Boston Manor: “I’ve not come up with some hot take that the world needs to know about, I’m just expressing my feelings”

Boston Manor: “I’ve not come up with some hot take that the world needs to know about, I’m just expressing my feelings”

By Yasmin Brown

Aug 15, 2019 13:00

The world has always been a bit fucked up, but never have both British and international politics been as polarising as in the past three years. Never have we felt such a fierce determination to try and make systemic and societal changes by whatever means available to us. With social media highlighting the world’s shortcomings (admittedly sometimes to a severely overdramatised extent), it’s hard to ignore much of the darkness that envelopes us, and when Boston Manor shine a spotlight on these issues through their music, they do it in such a way that the anger it ignites acts as a catalyst for change.

It’s been a year since Boston Manor’s sophomore album ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ was unleashed into the world, and you can still find something new to uncover in every one of its conceptual tracks. The sonic change was embraced nervously by the band, with Henry openly “shitting [himself] so much because of the big leap [they] made”. He was concerned (as we later learn he often is) that he would “sound like a dickhead” and that existing fans may not understand what they were trying to say, and how they were trying to say it.

As it is, the Boston Manor fanbase has seen a monumental growth in membership over the past year, with many clearly not only enjoying this self-described “big leap” in sound, but also connecting with the message behind it, too. And there’s more where that came from. While it would be nice, a year down the line, for the world to be in a better place than it was when Boston Manor wrote these angry, passionate tracks, it’s sadly not the case, and we only have more layers of this band – and their opinions on the state of the world – to uncover through music that’s still to come.

Reaching out to fans and having their music resonate is a huge driving force for the band, but that doesn’t mean they’ll shy away from controversial issues just to please them – particularly having grown up with artists like Rise Against, a band who have always been explicitly political through their art. That being said, Rise Against are also a band you can enjoy without delving into the underlying messages in their lyrics, and Boston Manor aim to achieve something similar with their own music. “I grew up loving bands like Rise Against and I never necessarily, when I was young, you know a kid, I didn’t really know what was going on in the world, and I didn’t necessarily resonate with it as a political record. We all kind of said, we don’t want to be solely known for being a political band, but particularly with the UK and the year we’ve just had, the year we’re having right now – you know there’s so much you can talk about and there’s so much we need to talk about.” They’ve done just that with ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’.

As well as growing up with and respecting Rise Against, there are plenty of other musical influences that help explain why Henry and his peers in Boston Manor have gone down this more overtly political route. Deftones, Slipknot, Korn, Nirvana… All of these bands contributed to Henry’s music collection growing up, and it “was angry music… the Reagan generation, the Thatcher generation, the Tony Blair generation grew up angry for a lot of reasons because they were disenfranchised, they’re misrepresented, but that aside I would like to write a record – and I’m trying to again – where if you’re just mad at your stepdad, you can still have some kind of catharsis through this music.”

Boston Manor clearly succeed in facilitating this catharsis worldwide, reaching fans in countries such as the Philippines, Japan, and Russia – “and we’re humbled and surprised by that”. Knowing their music reaches fans in these faraway lands, Boston Manor will always make an effort to resonate with all fans, not just those from the UK, or even America, where the topics they address in their music are more prevalent and, as a result, more likely to be understood in context. They “don’t want to write a record that if you’re not from the working class town of Blackpool in the UK, you have no connection with it, so I do my best,” comments Henry.

“You know I’m not saying I do this well, I try very hard, but I would like to write – I try to write an angry record – we’re very angry, I’m still angry about the way the world is and things, and people resonate with that.”

Their ability to appeal to a large demographic doesn’t just stop at geographical location either. While they sit comfortably in the British rock scene, Boston Manor are by no means confined by genre, and with open minds that embrace the likes of Taylor Swift (a no-shame admission that is blurted out mid-conversation) and hip-hop artist Slow Tide, it’s no surprise that you can pick out elements of both pop and hip-hop in tracks across ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’.

If you have any experience in the music industry, you’ll have noticed how the lines have blurred when it comes to genres since streaming playlists has taken precedence over purchasing full albums. This modern way of consuming music has almost eradicated what was once a clear aesthetic and even behavioural differences between fans, too. For the members of Boston Manor, they’re all a similar age and they often find themselves discussing how “growing up, it’s like you have the indie kids, I was a mosher… there’s the fucking pop music kids”, and it was just that clear cut. Your friends generally dressed the same as you and listened to the same music, because there wasn’t unlimited access to every song in existence like there is today through Spotify or Apple Music.

