If you’re into music and are from the Hull area, it would be a shock if you hadn’t heard of LIFE. But if you’re lacking knowledge (or you’re not from the tiny crack on the map of England), here’s the perfect place to learn about the band, where they’ve been, and where they’re going next.
The band is a four piece, made up of frontman Mez, guitarist Mick (Sanders), bassist Lydia (Palmeira) and drummer Stew (Baxter). Their latest single, ‘Bum Hour’, was released a few weeks ago – and Mez discussed with us a little what it was about. “All of the songs on the album are quite personal to me” he says. “This one’s about me being a single dad: on my own in a flat, I’ve just put my boy down and everyone else is out – the message is about being isolated, a bit trapped sometimes, even though you’d never change the circumstance – obviously, I love my son. But sometimes it can be isolating at points of the night, so that’s basically what the song is about.”
In 2017, they released their first album ‘Popular Music’, and we discussed the process behind writing the new album and how it differed from that of Popular Music. “It was really different really, the first album we wrote over two years, we never had enough money to record in one chunk so it was almost like a collage of work. The singles we did every two weeks or so – we then patched the album together. Whereas for the new album, we actually lived together for a month in London, and the whole body of work was written in like sixth months. That’s why when you listen to it, the lyrics are what we as a band have experienced personally – especially myself. We went away and lived together – almost as a family, the band became more of a family in London for four weeks and recorded it. Every day we were waking up, going into the studio and scratching off the next song from the record. It was different, it was probably like the best experience as a band we’ve ever had and we got to work with some great people.”
The method of making the album could be seen as quite unusual for a band from Yorkshire, did they have any problems? “I think recording bits of it became really intense, especially due to the subject matter of some of the songs. You’d be going in, doing that song and you could really feel it. But it was good living as a family and doing it over a month, where we were like, living intensely because we’d wake up, go to the studio – we’d start at ten and finish at like eight or nine. Then we’d go to the pub, and then we would reflect on what we’d done that day, have some beers and food, and just chill out. Obviously Mick on guitar, he is my brother, so I’ve kind of lived with him all my life anyway. It was a great experience, and I know that we’ll never forget it – we’ve never really argued as a band anyway, so it just felt really natural. It was a cool way of doing it. It’s cool because you really get to feel the songs – that sounds like a douche thing to say, but you do. It kind of relieves pressures but brings on other pressures, but everyone’s in the moment so it’s a cool thing, and I think it helped create the energy on the album. You can hear that it’s quite energetic, even though sometimes it talks about things that are quite personal- the music became quite euphoric and I think that came from living together.”
Mez has worked as a youth worker in his home town along with Stew. “Working at The Warren shaped what I wrote about, what I saw. Working with a lot of vulnerable young people from difficult backgrounds and hardship, seeing how society and governments were squeezing the life out of young people and leaving them with no aspirations. It definitely changed who I am and informed how I write.”
Despite them living in London for a while, the band are rooted in Hull, and Mez discussed what it’s like coming from the city. “When we first started, we’ve been doing it a while, fortunately now the band is our full-time job – I only left my youth work job a few weeks ago, so now the second album signifies the band becoming full-time. It has been hard geographically, and a lot of people look at Hull and think there’s only one way in and out over the Humber Bridge – especially from the south as so much of the music industry is based in London, they’d never take the trip up to Hull to see the artists from Hull because well, it’s just a bit of a ball-ache. So I guess it has its hurdles, but it’s helped shape who we are, it’s grounded us, its definitely influenced how we write so we would never change anything and like you say, we’re proper proud of Hull – wherever we go, we always talk about it.”
Hull being home also seems to be credited as a method of staying grounded “I think if you stay within where you are based, I think you’ll have more of a lifespan in terms of being a band. You don’t suddenly believe the hype because you’ve always had to work for it, it gives you a different kind of work ethic, so when great things do happen – and great things are happening for us, but when they do happen we take it all in and are thankful for it, and don’t let it go to our heads.”
