We Talk to Bangers and Stream a New Song!

We Talk to Bangers and Stream a New Song!
We Talk to Bangers and Stream a New Song!

By Conor Mackie

Jul 7, 2015 10:30

Bangers are, without a doubt, one of the best UK bands. They play amazing punk rock whilst consistently being inventive and keeping it fresh and coming up with crazy new ideas that no other band could pull off. They’re back with their third album, Bird, and I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Roo Pescod for a long chat. We discussed a lot, from the recording process to working shitty jobs to whether punk encourages or discourages individuality to the spoken word, and more. Before we get into that though we have a brand new track from their new album 'Bird'!

Listen to ‘Half Human’ above! ‘Bird’ is out on August 10th on Specialist Subject Records and you can grab your pre-order for it here.

What motivated the move to a studio as opposed to recording in a more traditional DIY set up?

It felt like it was time. The last year or so we’ve been mostly trying to have some new experiences and do some different things, and none of us had really been to a real studio before. It was awesome too – because everything was set up to record it was way less stressful than having to convert the barn using plastic sheeting which is how we did Crazy Fucking Dreams. Back then we had to move all the farm equipment out and use some of it to cover the loose trapdoors and stuff, and cover up holes in the floor with our amps or bits of wood, and then it was cold as hell so we had curtains stapled to the wall to try and block some of the holes. This time we were in a nice warm studio. Lee and Jamie even stopped us every now and then so we could have coffee. You’ll hear that there’s a much warmer and more civilised sound on the new record.

So everything in the studio was a little cosier, a little warmer and a little more relaxed. That’s cool. But you still pushed yourself to record in three days, right? Why did you feel like you had to do this? Was it purely monetary reasons? Or do you feel like you thrive more when pushed to a deadline? I know when Calvinball recorded our album we would have killed for more time, but we just didn’t have the cash.

Honestly, we thought we were going to have 5 days which seemed like a leisurely and affordable period to record an album mostly live. It wasn’t until we arrived and we were talking to Lee and Jamie that it dawned that they were going to have to mix it, too. We’d never been to a professional studio before, so it just didn’t really occur to us. Saying that, I think we generally work quite fast and I don’t think the album would have come out sounding any better with more time spent on it. There’s definitely slipped notes on the guitar and the vocals aren’t all perfect, and maybe I’d push for more backing vocals, but the energy and vibe of the record is exactly what we wanted and way better than I expected. Greenmount are a great studio and I recommend them to everybody.

You’ve been a band for a long time now, are you still excited by punk bands in the UK?

Yeah, absolutely! I listen to a lot of not-punk stuff at the moment, but really UK punk music is in my bones. I saw Happy Accidents play in London earlier in the year and I felt electrified, and Pale Angels make me feel weak inside, and Martha blew me away in Leeds recently. There’s always been a lot of punk music that bores the hell out of me, and I think that’s never going to change, but I’ve got a real soft spot for nerdy looking skate punk bands who can’t play quite fast enough for the twiddling guitar bits. That is very much where my roots are. Skate punk is always going to be outsider music because it’s just so uncool, and I dig that.

It’s interesting that you feel like a lot of punk music bores the hell out of you, I gotta admit that I feel the same way (sorry, Punktastic. Sorry, Ben, Sorry, Maryam.) What sort of other music do you listen to? What’s your favourite non-punk record from the past few years? If that’s too hard, just tell me what you’ve been listening to lately.

I really did grow up listening to punk rock and Queen pretty exclusively until I went to University but these days I listen to lots of stuff in my old age. I love everything about Tom Waits, Regina Spektor, Ben Folds Five and Nick Cave. The Grinderman album is rad. I think that Future Islands record is really good. I listen to some jazz, particularly Miles Davis and Charles Mingus, and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis is pretty wild. Since I started working in the university library I’ve been catching up on pop music from their collection, too. So I’ve been listening to The Black Keys who are pretty cool and I’ve tried a few times to enjoy the White Stripes but keep failing miserably.

