By Jon Milton. Links to videos in blue.
The Howlers announced themselves to the world earlier this year with one of the standout tunes of 2019, La Dolce Vita. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the song, La Dolce Vita is like a turbo charged Miserlou from Pulp Fiction, an all-conquering, bona fide indie anthem that pelts along at breakneck speed. The bands second single Matador is out today and it’s another surf guitar beast, firmly cementing their reputation as one of the bands to watch out for right now.
The sheer energy and power that they’ve captured on these two singles is appropriately matched by their live performances, singer/guitarist Adam Young whirling around the stage like a dervish, flanked by bassist Guus and all action drummer Cam. The band are based in East London, met at University, and decided to start making music together in 2018 over a few pints at the Howl at the Moon pub in Hoxton, which is where they came up with their name.
I met up with the band at gig at London’s Werkhaus in September, where they supported Strange Cages, and asked lead singer Adam about the new single, and what it was like to be in a band at this early stage of their career.
What’s Matador about?
As a band we want to fly the flag for the youth in a different way. Matador is a natural progression from the themes we set with La Dolce Vita: whereas the majority of people out there struggling to understand their self-identity and would rather mask or hide their true self in favour of appearing favourable to their peers, a Matador is someone whose task is to kill the bull.
As a symbol, this represents fighting the fears that can define you. We don’t believe in anything as imperfections, you are you and that’s all that matters. One of the lines in the song ‘I don’t know where I’m gunna go now, I’ve tried to sell my soul to the only one I know’ is literally about the regret that comes from not being true to yourself.
La Dolce Vita was very well received by Radio and media, would you like it to be ‘same again’ for Matador or to gain broader coverage if possible, and if so where?
Well of course, we would like to see it everywhere being as invasive as possible in peoples’ lives as we feel the tracks message is important to understand, but we will see only time will tell how well it is received
You use that ‘surf guitar’ sound again on Matador – would you describe that as your trademark sound?
Of course - that’s the sound we have natural fallen into and began to attempt to master and adapt for ourselves. Who else is doing that - no-one…
Your live show is very energetic – is that hard to maintain when you’re playing support or if the audience is unresponsive?
Not really. That’s who we are on stage, and we will always get up there and maintain our performance. Of course, we have supported a few bands in the past who have had their feathers ruffled by the ferocity of our performances, but I think what people fail to understand is it’s not personal that we get up there and perform that way, that’s our band and we won’t dull down how we perform to make their band look good.
Of course some crowds are less responsive than others, but all that matters to us is we get up there and have fun, and if 1 or 2 people dig it then it’s a job well done.
Who has been the biggest influence on you as a band?
People. We live in a city that is defined by multi everything, beliefs, Faiths, Orientations, Cultures, social class. If anything we are a reflection of that, and the flaws in our society that we witness daily.
In a band you expose your flaws to each other and the people watching you on stage via the medium of song, but that’s what inspires us
If we were having this conversation in three years’ time, and the intervening three years had been the best you could have hoped for, what would have happened in that three year period?
I hope we have another conversation in 3 months’ time!!! But for us all we care about is people get what we are about. Some of our best shows have been the smallest ones, or early days in a city we have never been to where the room is 1/3 full. To most bands that doesn’t seem logical but to connect with people across the country in a place you’re not from - why wouldn’t that be the best thing to happen? In 3 years’ time if we are still doing then we would be happy”
Desert Rockers by night, how do you pay the bills by day?
In the words of Richard Ashcroft we are all still ‘Slaves to the money’. You can find us tending to the socially accepted alcoholism of London’s socialites and suits.
If each member of the band had to choose 5 albums only each to take to a desert island, which albums would they be?
That’s a difficult question. I can’t answer for the Cam or Guus, but for me I think it would be in no particular order:
But I could easily put ‘Live in San Francisco’, Thee Oh Sees & ‘Heartbreaker’, Ryan Adams on that list.
