Over five studio albums, they’ve defined a new grungy sound that packs plenty of anthemic punch and guile.
Their latest, Safe In Sound, was released last month and went straight into the UK top 10, proving that perseverance, poise and the punk approach can still get you far in 2017.
Off the back of a UK tour, which took in the iconic Brixton Academy, we find out how the band have evolved from DIY self-starters to chart behemoths. Bassist Declan Hart spills the beans on the pressures and creative block which led to their explosive new album and the general health of British rock…
What’s the inspiration behind the new record?
The album is all about music as escapism. Whether you’ve had a really bad day, or a really good one, you can put some music on and forget about it, or celebrate. That’s everything the record is about. It’s about life and music that goes hand in hand with it.
Where and when was it recorded?
It was recorded from summer until the end of last year. We recorded the drums at a studio in London and everything else was done in our LTA studio in Watford. It gave us more freedom because we weren’t working to a really strict deadline. If we weren’t feeling it, we could leave it for a few days and then come back to it. It was a luxury for us to be able to do that.
Did you go into the studio with everything all mapped out?
Michael came up with most of the stuff and we went from there. We’ll have structures down for songs, the topline and stuff. Every song is different, some are rough and loose and others have a more strict structure. There’s no formula.
Your self-titled record back in 2014 did really well – but this new record has beaten that in terms of chart success. How does that feel?
We’ve been doing this for so long – we’ve been chipping away for a while. So one part of me thinks we deserve this but when I step back and think about it for a while, it’s actually quite mad. Everyone always says when success comes, it just comes, and everything hits you all at once. You get mentally busy! It’s awesome! But it doesn’t feel forced to me.
Did you feel much pressure after your last record?
Yes! So much pressure. I remember after we played the Roundhouse in London we took some time off to chill and then reconvened to write again. But we wondered how we’d top the last one – we were all in a bit of a meltdown for a few months! But you can’t create something good without creating bad things too…
How did the process differ this time?
I think we’ve always been really involved in the process. But our record, Changing Tune, which came out in 2012 on Universal Island, was different. They tried to make us take a step back and be less involved, but we really didn’t like that at all. It was the first time anyone had ever said to us, ‘Don’t worry guys, we’ve got this’. We thought, ‘No, no, no you haven’t. Trust us on this!’
From then on, we’ve called the shots on everything. With this new record in particular, nothing has slipped through the cracks. Someone in the band has given their OK on everything – artwork, merch, everything. It’s the DIY ethic, it’s how we started the band and it’s still important now. We’d be idiots if we lost that – DIY is what our band is about. We cut our teeth to get where we are.
How do you think your sound has evolved since your first record Far Q?
Even though we’re not necessarily a punk band, I think there’s always a part of our sound that challenges people. We’re not necessarily the norm or what people would expect and I think it’s cool we keep a bit of that original punk ethos.
The track Boomerang on this record is so different than anything we’ve done before, and it pushed a few buttons for some people. But I think it’s grown on them now, which is cool. If you’re not pissing anyone off ever, then your music isn’t going to be any good. It’s the same with the creative process – the best stuff comes from conflict and struggle.
How did you prep for your massive UK tour this March?
We went shopping for a lot of toiletries! We’re normal human beings – no one is doing this stuff for us!
What do you think about the state of British rock at the moment?
This year has been awesome, it’s quite crazy! Already in the first two months of 2017 we had You Me At Six, Deaf Havana, Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, and us all in the top 10. That hasn’t happened in a long, long time. So many rock bands in the top 10 in such a short space of time. It stands us in good stead for the rest of the year and the next few years to come.
I don’t think it’s a case of ‘rock is back’ – because it never went anywhere – but it’s definitely back in the mainstream. It’s cool because majors are taking note of it and a lot of people in the mainstream are listening in. A lot of the time they don’t know where the inspiration comes from, they don’t hear the underground stuff that pop takes its cues from.
Take for example the grime scene, which has been underground for years – and it’s been healthy. Now people are starting to take notice of it, which is amazing!
What about new bands?
I really like Rome, who have supported us on tour. I also really like Milk Teeth, they have an interesting new sound. The hardest part about being a new rock band is getting your own sound. We had a sound before we had the songs, and it’s really cool when I see a band coming through that’s like that too.