We Talk to Bangers and Stream a New Song!

Oh man, I don’t know if you’re into hip hop really, but that Black Keys record BlakRoc is so good. Anyway. Bird covers a lot of pretty bleak themes. Is writing a way for you to channel a lot of this stuff? Or is it just a reflection of society?

Bird really is a record about despair and depression and disgust. I had a hard year mentally, I made some mistakes and have ended up having to pay them back with some shitty jobs and a lot of cold, quiet nights in covered in blankets. Most of the lyrics were written while I was working as a dogsbody in the residences at the local University. I was doing a lot of shitty jobs and working with some people with attitudes that were really getting me down. For example, it was part of my job to report students taking drugs, and for a while I was so out of my mind that I was actually doing it. When things got better I reverted to just telling the kids to go and smoke in the fucking woods like a decent human being would. But I find that sort of thing really hard to incorporate into my moral code, and when you get really run down doing shitty jobs I find that you can start just doing the job without asking if what you’re doing is right, and at that point you might as well be a fucking soldier killing people. So I guess a lot of the record is about me telling myself to shape up, and trying to share that with everyone else. I came up with the line “I don’t feel like I’ll ever be clean again” over a period of a week where I was plunging every student shower on campus. That’s like 1400 showers and I had to unblock all of them with a plunger and a pair of long nosed pliers.

Fuck, that sounds like a pretty rough time. I get what you mean about working shitty jobs really bringing you down and I think a lot of people who get into punk in the first place will probably resonate with you on that one. With that in mind, do you think you can write a successful punk record if you’re truly happy? Or does there need to be a sense of disgust and despair to make it work?

I think it really depends on the vibe you’re going for. Great Cynics have a pretty positive vibe running through their records, and in a lot of cases it’s the nostalgia that creates Giles’ stories, not any kind of judgement. I think a good song, like a good story, needs a theme and an angle. So, you can write about getting stoned in the park (as a theme) but if drugs ruined your life the angle you’ll write it from is going to be different from someone who fondly remembers getting stoned with someone they don’t see anymore.

Conversely a good friend of mine in another band finished writing their album and said he just cried for two days. Needless to say that album’s a little darker. I definitely feel like I channelled some negative feelings into something creative, but I don’t by any means suggest that I’ve got some secret to the only way to write an album.

Your solo stuff is wild and freaky and weird and I think there’s a real sense of an underlying freakiness throughout Bird, maybe more so than any other Bangers record (except maybe Mysterious Ways). You mention being fed up pretending to be someone you’re not in the record, so is this increased weirdness a result of this? Have you just stopped caring as much?

If anything I’ve started caring more! It’s so easy to go through life just ticking the boxes and towing the line and just being yourself in your spare time, and I think so many people get caught up with that shit. I think the weirdness is what makes life worth living, and Bangers are all pretty weird guys, and I think that’s awesome. My solo music is something I love doing because I don’t care if anyone else likes it, but that’s totally different to not caring about the music. It’s saying “this is how I am, if you like it that’s great, if not that’s fine”. I think that bringing that to the forefront of all of your creative stuff is really important because, and this is fundamental: NOBODY IS NORMAL. Everybody feels like they need to conform to some sort of standard of normal that doesn’t really exist, and because everyone’s pretty uniquely weird, the ‘normal’s that everyone is striving for are all equally as fucking weird. To me, this is the fundamental thing that Bangers is about, trying to tell stories about being weird and isolated to communicate that everybody feels like that. Hopefully if everybody could feel a little bit more comfortable with themselves then everyone can stop being such a dick all the time.
So to summarise, the weirdness is fundamental to the message, and is a sign of more caring, not less.

Do you feel like punk has been a place where you can comfortably be who you want to be? Or do you think there are still limitations?

