NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

I’ve known Jack and Wes since the first DIY punk show I saw in Norwich. The two were and are singing in Jackals, and as of late Wes is vocalist and Jack bassist in Norwich metal-punkers Midnight Parasite. Jack was vocalist of Sonic Order, organises a fair few Norwich punk shows, and has done a lot of writing about and photographing punk. Wes paints, draws and collages, and has created art for many bands and flyers. I met with them in The Owl Sanctuary and we had a long chat about a number of topics. This is the extended edition of the interview.

NMG: What’s the state of Jackals at the moment, and what’s the plan after the next record?

Jack: What’s the state of it?

NMG: That wasn’t intended to be-

Wes: Should we fully disclose it?

J: Yeah, fuck it.

NMG: You don’t have to fully disclose it.

J: We actually all hate each other.

W: Yeah I fucking hate them all. (chuckling) We’ve had a few line-up changes. People’s priorities have changed a bit, some don’t want to be in bands anymore…

J: I think the biggest thing is people moving to London, it makes it hard to practice.

W: Yeah, Sam has to travel from London… people obviously still enjoy it, but maybe touring’s something people don’t wanna do as much. We’re writing stuff for a new LP, and it’s a banger.

J: We haven’t recorded anything for about two years now. I think by the time we’ve recorded it will have been three years. It’s a long time. But even before the last 7”, we were practicing less than we used to anyway… it’s not been a bad thing because we’ve been able to spend more time on the songs, but it is frustrating when you want to get on with it. We’ll do the LP next year and play some gigs, and that’ll probably be it. Call it a day.

W: At the end of the day, it’s been since 2010, hasn’t it, so it’s a long time in anyone’s life.

Dave Gooch

J: It’s one of those things where it’s the level of commitment and effort to keep it going, it’s difficult to maintain when you’re not doing anything and can’t practice very often. Sam’s doing other bands, we’ve got other bands and those function more easily, so with Jackals we wanna go out in a good way, play some last gigs, have fun and leave it on a good note rather than letting it fizzle out entirely.

W: I’m not scratching the walls doing nothing because we have Midnight. We’ve got our own things, we wanna carry on doing bands.

NMG: Who’s in Midnight Parasite, how did it get started?

J: Neither of us were in that at the start. Pete, who drums, and Kyle, who plays guitar met on the internet somehow, because they both wanted to start a band. They practiced with each other maybe four or five times. I didn’t know Kyle at the time, but Pete asked me if I knew anyone in Norwich who wanted to play bass for it, so I just said I’ll do it, because I just figured it’d be a good way to practice bass. But the more we do, the more we go on, the more happy I am with the music. We started practicing last year around Christmas, wrote five or six songs. We didn’t need anyone to do vocals at that point because we were just writing. When it got to the point where we had to start looking I mentioned to Wes that we needed someone to do vocals if he’d be up for it, and that’s pretty much it. It didn’t happen by default, but he was the only person locally who we thought ‘oh yeah, that’d make sense’ about.

W: ‘Oh he likes the stuff’, you know what I mean? It’s sort of a niche band.

NMG: So Midnight Parasite just released a demo, and people seem to like it. What’s the plan next? More shows, more releases?

J: We’ve got loads of songs that we’re writing, the good thing about it is we’ve been able to practice almost every week since we started, so it’s quite productive. We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on, and we’re gonna record… next year? We’ll see where we are in a few months and let that decide what we do. Probably a seven inch or something, or record five, six, seven songs and figure out what we want to do with them.

W: It’s good as well because Pete seems to have been like… working on it for the last 25 years? He comes in with riffs he’d written on his acoustic guitar or something. Everyone’s coming to the table with something. You’ve [Jack] written some songs, Kyle has, Pete has… I haven’t, but…

J: It’s a good thing, everyone’s having their own ideas, we put it together, and it’s a bit different to what it started out as, but we’ve constantly got stuff going on.

NMG: Jack – what’s going on with Sonic Order at the moment? You recorded a new 7” a while back?

J: Yeah, we’re just waiting for it to come out. Nothing really interesting in terms of the reason why it’s been held up. It’s coming out on two labels, one’s from Zagreb, called Doomtown, these guys Carlo and Mihael, both people I’ve known for a while. And there’s another guy, Skunk, from Norway, who runs a label called Byllepest. It’ll be out next year.

NMG: So more shows to go with that?

J: Well, Jack, the guitar player, lives in Canada now. He moved out there six months ago?

W: He came back recently and stuff, but he’s in Toronto, or a little bit out of Toronto.

J: So he’s there. But the thing is, we weren’t really a band for long enough to make a big deal out of splitting up or anything. We’re gonna see – if he stays out there, then that’ll be it. But he comes back to England on and off, so there’s always the option we could play gigs when he’s back, do a tour here and there.

NMG: Is the name Sonic Order an Omegas reference?

J: I think it was. It was one of those things where we were just looking at song names because we couldn’t think of anything good. We had a couple of ideas of our own that weren’t very good… at all.

NMG: I don’t think I’d ever heard the Omegas until I listened to their song Sonic Order because I saw it online and went, ‘ah!’

J: Yeah, it wasn’t a tribute or whatever. I think they’re really good, but it was just us looking at song names and choosing one. A pretty lazy way to do it, for when you can’t think of anything cool. I will say that pretty much all the good band names have been taken now, there’s nothing left. You just have to stick with something that doesn’t sound awful. Just put a couple of words together and hope it’s not embarrassing.