For Henry, his pocket money allowed him to access a new album once every week or “maybe two weeks – my parents didn’t have much money – but every two weeks, I’d have to save my pocket money up, five pounds, and I’d go into Woolworths, buy one CD you know. Whereas now, you know, you listen to playlists, you like what you like.” You had to go with what you knew, and that’s why bands once appealed to one very specific group of people – because they generally had one very easily categorised sound.

This simply isn’t the case today, particularly in the UK, where we have festivals that sell out every year with acts across every genre on their lineup, and Henry praises British music fans for embracing this with such an open mind. “UK kids are spoilt, but what I will say as a testament to the UK, I think they have a very open minded people who are very eclectic in their taste which is cool, so, that’s why music festivals like Y Not and Reading and Leeds, Glastonbury etc etc work so well.”

It might seem strange that he calls UK kids spoilt, but it’s a point worth raising. While Americans are having to drive for 10 hours across state lines to catch their favourite bands, and kids in New Zealand often have to catch an international flight if they’re ever to have a hope of seeing theirs even once, we get multiple tours a year, often with shows no more than two hours away. But because music is so accessible, it only widens our tastes even further, and Henry is right – it is a testament to the UK.

This eclectic music taste is what allows bands like Boston Manor to thrive, pulling from those numerous influences that extend way beyond the confines of ‘rock’, and they want to continue doing so without jeopardising their fan base.

“We want to cultivate a fanbase whereby they are so sort of open minded and tolerant enough and trusting enough of us, and to our fans’ credit – I love our fans, we’re very blessed to have the fans that we do – they gave us that chance. I hope that moving forward, we can kind of – within reason – kind of do whatever we want creatively and they’ll sort of follow us.”

There’s a nod to certain other bands, including Enter Shikari, who have changed their sound more times than you can count over the years since the release of ‘Take to the Skies’ back in 2007. Despite this, they’ve (deservedly) maintained a loyal fanbase over the past 12 years and, to Henry, “if you’re lucky enough to be one of those artists that gets that fanbase that goes with you on your journey and lets you do whatever you want then that’s a beautiful thing, and you should cherish that and you should really appreciate it.”

In regards to what’s to come, it may have only been a year since we first heard ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’, but the band is working on even more new music following the release of their collaboration with Trophy Eyes’ John Floreani, ‘Liquid’ back in June. Henry won’t talk about it much, though, other than to say it’s “totally different, weirder and darker and angrier than the (currently unreleased) singles, which are kind of pop songs.” His hesitance to divulge any further information comes not from his label or from PR, but from a self-confessed inability to explain exactly what it is yet.

What we do know is that Boston Manor “still [has] a lot of angry stuff to say but at the same time [they’re] trying to explore new avenues”, although this doesn’t mean another huge leap sonically this time. While ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ was a concept album, perfectly “packaged together”, what’s being created now is “a bit more all over the place” – not so much in terms of sound, but topically. There are “two or three songs about sort of, toxic masculinity and mental health and suicide in men, but then we have songs about you know, wanting to fight people you don’t like…”, and Henry struggles to deliver information about this new music without misrepresenting what it is they’ve created.

In that respect, we’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves.

There’s a lot to look forward to with this band. They’re clearly just getting started, and are finally getting a grip on who they are and what they want to say, although you’re not likely to hear them say they’ve found their sound any time soon – “we’re on album two, bro, most bands taken seven or eight”.

Henry talks a lot, on a number of occasions blurting out asides requesting that he be made to not sound like an asshole (a very easy task, as he quite simply is not an asshole), and commenting on how he thinks if he says “25 sentences, at least one of them will be usable”. This humility is endearing, yet entirely unwarranted, as the past 20 minutes have been spent delving into the mechanics of the music industry and unintentionally highlighting himself as an inherently smart and – most importantly – kind man.

His goals are simple: write music that people can relate to and be honest while he’s doing it. As he put so plainly, “I’ve not come up with some hot take that the world needs to know about – I’m just expressing my feelings”.