Leeds band Eagulls have gone from cobbling together records whenever they had time off work to being championed by the likes of NME and The Guardian, not to mention playing on ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ over in the USA and slots at Reading and Leeds festival. Having embarked on a long headline tour that has seen them play around the States and sell out shows on their return to the UK, we caught up with guitarist Liam Matthews and bassist Tom Kelly at the Bodega in Nottingham to have a quick chat about the tour, signing to a label and their increased popularity among other things:
S] So how did the band get together?
Tom Kelly] “Well we all moved to Leeds at around the same time, just through different connections and similar friendship groups.”
Liam Matthews] “There’s more about it in detail dotted around the internet, but we all just moved to Leeds for university, and were inspired by it.”
S] Would you say you were inspired by the music scene there too?
LM] “Not so much the music scene, just the city itself. I’m from a small town so moving to a city is very different, beautiful in its own way in terms of the architecture and stuff, which is really different from what I was used to and gives you a certain feeling.”
TK] “It did have a pretty good scene too though.”
S] Do you feel a certain kinship with other bands? Parquet Courts for example have said before that they get on with you guys well.
LM] “We’ve been lucky with the bands that we’ve toured with in the sense that even if we don’t sound that similar, we have similar interests and end up getting on because we can appreciate each other’s music. When you’re touring an album you end up on the same circuits and see each other at festivals and things, which is ace because even though you miss your friends and your family at home you have familiar faces to hang around with.”
S] We remember the first time we saw you was with Parquet Courts at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.
TK] “That was a crazy one. I remember rushing straight over from work to get ready for it!”
LM] “I think Goldy’s [Mark Goldsworthy, guitarist] amp broke too, so yeah it was mental.”
S] How did you find the experience of putting the album together? Was it particularly stressful?
TK] “It was in terms of work, because we all had to get around our jobs. I worked nights a lot, so when the guys got together at night I had to rush over after work to record.”
LM] “It was hard getting all five of us in the room together.”
TK] “Yeah, and recording it was okay, but it was broken up over certain nights and on weekends because of work which meant we couldn’t go in to the studio and do it over a 2-week period. It was more drawn out over something like a month and a half.”
LM] “The work was the hard bit. Being in the studio or in the practise room writing the songs was the fun bit, but having to go to work before you do it was tough and an inconvenience but you go back inspired with fresh ideas, so it had its positives and its negatives. I don’t think the record would have sounded the same if we didn’t have to do that.”
TK] “I remember a lot of late nights and early mornings, but we did what we had to do. We didn’t have any money so we couldn’t afford to take time off work to do it, but even though that did cause a lot of stress it worked out alright in the end.”
S] Was it quite structured then since there won’t have been much time for coming up with stuff when you did get in to the studio?
LM] “Luckily we had the album pretty much written before we went in to the studio barring a couple of lyrics here and there. When we were in the studio we tried to spend as much time as we could experimenting with sound to try and capture the same sense as when we play live since we consider ourselves a live band, so we spent a long time trying to get that feeling on the record, trying to make it sound exactly how we wanted it to. I think the mixing is the hardest bit because you’ve got five people who all have slightly contrasting ideas, nearly killing each other over the sound of something as trivial as feedback.”
TK] “I went to sleep for those bits.”
S] Would you say you all had different influences?
LM] “Yeah, definitely. I think that we draw a lot of different musical influences and experiences together, since work and life really affected it too. When we’re at home I’m sure that I don’t listen to the same albums that say, Tom does when he’s at home.”
TK] “You do have a lot of common ground on certain albums and certain bands though, but a lot of is quite eclectic.”
LM] “That’s good though because it broadens the horizon of your songs. You’re not just stuck in your ways, but we’re happy to take things a way you might not expect.”
S] Do you discuss your influences before you work on something?
TK] “Not really, I mean you can tell what someone’s been listening to sometimes from what they’re playing but it’s still quite subtle.”
LM] “When we first started the band we never really talked about that stuff, it was just a natural progression for ourselves more than saying we were going to do a song in a particular way. I remember when we first started I didn’t have any effects pedals so we’d just plug in and play, and we did that for a few years but we gradually started progressing with what we wanted to be doing, which shows I think.”
TK] “It’s weird because when I listen back to some of the early stuff I think it sounds completely different, but that’s just how it works I guess.”
LM] “When we started working on it we didn’t have the idea of an album in our heads, we just wanted to write ten songs that we liked and thought were all strong.”
S] Did it make much difference for you as a band when you signed to a label?
LM] “We’d written and recorded the album before we signed, so it didn’t make much difference in that regard. Before that people were saying they were interested but no one was willing to take the plunge and say that they wanted to do it. Then we met Tim [Putnam] from Partisan Records who didn’t send a minion and told us that he wanted to put out our record. He asked us to get together and talked about it and it has been easier since then. It means that we’ve been able to leave our jobs and still be able to pay our rent, so we’re really happy about it.”
S] They must have really helped with publicity too.
LM] “Yeah, they’re the reason we ended up on Letterman because they’d had bands on there already. We didn’t really realise how big of a deal it was.”