W: It sort of varies how successful that can be sometimes. I always think of the Simpsons, the B Sharps bit. When I have to explain that my band’s called Jackals or Midnight Parasite, I just sort of say ‘it was funny at the time’. Six years later you’re fucked.

NMG: It’s a lot nicer than saying you’re in a band called Shower Boys. That was an in-joke for us, because we were gonna do a joke band, but then I started writing serious songs…

J: If you can’t think of a cool band name just think of something you’re not embarrassed to tell someone. If you can get that far I think that’s a start. If you’ve got a real cool band name, that’s good, but…

W: Just put Dis- in front of it, you’re sorted.

NMG: Yeah. Dishower Boys, that’d be totally normal. So with the different bands you’ve been in, how does the creative process differ?

J: Jackals has changed, really, from what it used to be. Now Sam’s writing a lot of the stuff at home.

W: He’s got Garageband on his phone and he just… does it on the toilet at work.

J: He’ll do the riffs at home and then fit the drums around it… whenever he’s got five minutes. He’ll bring that to us, and at practice we’ll kind of put it all together, add the bass, the drums. The songs often change as we do this. I write lots of lyrics for songs, and once we’ve got a finished track I’ll look through the different ideas I had and work out which one fits which song. That’s pretty much Jackals innit.

NMG: You mentioned Midnight Parasite, that that’s three different people writing songs and putting them together.

J: It started off that Kyle wrote them all, the first three or four songs Kyle had written and demoed himself, with drums and everything. As it’s gone on, I’ve been suggesting things, or he’ll have a riff and we’ll work from there, change things. Because we practice a lot it’s easier, because it’s all fresh in your mind and you can change it. And Wes has got the lyrics once we’re fairly set on a structure.

W: And as it goes on it gets easier to tell someone oh, I think you should tweak that.

J: Usually with Jackals it’s like telling Sam to keep stuff simple… I was talking to him the other day and he said he liked bands that will just repeat two riffs for a whole song, so he likes that, but he finds it hard to do that himself. So sometimes he needs to be told, just keep playing that bit, because it sounds good like that.

W: With every band I’ve been in, the creative process always feels roughly the same.

NMG: I suppose it differs depending on the genre, and who’s involved.

J: For me if I’m in a band I want to have say in how it sounds… but as a vocalist you have less involvement in the structure of the songs. With Midnight Parasite it’s the first time I’ve played bass in a band, and I’ve been contributing more of my own ideas from the start. You get an idea for a song and you can take it to someone more musically minded, and they add in stuff you might not think of and you can then learn through that. I usually write stuff that’s very simple and then tweak it with others. With the effect I play the bass through it’s sort of… grumbling… I could be playing anything really…

NMG: Now, the big questions. How do you think current events – Brexit, Trump’s political ascendency – is going to affect DIY punk, not just in terms of the music, but it terms of the organisation, the logistics, the distribution.

J: First of all, I’ve talked to people about this already, and I’ve found it really irritating and infuriating, how in the aftermath of it people had that detached approach of saying ‘oh at least we’ll get some good music out of it’.

NMG: Oh yeah, I’m not trying to say that, that it’s this wonderful thing. I think it will change the landscape a bit.

J: I think for a lot of politically aware punk bands, this is a worrying development, in terms of the rise of the far right, but if that’s the only thing someone gets annoyed about, America having a bad president, I wouldn’t really wanna hear that person’s opinion on politics. The only bands I think will gain political mileage out of Trump is bands like NOFX. Ultimately in terms of these developments it’s best to see them as indicative of a worrying shift. The political landscape has changed, but it’s a development of the way the world’s been going, and the way the world’s been for a long time. People are exploiting things which were already there.

NMG: I’m interested in the way punk reacts to the far right, but I feel like the Brexit thing is going to change the distribution of punk, the way records can be traded and sold.

J: It’s gonna be more expensive. But it’s still pretty open in terms of what could actually happen. There’s a lot of ways it could go, but the terms on which it’s going to happen and what the long term effects are going to be is uncertain. Maybe some have a better idea than me, but I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Ultimately as much as I have massive reservations about the EU, for bands, the idea that you can tour mainland Europe without any sort of hassle, just go out and do it, might be in danger. I’d hesitate to call it the end of open borders, since they were only open under certain circumstances for certain people.

W: In terms of the far right, I’ve seen a lot of people who think that what they do in the punk scene exists only in the punk scene, and don’t really see it in the grand scheme of things. They’re aping the right. I’ve had to turn down artwork requests for some bands because I don’t think they’ve understood the implications of what they’ve asked me to do. It opens doors for certain people to come in. I’m seeing people at shows who I’ve seen on social media with swastikas in their houses. And with Brexit and Trump and all this other stuff; now the fascists are feeling quite bold. Often when people object, the PC thought police thing gets brought up a lot, and all the social justice warrior fucking crap. But basically, I don’t want to be around people who are alright with nationalism and racism. That’s what it boils down to.

