With Jon Milton
Sheffield's workfriends emerged last year at the start of lockdown with their excellent single 'Man On The Run' and then promptly disappeared for the rest of the year. Before you could say the words 'one off wonder' though, they appeared again in February of this year with another belter in 'Sick And Tired' and then to top it all, released 'Stunt Doubles' last month, an absolute TUNE.
Despite their relatively subdued online presence (no major publication coverage as yet), we're not the only ones to have noticed them however, with Radio 1 and Radio 6 also getting in on the act. Given that it can only be a matter of time before the rest of the world wakes up to their talent, I thought I'd put a few questions to them and find out more about this mysterious band!
How did you meet?
We all met at the University of Sheffield and were brought closer together by very similar music tastes. The band started off as a bit of fun as each member of the group crammed into J. Hope’s halls of residence room to jam. This led to the creation of various threadbare tracks and demos, one of which would eventually become the band’s debut single ‘Man On The Run.’
Once we had all decided to live together in a shared house we were approached by a friend who had been asked if he knew any local bands that would be able to play a gig in a local venue in a week’s time. He told us that he had put us forward and asked if were able to do it. At that point we had to get our act together and become a real band in the space of a week by quickly practicing and writing new songs to fill out the setlist. The gig got a great reception and we were asked to do more gigs in Sheffield and York, all the while we were working on and recording new songs in our living room.
The reasoning behind the name ‘workfriends’ is now a bit of a mystery; some of us think that we chose it simply because it’s easy to say and remember, but some of us think that we chose it because we wanted to take something that most people encounter everyday and transform it so that every time people met or thought about their real life work friends they would subliminally think about us too. This way we would stay in the heads of people constantly.
Who is in the band?
The band is currently comprised of Sheriff Baker (drums), J. Hope (bass), T.Carroll (guitar/vocals), J.K. Henderson (general percussion) and Earl Gray (vocals.)
Who does all the songwriting?
The songwriting itself is a collective effort that complements each other's parts. For example. T.Carroll’s guitar work would not be complete without Earl Gray’s lyricism in the same way that J.Hope’s basslines are illuminated by Sheriff Baker’s drumming. In terms of the songwriting process, our music is patched together through various melodies and lyrics. Rather than sitting down and working out ‘verse, chorus etc’ many of the songs stem from a single guitar line that is developed as the song progresses. The vocals are usually added after the music is completed. We’ll usually sit down and work through lyrical ideas, so in that sense the songs are crafted with a lot of consideration. Throughout our music we always try to do the unexpected; each workfriends single is created with the aim of distorting and experimenting with the pop format. We love it when a song forces its listener to stay engaged by changing drastically over the course of its runtime and constantly surprising them.
Stunt Doubles is about ‘the paranoia of a man who has spent too much time alone with his spiralling thoughts,’ what was the inspiration for this, was it based on direct/indirect personal experience?
When writing ‘Stunt Doubles’ we wanted to filter the idea of a perfect pop song through a motorik groove. We wanted to write a song that contained no wasted space and relentlessly pushes forward with new ideas being introduced every second. Lyrically, the song itself was inspired by a late-night conversation we had about the unsung heroes of Hollywood. We were all obsessed by the strange and liminal position that the Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise doppelgangers of the world occupy. We then thought about a situation in which the stunt double became sick of their anonymous, unacknowledged existence and decided to start taking over the life of the very person they are meant to be filling in for. We decided to write the song from the perspective of the person who (whether real or imagined) believed they were being infiltrated.
Your songs sound like you have a lot of fun recording them, is that the case? If so, is it because you’re able to record in your house?
I think one of the biggest perks is being able to record at home. Doing it DIY means you have total creative control over what you are recording, which also gives you more time to add or fine-tune anything within the song. The worst thing about studio recording is perhaps spending ‘X’ amount of money on a finished article you’re not at all happy with; this is completely the opposite when doing it in your room. This lack of pressure makes it a really fun thing to do but it also forces you to think outside the box; we’ve had many a night where we’ve stayed up through the early hours tinkering with a song and finding makeshift, homemade methods to create new sounds and textures.
You’ve had airplay on Radio 1 and Radio 6, how pleased have you been generally with the reception you’ve had for your singles so far?
