An unexpected interview of sorts, but by no means less enjoyable – I managed to have a sit-down with Southampton indie-rock outfit, Submariner, after their first major festival slot. However, what was initially supposed to be a brief chat turned into a 15-minute epic that was as explorative as their soundscapes. Sadly, I wasn’t able to use the entire conversation, but James, Alex, Ben and Billy still had plenty to talk about, including definitive albums, their journey so far and what’s next for the glistening south-coast quartet.
How’s 2017 going so far for you guys?
Very, very good. We’ve been doing a bit of recording, filming, a lot of writing. Released two new singles now, actually. The first one’s called “Closer” and the second single, our latest, is called “Where Did We Go from Here?”. It was sort of a redefining chapter for us because we’d been going for a year before going through a line-up change. So we jazzed things up a bit, then started getting booked by a lot more festivals.
So what was the line-up change?
That guy over there [pointing at Ben – their new bassist]
And is this your first time gigging in Southampton?
Yeah, we’re Southampton-based, I’d say. We started out in Southampton; Alex grew up here and I moved to University and we met and started a couple of bands. I’d been in a band with the other two before and it somehow all eventually came together. I think we’ve still got a pretty good following here though. We’ve played at Joiners, which is great, and a lot at The Talking Heads.
Is your first time playing Common People, then?
And how do you feel it went? Not ideal weather for it…
Alex: It could’ve been raining [laughs].
James: The weird thing was that we were on pretty early, but the tent practically flooded and then we finished our set, the other guys came on after us, and we realised that we didn’t actually know many of the people that had come down to see us. I think it’s because we’ve been whispered around Southampton a bit; been mentioned on a few blogs, so creating some buzz.
Ben: There were quite a lot of people singing along, which was nice.
Is your first festival of the year as well?
We’ve done a few bits and pieces, a couple of smaller ones here and there, but this is the first time we’ve cracked the major festival circuit, with some big headliners. We’ve had a lot of help from BBC Introducing. The producer down here just took a shine to us and has really helped us out.
So what’s next for you?
James: Well, we’ve been trying out a few different styles in the studio and I really feel like we’re just gelling into something that’s more consistent, you know. We’re adding in more different layers and have become a well-polished sound. We’re also going to be playing both Wickham and Victorious festival later this summer, which we’re really excited about.
While we’re here, I’d like to go on record to give a shout out to Rhona over there, because she’s helped us out a hell of a lot with her wonderful photography (see for yourself – Rhona Murphey Photography)
Who will you be looking to check out after?
Alex: Loyle Carner man, I’m buzzing for Loyle Carner, and Black Honey as well.
Who would you say your influences are?
James: Individually, we’re all into quite different music, but we do meet in the middle with some things – we all like Radiohead, Tame Impala, Bon Iver and we all like dance music, you know, with a little groove, just something to get you moving. It’s something we’ve been trialling for our own sound.
Then you have me – I like a lot of ambient music, soundscapes and dreamy stuff and I think that we were definitely doing that for a little bit, but in a much darker sense; they were longer songs. It was kind of post rocky and a bit more shoegazing. But now, it’s kind of gone the other way.
We realised the other night when we did this SoFar Sounds session here in Southampton that we are still a very ambient band, so it’s nice to be able to jump between the two.
What are your thoughts on the unsigned vs signed debate?
Being unsigned in today’s industry is both difficult and inspiring. On the one hand you need that financial backing to become the best artist you can be (whether that be paying for the right press, management, videos, producers, tours etc.), but being unsigned gives you a sense of drive and freedom that is, at times, incomparable. The autonomy aspect of being unsigned is great, as people just want to pay for the art you’ve created that no one has ‘tampered’ with, but it is still extremely difficult being an unsigned artist without the right backing and means.
Finally, if you could be a fly on the wall during the making of any single/album, which would it be?
Alex: That is a great question, but also really difficult. I think I would take it back to when Jimi Hendrix was alive. In modern day, for sure, I would say Bon Iver. I just listen to some of his tracks and wonder how did you connect that to that to make that so god damn great. My housemate Jack and I think he’s the modern day Beethoven.
