By Jon Milton
I think its fair to say that TV Priest have made a bit of a splash. The band have released two excellent singles in the last three months - their debut 'House of York' contemplating the role of the monarchy and how the ruling classes rewrite history for their own convenience, and their latest single 'Runner Up' considering how destination addiction fuels the capitalist dream for the many to benefit the few. All thoroughly thought provoking themes, backed by strikingly impressive music. Its early days admittedly, but they could be one of the best new artists to emerge in 2020.
The band describe Runner Up on their socials as being about 'white goods, work ethic, guilt, game shows, not dancing at the Christmas party' 4 car garages, meal deals, spam folders, lotteries, carrots and sticks'. An intriguing list which I asked lead singer Charlie to elaborate on:
Runner Up address feelings and patterns of lived experience as a citizen of a globalised, late capitalist nation. The ‘perpetual motion’ of this economic model feeds a sense of the inadequate in the individual and seeks to rob us of deeper human connections with people, places, and objects in the drive to generate vast incomes for a tiny percentage of the population. Despite getting that new shirt, new job, or new car it’s never quite enough, the true object of you affection remains just out of reach, the latest model upgraded before your very eyes.
And yet the model forces us to be complicit and turn hypocrite. As we upload this song we directly, all be it incrementally, help the revenue streams of homogeneous multinational corporations whom have little real interest in ‘connecting’ people beyond establishing data sets that help in predictive behaviour ‘markets’.
This song was written as a response to that; a patchwork of observations on what it is to live and work in a pre-pandemic Britain. Perhaps a Britain that may no longer exist.
With House of York also focusing on some detailed subject matter, I asked Charlie what other subjects influenced the bands' song-writing, and if there were any matters that they've not as yet covered but may include in the future:
As we've progressed as a group we try not to over analyse how we come up with subject matter, its really about lived experiences, research, and internal thought processes. I think art is often about trying to communicate something you couldn't just say in words, that you're kind of seeking to manifest something that is perhaps 'beyond' yourself. However, I do think we've been quite conscious about making sure there is a level of directness in either the lyrics or the intent and energy of the song. We've written songs about the passage of time and age, about responsibility (to your self and to others), history, politics, the internet, family, and our relationship with the city.
During Mental Health Awareness Week the band mentioned that mental health was a subject close to their hearts. With mental health very much on peoples minds during this lockdown, I asked Charlie to discuss the bands experiences of mental health and how his mental health had been impacted over the last few weeks:
Part of our experience of growing up and becoming adults has been a kind of coming to terms with and addressing mental health - both our own and our loved ones. Certainly some of us have had to either learn coping mechanisms or seek treatment at some stage of our lives and we feel strongly about discussion, dialogue and strategies. Speaking personally, making music and creating with the rest of the band has a very positive impact on my mental health so the lockdown has been hard in that respect. I think its re-enforced the value and need to communicate and commune with other people, in this case artistically and the emotive release it provides.
Given that both singles have been released during lockdown, it also seemed prudent to ask what it has been like releasing a debut and announcing yourself to the world in the current abnormal climate:
It has been strange to say the least. I think all of us have all wondered if it's even 'right' to put things out at a time like this, when so many things seem so much bigger than a song. I hope that the music or people discovering us is at least a welcome distraction from the situation we find ourselves in. We formed the band primarily to play live so it has been a real shame not to play shows and have a more human experience with an audience. It's also forcing us to be more honest with ourselves as musicians and as people; how can we translate these feelings digitally? How can we remain friends as well as band mates? How do we support other people, places, and things we love and care for? We're all looking forward to being back in a room together making loud noises!
Looking to the future, and given that Runner Up and House of York have been released in quick succession, I was keen to know whether the tracks formed part of an EP or an album, and when we could expect to hear more:
These are currently two standalone singles that served as a bit of an introduction as to what you can expect from us. We're lucky that we finished a larger body of work in our studio just before lock down begun so you can expect more music over the coming months. Nic our bassist also engineers and produces all of our music at our studio in Hackney Wick so we're pretty self sufficient , we're also writing remotely from each other and finding it quite productive. We would love to put out some vinyl over the coming months, I'm an artist and designer as a job so the physical experience of music is a massive part of it for me, you'll have to ask our label what they have planned hahah!
You can listen to Runner up here and House of York here. With any luck they'll be headlining at the Shacklewell Arms on the 28th October (which is where you'll find me!).