“The tour van is pretty grim actually,” I’m told over the phone, although you wouldn’t be able to tell by the cheerful voice on the other end. LIFE, the Hull quartet consisting of Mez, Loz, Mick and Stew, are on their way to London to play a show at the Islington Assembly with Nadine Shah, who they’ve been touring with for the past two weeks; by the sound of it they’ve been having a pretty good time. “Politically we stand for the same stuff even though soundwise we’re a bit more anarchic and she’s a bit more PJ Harvey – it just kind of works.”
Anarchic is bang on the mark. Their tunes are rowdy and bursting with energy, and this year’s debut album Popular Music, is a raucous collection of bangers, certain to get the mosh pits started when heard live.
Eager to learn about life on the road (and LIFE in general), we hung about on the line to get the latest goss from frontman Mez, and learn what the Northern lads have been up to, tour aside…
Starting at the beginning, how did the band come into being?
Mick, who’s on guitar, is my brother so I guess it has been with us forever. We’ve come from a musical family – my mum and dad are proper liberal hippies so we travelled to loads of folk festivals from a really young age and they used to drop us off at school in a Nissan Bluebird with a battered, different coloured door. Our first introduction to music was this tapedeck that had The Clash Give ‘Em Enough Rope on one side and then a load of dub reggae on the other.
Yeah! At the time when dad used to drop me off I was like, “Shit, Dad can you park round the corner?” But now I look back at it I’m like yeah, that was dope.
And did they always want you guys to make music together?
They never forced music on us. Lyric writing especially is something that me and Mick really enjoy so that’s a good creative process for us and then we just put music around it. Loz on bass is like my best friend, I went to school with him and then Stew, on drums, I work with at a youth centre called The Warren which is a big youth project that’s open access to anyone under 25. We provide food banks, counselling, free music space to come and record, if you’re a young person and you’ve got no money and you wanna get a record out, you can come and see us. So that kind of vibe flows through the band I guess.
Did you have a similar idea of what you wanted to sound like?
We’ve always been drawn to more aggressive and punky sort of alternative sounds, but I guess that just came naturally to us from the music we grew up listening to. Also the political and social commentating in our lyrics kind of informs the way we sound as well in terms of being quite immediate and quite honest sounding.
Do you think it’s important for bands to speak out about politics?
I know a lot of bands sit on the fence but I think that just makes music kind of beige in a way. We write about what’s happening so if I see young people at work really suffering then we’re gonna write about it. We would never not be political ’cause that’s just who we are.
“We would never not be political ’cause that’s just who we are.”
Your debut album Popular Music came out in May, can you tell me a bit about the creative process for it?
We did two weeks in London with our friend Ian Darling at a really weird place called The Fish Factory. You can’t even Google it, I mean it is actually in a fish factory. It was really cool. We set up live quite a lot and played the tracks live, recorded live and then over-dubbed and messed around with loads of sounds and it was just a great experience for us, I think it shaped the sound of the album.
Did you end up smelling like fish after though?
Nah not really. I mean there was a fish shop but it had really cheap beer so we were winning. I mean I don’t eat fish but I drink beer so… winning.
And are you already writing new stuff?
Yeah in between all of our summer festival dates and this Nadine tour we did about three demos. We’re looking at sending them out and then January onwards looking at recording properly again.
Amazing. And is there a certain feeling that you want people to take away from your music or when they come to see you on tour?
Excitement. I think music should be exciting and sort of instant. The album comes in under 30 minutes so it’s like so instant, for me it’s quite exciting as a listener. The themes in it can be political or there can be pop culture references, there’s loads of word play so for me that’s a great part of the album.
What are some of your favourite things about performing?
I hate it when like, band’s look like they can’t be arsed on stage or almost create a barrier between band and the punter. I guess for us it’s just like playing live and being really energetic and then moving to the next city. We’ve just had two days off and although we’ve been working it feels like it’s a bit of a lull so I think the momentum of touring is so fun and exciting. There’s nothing better than live music.
And when you’ve finished this tour, is there anything that you’re working towards?
Yeah we’ve still got a couple of shows to go. We’ve got a massive show in London on the 23 November with Idles at Village Underground. That one sold out in like under five hours so that’ll be the last show of the year I think. And then it’ll be back into the room to write…