James: His first album’s really special to me, because I’ve always made very similar music to that – downtempo, folk/ambient songs – it’s actually where my roots are. So I’ll often be working on stuff like that before bringing it to the band and Alex will be jamming to something a little funkier in his flat, then it just all comes together and feels a whole lot more bouncy.
Listen to Submariner’s latest release on Spotify.
The Diamond Age
Since late 2013, Southampton-born trio the Diamond Age have curried the favour of the South coast with their refreshing brand of surfer-style dream-pop. After self-producing tracks such as “Yesterday Was” and “Andrew’s an Android” – both of which generated over 10,000 plays and grabbed the attention of radio DJs and bloggers up and down the country – the band then went on to win this year’s ‘I Want to Play Common People’ competition. We dropped in with Matt (guitar/vox), Bill (bass) and Steve (drums) after what was a beautifully sun-kissed set.
You said on Twitter earlier this was probably the biggest gig of your career, so how do you feel it went?
Steve: We loved playing on the main stage at Common People. It was quite overwhelming to play such a colossal sized stage! We had a great time and luckily it went fairly smoothly too.
And how would you say your year’s been up to now?
We’ve had a very busy year so far with lots of interesting shows, which is definitely a step up from the previous years plus it’s really helped us to strengthen our live set too.
What have you got planned for the next few months?
We’ve got some good festivals coming up including; Blissfields and Smoked & Uncut Festival. We’re also doing a BBC Introducing live session at the end of June, so that’ll be exciting. We’ve been getting a lot of air-play on radio Solent and it’s really helping with raising our regional profile.
Were you born and raised in Southampton?
We are all true Sotonians, born and raised within this fine cosmopolitan city.
And where’s your favourite place to play here?
Over the past few months we’ve been playing places like the Brook, 1865, Talking Heads, The Art-House and of course The Joiners but the 1865’s got to have been the best venue. We were involved with a charity show to raise funds for Greg Gilbert, lead singer of Delays who has lung cancer. It was such an emotional night and featured an awesome line up including Band of Skulls, Mystery Jets and lots of other great bands.
Speak of good bands, who are you looking to check out now?
We definitely want to check out Wild Beasts and British Sea Power as we are huge fans of their music, but that’s tomorrow. There are also lots of great local acts too on the Uncommon Stage that we want to watch. Obviously, there’s Pete Tong tonight so that might be worth watching if we don’t pass out! We’re just happy taking in the day and having fun!
What your best festival been to play so far?
Common People SOUTHAMPTON of course! [laughs].
We played Victorious Festival in Portsmouth this time last year, which was a really great experience, and we did Blissfields last year too, so we’re really excited to go back there again.
Now, if you could be a fly on the wall during the making of any album/single, which would it be?
Bill: Oooh, good question! As a massive Smiths fan, and as they are a huge influence within our music, it’s got to be ‘The Queen is Dead’, as that was when the Smiths were at the peak of their career.
Steve: Also, ‘Let It Be’ by The Beatles would be a good one, too, because that was around the time they all hated each other so would be interesting to see what happened there.
The band recently released a music video for the title track of their Latest EP Popular Science. Listen on Spotify here!
Since the release of their latest single, “Do or Die”, towards the end of last year, Portsmouth psych-pop five-piece Kassassin Street have been splitting their time between furiously touring and slogging away in the studio. Common People, then, provided the perfect opportunity for them to tease some fresh new tracks off their elusive EP, Freak. On one of their few festival outings this year, we were lucky enough to steal a couple of minutes with frontman Rowan Bastable to talk all things Kassassin Street.
How’s 2017 treating Kassassin Street so far?
Yeah, it’s good! We’ve really just been in the studio, relentlessly now since December, so it’s been nice to escape for a day to come and air out all the new tracks. I think we’re gonna stay in the studio, stay writing, and then everyone’s gonna hear a lot of stuff from us in October – it’ll be an absolute overload.
So is this your first time in (sort of) sunny Southampton?