Personally I have a lot of great friends in the punk scene and I feel like a lot of us are on the same page of just being delighted with each other’s idiosyncrasies. I love people who are a bit odd, because they tend to be the ones who can accept oddities in other people – I think that makes it really easy to be whoever you want in a scene. The worst thing you can do is make fun of each other when your friends do something weird because that’s giving the message that you should conform, and that’s not what our scene should be about at all.

We Talk to Bangers and Stream a New Song!

Hmmm. I get what you’re saying about the punk scene and that it can be pretty accepting but, I mean, look at the furore over your turtleneck at Deadpunk! I know it was light-hearted and fun (also just downright wrong because you absolutely rocked it, by the way) but, I dunno, I guess when you look around at crowds at gigs, there is a real consensus in the way everyone looks and, I mean, I’m no different, I adhere to the same code whether it’s intentional or not. I guess what I’m getting at is: do you think we’re all in this thing because we’ve found other weirdos who are kinda the same as us? Or has ‘punk’ made us into these weirdos that are actually just the same as the other weirdos but we wear a lot more black?

This is a great question! Patrick from Self Defence Family talked about it a bit in an interview with Punknews when he was talking about sexism in the scene. I don’t want to misquote him, but basically he was saying that of course there is sexism in our scene because there’s sexism everywhere. And anyone who says there isn’t, based on their idea of how the scene SHOULD be, is deluding themselves. Listening to punk music doesn’t make us a superior species.

The thing is that kids who get into punk are usually kind of weird, awkward kids. They find a community of similarly awkward people and feel a part of something for the first time and then their sad human instinct is to hate all the other groups and the outcasts. Weird kids who got bullied at school don’t necessarily make the best rule makers.

Now, I think that there is the potential for outcasts to reflect on their own behaviour, look at actions that hurt them or annoyed them in the past (like someone making fun of the way they dressed) and use that experience to work out a better type of human being to be. It’s like the classic bad advice that parents give to their kids when they get beaten up at school. “You should get tougher, and then punch that guy on the nose.” It solves that individual’s short term problem, but it doesn’t do anything to eradicate the problem of bullying, which is a mechanism in our fucked up society for making people fall in line and stay where they’re put.

I think everyone should read Foundation by Isaac Asimov which is all about the decline of a galactic empire and the evils of holding onto old ideas.

The big problem, as I see it, is that there’s too many squares who identify themselves by their proximity to an imaginary ‘norm’. They are scared of being not ‘normal’ and threatened by (and feel superior to) anyone else who is less ‘normal’ than them. Those squares need to understand that their idea of ‘normal’ is no more legitimate than someone else’s religion or lifestyle choice or fashion accessory or fucking job. It’s all transitory bullshit and some people in and out of the punk scene are too close minded to get it.

I think so many people don’t even understand what being a cool person means. They don’t understand that it’s generosity and giving people time and listening and learning from everyone else and admitting when you’re wrong and blah blah blah. I don’t think anyone honestly believes that wearing the ‘right’ clothes and listening to the ‘right’ music and making fun of anyone they perceive as less cool will make them cooler, but sometimes it’s fucking hard to keep believing it.

Sorry, this answer is such a rant.

Definitely don’t apologise! Moving on, how long can you see Bangers lasting? Obviously it’s extremely difficult to make a real sustainable living off playing punk music these days. Do you think there would be a day when this would cause you to stop? Did you ever want to make this a career?

There was a while when I wanted Bangers to be my job, but that just ended up bringing me down and made being in the band way less fun. Worrying about money all the time is the worst possible thing you can do if you’re aiming to have a good time all of the time. So, recently I feel like all three of us are spending a bit more time and effort on our real lives so that Bangers can be more fun, and so that we can afford to do things like going to a real studio, or fixing our van or whatever. It’s also really nice to be able to afford to buy your friends a drink instead of worrying that, if you do, you won’t eat tomorrow – that really gets to a person. I don’t see an inevitable end to Bangers because I think that we’ll just slow down more and more, but making music with Hamish and Andrew is the best fun I’ve ever had, and I feel like we’re just getting good at it.