Which other emerging bands should I keep my eye out for?
Saint Agnes, The Cosmics, Strange Cages, The C33’s are all great bands but we have played with some amazing bands, there’s a lot of talent out there
What’s the plan for the next 6 months?
Release more tunes, play more gigs, buy more jackets - what else could you want from a band?
When’s the album out?
People keep asking us this very question and the truth is we haven’t a Scooby. We are writing some of the best material we have every written right now, and I’m sitting on about 20 something demos - who knows, one day when the time is right.
At the time of writing, Matador has already started to get Radio 1 airplay via Jack Saunders and extensive critical acclaim, so Adam’s desire for the single to be as invasive as possible has started on the right foot. This isn't entirely unsurprising, as Matador is another immense single with a really big sound to it. The band have a maturity and swagger about them, and an air of confidence that says 'we know we're good', which says to me that if they maintain this momentum, 2020 could be a very big year for them.
The Howlers are supporting the Himalayas at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth on November 12th and they have a headline gig at the Waiting Room in Stoke Newington on November 16th which is free entry. Their Spotify playlist is also worth having a listen to.
Video Footage from the gig in blue, and here.
Two Feet gigs in a week, at each end of the Bedford to Brighton line. One on a Monday night and other on a Saturday.
I hadn’t planned to be at the gig at Patterns, it just so happens I was due to be in Brighton that weekend and Feet looked the best option for live music that night. Having been bowled over by their performance though at All Points East, I had no reservations about getting tickets for both.
Feet’s set for both gigs took in all of the tracks from their debut album, starting with English Weather. Their set starts at a relatively lively pace, and this is pace is pretty much maintained throughout, until its frantic finale with Petty Thieving and Outer Rim. Those last two tunes absolutely bring the house down, with the predominantly young audience pogoing like mad in the mosh-pit. The crowd were particularly lively in Brighton with it being a Saturday night, but both nights saw that on-stage energy rub off on the audience and it’s fair to say that there was a lot of movement going on.
I’m a big fan of Feet’s album but apart from the last two tracks, highlights for me were Axeman, Ad Blue and a particularly trippy version of What's inside is more than just ham at Brighton. Axeman is elevated from good tune to stonker live, accompanied by some great freaky dancing, Ad Blue gets everyone jumping (and someone produced a kettle for Brighton too!) and ‘What’s inside…’ was just mental.
The amount of energy and enthusiasm this band put into their performance is amazing. Lead vocalist George owns the stage so impressively (even with a sprained ankle at Bedford), coming across like a cross between Mick Jagger, Bez and Ian Curtis, but the rest of the band equally give it their all, bouncing about relentlessly. If you were lucky enough to see Pop Will Eat Itself around the time they released ‘Box Frenzy’ then I’d put that experience on a par with Feet, and I rank those Poppies gigs as some of the best I’ve ever been to.
If you don’t get a chance to see Feet on this current tour, make sure you do when they play next. They are the sort of band that you want to get all your mates to go and see, because you can pretty much guarantee this its going to be a top night.
Links to songs in Blue.
Everyone's talking about extinction these days. There’s the Extinction Rebellion, Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert’s book ‘The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History’ and now we have a debut album from East London band Cross Wires called ‘A Life Extinct’, which took some of its inspiration from Kolbert’s book.
Singer Jonathan Chapman says of the albums lyrics and its title:
‘Once I’d written the lyrics to the first 4 or 5 song’s I realised there was a theme of endings/death/extinction running through the songs so I then purposefully tried to tie them together through break up songs. Various previous relationships appear and then reappear across the album. Sometimes it’s more than one person in a song. I was reading a book called The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Colbert at the time I started writing the lyrics so that really influenced the songs.