This year, they played Humber Street Sesh, and are debuting the new album with an in-store at Warren Record Store, both based in Hull. From the album, the singles already released are the previously mentioned ‘Bum Hour’, along with two songs that made the BBC Radio 6 playlist ‘Moral Fibre’ (B list) and Hollow Thing (A List). But which songs from the new album are the band excited for people to hear? “There’s a track called ‘Half Pint Fatherhood’, which has similar kind of tones to Bum Hour – but there’s tracks about finding love again, the album finishes with a massive poem- there’s loads of stuff I can’t wait for people to hear because like, I’m really really proud of it.” The singles released so far from ‘A Picture Of Good Health’ have a different vibe to their first album too. “I think we decided to make the music more expansive and accessible and energetic, because the lyrics are more personal, and I guess on ‘Popular Music’, it was quite angry and broadly political, and broadly about what everyone else was experiencing, but this one is about what we’re experiencing, ‘Moral Fibre’ is quite tongue-in-cheek and fun, it’s also one of my favourites.”
With politics mentioned in ‘Popular Music’, and the obvious turbulent political climate of modern times, does Mez think it is important to be true to your beliefs and execute them through his music? “I always think that to be true to yourself you have to write about what you’re feeling at the time – we always write music wether it be political or whether it be personal depending on what we’re feeling in that moment. Within that instance, so it seems to connect well as it is what’s happening to us in that time. I think that if you set out a template and you’re writing about stuff you don’t believe in, then the music just becomes diluted and doesn’t connect. you have to accept your thoughts and feelings and just write about them, in that sense I guess it is important to sort of not hideaway from who you are and write about what you want to write about.”
The band have supported Idles, Slaves and are heading out on their own European tour at the end of September. With them having visited so many places, do they have a favourite? “We’ve been fortunate enough to tour all over Europe and the UK, and this summer we’ve done like, fourteen festivals and most of them have been in Europe – we’ve been turning up and playing to 2000 or 3000 people a night for those. We’ve obviously enjoyed going to America, we were in LA this year, and we did South By Southwest last year, thats just so vast and different and it would be great to take our music out there. We’re happy playing anywhere, as long as we’re playing. Each show is as good as the last.”
Not only have they toured in countless locations, this year was their Glastonbury debut “It was amazing, we’ve done a load of great festivals but especially Glastonbury, especially being UK-based, Glastonbury is the one: it’s world famous, the atmosphere is amazing. We loved it so much, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
Fairly recently, the band were signed through PIAS – did that change their band dynamic? “It changed opportunities, but it hasn’t changed and it never will change how we treat the band and how we operate. We still manage to take ownership of a lot of things, so although we’ve got the backing of the record label, we’re still releasing the album on our own imprint which is Afghan Moon, which is the same that ‘Popular Music’ came out on, so we get to keep a lot of creativity, but with the added bonus of a supportive team around us as well.” Despite being a signed band now, Mez says he much prefers being hands on with the band’s operations. “If anything ever goes wrong, you’d know where everything is, if you relinquished everything and gave it up to others around you and it went wrong, you’re kind of stuck and you don’t know how to get out of that hole. But by keeping one hand in and taking ownership of it, it’s beneficial to the band as a whole I think.
“As someone who’s tried to teach, and help, and coach other young artists through youth work it’s really hard to explain there’s so much more that goes into it other than recording, playing and being on the radio. Being in a band, it is a full time thing, there’s so much admin, you have to look after yourself, file things- each time you get bigger and bigger and bigger, it becomes more difficult. You need to track your finances, collect your royalties, there’s loads more stuff, and it’s essentially a mass of admin.”
We brushed upon a LIFE-life and Dad-life balance too. “ it was hard to keep balance between working, being a dad and being band. I’m always in the band on the evenings and weekends, then back to work in the day. Luckily I have a supportive family. But my little boy, all of the UK festivals I take him with me. I get him in his buggy, ear defenders on – he’s been on massive stages already. He’s part of the band so he gets to tour with us and see loads of places and make loads of different friends – it’s definitely manageable, it’s making sure you look after yourself and look after those around you.”
Before our time with Mez was up, we asked him how he would describe what he believes success is. “I think success is really hard to measure, but as long as everyone that the band you’re in is having fun, and you believe in it, then that’s the success – if you believe in what you’re doing that’s the success.” How do you continue scaling the band up while maintaining a healthy, thriving environment? “You’ve got to prioritise looking after yourself and the band or you can’t grow bigger, you’ll implode, you damage yourself so much that the band becomes something that you can’t continue anymore, so first rule is to look after yourself and those around you, then the band really thrive as it becomes an outlet for creativity rather than one of self-destruction”
LIFE’s second album ‘A Picture Of Good Health’ is available on Friday the 20th of September.
WORDS: MARY CLOSE