You’ve been in bands with Andrew (bass) and Hamish (drums) for years and years. This obviously helps a lot when writing songs, I imagine? Do you take a shell to the band and you fill it out together? Or do you tend to take a more contained thing that then gets slightly tweaked here and there?

This is one of the things that we’ve been trying to mix up recently. In the beginning, I’d pretty much write a song and bring it to practise and we’d learn it. That happened less and less until we got to Mysterious Ways where we were all more or less just pulling shit out of the air in front of our eyes. Then with Bird I guess there’s a pretty good mix of jams and songs that I wrote. I think that making a good pop song out of a group of noises sometimes needs a bit more control over the structure of the song as a whole, so I generally write the lyrics and the melodies. I think the important thing about writing songs with people (rather than for people) is that you have to be really honest and open to other’s people input, and that’s something that we’re getting better at.

On a personal note, your voice is killer on this record and that line in ‘The Trousers of Time’ about escape plans has been stuck in my head since I saw you play at Deadpunk in May, almost on a loop. How do you approach writing lyrics? Is it a constant process where you write lines and then come back and meld them together? Or do you sit and write the whole thing? Do you enjoy writing lyrics? Do you write anything else?

Thank you, I’m really pleased with how that song came out. My girlfriend mentioned ages ago that I’d never written her a song and I couldn’t believe that she thought that because so many Bangers songs are about us and how we interact together, which is what I think love stories are. But I said to myself that I was definitely going to write an explicit song about the way I felt about her on this album, and that’s ‘The Trousers of Time’. It’s about those days when you just hate everything and you can barely make yourself a cup of tea because the fucking Tories are back in Government, and capitalism is rife, and you can’t step outside your own house without a thousand things making you despair, and how the only thing that stops you from wanting to go back to the dimension you came from is that there’s this little bony flesh bag that you’ve fallen in love with which kind of counter-balances everything else. I don’t think she liked it.
I write in a constant process where I just wander around and make up rhymes in my head and sometimes they stick and sometimes I just let them go and gradually I end up with songs. I tried keeping notes a while ago, but I ended up writing down all the bad ideas as well as the good ones and looking back through a notepad of bad lyrics is the worst. You end up dreading that someone else will read it and work out that you’re a phony.
As for enjoying it, Brendan Kelly said ages ago that the songwriters he knows tend to just write compulsively and joylessly. To some extent I agree with that, but I do love making up good lines. I’ve been working on a long poem about the Devil, here’s a bit I’m particularly proud of:
Ten minutes later in the bathroom
they snorted cocaine and Valium
until she couldn’t feel anything
except her bare feet on the porcelain
and by the time she slipped her dress back on
all the young gentlemen and debutantes
were cross legged in the corridor
all banging on the bathroom door

I think there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from putting words together.


I really like that, I love the way you put your words together and I think a huge draw about Bangers in general is the lyrics. Would you ever consider publishing any of your writing? Is that something you’d be interested in? I mean, Hamish has his Lucida Console zines, so that could be a cool project. On that note, would you do any more voiceover stuff? I really dug the way those Dog Days audiobooks came out. I listened to that stuff in my first year of Uni and it was a great distraction from all the bullshit going on.

Thank you. I used to write a lot of stories, but realistically I have never had the focus to write anything longer than a short story. Songs are easier because there’s really not that many words, and most song lyrics are awful, so you only have to write a song marginally more interesting than the herd for it to be a good song. On the other hand, as soon as you write a book you’re instantly competing with William Gibson, and his use of ideas and language freaks me out it’s so perfect.

As for audio stuff, I like the spoken word a lot and I listen to a lot of audiobooks and radio plays. One of my favourite things in the world is a radio sitcom called Nebulous starring Mark Gatis. Highly recommended to everybody with a goofy sense of humour. I think I’ll probably do more of it in the future, but I’d want to be much better at it than I am, and there’s only so many hours in the day to practise all the things I need to get better at.