The band have been compared to the Jam and the Clash. My initial thoughts having heard the first single to be released from the album 'Paradise Club 1953' was that they sounded like a mix of the Fall and Flowered Up (anyone remember them?). This is partly because Jonathan's vocals wear their Greater London roots (imagine Mark E Smith singing with Ian Dury's accent) with pride, but also because the music has a very raw edge to it. To place further context, for the Jam, we’re talking about the ‘In the City/This is the Modern World’ era and first album territory for the Clash. For the Fall, think ‘Slates’ through to ‘Live at the Witch Trials’.
Ian (drums), Jonathan and Pete (guitar) all grew up in Romford, with bassist Pete from East Ham, but the band reside in Bethnal Green now and have released a string of singles and a mini-album ‘Living in a Radio City’ prior to the release of their debut full length album.
The album kicks off with the punky Idles-like ‘Extinction’ before heading into ‘How to Detox a Smokers Lungs’ and ‘Distraction Technique’ which reminds me of a gritty version of early REM. The REM thing also comes through on ‘Transfer Movement’ and ‘Swans’ later in the album and also on ‘A Slow Death’ which reminds me of ‘Belong’. ‘Distraction Technique’ is for me the stand out track on the album.
Next up is ‘Paradise Club 1953’, which nicely brings in some dub elements into the mix in the way that the Clash and Ruts used to do. 'Replicas' follows, which like 'State Funeral' and 'Death of the Human Fly' have a bit of a garage rock feel to it. The album closes with ‘The Collector’, which channels the Buzzcocks at the beginning and but then comes into its own.
Overall there’s a lot to like about the album. There's a fine array of tunes and a decent amount of variation across the album to keep things interesting. It is very raw and at times it feels like it could do with a little more polish, but it shows a lot of promise. The band wear their influences, which also include Gang Of Four, Wire, The Cure, Magazine, and newer Post Punk influenced stuff like Interpol and Protomartyr very much on their sleeves, but lets face it, they’re not exactly bad frames of reference are they?
‘A Life Extinct’ is released on 1st November on Culture War Records. Pre-order the album at crosswires.bandcamp.com/album/a-life-extinct. The band are having an album launch party at Flashback Records at 131 Bethnal Green, London, E2 7DG on the day of release.
Links to videos / articles in blue
There are certain music descriptors that make me wince when they’re applied to bands. Not because they’re particularly bad terms of reference, more like the bands associated with them generally tend to be disappointing and not fitting of the description.
'Indie pop' for example, in my mind conjures up images of well crafted, hook laden, catchy, alternative guitar music, but often seems to be bland, overproduced mush that doesn’t bear listening to for more than a minute.
‘Bangers’ implies that the tune in question is an absolute monster, that will get you up off your seat and dancing, but always seems to be associated with some really over the top mess.
So when I say that On Video make 'indie pop bangers', what I mean is that they make great, guitar laden anthems that get in your head and make you want to move. Just making sure that we’re clear!
The band have just released their first EP ‘Clap Trap’, or rather the EP is now complete having had all 4 of the tracks on it put out across 2019. To avoid any of the indie pop issues cited above, they describe their music as ‘garage influenced guitar pop with an emphasis on hype and brevity’.
Singer/guitarist Hass and bassist George met in their home town of Burgess Hill and teamed up with Guitarist Neil and drummer Yuli when the four of them started living in East London. The band cite their influences as Cate Le Bon, Parquet Courts, Jonathan Richmond and, err, Randy Newman?
Their first hook laden gem Ghee came out in March of this year, featuring Charles Bukowski in the opening verse and on its artwork. It’s an impressive start, although next tracks Past Tense and Adversary surpass it in the catchiness stakes. Both tunes have massive choruses, move along at breakneck speed and make you want to put them on repeat. Adversary also has a great video depicting a bride and groom punching each other’s lights out, with the vicar refereeing.
Clap Trap, the last track to be released to complete the EP came out on Friday and it’s another little beauty, more understated than its predecessors, but you kind of need that to give balance.
