seize as many opportunities as we can.
(Alex) Building the moment back up. We have loads of new material to get ready so it’s just going to be a case of getting back in the practice room and refining our set.
(Josh) Yeah it’s just going to be a case of re-organising everything then getting on with it straight away. Hopefully, we can safely deal with this virus in not too long of a time.
Itch is out now on Egerton Records. You can hear Itch here.