The reception has been really exciting for us. Receiving positive comments from esteemed DJs like Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson was something that we never expected and are really grateful for. But something that has been even more unexpected for us has been the streams and feedback we’ve received from people all over the world. Only anticipating reception from friends and family made responses from places like Japan and Australia all the more surreal. It’ll be great to get back to playing our songs live as well, as we haven’t played a gig since before the release of our first single ‘Man on the Run’ over a year ago.
What are your main musical influences? The Velvet Underground, Neu! and DEVO seem to be up there, although your playlists are pretty eclectic!
We’re definitely influenced by the groups you mentioned, as I’m sure many bands are. I think as we continue to make new music, we’re trying to incorporate more of the stranger sounds that we’re interested in, which is hopefully evident from each new single we release. As the playlists we’ve made show, we all have a varied taste in music, even if we share a similar taste for punky songs with a driving rhythm. Living together has helped us share new music
with one another that maybe we wouldn’t have found otherwise. Of course, ‘Stunt Doubles’ would not sound the way it does without The Velvet Underground or The Fall, but maybe the same could be said if we hadn’t spent all year listening to Dean Blunt, Bjork and Yoko Ono as well (even if their influence may not be immediately apparent).
Three fantastic singles to date, what’s next for the band?
Thanks Jon, that’s really appreciated! As we’ve said, we can’t wait to get these songs (and some new ones too) in front of a crowd. We’re planning a busy few months in terms of gigging.
We have a show already announced supporting our good friends The Belishas at the Louisiana in Bristol and some really exciting opportunities to announce very soon. We’ve also been working hard on new material and have made a video for Stunt Doubles that we’re extremely proud of considering we’ve done it all ourselves!
There’s a lot more to come from workfriends.
By Jon Milton
Its been just over a year since Kitchen Practice Records launched their first record ‘Let it Bleeds’ an impish collection of covers of different songs with that name, and to mark the occasion the label has released its first full length compilation showcasing its portfolio of artists.
Into Practice features music, sound art, poetry, and prose from 10 artists on the label, all curated by ‘mysterious narrator’ Twix Applegate. The 19 songs (including interludes) perfectly encapsulate the labels’ trademark eclecticism and mischievous nature. There’s the twisted folk music of Spider Noises who kick off proceedings with ‘Year in Amber’; Frank Lloyd Wleft’s ‘See Where you Land’ and No Country for Thin Men’s 'The Ballad of a Thousand Men Screaming’ which could have come straight from the C86 era such is the nature of their ramshackle indie; and the charming Watch Paint Dry and Friends of the Monday Table who bring along ambient electronica reminiscent of Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss.
Listened to as one Into Practice feels a bit like an unnerving dream sequence in Twin Peaks; In between the more conventional music, Tsitra Park’s ‘Cookie Montage’ and 'Ad Content’ layer unsettling voices that disorient the listener and Will Ormsby’s ‘Playlist’ and Frank Lloyd Wleft’s ‘The Gilesgate Monologues’ poems regale the trials and tribulations of millennial / student life, with Uber, Amazon and Fantasy Football frequently coming to the surface.
Although comprised of seemingly disparate parts, Into Practice has clearly been designed to be listened to as one, which makes for a rewarding listen. As a compilation its unconventional, inventive and a little bit surreal, all of which makes Kitchen Practice Records an oddity well worth keeping an eye on.
You can listen / buy the CD / download Into Practice at:
What we've been listening to...The Lounge Society, workfriends, Belishas, Feet, Pip Blom, The Early Mornings, Loose Articles, Gawjuss
By Jon Milton
So, after a little bit of a lull at the start of the month, this week has pretty much exploded with an abundance of cracking selection new tunes, from both rising stars and returning favourites.
Let’s start with the new breed: The Lounge Society blew us away with their debut single ‘Generation Game’ last year, so much so that you wondered just how much they had in the tank to follow it up with. Well, quite a lot it turns out if their ‘Silk for The Starving’ EP is anything to go by. Previous singles ‘Burn the Heather’ released late last year and the ferocious ‘Cain’s Heresy’, released a couple of months are joined by new tracks ‘Television’ and ‘Valley Bottom Fever’.
