Louis Harding has in the past decade been in countless beloved punk bands, including The Shitty Limits, Good Throb, and The Love Triangle. Ned Samuel speaks with him.
Hi! Yes, there are a few more. I am currently also playing guitar in Personnel and drums in No, Slur and Kichigai. Concurrently to The Shitty Limits I also played bass in a band called The Sceptres. After the Sceptres broke up, me and the singer started Good Throb.
Does being in several bands, with the members of those bands also having other bands, get difficult?
I don’t think it ever gets difficult. No band ever takes priority as far as I can see, so when it comes to organising band things like gigs or tours or practice or recordings its usually a case of working out when everyone is free. Gig offers and things like that usually work on a first come first served basis. I’m not that well organised so it can get confusing sometimes! I had a really interesting conversation 3 years ago with the Mexican band Los Monjo – one of the best 5 bands I think I’ve ever seen – about how in Europe it is common for punks to play in a lot of different bands, but for them, they could only ever be in one band together, and playing in other groups was out of the question. It really struck me that maybe playing in a lot of bands is a bit self-indulgent and non-committal. I would love to be in a group where you lived just to play in that one band and had ultimate belief in it. But for me, I think the idea of playing in lots of groups is about exploring punk as its own culture, and doing creative things in small groups with lots of people. I think that that is an empowering thing to do with your life. I also feel really inspired that some of my best friends play in bands that I think are incredible (such as Frau, DiE, Diat, Efialtis, Cianuro), and I find it humbling at times that these people want to make music with me.
I hear a lot of different terms and comparisons being thrown around in regard to The Love Triangle’s sound, so I think it’s worthwhile to ask this generic question: what are the band’s influences?
Haha! What comparisons do you hear? I would be interested to know! The Love Triangle began under slightly odd circumstances – it was just me and josh (the bass player) in a practice room trying to figure out how to use an 8 track recorder. So we wrote some songs very quickly and recorded some cover songs. There wasn’t much thought put into what the songs should sound like stylistically or what bands we should cover – it was just ‘let’s write a song now, we have 30 minutes. What song is an easy cover song to play?’. That’s how the first 3 tapes were made. We then asked Tim to play drums for us, so that we could turn our practice room recording project band into something that could play gigs. To answer your question as best I can, there weren’t any specific ‘lets do a band that souds like __’ type influences, but all three of us come from a background of playing in DIY hardcore punk bands, and at the time were interested in 70’s punk, proto punk, 60s punk, mod, soul and post-punk. Conversations about the sound of The Love Triangle that me and Josh had in those early days revolved around how we felt our songs linked the smart poppiness of bands like the The Buzzcocks and Protex with the trashy vibe of bands like Crime and The Electric Eels. We also talked a lot about Australian Murder Punk. I think that all this talk was more ‘reverse influence’ as in trying to think about what we had created rather than attempting to co-opt a style.
The comparisons I heard were Buzzcocks, Nuggets, Wipers and garage punk*.
The Buzzcocks comparison is pretty fair I guess and ‘garage punk’ is a broad term, but I really don’t think the Love Triangle sounds like the Wipers. But then I don’t think anyone sounds like The Wipers!
In a time where big tours seem less popular – particularly among DIY bands – The Love Triangle did a seven week tour of Europe. How did it go?
The tour was great! It was a difficult thing to organise, but I’m glad that we did it! It was totally an adventure and I’m proud that we made it happen through our own efforts and with the help of friends, rather than have someone book it for us. The Love Triangle rarely plays because Josh has lived in Berlin for the last four years, so it was nice to have a chance to play a lot and also go see him and hang out every day without any daily life type pressures. We played with some great bands, and broke the tour into chunks where we toured with different bands, all of whom are good friends of our (PUFF, the Splits, The #1s and Fluffers). It sounds like a clichéd thing to say, but really the hardest thing about it was coming home and getting back into normal life – the Love Triangle tour sat in the middle of an extensive period of touring for me where I was on tour with No and Good Throb beforehand, and then drove the Frau/Asesinato del Poder tour immediately afterwards. So with the exception of two weeks in May I was constantly moving from the end of March until the middle of August. So when I came back home I think I went a little crazy.
The best show was probably in Barcelona, and the worst was Amsterdam.
The Love Triangle have done a lot of releases (six tapes and two EPs, at my count) that were tape and vinyl only, and are now sold out widely unavailable. Are there any plans to digitise them, or re-release them?
There aren’t any plans to do this. Whilst I appreciate the sentiment of what you’re saying, I don’t feel that The Love Triangle is a band that many people are interested in, and what’s more I’m not sure the tapes are that worth listening to! If I was inundated with emails asking to hear the tapes I would make them available. As it happens I get about 2 emails a year asking about this material and I usually will send any MP3s if I can find them.
I have a cassette player but many people don’t, and I hear a lot of people critiquing the format. Why cassettes? And would you say there’s a benefit to the obscurity tape-only releases give?
OK! There are a few different parts to your question. In response to the first part about people critiquing tapes – they should either just buy a fucking tape deck or piss off out of punk! Tape decks are cheap to buy second hand (I have two, both of which cost me £10). Tapes are cheap and easy to produce with a quick turnaround to get professionally made. I find it gobsmacking that people interested in punk and DIY culture would bellyache about a physical format that you can produce in your bedroom at low cost in bespoke numbers. Tapes are empowering, and I suspect people just whinge about them because they see them as some sort of continuation of the hipster-vintage-pop up shop-retro fetish continuum. This kind of cultural bitchiness is not something I am interested in.