The band are at that stage when you can still catch them playing tiny venues (often for free) and they are vigorously gigging all over the place. Given how catchy and commercially viable their sound is you’d expect them to start playing to bigger audiences in the near future though. Hopefully that won’t compromise their musical approach, which at the moment sits just about the right side of indie.
Links to music in Blue
There’s something quintessentially English about the band Feet. I’m not the first person to point this out, and no doubt I won’t be the last, but if I was asked to describe them, quintessentially English would be my response. This is partly because remind me in some ways of another quintessentially English band, Madness. Both write well-crafted songs about their day to day observations on life, neither of them seems to take themselves too seriously and then there’s the videos and the live performances. There’s also the songs about the English Weather and Dog Walking, and their antics on Feet TV which make you think that if the
In-betweeners had graduated and formed a band it could well be them.
Some of the many glowing reviews of their debut album have made comparisons to Blur, but don’t let that put you off. Musically they sit somewhere between Baggy and Britpop, although they do have their own unique sound which is quite hard to pin down as it chops and changes that much.
The band have been around since 2016, and they released their first single ‘Petty Thieving’ on Yala Records later that year. The first thing I heard of theirs was English Weather, which came out in April and sounds a bit like Kinky Afro. A month later they released Ad Blue, another catchy little baggy era number.
Seeing that they were on the bill at All Points East on the Yala stage, I thought I’d check them out live, and promptly made my way over after seeing the Viagra Boys play.
I didn’t really have any huge expectations but I have to say I was blown over. They put on a real show, were an absolute joy to see and I watched the whole thing with a massive smile on my face. Both guitarists and the bassist bounced around the stage with vocalist George merrily cavorting about in his tucked in jeans and hush puppies. Loads of energy and a friendly mass bundle at the end to boot.
After that display I was looking forward to seeing them again the next month supporting Cage the Elephant at Heaven, but CTE’s careless guitarist managed to break his hand or something and the gig was cancelled. I bought the very last ticket for that gig, and was really looking forward to seeing CTE play in a venue that intimate so was a bit miffed, although the situation was much worse for Feet, who I believe had laid out a load of cash to cover hotel rooms, and would have probably have gained a lot of new fans on that tour.
Feet released three m ore tracks (Outer Rim, Petty Thieving and Dog Walking) in the run up to their debut album 'What’s inside is more than just ham' being released. Have a look at the videos on You Tube via the links below, they’re worth watching. The album was recorded a year ago and originally scheduled for release in August, but release was presumably delayed to coincide with their UK tour.
What’s inside… has undoubtedly one of the worst album covers that I’ve ever seen in my life, the sort of artwork that screams ‘find me in the bargain bin’, but is musically a triumph. Some albums require a few listens to get into, but this one immediately hits the spot and it's already up there as one of the albums of the year for me.
Album opener Good Richard's Crash Landing flits masterfully between Britpop, the Kinks and Indie Rock and is followed by Ad Blue possibly the first (and only) song ever written about the fluid made up of the mix of urea and deionized water that Diesel vehicles need to keep them going, and once used by bassist Oliver to make tea. English Weather is next and then the pace picks up with Petty Thieving, about an associate of the band who believed that if you look clean cut you’ll get away with stealing and Outer Rim.
There’s a bit of a fifties feel in Dog Walking, and Chalet 47 and Axeman saunter along nicely after, before the album’s title track in, a song about the love of a hot dog no less. The album closes with the sound of Hawaiian Guitars gently playing us out on Wiggy Pop with its irreverent lyrics perhaps summing up the album ‘I’m just taking the piss, having a laugh’.
Feet must have thought a lot about the running order on the album as its flows really well. Tracks like Outer Rim and Petty Thieving are standouts on their own but there isn’t a weak track on the album, its just a really well constructed, and handsomely written record.
Feet have a UK tour scheduled for later this month going into November and are well worth the entrance fee. I’m off to see them at Bedford Esquires (supported by Sheafs) and Brighton Patterns, so they better be good!
Click for Tour Dates