We caught up with brothers Ewan and Callum from the Bristol based five piece Bad Sounds ahead of their UK tour to talk Gorillaz, FIFA 18, and the worst gig they ever played…
How did you form the band? Ewan: Me and Callum are brothers, so we always used to be involved in music together when we were kids. We then got into different things after Callum moved to London and the Bristol for a bit, so he was out of the house for just over a year. In that time he started working in a small studio for a while and learnt how to record live bands, especially pop stuff, and at the same time I got into hip hop and sample based music. When we got back together after going in these different directions we started showing each other what we’d learnt and making music that way. I used to treat Cal like a sample and loop some of the phrases he’d come up with. It’s still kind of useful now because Cal knows a lot about recording, so being able to do things like that ourselves is really useful. It was the time apart that helped make it what it is.
So do you guys think growing up in the same house has had a major influence on the way Bad Sounds makes music today? Callum: I think the confidence to just play around with ideas with someone that you know who isn’t afraid to laugh in your face is a really good thing – you’re never gonna fall out and you’re never gonna embarrass yourself in front of your brother, and that’s irrespective of how long you’ve played in bands together before or not. The degree of Ewan treating me as a sample and saying “Nope, don’t play that”, “No, not that one” and then “Yes! Use that one!” could be soul destroying if it was somebody that you haven’t played with for years
That brutal honesty really works in your favour! Can you put your finger on some of your key influences that inspire your music? It’s kind of hard because I feel like since we both went separate for a bit and then came back together and showed each other things that we’d got into our influences are so varied that it’s hard to pin down a scene. Key figures are definitely like Michael Jackson and The Dust Brothers, who produced things like Paul’s Boutique by Beastie Boys. I was pretty obsessed with those guys, as well as Gorillaz. The thing with Gorillaz is that they can merge different styles together which is something that has largely influenced us, especially the hip hop aesthetic to Demon Days. We’ve always had quite a Beachy production vibe, but we always wanted to retain that Gorillaz inspired sound underneath.
Damon Albarn from Gorillaz recently did a collaboration with Mura Masa, someone who is coming up at the same time as you – who else do you listen to from the current or younger music scene? There’s this girl called Mayo who has the best voice! I loved it instantly then the third time I listened to her I was like ‘holy sh*t, this is just Michael Jackson!’, which I realised was why I liked it instantly. There’s also a girl called ‘No Name’ – she sort of came up with Chance the Rapper but her album is awesome and I listen to that quite a lot at the minute.
And obviously when you’re not listening to other people’s music you’re getting your own out there. ‘Wages’ made it onto the FIFA ‘18 soundtrack – has it been a standout moment in your career or has anything come from it since? I didn’t really think anything of it when it happened, obviously it was a good thing but it seems to mean more to other people, they come up to us and say ‘Wow you’re on FIFA, you’re like a proper band now!’. We also started to notice something at the festival circuit this summer – we are often playing to a lot of people we don’t know, especially at this stage in our career, but when we play ‘Wages’ you can kind of see a few people in the audience asking themselves why the hell they know this song, and it’s almost like people just know it from FIFA.
Any festival highlights over the summer? On Blackheath was really cool too – we were really excited to try it because De La Soul were booked to play on the main stage after us, so we could finish our set and go and watch them. Unfortunately it was when the whole hurricane thing was happening, so they couldn’t fly and had to cancel the show so we were a bit gutted – we thought that nobody would come and see us first. When we turned up, the tent was massive and it was properly filled out before we even started playing! I feel like it was more of a curiosity thing for a lot of people but we had a really fun show and the audience definitely seemed to vibe with our stuff – it was a pleasant surprise, which doesn’t happen too often when you’re in a band!
This tour that is coming up is going to be a lot more intimate than playing on festival stages, is that something that you’re looking forward to? We’re still based quite locally in Bristol and in London – those shows are at least three times the capacity of the venues we’re playing everywhere else, and we can bring out more on stage production at the bigger shows. A big thing for us is having a real show when we’re on stage, and in some of the smaller venues it’s a bit gutting that we can’t do that, but there’s a vibe that comes with the smaller shows that you can’t replicate on a larger scale.
And will that vibe be present when you come up to play Bodega in Nottingham this November? We’ve played Nottingham once before in the Rough Trade at a one off event in the tiny bit at the back – we ended up buying loads of records in the daytime and then playing a gig upstairs later that evening. That was another intimate gig and we had a really good time, so yeah I’d say so!
The lyrics in Avalanche are really interesting – what’s your writing process like? The lyrics in Avalanche came from a friend telling me that they watched a film with their dad about an avalanche! Our current lyric style sort of started with that song but we write our lyrics generally by phrases that friends have said or stories that they have told us – the three different scenarios we talk about in Avalanche were just inspired by people that we worked with at the time. It sounds really morbid and profound when it’s in a song but it’s just normal sh*t – just things that stick with you that someone has said.
Can we expect an album to look forward to after the tour? There are definitely new songs on this tour, but whether or not they make the album or not is still to be decided. It’s kind of scary after being on the festival circuit and playing the songs that people know and that we’re comfortable with, so we just hope people like it and we get comfortable playing them live. It’s all about putting the newbies at the right point in the set – people tend to like a song that they know more than one that they don’t when they hear it live, but this is a nice way to test out songs and see what the reaction to them is.
And finally, we’ve heard about all your successful support tours, festival slots and FIFA recognition, but can you tell us what the worst gig you ever played was, and what happened! We’ve played some shockers in our time! The one that stands out was when we played in this tiny Wetherspoons… It was just before Christmas so it was full of office parties! There was a tiny little stage in a corner with two sofas so close to the stage they were touching it. We just assumed that when we started somebody would move these sofas, but people literally just sat on them a metre away from us! Nobody clapped between songs and we had to cut the set in half. We were in a situation where no-one wanted to listen to us and we really didn’t want to be playing it because of how bad the vibe was! I think we ran from the venue into the van with the promoter chasing us to say ‘thanks for playing!’ Carrying our kit through the pub afterwards was like that shame scene in Game Of Thrones. So yeah, that’s definitely the gig we talk about collectively as being the worst!
Catch ‘Bad Sounds’ in Nottingham at the Bodega on Tuesday 14th November.