J: With the far right, you give them space to occupy, and they’ll occupy more. I think what we do culturally matters and can have an impact, and the current political situation makes the need for uncompromisingly anti-fascist music and culture all the more vital. There are people in the US and the UK and around the world in bands that have a large degree of social capital and influence on other people. For people to not use that in a positive way, I find that very frustrating. The difference between bands I’m ambivalent about and bands that I’m excited by is whether they use that scene credibility, or whatever they’ve got, for good; to encourage people to think about things and take action. 

NMG: Well that sort of leads into the last question. If there are any truly effective ways, how can DIY performers, groups, promoters, scenes and such resist against the far right?

J: It’s a really old discussion I think; since punk’s existed people have been asking how, as a subculture or a counter-culture, it can have an effect on the wider world. As I said, I genuinely believe it can, especially when people are able use the power that punk gives them to do positive things and put things on the agenda. For example at Static Shock Weekend, Strutter were absolutely raging but between songs made it explicit that one of their songs is about white privilege. Their singer’s in a cool band that people like, in fact three or four bands that people really do listen to, and is using that platform to challenge people. Punk can sometimes, if it’s done well, be an escape for marginalised people, so if you can use your own ability within the scene to make it a more inclusive place and elevate marginalised voices that’s also an important thing.

NMG: In the past few years it seems like punk’s become better for that. There seems to be more discussion about it.

J: It’s one of those things where for all the bad, there’s really genuine people using it in a really good way.

NMG: When G.L.O.S.S. initially came out that was exciting because it seemed to draw a lot of people into not just the music but also the idea that it can be radical.

J: I think the biggest thing for punk right now, as far as its vitality goes, is in the expansion of the range of voices that you can hear. Not to say that there’s not a long way to go, as for some people women in punk is still seen as an anomaly, but in a lot of scenes there are so many women that are just destroying the idea that punk is for and by men. Before the Static Shock aftershow at the Unicorn there was a fundraiser for a Decolonise Fest, and these things are happening everywhere, not just in London. If marginalised people are able to find power and a voice for themselves through punk, that’s a good thing in itself, beyond debates about the effect punk has in an activist sense. There’s bands like Haram, for example.

NMG: The New York scene is very interesting because of the different languages in use – Haram singing in Arabic, La Misma in Portuguese, Nomad in Japanese.

J: Punk’s always been an international thing. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so vital, it brings together people from very different backgrounds.

NMG: There is this internationalism in punk now, the way the New York and London and Barcelona scenes connect together and share ideas and members. But also just the way you can go to a DIY gig in Britain and see like, a Malaysian grindcore band being supported by local bands, that’s something special in itself.

J: It’s always been the case that punk’s had that international thing, and while the world is becoming a more fragmented place in some ways, in terms of ease of travel it has got smaller maybe, so it’s still viable for people to do this.

NMG: It’s not as time consuming to keep up with internationally now – there’s less writing letters, making cassettes, mailorder and the like than there was in say the 80s.

James Rollo

W: Even though it is all there at the click of a button, you still have to do it… even if the means are there, it’s still an effort, and it’s still worth doing. If you really want to find out some bands, maybe message somebody, get a tape off them… so some of those elements are still there. But there’s no point romanticising the 80s and saying oh, now it’s not like that, so it’s not genuine.

J: I can understand where that comes from, but at the same time I think with anyone who’s actively involved in punk now, you really do get those moments that are actively utopian. It’s less necessary for certain people, and people’s experiences of these kind of things vary, but where it’s done right I think punk can be a very unifying experience, where you can break barriers. You can look at the bigger picture and ask how does punk effect the real world, but if it gives people an experience of escape, that’s good in itself and if it gives people experience in organising, that’s something they can then use in the wider world to make tangible differences. Like building DIY spaces, it shows you a new way of working with people different to the one you’re taught about. You can show someone a DIY space where everyone works together and contributes to make it happen, purely because they realise the value of it, and use it to show them that collective organisation can work, that people can organise and make something happen. There’s elements of conflict or whatever too, of course, but there’s a lot of positive examples.

NMG: Well that’s about everything. Any inspirational words for the kids?

J: Oh shit.

NMG: You can just say no.

W: ‘Smash to fuck the fucking system’.

J: That’s not actually the lyrics though…

W: It is! He’s not doing it but it is the lyrics!

NMG: Oh. Discharge. Right.

J: On the recording he said ‘it’s a messed up fucked up fucking system’ which is bad, and then they realised that ‘smash to fuck the fucking system’ is much better. I guess the lesson to be learned from that is review your previous work, and that you can build on your previous mistakes.

W: Demo a lot.

J: Punk’s a learning experience…

W: Punk’s about… refining what you’ve done under a microscope until it’s devoid of any originality.

J: And you hate your own work. Nah. It’s about learning, getting better.

W: I hope that was alright mate!

The bands:

https://jackalshc.bandcamp.com/

https://midnightparasite.bandcamp.com/releases

https://sonicorder.bandcamp.com/

Jack’s photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/69364653@N03/

Wes’ art:

http://getinthefuckingvan.tumblr.com/

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, a shorter version was originally published in No More Gigs issue 11, December 2015]

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NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO RESTORATIONS

Restorations are a band from Philadelphia, whose style is tough to pin down. Their roots are in punk, but their sound draws not just from punk but indie, classic rock, folk, post-hardcore, and more. Since forming they’ve released three full lengths, and received plenty of critical acclaim. We sent them some questions after their show in Norwich in July, but a number of things delayed the interview from being completed until late December, when we got some answers from Jon Loudon.