This kind of answers the second part of your question – we made Love Triangle tapes because it was the easiest way to make a physical release. Like – one day we were recording our stupid songs in a practice room, the next day we were cutting out sleeves and dubbing tapes. It was exciting and fun to do so that’s why we did it.
I’m not sure I understand the last part of your question, but I think some of our songs suited being on tapes rather than records – like we went to record 7 songs, the best three went on our first single, the others all went on a tape… I think its nice to separate visibly the output that we want people to pick up and investigate if that makes any sense?
Some of The Love Triangle’s lyrics are very juvenile, whereas some are more intellectual, though never in an overbearing way. Is The Love Triangle more of a tongue-in-cheek, irreverent band, or do you want to be taken seriously?
Honestly, I don’t care how people perceive the band. The lyrics are sometimes about serious things and sometimes they are not. They are mostly just attempts at being honest about something, but usually have something that I find funny in them to myself. I think that some of the songs have good lyrics and some have bad ones, but this doesn’t really correlate to whether the song is about something juvenile or not – for example, some of the worst lyrics I wrote were for the song ‘growing pain’ which was about my friend telling me she had cancer, but some of the best lyrics I wrote were for the song ‘tangle’ (the only lyrics printed on the inside of the LP) which I think really accurately describes the feeling of having an intense and emotional hangover.
I don’t think we’re any more or less irreverent than any punk band should be.
Something I noticed about The Love Triangle’s LP Clever Clever was the many mentions of toast. Intentional motif, or coincidence?
This is actually coincidence! There wasn’t any intention with lyrical motif for the LP, but I was conscious that I wanted the lyrics to be good for the album so I put time and effort into them. I’m not sure all the lyrics are good, but I tried hard (ish) in comparison to the tossed off nature that a lot of our previous songs were written. I suppose there are a number of domestic themes running through the LP as well as songs about feeling the pull of time / mortality and songs about getting fucked up. At the time I had come out of a long relationship and then got into another heavy duty romance, so I think exploring those ideas is pretty natural in those circumstances.
Your old band, the Shitty Limits, were profiled by the NME but, from what I heard, told them to fuck off when they asked for an interview. What informed the decision not to cooperate with them?
It wasn’t a particularly difficult decision to make. The NME is shit and I find it embarrassing to see it sniffing around punk. Punk has its own way of presenting itself in print. Why would we want to be involved with that? Who would get what out of it?
On a related topic – at around that time, this man called Jeremy started coming along to a lot of Shitty Limits gigs, he would praise us endlessly and buy Tom Ellis drinks and was obviously a fan of the band. It turned out that he worked as a music editor at I-D magazine and he wanted to run a feature on us. I think we all were uncomfortable with being in the magazine, but felt bad about snubbing this guy. So we told him that we wouldn’t do a feature for them, but maybe they could run an article about the youth centre in Guildford where we booked DIY gigs. So they came to some gigs in Guildford, took some photos of the kids in the pit and published it in I-D. I don’t know whether it’s hypocritical to visibly snub the NME, and then let I-D in through the back door like that, but the Guildford Youth Centre is now demolished, and, seeing as I probably went to over a hundred gigs there, I’m glad that it got its due in a fucking fashion magazine!
Good Throb’s getting a lot of praise right now, and deservedly so. What’s the creative process for that band?
Thanks! We write songs collectively and all talk about ideas together at band practice, including the lyrics to an extent. I really like this way of making music – like our song ‘Central Line’ (about the pain of commuting to work) came about because Ash started playing the bass riff, and then I was like ‘that sounds like a train track’ and so we wrote a song about a train. Not all our songs have been made with this kind of epiphany, but they are all done collaboratively.
Perhaps this is a stupid question, but why did Good Throb call their debut Fuck Off?
I asked the others one day at band practice if we could call it that and everyone immediately said yes. I think it suits both the savage and comic elements of what the band is about. Also, its kind of incredible that such a ubiquitous term hasn’t been used for a punk record that I know of (please correct me if I’m wrong).
[To my knowledge, he’s correct.] Where next for The Love Triangle and Good Throb?
I’m not particularly interested in The Love Triangle at the moment – we played a lot last year, and are all really busy with other bands. I talked to Tim about it last week and he’s keen to make another tape, but at the moment, I think I’m more interested in making aggressive / less normative music than what the Love Triangle is about… but watch this space. Maybe it will resurrect! Good Throb is writing a new record. We just have a few songs, but I like them so far. I think it will be a little harsher sounding than the first LP, and we are thinking about calling it ‘My Arsehole’. We don’t have a lot else planned apart from a week-long tour in Spain in April. I wish we could tour more with Good Throb but it isn’t really possible with everyone’s other commitments.
We didn’t do a cool wrap up question. Sorry.
*The original sentence I wrote in reply didn’t make any sense. ‘Buzzcocks, Nuggets, Wipers and garage punk seemed like a weird mix of them.’ What?
[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 4 in a slightly different form, March 2015]