Eagulls’s performed one of the better sets at last weekend’s Beacons. We caught up With George and Henry-the vocalist and drummer- of Eagulls a few hours before their slot to talk about their new album, the state of British music and why its worth selling your soul, even when the price of entry is only long hair and a reverb-pedal:
Ok, so to begin, your album’s been out for three or four months now but been around for a lot longer than that, about what, a year before it came out, in terms of having a finished item?
George: It’s been out for how long? It came out in march..
Henry: We wrote it in 2012, so it took quite a while to come out, about two years we were sat on it before it came out.
Do you now have a follow up to it, is there a second in the wings?
Henry: We’ve literally just started, this week, so we’re trying to hopefully record it in December and get it out the same time next year, like March, April, sometime like that.
Your sound is quite angsty, I guess. You’ve been described [by NME] as a group of ‘pissed off twenty somethings’, is it all personal or are you political at all?
George: Its more to do with just being pissed off, its more an emphasis on life to be honest. It’s not just like; ‘oh we’re angry…’ A lot of people will probably pick up that its ‘angsty music’, as you say, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It runs a lot deeper than that.
For the new material you’re doing, do you dip into that same feeling you had when you wrote the first record?
George: Yeah, of course, it will always lie beneath, when you’re talking about something like that you mean it, so you’ll always mean it. You don’t just wake up in the morning and suddenly go, ‘oh I’ve got a new vision on what I did a few years ago’, it’s always there.
When you’re writing new material do you write about what’s happening to you at that point, or how you’re currently feeling, or do you really go back?
George: It all depends. With us it’s always the music that comes first, so if the music is along the lines of a nervous sort of system that’s going on, then that’s what the lyrics will come out of. I am nervous, so if we wrote upbeat stuff, then there’d more upbeat things, but I’d think a lot deeper about what I’d do with upbeat stuff than just go for a normal, upbeat song that everyone else has done already.
Do you [George] do all the song writing or do you work as a band?
George: I do all the lyrics, yeah. Then as a band we all come together and combine everything, we have a sort of strange structure that comes together.
We saw you live last week at Knee Deep, on stage there’s quite a menacing feel, you’re pacing about with your eyes closed and swigging from your wine, there’s that kind of edge about your actual performance, I mean there’s no chatting to the crowd about the weather when you go on stage. Do you have to get into a zone?
George: Nah not really, it just happens, that’s part of why I do it. I’ve never sat down before we go on stage and thought right, I’m going to say this. In fact a lot of people come up to me and say; ‘well why don’t you say this, or after a song say this, or piss everyone off by saying this, or make them happy by saying this’. But once you’re in the zone you just don’t remember anything. It’s like, let the music speak for itself, you don’t have to stand there and be like, ‘come forth look at me. Embrace me.’ There’s no need for that… I do talk sometimes, whether people can understand me, I don’t know.
How important is the aesthetic, on stage it’s all quite clean-cut, there’s no waste or goofing about, is that conscious?
George: I think it actually seems like we come across as stubborn on stage, as stubborn people, but we’re not, at all, literally we just turn up to play our music. We’ve never been a theatrical sort of group. We don’t think like; right after this song we’re going to say this, say that, like I was saying before. It’s just like we turn up, we play our songs, and hopefully people will understand what we’re talking about.
If not then they’ve heard it and they go away thinking; ‘I just heard this, maybe I’ll think about what just happened instead of just seeing someone doing some sort of choreographed dance moves, that a lot of bands do…’ Which I have nothing against, I think that’s great…
In terms of bands going around now, who do you like, are you part of a group of bands who play shows together, or who you work with?
George: Not so much now, because we’re here there and everywhere, we aren’t part of the Leeds scene, if that exists.
Henry: Obviously we have friends who are in bands but Leeds is like, there’s no movement there or anything. It’s just a lot of bands, no particular genre of bands, everyone just does their own thing, like hard-core or whatever, there’s all sorts of bands.
George: Its really good because there’s a lot of bands who mean what they’re talking about [in Leeds]. There’s a lot of bands in England who have probably got dismissed because you have to play London first, which is still true, it’s a fact of the music industry in this day that you have to break London before you break anywhere else. A lot of bands that we know, and that we play with, are not arsed about that, they go and play basements. Their music means a lot more than any of those other bands that are ‘breaking boundaries’, so to speak.
A lot of people talk now about a resurgence in British guitar music, do you actually kind of think that quality of music has gone up, I mean do you feel like you’re at the peak of some sort of resurgence?
George: I don’t ever see myself as like an ice-breaker, or king of everything.
Henry: I feel like a few, maybe five, six, seven years ago there weren’t that many guitar bands, it had shifted a bit more to electronic stuff but its shifted back a bit now. It does like feel like people are listening to bands who play guitars more than they are to electric music, or mixing them both together. I think everybody’s just trying to find something new.
George: It does feel, this last year or so, that there has just been like straight up guitar, bass, drum, that kind of thing. For a few years it felt like there was a lot of guitar music for the sake of it, a lot of art for the sake of it, and I think we made a difference because we meant what we talked about and when people understand what you mean it makes all the difference.
There’ll probably be about a hundred people in the crowd tonight who’ve never heard of us, or aren’t really that bothered but when we’re finished they’ll be like ‘oh’… And maybe they’ll go off and think about music rather than just sort of, I don’t know…
Is that important to you?
George: I mean, it’s important to wake people up, you two obviously love music, and you’re very into music, but there’s a lot of people who turn up to festivals and aren’t bothered and they’re just there for the ride, and if you can just wake them up for just a second then it means something to me.
Do you ever feel like, obviously you really mean what you say and are writing music from a good place, but do you ever feel like it doesn’t matter. That even if you had the lowest intentions with your music, the audience you’re playing to is the same, that the climate you’re in is the same whether or not people take something from it or, are just like, “oh they’re a popular band. We should go and see Eagulls”. Do you ever worry that maybe you’re just the favourite monkey in the court?
George: Oh yeah. Every night, every time I play. For 45 minutes I’m selling my soul to everyone, like, it’s like taking a picture of yourself naked and giving it to everyone. Instead of people paying to get into a gig, like paying three pound, you should just say; ‘right I want a picture of you all naked to come into my show, I want to see what you have to offer, let me see.’ Do you know what I mean?
So do you feel it’s important to have the audience on a similar level, I mean you watch some gigs, some bands, where it’s like they’re giving it everything, and the audience is kind of stood there clapping along, but really appreciating it all the same..
Gorge: Yeah, but it goes into different spectrums when it’s like that, we could probably come across as idiots for saying; ‘why’s the crowd so still’. Not everyone wants to jump around, but I just want people to understand music rather than just being like, I’m here because I’m here. It’s more about understanding art as a spectrum and not being so ignorant that you just go like; ‘we paid 500 quid to go in the front row, to see this band and stand there.’
Do you think there is a distinctive line between the music you write and the wider culture its written in, do you in any way try and cross that boundary? Do you feel like music’s more than just entertainment in a field for a weekend, or on an album for however long its listened to?
George: I mean yeah it is, it’s a lot more, there wouldn’t be festivals and stuff if not, because music means a lot to people. It’s insane how much it means to a lot of people. For the last four or five years music has controlled our lives. I could have gone and got a job or whatever, or done my own thing, but music is what we do. We’re here to give music to people. And so is everyone else here.
Is there anything else you want to say before I steal too much of your afternoon?
George: Yeah, Eggs Benedict.
George: Eggs Benedict.
Henry: What about Eggs Benedict? Oh, I get it now.
Henry: Cheers guys.
We look forward to seeing your transformative efforts later.
George: It should be alright.