First off, who does what in Restorations, and has anyone in the group got any other projects?

Jon – Guitar/main vocals
Dave – Lead guitar/backup vocals
Ben – Guitar/backup vocals/keyboards
Jeff – Drums
Dan – Bass/backup vocals

Dave performs solo as Manhattan Side Project. Jeff also drums for Ma Jolie and Belgrade. Ben occasionally plays keyboards in Palmas. Dan was previously in Dirty Tactics, Highlites, and The Riot Before.

How did the band form?

Our old bands had run out of steam and we were looking to do a low-key local project in our downtime. Thanks to the internet, we’re now a full-time touring band.

How and why would you say the band’s sound has changed, as you’ve moved from record to record? A lot of elements present on the first EP are still there in the third record, but there’s also been a gradual evolution.

Originally, we didn’t really have any clear direction, just a few main influences. Over time, we’ve found what actually works from that combination and started trying new things with the formula. Trying to make this one continual thought over a couple of albums.

How do the lyrics get written? What influences them, in terms of other writers, and events or stories that inspire them?

Though most of the band is collaborative, I do all of the lyric writing. I do lots of quick/short lyric writing over the course of the album-writing process and then start to put them together thematically as I notice patterns coming together.

These songs are mainly about the experiences of watching the city you were born in change over time.

Other lyric writers that I love are Bill Callahan, John K. Samson, Mark Kozelek, and John Darnielle.

What’s ‘Civil Inattention’ about exactly? Or to put it differently, what caused it to be written?

That song is about the commute to work at an early hour and the time a guy OD’d in front of my old house.

What’s it like playing in Philadelphia right now? There seems to be a lot of cool stuff going on out there.

Philly’s wonderful at the moment. It’s a very supportive and social scene. Seems like everybody’s got a project at the moment and everyone’s pitching in to make sure they don’t blow it. Great energy all around.

And how was playing Norwich? Watching you sure was good.

Norwich was one of our favorite shows from that tour. Just a great room and the staff and crowd were all exactly what you want from a punk show. One of the more positive experiences we’ve had overseas for sure. It’s a surreal experience rolling into a town for the first time and it feels like home.

Finally, what has the band got planned for the future?

We did a good 5 months of touring since LP3 came out. Time to chill out, take 5, and go back to the practice space for a bit and work on #4.

 [Interview conducted by Ned Samuel over summer and autumn 2015, originally published in No More Gigs issue 10, March 2016]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO RESTORATIONS

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

Recently, Andrew Jackson Jihad played the Owl Sanctuary and it was brilliant. After the show, Ned and myself got talking to Sean Bonnette and gave him a copy of issue 6, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview with us. A few days later, I emailed the SideOne Dummy press agent and organised an interview. Ned and I thought up some questions for Sean and I sent them off. Here is the product. The image was taken from AJJ’s facebook.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m a huge fan, and that your gig at the Owl Sanctuary was awesome. What would you say is the difference between playing a small, intimate venue like that, compared to a larger venue?

Hey! Thanks! On a technical level I would say that sound is a big difference. In smaller clubs it’s a challenge to be dynamic, to go from a whisper to a cacophony. Banter is funner and easier in smaller rooms. I enjoy both experiences.

How did Andrew Jackson Jihad start?

Ben and I worked together at a coffee shop around the time he got an upright bass from his dad and I started getting confident about my songs.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Wherever I find it and more importantly wherever it finds me. I find some of my favorite influences outside of music; skateboarders like Rodney Mullen and Ari Shiffrin, visual artists like Suzanne Falk and Wayne White, authors like Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve become more observant of the processes of others over the past couple years. Thematically I am inspired by childhood, mental health, violence, faith, etc…

Given that your lyrics are so emotive, there must have been times when fans have told you how much they have been affected by them. Have any of these stories ever stuck with you, or changed the way you see your own songs? If so, what was it?

All of the stories stick with me, but out of respect I’d rather not divulge any of them.

What have you found the reception of the new album (Christmas Island) to be, and why did you choose to expand the band?

I feel like it went over really well! I think it really helped people understand us. We expanded the band for the knife man tours to do justice to some of the electric songs, and we kept rolling with it because it’s very very fun and Preston, Deacon and Mark are brilliant.

Given that Knife Man seems to have the overarching concept of fear and Can’t Maintain deals largely with depression, would you say that Christmas Island has a single concept? If so, what is it?

Grief.

You often write songs that are very explicitly personal, but you also sometimes write songs that seem to be written in the persona of someone prone to extreme, senseless violence, like “Getting Naked and Playing with Guns” and “Bad Bad Things”. Where do these songs come from? What inspires them, what do they represent?
I wrote Bad Bad Things when I was really happy, no clue why. “Getting Naked” was an empathy experiment, for in real life I am the neighbor kid.

With songs like “Temple Grandin”, “Do, Re, And Me” and “Angel Of Death”, Christmas Island seems to be a lot more surreal than previous albums. Did the larger band offer more creative freedom, or were they just the lyrics that came to you?

The larger band does offer more creative freedom, but they’re not the source of the surrealism. The lyrics come out the way they come out, the less control I have over it, the better. My favorite state to write in is one of feverish abandon; control relinquished, mind clear, without any awareness or care of what anyone will think about the songs.