TK] “They worked really hard on all the press stuff for us, since the press company is connected to the label.”
LM] “Yeah, it’s in everyone’s interest for us to get out there and it’s definitely helped.”
S] With the label has also come the opportunity for more extensive touring. Is that something you’ve enjoyed doing?
LM] “Yeah, definitely. I mean we’ve been working on the second album and we’d just got in to the swing of it before we started the tour so we’re ready to get back and finish it, but we wouldn’t have been able to tour so much if it wasn’t for them getting us the gigs. We’ve been all over the world this year which wasn’t possible when we had to work crazy shifts to have a night off so we could play in London and drive back, but now we can concentrate on both writing and touring. I’d never been to America before, and now I’ve been five times, so it’s pretty crazy yeah.”
S] Are you seeing a fanbase building in all the new places you’ve gone?
LM] “Definitely, we’re seeing more and more familiar faces every time.”
TK] “When we did our American tour and people are there singing your songs it’s really crazy and hard to believe that they’ve heard our stuff, but it’s really nice man.”
LM] “The songs on the album are quite old to us, so we’ve been playing them for a while where people were enjoying them but not really knowing what’s going on. Now there are people singing along and going crazy to the songs because they have a connection to them, which is the best thing about the album coming out really. It doesn’t matter about any reviews or anything really, that connection just proves that it worked.”
S] It must be nice too that the Leeds show at the Brudenell (on the 31st October) is sold out too.
LM] “Yeah, it’s great and we couldn’t imagine playing anywhere but the Brudenell for this show really, it’s a great place.”
TK] “That’s where you want your homecoming show to be.”
LM] “We’ll have to take up a residency there!”
S] Has there been much of a difference for you after making the transition from supporting bands to going on your own headline tour?
TK] “I liked it before actually, because you could just play your set and go and then just go and have a drink afterwards! That was great.”
LM] “It is more stressful and it is more nervewracking because the pressure’s on you. We’re not a band that’s up ourselves thinking that the show’s going to be full or anything so we’re actually quite nervous every time wondering how it’s going to be, but the tour’s surpassed all our expectations. We’ve supported for so long and it’s got us to this position where we’ve played loads of gigs in new places and the reaction has been as good as Leeds, which is great. We can go anywhere round England and enjoy it.”
S] Would you say that there’s a particular mood that your album is trying to convey to the audience?
LM] “I think the songs are more for us somehow, it’s the mood that being at work for eight hours a day and just wanting to go and write songs created. The songs are all down to the mindset that we were in, if we were smiling and jolly it just wouldn’t be real at all.”
TK] “It is quite a dark album, I think George [Mitchell, the vocalist] conveyed a lot of that in his lyrics where he discusses a lot of dark topics.”
LM] “It wasn’t really intentional though, it was more just based around the mood we were in and the cathartic nature of getting it out, it’s a relief to get the tension and frustrations out. Some people might go play a round of golf, we go make noise in a room.”
S] That mood comes through in your music videos too, the ‘Nerve Endings’ video of the decaying brain is particularly resonant.
LM] “Yeah, that song’s about George’s anxiety, which is in your brain and it was just to symbolise that feeling of the anxiety always coming back and eating away at you, but at the same time it can breathe new life in to you. It’s quite a sick metaphor actually, but when the maggots come through there’s new life there, and it’s just about the nature of that.”
S] Do you consider yourselves as part of the punk scene when you’re out touring?
LM] “Not really, I think the word ‘punk’ gets thrown around a lot, we’re not trying to be the Sex Pistols or anything, it’s just about being creative and doing something new. I think it’s the same as when people talk about there being a Leeds music scene since there’s not much of a scene or a movement, there’s just loads of good bands, which is good but it’s not a collective or anything, it’s just about the right amount of inspiration and creativity.”
S] Do you feel like there’s some sort of creative arc that spans your work that means you know where you’re going for the next album?
TK] “I think we’re going to go in a different direction, but it’ll still sound like us.”
LM] “Yeah, we’ll always sound like us and we haven’t said that we’re going to sound like anyone else, but we definitely want to experiment with sounds and melodies. We’re not going to be getting orchestras in or anything like that but hopefully some more experimentation.”
TK] “I’d like the orchestras actually!”
LM] “There’ll be progression but it won’t be Eagulls does ‘Tusk’ [Fleetwood Mac’s 12th album, featuring a marching band] or anything. The first couple of songs we’ve written are already a step away from our first album and we might keep going down that road, it’s yet to be seen really.”
S] When do you think the new album will be out, roughly?
LM “Next year, definitely. The sooner the better really.”
S] So you’ll be going straight in to album stuff after the tour then?
TK] “We’ve already started it actually, so we’re looking forward to getting back in to it.”
S] Do you record in Leeds?
LM] “Yeah, we recorded the last album in Leeds with Matt Peel, so we’ll be looking to record with him again in his new studio which is in a church, which will be fun.”
S] And then straight back to touring for that album?
TK] “Yeah, back on the road again!”