The band explore different approaches with each track; indie-disco on Burn the Heather; afro-beat on Television; garage-rock on Valley Bottom Fever; and anthemic indie on the standout Cain’s Heresy. Putting aside the automatic hype that any band would expect from having their record out on Speedy Wunderground, this is a remarkable debut for a band so young, who’ve clearly been raiding the record collections of friends and relatives with impeccable taste for some time.
We were also taken with the debut single from workfriends last year ‘Man on the Run’, which snuck out around the point when we started the first lockdown. After that it all went quiet from them for the rest of the year until this February, which saw them release the excellent Sick and Tired. Now they’re back with another belter in ‘Stunt Doubles’, a song that motors along at a frenetic pace, super smart indie music doffing its cap at the likes of Kraftwerk, Devo and the Velvet Underground along the way and doing so with a cheeky grin. More please.
Similarly frenetic and effortlessly wonderful is ‘Whispers’ the new single from Belishas. Whispers is the first track to be released from a double A sided single which gets a vinyl release in mid-August. The second track, ‘Brother’ comes out in digital form on the 23rd July. Whispers ‘is an intense, joyous statement of self-improvement, liberation and rebirth’ according to the band, recorded in August 2020 and produced by Dom Mitchison of IDLES fame. The band cite their influences as late 70s punk, 80s post-punk and early 90s indie, and I’d add a bit of C86 jangle in there too, as Whispers echoes songs like Felt’s ‘Ballad of the Band’, The Bodines ‘Therese’ and the Weather Prophets ‘Almost Prayed’ within its sunny disposition.
Two other bands channelling the spirit of C86 are The Early Mornings, who’ve just released their debut EP ‘Unnecessary Creation’ and Loose Articles, who have a new single out in the form of ‘Kick Like a Girl’. We first noticed The Early Mornings when their impressive ‘Blank Sky’ and ‘Day’s Spent’ singles emerged a month or so ago, which both appear on Unnecessary Creation alongside four new tracks. The Early Morning’s brand of C86 is more akin to the slightly ramshackle yet charming Talulah Gosh albeit there’s also elements of the Joy Division precursor Warsaw and The Pixies going on here too.
Loose Articles take on C86 on the other hand leans more toward Fuzzbox in their early days, albeit more abrasive, in your face and packing more of a punch. ‘Kicks Like a Girl’ confronts misogyny in football, taking a swipe at the narrow mindset of some men toward women in football whilst sprinkling a few footballing references along the way, ranging from Duncan Ferguson to Beckham’s Mohican.
If Deerhunter, Artic Monkeys, The Kills, Mac DeMarco & King Krule and a bit of early Oasis is more of your bag, take a listen to ‘Sleepwalker’, the fine new single from Gawjuss. The latest new music to emerge from those lovely people at Clue Records, Gawjuss’ Kieran Wade Clarke says of Sleepwalker ‘I wrote this song while I had insomnia, it’s a love letter to sleep. Like a reset button when you get lost in the noise of your own head’.
Now, cast your mind back to 2019, when life made a lot more sense than it does today. You may recall that amongst an embarrassment of riches on the album front, were the brilliant debut albums from Pip Blom and Feet, both of whom are now back with a vengeance to remind us that they’ve still got it.
Pip Blom’s ‘Keep it Together’ stays with the winning formula that the band pursued on ‘Boat’, all rousing chorus and uplifting indie all the way. It will be interesting to see whether the band explore any new ground on their new album ‘Welcome Break’ when it lands in October, although part of me thinks if it’s not broken, why try and fix it? Keep it Together is another fantastic indie pop song from them and if the rest of the album is as good as this, then bring it on.
Feet also kept a low profile in 2020 and seem to have switched record labels along the way, now finding themselves at the burgeoning Nice Swan Recordings, home of Courting and the like.
The band are pretty adept at effortlessly appropriating across the musical spectrum, and continue to do so on their new track ‘Library’, impishly merging bits of The Ramones’s ‘Baby I Love You’ with Mink DeVille’s ‘Spanish Stroll’ without ever becoming too derivative of either. On this and previous single ‘Peace and Quiet’ the band seem to have gone back to basics and it suits them well, so we look forward to hearing more from them in the coming months, and seeing them play live too.