The song “Linda Ronstadt” seems particularly emotive and personal. Would you say that the song deals with stoicism in the face of depression, and was it inspired by your personal reaction to a piece of art?

That song is the truest one I’ve ever written, and you nailed it. It’s about the stoicism breaking down and giving way to validation.

ajj

Did Randy’s House [as Referenced in the song “Randy’s House”] actually burn down? Is he doing okay now?

Yes and yes!

How did the European tour go? What made you choose to do a separate solo tour in Europe, then meet up with the band for the UK?

Mainly it was for the dynamics. I love playing solo every once in a while, it gives me a chance to do whatever I want with complete autonomy. I like not having to adhere to a set list every couple tours. It was perfect to do the solo tour before the UK run because I got to “center my chi” and immediately reconnect with AJJ with a clear head and a hunger for volume.

What are your plans for the future? Got any tours and releases lined up?

We have a mess of US festivals this summer, in September the almighty Smith Street Band is bringing us and the Sidekicks to Australia, then I’m hoping to record a new album around the beginning of next year.

Finally, can you think of any new bands that really stand out and that you think we should check out?

I’d recommend Rozwell Kid, they’re possibly the most flawless rock band I’ve ever heard. R. Ariel is awesome, she rides vibes really hard and touches on many unspeakable emotions. Hard Girls, as I’m sure you just saw at the Owl Sanctuary, are incredible. Dogbreth and Diners are a sweet pair of sister bands, really beautiful pop music.

Thanks for doing this!

Thanks for having me!!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, with questions contributed by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

I caught up with Mike, guitarist of the hard-to-describe post-punk/indie group Hard Girls after they played with Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Owl Sanctuary. Also worth noting is Hard Girls have also collaborated with Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Common Rider in NMG favourites Classics of Love, and Ned and Mike were both fucked when the interview was recorded. Here’s the interview in all its drunken glory, with some of the ums, ers and ahs, as well as my intermittent howls of laughter, taken out. The image was taken from Hard Girls’ Facebook page.

Okay, so, um, we’re rolling. So I guess first of all, who’s in Hard Girls, and when did they start?

My name’s Mike, I play guitar, I sing on some of the songs, Morgan plays bass, he sings on some of the songs, and Max plays drums. We started in 2006, 2007? Around there. Max and Morgan were in one band in San Jose, and I was in a different one, we shared a practice space.

Were some of you in Shinobu?

Yeah, I’m in Shinobu!

Oh! I just remember like old Asian Man [Records] catalogues and thought ‘hey! Shinobu!’ [I don’t remember what purpose this sentence served] Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Oh cool, thanks man. Yeah Shinobu and Max and Morgan’s old band shared a practice space together, then pretty much everybody but us left and we started this band.

That’s fair enough. Do you have any other side things, I dunno like, you’ve got Classics of Love, and Shinobu’s still going.

Yeah uh Max and Morgan play in a band called Marathon States with, uh, [he was prompted by a woman sat at the merch desk] Jason Thinh from Short Round, and I played on Jeff Rosenstock’s solo record –

Oh yeah, that was really good!

Oh cool!

Uh, We Cool?

Yeah, exactly!

I know what it’s called, it’s just got a question mark so I had to be like, [questioningly] we cool?

Oh yeah… [questioningly] we cool?

Yeah, I’m just having a crisis of confidence right now.

Haha, that’s alright, me too. I always have it! [unintelligible talking]

Yeah, it’s a constant state, isn’t it.

Yeah, uh, and then, pretty much everyone who recorded on that, also recorded on Dan Adriano’s new record. So, we’re getting back in… we basically leave here in a couple more days, then we fly out to the states, then Hard Girls is doing a US tour, then right afterwards I’m flyinf out to do a tour with Jeff Rosenstock and Dan Adriano. So that kind of covers the gamit of it.

Okay. I guess it’s kind of a generic question, but what are the influences for Hard Girls?

Um… Max and Morgan are very much into metal music. We were all initially very into punk music, that was like, what brought us all together, pretty much. The things that we really agree on are Guided by Voices, Television, Wire, the Weakerthans, and then after that, it’s just kind of like, what everybody is into, sort of.

hard girls

Fair enough. How’s touring? Are you touring England, or Europe, or?

Just the UK right now… it’s been since the third, so we did the London show on the third, we’ve been travelling around then the last show is on the twentieth in Dublin. Fly back and we go straight out, drive to Dallas and start the next tour, pretty much, so it’s like, we have a day off then we drive for three days to start our US tour.

[I was faintly terrified at this point] That’s pretty intense… Um… you’ve made some comments about UK food… I don’t entirely blame you, what are you making of the, uh, cuisine?

Well. Fish and chips are what I order normally in America, and I have no problem finding them here, which is kind of-

Yeah, it’s the place to be, really. You love fish, you love chips…

Yeah, I fuckin’ love both of them! It goes together well, and then uh, but like, Max and Morgan are more adventurous than me, they find stuff everywhere, and we’ve gone to a lot of grocery stores too, just ending up in like, a Tesco or wherever getting salad and bread, just basic sort of stuff. But otherwise like, kebab, Indian food, chip shops, we’ve kind of had it all, it’s every night.

