Credit: Duncan Stafford
Words: Richard Cobb
The Blinders, the Manchester-based three-piece formerly of Doncaster, are arguably one of the most vital of the current crop of emerging artists, combining visceral political punk rock with enigmatic, psychedelic rawness and poetic overtones.
In what would be the calm before the storm of the show later, I caught up with the band's three members - Thomas Haywood (vocals/guitar), Charlie McGough (bass), Matt Neale (drums/percussion) - at Broadcast in Glasgow ahead of their debut Scottish gig that night (read full review here) for a quick chat about university, blogs and living together (that's them, not me.)
Amongst the madness of a small dark dressing room filled with a truckload of Jack Daniels, an iPhone torch gaffe taped to the roof for lighting and some over-Haribo’d members of other bands running riot in the background, we sat down for a chat.
For a band who's cracked such a wicked song as 'Swine', it's said you thought your old songs were shite, is that right?
The Blinders: Yeah, man. I mean it was a long time ago.
I presume you mean stuff previous to 'Swine' and the ‘Hidden Horror Dance’ EP?
Thomas: That’s right. The EP for us was something brand new and we’d never tried a sound like that before. Everything before that was very middle of the road. We felt like it wasn’t getting anywhere, we enjoyed playing it, but it wasn’t getting anywhere. Then we listened to a band called The Wytches, plus got into 'Humbug' by Arctic Monkeys, and then through there we developed a sound from that. Me and Charlie got dead into politics at school and through that, it came into the music, you know? You write about what you know. From there, we had the EP and especially the single ‘Swine.’ That’s a sort of manifestation of all of that put together. That’s our proudest work. We’ve got more stuff coming out soon too.
(Frantically scribbling up more questions as the band seemed to answer most of them in the first one!) So you were saying you focused on the political stuff, is that a conscious effort or is it something you just felt strongly enough to write about?
Charlie: You know what, it was a Facebook video, that’s all it took for me personally. It was the Eric Garner stuff.
Thomas: Not Kony 2012?(Awkward streams of laughter…)
So, yeah it was the Eric Garner stuff, but myself and Charlie grew up in Doncaster with miners as parents so we’ve always been quite aware of Thatcherism and everyone votes Labour and all that bollocks, but once you delve into it a little bit more...
I suppose when you said you were studying politics and stuff then that would obviously naturally shine through on your lyrics?
Yeah, you understand ideology and you understand the way that politics works and you understand who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy. I think we made it very clear, very quickly who was the good guy.
Politics is everywhere and all that.
Totally. And it was as much a conscious effort as it was an unconscious effort.
(At this point one of the other bands walks back in and shouts “Holy fuck, man, looks like an orgy!” before sauntering back out the door again, leaving a room full of bemused onlookers to question what on earth was in his pre-gig falafel.)
So you moved from Doncaster to Manchester was that when you were starting the band or what was the main reason behind it?
For uni. We started the band in 2014 and then we moved to Manchester for uni. Bit of an excuse to move. We all wanted to go different places, but we made a conscious effort to think, well fuck it, we like what we’re doing - as a band - why don’t we carry it on, but in the big city of the north? We all live together there now; it’s a lot easier when you’re all together. There’s some special moments you can have which you wouldn’t have if you don’t live together. Like waking up at half 5 to one of us playing music…
I’d imagine musically the opportunities would be night and day compared to Doncaster?
Yeah, Manchester’s a dream in comparison.
When I was growing up, everything was about the NME and coverage from them was something to aim for, but now that seems to be suffering and it wasn’t what it once was. What things do you think there are to aim for nowadays?
Probably Rolling Stone - that’s still well respected. NME committed suicide. It used to be the place where we would find out about new bands, but now it feels like you’re waiting on them to catch on about new bands. That’s the beauty of a blog: it’s always on the lookout for new bands. For us, the main aims are supporting bands, like we’ve supported our mates Cabbage and we’re touring with The View. We remember listening to them nine years ago or something. It’s mad. So big supports and huge festival stages are probably the aim now.
Lastly, you’re playing a show for Pirate Studios in Sheffield on April 1. How did you get involved with that and can you tell us a little about it?
They’re the coolest guys. It really helps with our studies as we use their studios and it’s really affordable. It’s a win-win. I think it was Guy Garvey that said bands can’t make it if you’re busy working full time. It’s hard because you need to pay rent, so this is an amazing initiative from Pirate Studios. It’s exactly what a band needs. At the moment we’re very lucky to be at university; that’s an important lifeline for the band which means we can keep focus on the band.
And focusing they are, with a raft of upcoming live dates over the next months. Do yourselves a favour and see them if you can - you won't regret it.
29 Leeds, Oporto
01 Derby, 2Q Festival
01 Sheffield Pirate Studios*
04 Preston, Ferret Ones2Watch supporting IDLES
07 Scunthorpe, Cafe INDIEpendent
15 London, Lock Tavern
16 Bolton, B Fest
26 Ashton, The Witchwood# (Sold Out)
28 London, Camden Assembly - supporting The Shimmer Band
29 Manchester, O2 Ritz -The Membranes special event. Doors 4pm.
04 Glasgow, Barrowland (Sold Out)*
05 Aberdeen, The Garage (Sold Out)*
06 Aberdeen, The Garage*
07 Manchester, Ruby Lounge*
08 Manchester, The Ruby Lounge*
10 London, The Garage*
12 Cardiff, Tramshed*
13 Liverpool, Hangar 34*
14 Sheffield, Sheffield University Union*
16 Carlisle, The Old Fire Station*
17 Edinburgh, Liquid Rooms (Sold Out)*
18 Edinburgh, Liquid Rooms (Sold Out)*
19 Glasgow, Barrowland (Sold Out)*
20 Leeds, Gold Sounds Festival (5pm)
20 Brighton The Great Escape (Hope + Ruin midnight)
03 London, Camden Rocks Festival
29 London, Scala#
30 Birmingham, O2 Institute#
01 Manchester, O2 Ritz#
27-30 Kendal Calling
06 Liverpool, Hope & Glory Festival
* Supporting The View
# Supporting Cabbage
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