What We've Been Listening To...New Candys, Possum, Filth, Mush, The Novus, Roscoe Roscoe, Cowgirl, Scores
By Jon Milton
It’s June already! Wow, that’s gone quick. This year has already seen a couple of excellent psych-rock albums released in the form of Diagonal’s eponymous debut and Mt. Mountain’s ‘Centre’ and now another one has come along in the form of 'Vyvyd’, from Italy’s New Candys. Like Diagonal and Mt. Mountain the band sit on the more accessible side of the genre with a clean production values abundant throughout this record. There’s also shoe-gaze with a healthy nod toward Jesus and Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club going on.
Brooding singles ‘Twin Mime’ and ‘Zyko’ kick off Vyvyd powerfully and the rest of the album moves nicely along, encompassing reflective moments on songs like ‘Begin Again’ and even bringing the blues on ‘Helluva Zoo’. All good stuff.
Next month sees the release of ‘Lunar Gardens’ the new album from Canadian band Possum, and Friday saw them release the third and final taster in the form of ‘Guest of the Moon’. The band were new to me until last month but I was very impressed by their single ‘Clarified Budder’ and this new track sees them continuing to seamlessly meld psych rock with Jazz very nicely, across this wah drenched jam. Think King Gizzard, Soft Machine, Oh Sees, (seventies) Miles Davis and Can coming together to give you some sort of idea of how they sound. We’ll have a full review of the album nearer the time of its release.
Friday was a very healthy day for new singles overall. Promising young band from Stoke on-Trent Filth released their excellent second single ‘Fully Introspective: Love, Truth, Happiness’, which sits nicely alongside Mush’s laid back ‘Peak Bleak’, taken from their forthcoming RSD 2021 single.
If you’re unfamiliar with Filth, their debut single ‘Tangerine Dream’ out last year is well worth a listen and from the evidence here, they certainly seem to be a band to watch. If you’re unfamiliar with Mush, where have you been?
For a more mellow, trippy and psychedelic take on Sixties music have a listen to ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ the second single by Roscoe Roscoe. If you prefer more of a cool Seventies vibe tinged with a bit of 90’s slacker rock, there's ‘Better With You’ the new tasty new single from Cowgirl, and if Eighties post punk with a bit of goth rock thrown in is more up your street you may want to check out ‘Castaway’ the new single from the Novus. The Novus are natives of Stourbridge, famous in the eighties for Pop Will Eat Itself and The Wonder Stuff, but this new single reminds me of another West Midlands based band, Balaam and the Angel, and a bit of Death Cult too. Big and swirly.
Concluding our round up this week is ‘Broaden Out’, the third single from Scores. The band are from LA and Kansas and Broaden Out is beat-driven indie-rock electronica, very much in the mode of Holy Fuck and Caribou. ‘The song is about coming to terms with the fact that some of the things I struggle with in my head, I may never outgrow’ says singer CJ Calhoun of the song’s introspective lyrics and its their best tune yet.
By Jon Milton
The Cult of Dom Keller’s new album sees them ‘channelling recent limitations and turning them to their advantage…radically altering their creative approach and morphing their sound into a whole new beast’ and very well they do it too. ‘They Carried The Dead In A UFO’ is dark, moody and immersive, like an industrial noise-rock version of Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’.
They Carried The Dead In A UFO begins with the psychedelic ‘Run From The Gullskinna’ and ends in the drone rock of ‘Last King Of Hell’. In between it all gets pretty woozy – clanging metal, eerie organs, and rumbling bass awash with vocals that swirl above and below the mix, real head music for the willing escapist.
The Mezzanine vibe comes out most in ‘Lyssa’ and ‘She’s Turning Into A Serpent’ and there are touches of (Contino Sessions) Death In Vegas and (Dig Your Own Hole) Chemical Brothers in play too. Just at the point when you’re almost completely under, ‘Amazing Enemy’ kicks in like a new dawn rising. Lovely stuff.
There are times when listening to They Carried The Dead In A UFO that you feel like you could be in film (Bladerunner probably) and at other times in a dream, or a narcotic haze. It’s a powerful piece of music that messes with your head, and that can only be a good thing.
They Carried the Dead In A UFO is out now on Fuzz Club Records. Listen / Buy at
They Carried The Dead In A U.F.O | Cult Of Dom Keller | Fuzz Club Records (bandcamp.com)