That’s the dream. Touring around with good bands, and eating lots of takeways…

Yeah! It’s great! It’s good! Awesome!

Are you planning to do any more recordings? Er…

Yeah, uh-

Are you, er, ah… Sorry I’m interrupting.

Yeah, me too!

Let’s scratch that from the record, pretend it never happened. What are your plans for the future?

We’re doing that next tour, we get back, then, probably in January, February, recording the next album. Get back, tour… I have one more tour then we spend a couple of months working on it.

Okay, cool. Great. Are you on any label, or?

The last one was on Asian Man,

Fuckin’ Asian Man! Ah! Sorry.

They’re like hometown heroes!

I’ve never met Mike Park and I just feel like I’m friends with him.

He’s amazing!

He is amazing!

He’s totally amazing. He’s the best! He’s a fucking weirdo, he’s an amazing weirdo! He’s one of the best people I know.

Is it okay to record you and [write down] that you called him a weirdo?

No please!

Then I will!

I insist you take note of it. He’s amazing. He’s both his public persona* and his private persona at the same time, and they’re not different at all, but they’re entirely different in some ways. He’s great. Asian Man is like our home, kind of.

I used to really want to be signed to Asian Man… now I’m in a powerviolence band, and I don’t think that will happen, but anyway. How’d you end up touring with Andrew Jackson Jihad?

Shinobu played with them like, close to ten years ago. So I’ve known Sean and Ben for almost a decade at this point. They played at the practice space that we used to share in San Jose, between Shinobu and Pteradon [Max and Morgan’s aforementioned old band] probably six, seven years ago… Probably more than that actually, probably seven or eight years ago. So we’ve known them for a long time, we’re kind of just like, old friends, Phoenix and San Jose have similar music scenes, and they’re also on Asian Man, and we all kind of like agree on… what music should like? Kinda.

Fair enough. Do you have any last… ‘any last words’ sounds like I’m about to shoot you. Do you have anything to say to the kids?

… Not really.

Hahaha! Yeah they’re a bunch of arseholes, alright, well um, thanks a lot for doing this!

Cool man, yeah! Thank you.

* Mike Park’s public persona, for the uninitiated, is that of a joyous man, nice and enthusiastic to the extent of being slightly bizarre. How is someone supposed to be so lovely? In this economy?

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO THE NORWICH SOUP MOVEMENT

nsm

This month, I had a chance to catch up with Chip from the Norwich Soup Movement. I sent her a bunch of questions and she answered. Because that’s how interviews work.

To start, what can you tell me about The Norwich Soup Movement? What inspired you to start it and when? Did you encounter any trouble when you were starting out?

NSM is an on-street soup kitchen set up in August 2013, by myself and one of my best and like-minded friends, Amy. The aim was to help those that just don’t have the luxury that most of us do – eating food in our own homes. We are living in a well-off city in the year 2015. There should be no need for soup kitchens, however, the 40+ people that we serve each night tell a different story. We started it with a hope that we’d be able to show a bit of love and humanity to those that have often been forgotten about by society. What we have found, is that a great deal of Norwich are behind us and want the same as we do; we’ve had so much support. We didn’t have any trouble in setting it up – other than the fact we didn’t really know where to begin! We started with a tin can drive and a generous cash donation from a good friend and kind of muddled our way through. We knew there were other organisations and charities out there doing similar things, but all we could see that more help was needed. I think that spurred us on and we just got on with it, with no real plan!
What did you make of last month’s (15th April) March for the Homeless?

The March for the Homeless was a great success, I thought. It started out in Dublin a few years back and I think this year was the first year it went worldwide, with marches all over the UK, the US and Canada. A friend of mine, Elle, approached me at the start of the year as she had heard about it and wanted to make sure we had representation here in Norwich. I thought it was a great idea and obviously something that we should be involved with so I was fully behind it. Elle had never done anything like this before and neither had I. She did an amazing job, talking to press and spreading the word to make sure we had a good crowd on the day. I turned up not really knowing what to expect – it was a weekday lunchtime and with Facebook events, you never know how many people on the ‘accepted’ list will actually turn up. It was a good crowd and a great atmosphere, there were stalls giving information on their causes, musicians playing and loads of people with banners waiting to march through Norwich. The march itself went really well, we certainly got some attention and I hope it got the message across. I heard from a friend working at the council that we were heard from their offices, so it would have been pretty hard to ignore! It felt great to be part of something that was happening at the same time all over the world, and also to know we’re not alone in our fight for an end to homelessness. We had people marching alongside us that we serve at soup runs – it was just really about everybody getting involved and standing up for the same thing, and that can never be a bad thing. A real community vibe and definitely something we’ll be part of again (in an ideal world there wouldn’t have to be a March for the Homeless ever again, but hey, hello there Tory government).

What have some of your favourite or most memorable moments been so far?

