By Jon MIlton
Its been a while since our last interview in this series (June in Fact with Egyptian Blue since you asked), and its hard to know whether we are still classed as being in lockdown, although obviously some major restrictions still remain in place, ie gigs.
Nevertheless, these interviews do provide some great insights into how artists are managing whilst having their art stifled, and that's certainly the case with our latest subject, The Howlers, who were the last band that I saw play live on a cold February night in St Albans.
The band burst on to the scene last year with their cracking debut single 'La Dolce Vita', and followed it up with the equally impressive 'Matador' in November. The excellent 'Badlands' was scheduled for release prior to lockdown, with the band hoping to grow their fan base further through planned media coverage and gig activity, but things changed overnight for them in March, as it did for everyone else.
I spoke with front-man Adam Young about the challenges the band have faced at such a crucial time in their development, and about how they're remaining optimistic about the future.
Firstly, how are you? How are Guus and Cam?
We are all well, thank you - all things considered at least.
How has lockdown been for you?
Erm...it's been a real mixed bag of experiences and emotions I guess. On one hand we have put together the best material we have ever written together, and we have had some real positives in terms of things we have planned and who we are working with on the next lot of records. But then in the other hand we have had some real hard times to deal with, I personally lost a family member to Covid-19 - it's been rough but we have each other, and that's what matters and pulls you through.
Have you picked up any new hobbies along the way?
Well, I've been learning Piano - I managed to rob a cheap leccy piano from my brother at the start of lockdown so that's kept me sort of busy, and stopped him from learning Lewis Capaldi numbers or whatever drivel he was attempting to play,
Cam is learning Guitar which is nice, as its meant as a band our song-writing has come on leaps and bounds collaboratively, and Guus is learning how to deal with having longer hair now, takes time to learn how to use Brylcreem properly.
You’ve managed to start a management company, tell us about that?
I have indeed. One of my close friends in my hometown of Portsmouth had the idea for a while, and he sort of said over a pint one day, 'fancy helping me do this'. I had been lending him a hand in the live side of the business for a while so it was an easy sell to me, so we started Brutalist Management before lockdown, kept it a secret and then started pushing it recently.
The company was named after the old shopping centre 'The Tricorn', which was a brutalist structure in the centre of town. Portsmouth doesn't have any infrastructure really for music aside from a handful of music venues, 90% of which are not fit for purpose, and owned by pub's where the landlord just doesn't get what music needs if it is to thrive. It's just a wasteland, so from our success and experience in our band, it's meant that I've been able to offer advice and guidance to artists we are working with.
To be honest, most bands self-manage anyway for a long time so it's nothing new to me, but it's been nice to see bands in our local area and my hometown achieve. I've already put a word in with people i know from around the country we've met on tours and worked with and we have already roped in a load of managers to be part of the Brutalist Management Family. It's really exciting to see a community come together - something I've always wondered on tour - why there isn't more stuff like this!
Have you found listening to much new music or discovering different artists (old and new) during lockdown?
I haven't. I've really been getting back into Ty Segall during lock down - 'Manipulator' is a great album and Kurt Vile has some great albums to his name. I did recently pick up my old Amazing Snakeheads LP and gave that a spin. I forget how great that album is - in the early days of this band we took a lot of inspiration from Dale and co (God rest his soul) - still do to some extent, so that was nice to listen to that, plus it was my birthday a few weeks back and I got given 'Manipulator' on LP so that's been nice to play through the old Technics.
Did you find yourself writing much new stuff during lockdown?
Yes, I had to stop myself actually. I was writing so much i was forgetting the stuff I had written at the start, so I've had to go back and retrace my steps and teach my self what I wrote, which is a mental experience. Out of these songs we've got about 6 - 7 we are going to record at the end of this year but there was about 30 I wrote down, and then we locked ourselves away for 5 days right in the middle of lockdown during the London protests. That was crazy as we would drive ourselves to the lock up every day, passing protestors and mask clad people queuing everywhere, then be in our little bubble for 9 - 10 hours in a window-less box, then drive home during the protests to a chorus of sirens and all sorts - it was a strange time.
How pleased were you with Badlands’ reception?
Well we released in right at the start of lockdown so it was the most badly timed release in history, but we had no choice. We were already down the rabbit hole in terms of the campaign and it was to late to postpone it then. Overnight, two thirds of the campaign was wiped out. Our publisher was frank and said we can't do anything now as the industry is in shut down, so it took a massive hit.
Saying that, we have continued to get BBC Radio 1 support, making it all 3 releases to debut on the station in under 10 months which is an unparalleled achievement for an unsigned band, and we have continued to get BBC 6 Music, Radio X, Clash and Louder than war coverage, so that has been great. Lammo is always in our corner as is John Kennedy, Robin Murray and the girls and guys at Louder.
Streaming-wise not so much as that was hit hard - people don't release how much the morning commute and stuff like that affect's streams, as people just stopped their normal routine over night. It was mad - everyone thought it would go the other way and pick up but how wrong were we! It's started to get back to some form of normality but it's nothing like it was.
With gigs delayed until March next year, does it feel like the pandemic has stunted the band’s progress?
100%. You need to remember, this year is a right off, so any plans we had, or opportunities coming our way, have been halted or postponed to next year, which then means next year is a right off in terms of festival and tour opportunities, as that has all been postponed with the same line ups to 2021.
It's a massive blow for a band like us on the cusp of emerging out of the breaking band phase but we will find a way! But 2 years down the pan is shit. All our September shows are being postponed to next year although London, Brighton, Manchester & Portsmouth are all strongly tipped to sell out, or on the verge of selling out so if you haven't got a ticket ... get one! We will also be releasing an EP next year accompanied by 12" vinyl and new merch etc so in some ways it has fitted together nicely, this postponing.
How much have you missed gigging?
A lot. In our first year as a band, we did 50 shows. We're still under 2 years as a band so it's been a huge change in routine. I don't miss sleeping on floors mind! We've only been releasing music for a year so it's been a mad old ride. but our March 2021 dates we've got a lot of stuff planned to make them special for everyone and us at the end of the day, we love what we do and i think that shows through on stage!
What positives can you draw from your experience of the last 4 months?
Reflection - being able to reflect on all we have done in 10 months to a year is sometimes the best thing to do!
We have always been hard on ourselves, striving to achieve and be better after each show, and that won't ever change. It's why we are often tipped as one of the best live bands around, you know that, you caught us in St Albans, and we beat ourselves up for 10 minutes after that show, but in reflection we put in a good show in a city we had never played in before (the gig had a relatively low turn out).
Lockdown has allowed us to pump the brakes and look at all we achieved and go ... right that's F***ing amazing ... but we know we can step this up another gear, and that's exactly what we've done. This band works because we have each other to pull us through and pick us up when we need it.
We are a bat shit crazy little family, but we are family, and anyone who comes down to see us is part of that. We always give everyone our time, any place any time, no matter who they are, and that I feel is something that's rare these days, so if you are reading this and want to reach out, do it, we don't bite! If you want to say hello at a show, do it, you will probably get some free merch and a beer from us (Depending on how pissed we are!).
2021 tour dates
18/03 - Manchester - Yes * Very limited tickets remaining
20/03 - London - The Lexington * 50 tickets remaining
27/03 - Brighton - The Rossi * Very limited tickets remaining
01/04 - Portsmouth - Edge of The Wedge *Over Half of Tickets gone