No, no. It’s the first time playing the main stage, because we were over on the Uncommon stage last year, which was wicked. We’re quite lucky that Robbie tends to invite us to a few of his things. We’ve done Bestival a few times, which is nice.
And how do you feel it went out there today?
Good, really good! Like I said, we were airing a new set so it was a little bit nerve-racking. But we felt confident with it.
You definitely had a really good on-stage presence…
Ah, thank you! There were times that we were a bit reserved, because we didn’t want to mess up, but it still felt great to be out there. With the early sets, it’s always a little bit more difficult to get the crowd moving, so I was just trying to move for them [laughs].
You were saying you’ve been in the studio pretty solidly, so is this your first festival I take it?
It is, yeah! We’re only doing this and Victorious Festival down in Southsea. We decided as a band to not take any gigs until [x] and we’re just gonna finish writing this whole thing. We’re very lucky in that we always get offered some really nice gigs and we get lots of people that want to come and see us, which is awesome. But, actually, we found from the past couple of years that we gigged so much we couldn’t get anything done!
So, are you currently unsigned right now or with a label?
We’re unsigned at the moment. We’ve got fingers in some pies, but I can’t say what.
And do you find it hard being an unsigned artist?
It can be a struggle. We know so many great bands who find it difficult. However, everyone always seems to think “oh, it’s a struggle to get signed”, but it’s not, because I also know a lot of bands that get signed and then they just get shelved while they’re signed. All of these bands’, they’re aim is to get signed and it’s like “no, the work starts when you get signed”. You can still get do a lot on your own and prove a lot on your own, but it is nice having some of the weight taken off of your shoulders by a label. We definitely kept people at arm’s length to begin with though, which was the right thing for us to do because, if we’d jumped in too early, we wouldn’t have ended up with what we wanted.
Kassassin Street have been working tirelessly in the studio on their upcoming EP, Freak. Here’s a naughty taster!
Although there’s been a lot of debate around the origin of their name (was it taken from one of the many band names of Parks and Recreation’s loveable loser, Andy Dwyer, or an actual garage band who notably won the 1993 Adrian High School Battle of the Bands?), there’s one thing we know for certain – Scarecrow Boat are poised for big things.
But, despite having supported the likes of The Flatliners, SWMRS and Sorority Noise on their respective international tours, the indie-punk four-piece attribute much of their success to their positive attitude over their playing ability, labelling themselves the ‘Southampton Nice Punks’. When I caught up with them after their intense set, some part of me hoped they’d be terrible human beings. Instead, I was met with the four sprightly faces of Toby (bass/vox), Dom (guitar/vox), Robin (guitar/vox) and Tom (drums), who spilled the beans on burger shoes*, favourite festivals and finishing Brand New’s elusive 5th album.
So, how’s 2017 treating you so far?
Really, really well. We released an EP, played two Joiners (music venue in Southampton) headline shows, and we’ve done a little tour as well, which was successful. It was surprisingly busy. When we’ve played at Joiners, it’s quite a big room to fill, so we played much smaller rooms but they were filled up.
Where have you played up until this point, any festivals at all?
We’ve never done an outdoor festival, but we’ve done loads of festivals. We’ve mostly exclusively played the Joiners, so I kind of start to recognise people who come. We’re pretty much the go-to support for the US emo bands that come over, and all the same people watch those bands and see us.
So you’re from Southampton – did you guys go to uni here?
We all live locally and we met at Solent University, so we’re on the same course called Performance & Production.
If you could play any festival, which one would you go for?
I’m gonna say Reading and Leeds, I’ve gone to that for years now. Or, any punk or emo fest in America.
Are you unsigned at the moment?
Unsigned, but under our own label that doesn’t exist, so we self-release everything. Every time someone asks, we give it a different name.
Who are you looking to check out at Common People?
Happy Accidents, Séan McGowan, Gunshy and Signals – they’re really good. I’d like to see Pete Tong, too.
If you could be a fly-on-the-wall during the making of any album or single, what would it be?
The Story So Far’s new album. I want to see Brand New make their album so I can actually make them finish it!
Scarecrow Boat’s long-anticipated EP Tell Me I’m Fine is now available to buy, download and stream.