Favourite moments! I don’t know if I can choose! Sometimes it’s so, so hard, this is something you take on voluntarily and I don’t think I thought it would ever be so hard or time consuming. So yeah, there are days when you’ve been at work all day and the last thing you want to do is cook for 40 people when you get home, or answer lots of emails or work your way through a big to-do list. This Friday just gone was a great example. Lovely sunny day, all my friends texting me with fun plans of what was happening after work, but I had a soup run to do – really wasn’t in the mood to do loads of cooking in a hot kitchen! But obviously I would never ditch it, so we went out as normal. After all the food had been served, a young girl approached me, she wanted to say goodbye as she was moving away, and also to thank us for the last year. In her words “I’d have died without you guys feeding me, so would others.” That seriously hit home and made me remember the why we do this in the first place. I’ll honestly never forget that. It totally put how I’d been feeling earlier into perspective. We’ve had loads of great feedback and lovely comments along the way but that one just really stood out. We generally have a really good time on soup runs, there’s a lot of laughs and chats with regulars and volunteers – it’s great to see the team grow and people just getting on. I think people maybe see a massive difference between the homeless and the not. This to me, just helps show people we’re not that different at all. When volunteers come for their first time, they get that. Constant best moment.

I understand that recently there was a photography exhibition inspired by NSM. How did that go, and are there any other plans for similar art projects/exhibitions in the works?

A friend of mine, Guy Wilkinson, got in touch last year with an idea to come down and take some shots of the soup run in progress, he’s a great photographer and I thought it would be cool to have some shots to show people what happens on a soup run. I think after that first night, Guy realised there was more to it than one night’s worth of pictures, so he asked to come back and maybe put some pictures together for an exhibition. Guy was really enthusiastic about the project and wanted to capture NSM from all angles, including food storage area and my kitchen while I was prepping for a run. And on the runs themselves, he was flitting about with his camera but I didn’t really see what he was taking pictures of. Guy came on soup runs over three months and then set to work booking a venue, getting the pictures printed and publicising the event. I didn’t really know what to expect; I turned up to opening night at Stew, and was honestly overwhelmed – it’s really hard to put into words. It was like seeing NSM through someone else’s eyes and it felt huge. I think that was probably when I realised how much we’ve achieved and I actually felt really proud for the first time. It was a bizarre experience having people I didn’t know turning up to see what we do. My favourite part was the portraits of volunteers and the homeless Guy had displayed all on the same wall, it was so powerful, again, showing we’re not all that different from one another. Maybe it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments! But it just worked so well. We had loads of great feedback and people signing up to volunteer after the exhibition. It was truly beautiful and definitely one of my favourite moments ever. Guy is hoping to make the images into a book in the future and I’m hoping he’ll come back and take some more pictures one day. We don’t have any other similar projects like this in the pipeline, it was probably a bit of a one-off, albeit a bloody wonderful one. The pictures should be up on our Facebook page soon, so if anyone missed the exhibition they’ll be able to have a look.

What can you tell me about the Aviva Community Fund project that both you and The People’s Picnic are involved in?

Well, at this stage, not a whole lot! Haha! The People’s Picnic are another group that do the same thing we do, they’ve been running a while longer than us and were really helpful to us when first started out, giving us advice about what to do and what to expect. We run at the same place on different nights so there’s as much help as possible throughout the week. Karen from the PP messaged me a few months back with an idea to start a hostel, for want of a better word. Did we want to team up? It’s something that Amy and I had discussed too, so the answer was a definite yes. We’ve met up and discussed what we’d like from the project. From the first 5 minutes of chatting, we all knew it was a case of ‘when’ and not if’ the hostel happened. We’re very determined! The subject of funding is something we’d talked about but not made much lots of progress on – we’re still in the very early planning stages after all – but then I was told about the Aviva Community Fund, and the chance of a £25,000 grant. There was no way I wasn’t going for it, planning stages or not. It’s basically down to the public to vote for the causes they think are most worthy of the money. We’re up against over 3,300 other worthwhile community projects, so it’s a scary time! The voting runs for 30 days until the 30th May, so we’re spamming hard! We plan to have an on-site kitchen and canteen, meaning no more serving on the streets and people can eat at tables in the warmth with their friends. We plan to open a café and charity shop, also on-site, where people can start getting back into work, and earn a wage, so they can start learning to support themselves again. We also want to have music and art rooms, where volunteers will teach people new skills or help to bring out confidence as people start to remember the person they were before they became homeless. We would like to offer rooms to people, to give them back their independence, while at the same time offering a wide range of support to help them on their journey back into employment and finding a home outside of the hostel. There wouldn’t be a timescale that people had to leave by, which would eliminate any fears of being moved on. We would link in with other services around Norwich to assist with substance misuse, mental health and criminal issues, ensuring people are supported from all angles. That’s the plan! We just hope we get the grant so we can move quickly.

Finally, how can people get involved with the movement?

The best way to get involved is to send us a message via the FB page, or soupysalvation@gmail.com, and let us know what you’d like to do, we can have a chat and get people signed up that way. We do three soup runs a week so there’s plenty of chances to volunteer and cook!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, originally published in No More Gigs issue 6, June 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO THE NORWICH SOUP MOVEMENT

No More Gigs speaks to Ray Gun

Ray Gun are a band from Margate in Thanet, who play indie rock which takes a lot of influence from punk and riot grrrl. They started quite recently and released their first EP, MAY THE BRIDGES I BURN LIGHT YOUR WAY, on Sexx Tapes. Ned Samuel speaks to them, and they give collective answers, in the manner of a sort of indie hive mind.

Who’s in Ray Gun?

Eoin, Harry, Jess, Paula.

How and when did the band get started?

We started playing together about 6 months ago. We met at the Tom Thumb, a small DIY venue Jess and Eo run in Margate. We bonded over the bar and the byo vinyl night.

