'This one is much faster and louder!' Leeds five-piece Hookworms give us an update on their eagerly awaited second album

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 24 Oct 2013
  • min read

The clue is in the name with Leeds five-piece Hookworms. For the last few years the band have forged a loop-laden sound that carries such velocity it burrows deep into your brain and won’t let go.

Their swirling electronics, heavy-handed Farfisa chords and wigged out guitars have earned them a place at the top table of 2013 psych bands, but Hookworms’ sound has depth beyond a passing fad.

It appears simple and hook-heavy but there is a three-dimensional quality, especially in their live set, which throws most of their contemporaries out of the water.

All Leeds-based band members - MJ, JW, SS, MB and JN - stick to using their initials to avoid being recognised by 'the teenage kids they teach in their "real" jobs'.

For, although 2013 has brought them a fair slab of success and a record deal with coveted indie Domino Records, they are committed to holding down their various jobs, which includes secondary school teaching and record producing.

Debut album Pearl Mystic arrived earlier this year to rave reviews, and the band have since ventured out of their hometown on various live jaunts including Liverpool Psych Fest.

We spent some time with drummer JN, guitarist JW and singer, keyboardist and producer MJ before their ferocious Psych Fest set to find out how their new record for Domino is coming along and what they think of the current fad for psychedelia....

So, you’ve recently signed to Domino imprint Weird World. Are you working on a new album for them?
MJ: Yep, we’re halfway through it.

How long did it take you to make your first one?
MJ: Around nine months or so. I work as a record producer - I have my own studio called Suburban Home - so we had to do it in studio downtime and whenever I had free time to work on it. This time it’s been quicker and easier because we’ve been able to pay to have the studio booked out because we got the advance from Domino.

What’s your favourite bit of kit in there?
MJ: My Space Echoes – I’ve got three. They’re worth quite a lot of money but it’s weird when you work in recording because everything is a lot of money! You know when you go to a shop and you get really pissed because a can of Coke is 70p? Well, it’s only 20p more than it was. But then I’ll go and spunk £1,000 on a microphone and be like, cool. It’s so contextual, you don’t realise at all.

Do you see yourself more as producer or songwriter in Hookworms?
MJ: I don’t see myself as the songwriter; I think we’re all equal songwriters. I do produce the records though.

How does it work out?
JN: MJ and MB mostly wrote the last album. But with this one it’s been everyone all at once. I think it’s been a lot more of a band record.

MJ: It was intentional to do it like that.

JN: There’s a lot of stuff on the last record that we’re probably never ever going to be able to play live unless we have 13 musicians with us, but we should be able to play all of the new one live if we want.

MJ: That was another nice thing about being able to book out time in the studio and be all there at once – we could set everything up in the room and mic it all up. We all played together and worked on ideas like that. It meant we could demo the record and listen to it, then go back and record it again. The songs are intrinsically more of a rock band.

Does it have more of a live feel than the last one?
MJ: Yeh, it’s definitely a band but it’s not a document of just five people playing together, there’s still going to be loads of overdubs and things. But it’s definitely more straight up than the last one, which had more blissed out textures. The new one is louder and faster!

JW: It comes from what we were listening to at the time – lots of Pure X and downer music! I’ve been listening to lots of Eddie Current Surpression Ring and Velvet Underground. I prefer that kind of music to the slower stonery psychedelic stuff so it’s nicer to be making a record that I’d rather listen to! It’s not that I don’t like the current record, but I’d rather play the style of music on the new one.

You mention stoner rock, which seems to be everywhere at the moment. But then Psych Fest has electronic acts and krauty
bands and allsorts. What do you think is the common thread here?

JN: I think the notion of psychedelic music being sixties is a bit narrow-minded. At least stuff like The Strange Boys, who are influenced by the Nuggets compilation, are still gnarly and raw sounding. But loads of people are trying to recreate the old stuff. All the electronic stuff is really cool though – bands like Peaking Lights. Clinic have incorporated a lot of electronic stuff lately too.

MJ: They’re so far apart – Clinic from Peaking Lights for example. To me, psychedelia is more like escapism through music. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tied together aesthetically. Big modern popular bands like Flaming Lips and Animal Collective are psychedelic but a lot of people didn’t think of them in those terms until quite recently - until the psych revival. I don’t really feel much for straight revivalism, I’m more interested in electronic music.

MJ: I’d even say Black Dice are psychedelic to a certain extent, and Factory Floor have got that element too.

JN: It’s a weird one – it’s hard to define…

Do you think loops and simple electronic patterns seem to contribute to the overall shape-shifting weirdness of modern psych?
MJ: I think repetition is a big factor.

JN: Yeh, I think simple music is what I like!

JW: Bands like The Mummies, who are definitely one of my favourites, are really simple, using just three chords. They’re really talented people and they make really simple rock ‘n’ roll music. The simpler the better! Even the Velvet Underground to an extent – a really interesting band but they’re not necessarily showcasing their talent.

Moe Tucker often played with just one drum…
JW: Yep, that’s all you need. Moe Tucker on every record! She’s the best drummer.

Your base is in Leeds – do you feel like you’re part of a local scene or are you more in touch with bands from around the world?
MJ: I think there is quite a strong DIY music scene in Leeds and there’s a certain group of people…

JW: And JN has played in every Leeds band ever!

MJ: I think the nice thing about Leeds is that people do play with each other and collaboration is something that really interests me. I don’t understand why more musicians don’t do it. Some people just play in one band and then stop. I play in other bands as well and I enjoy that more than anything. I get more from recording different bands every week and seeing how they work than anything else.

Is there anyone you’re really desperate to work with?
MJ: we’re hopefully going to do a synthesiser thing with record producer Richard Formby. He did Spacemen 3 records and was in Spectrum. He’s recently produced Wild Beasts and Ghostpoet.

Where do you see Hookworms going next?
MJ: We’re halfway through making a new record, that’s it!

JW: Make the record then see what happens next!

JN: There’s loads of psychedelic stuff going on – there’s a big psych scene at the moment and eventually we’ll have our own corner of it. We’ll be able to go, ‘right, this is our thing’, and get on with it.

Do you enjoy the touring side?
MJ: We don’t get out of Leeds very much. We all have full time jobs and do other stuff. We’re never gonna be a touring band, we’re too old for that!

JW: We don’t even drink because we’re professional musicians!

JN: I love touring. We get to see really good bands and sometimes choose the people we tour with.

JW: But I just as much like sitting at home drinking cups of tea and seeing my girlfriend. After a week of eating service station food it’s nice to have a bath and a bed!