What does the band draw on musically and lyrically? What’s the process for writing songs?

We are all in to quite different things musically, but some favourites are Big Black, Le Tigre, Shellac, Crass, Son House, Todd Rundgren, Bikini Kill, Pixies and PJ Harvey. Lyrically Jess is a bit of a magpie. She likes happening upon a sentence or a couple of words and then building the lyrics for a song around it. “I’m There Right Now” started with a line from David Lynch’s “Lost Highway”. Another song started from a piece of chalk graffiti on the beach, another from the “Riot Grrrl Manifesto”, another from a Point Horror book.

Our writing process is fairly evenly weighted and very collaborative. One of us will bring a riff to a rehearsal and then we’ll all contribute to it.

Are you Thanet natives, or did you move into the area recently?

Harry is a native, Paula moved down for Uni about four years ago. Jess and Eo moved down about two and a half years ago.

With more bands and venues appearing in Thanet, would you say there’s a local scene appearing? Or has that still not happened?

There’s definitely a local scene, with great bands emerging from it. But we need more! More spaces for people to play, more people picking up instruments.

What’s next for Ray Gun? Any plans for shows, touring, new releases?

We are writing this from the car, on route to play in Camden tonight. We are doing some more recording in June, supporting the lovely Fever Dream in July and playing our first festival – Forgotten Fields – in August. There’s whispers of a vinyl release … Fingers crossed!

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 6 in a slightly different form, June 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to Ray Gun

March for the Homeless and the Occupation of City Hall

Karl Howarth covers the recent protests about homelessness in Norwich and the subsequent occupation of City Hall by Class War.

On 15th of April, there was a nationwide day of action for the homeless population to try and show solidarity, as well as raise awareness of their plight. The ConDem government have been victimising the most vulnerable members of our society during their reign, and their austerity has caused thousands to lose their homes.

The Norwich March for the Homeless was organised as an event on Facebook collaboratively by Elle Joanna Jacobs and Zoe Rayner-Terror, as well as local soup kitchen organisations the People’s Picnic and the Norwich Soup Movement. These are both independent, grass-roots organisations founded in 2013.

In a statement concerning the march, the People’s Picnic had this to say:
“We recently attended the March for Homeless, it was great to see so many forward thinking individuals unite together to show support and raise awareness to the prevalent issues surrounding homelessness across the country. The subject is one that is either not often addressed in modern politics or portrayed in a negative light by the media so it is sometimes easy to forget that it could happen to any one of us, in fact we are just one pay check away in many instances. Homelessness is a complex issue with a multitude of depths, we have often found that providing a roof over somebodies head is just hitting the tip of the iceberg, similar to putting a plaster over a gaping wound. It may provide temporary relief but extra support is needed to ensure people do not fall back into a vicious cycle. A cycle which is very much kept in motion by the Conservative government through its abhorrent welfare sanctions and withdrawal of vital services. So for us it goes a lot deeper than simply handing out food to the hungry or fighting for the right to housing, it’s about developing relationships, taking the time to truly listen to people, and through doing this it enables us to build a stronger more autonomous community, one where we can help support and value each other. Additionally, I would have to say the most important factor to us is that we are now proud to call many of those who come to The People’s Picnic our friends.”

The march itself was great, if not a bit pleasant. Starting at the war memorial, we looped around the city centre, going via Castle Meadow before returning. There were a few cringe-worthy chants, and we marched on the pavement rather than the road, but I firmly believe that we did raise awareness of the realities of homelessness to local politicians and voters. Only a few political figures attended the march, including a couple of members of the council and Norwich’s very own Sheriff, William Armstrong, who I’m told “turned up off his own back”. He didn’t, I noticed, forget to bring his ostentatious gold chains that signify his high status, however. Also attending was Class War’s Norwich South candidate, David Peel, with whom we formed the “Kett County Class War” bloc. It was interesting to hear the classic “we’ve got to get rid of the rich” chant originating from somewhere other than behind our banner.

Ultimately, the march didn’t last very long, and we saw the hundred or so people disperse fairly quickly, leaving only the organiser’s stands, the Class War bloc and a few protesters. After a brief discussion, Class War decided to take the protest to City Hall in order to get the march’s message out to the people of Norwich. They successfully occupied the balcony, displaying the Kett County Class War banner over the railing, demanding through a loudspeaker an end to homelessness and an end to the rich.

Featured image

Transcribed from a video of the occupation, Peel said: “Homelessness in Norwich is a crime. Stop homelessness now! There are too many people in this city sleeping rough: not able to get food, not able to get shelter. It’s time for homelessness to stop. Homelessness is a crime because the rich buy up houses all over the country and leave them empty. They leave them empty while people sleep rough in the streets. And it is a crime to do that! It’s time we stopped the rich. It’s time we got rid of the rich, because the rich are in the way. The rich are ruining this country and the homeless, we the homeless, have paid the price! It’s time to stop!

“Class War stands for squatting! We don’t think we should sit down and wait for Labour or the Tories to build more houses, my god, we’ll be waiting for ever! We’d be dead before we get them. We need housing now. People are dying on the streets of this country: tens of thousands of people…” [at which point they were escorted off by police and security to the chorus of Class War and anti-police chants].

March for the Homeless and the Occupation of City Hall