Introducing: Royal Fisticuffs

By Chris Marshman

London pop punk. Sounds good, right? The days are getting longer and it’s starting to feel like Spring isn’t that far away. So let’s look forward, and get you acquainted with a new band intent on bringing the pop punk scene back to London.

Royal Fisticuffs are a pop-punk four-piece – Jack Collins, Tom Howells, Owain Mumford and Tom Stuttard. They told us their bigggest influences are Latterman, Hot Water Music and The Story So Far, adding that “There’s a fair bit of emo influence in there too. People have likened us to Japandroids (in guitar sound, mainly) and Osker as well.”

It seems like Royal Fisticuffs are confident in their own skin: “We’re a bunch of middle-class pussies. We don’t have any tattoos. We’re clean shaven most of the time. We eat ham hock sandwiches at band practice and our bassist is a rocket scientist. We shit ye not.”

It’s nice to see a band not trying to pretend they’re something they’re not. Besides, the whole “me and my bros” schtick in pop punk at the moment is starting to get tiring.

They dont care about being cool either. Says Jack, “We don’t write songs about girls or politics. We write songs about books, exotic fruit and an American road trip that Tom Stuttard and I did in 2009. We are less than cool.”

This isn’t their first go at putting together a band. Jack again: “I was in a pop punk band called Wagstaffe with Tom Stuttard when I was at school. I met the other Tom at university in London. We started writing songs together and formed a wussy indie-emo band called Picasso! Picasso! We also met Owain at university. He told us that he was a good drummer.” They didn’t believe him. “But thankfully he proved us wrong.”

Indie-emo didn’t quite fit, and they started Royal Fisticuffs “to do something a bit more straight-up. And noisier.”

After a few practices, they’d written three songs. But time wasn’t on their side: “Tom Stuttard decided to move to France for nine months with work. As soon as he returned, the other Tom went travelling around South America for three months. We must be one of the only bands in history to have gone on hiatus for a year without playing a single gig!”

When everyone had finally returned to the UK, they wrote some more songs, and got a break – “thanks to Adrian who runs ‘What Ever Happened to P-Rock?’ we played our first ever gig supporting Vinnie Caruana from The Movielife.”

And their name? Well for all you super fans out there, you already know that it’s taken from a Superchunk b-side (Her Royal Fisticuffs) of course.

The band released three tracks onto soundcloud in late 2012, having recorded them in August 2012 at The Gun Factory in Stoke Newington. The songs were a product of a year of songwriting, and they were completed during one single live session with the band. In the past few months, however, they’ve moved on a bit. They tell us that although these tracks “sound cohesive together, our sound has changed a lot since then.”

The real interest surrounding Royal Fisticuffs and a lot of other pop punk bands starting to emerge from London is their ethos, and their ideas for the scene as a whole. Here’s Jack explaining: “Although tons of touring bands play in London, the city lacks a truly cohesive unsigned pop punk scene. Smaller towns like Kingston and Cardiff have a much more focused scene, where a tight-knit group of promoters, bands, club nights, venues, record stores and fans all support each other.”

As a result, he says, effort gets wasted. “There are some really cool promoters, club nights, zines and venues in London trying their hardest to support local unsigned bands, such as What Ever Happened to P-Rock?, Punktastic, Everything Sucks and the Black Heart in Camden. But it’s often too disparate. There are too many awful venues and dodgy promoters diluting the pot, taking advantage of bands in the process.”

And this means bands miss out on the promotion and recognition they deserve. “We’ve only played four gigs so far, but we’ve been lucky enough to play with some truly amazing London-based bands that deserve more attention, namely Home Advantage, Real Adventures and British Teeth. We were all chatting recently about trying to carve out a thriving unsigned pop punk scene in London again, working together to put on awesome shows and helping each other gain more and more exposure. Hopefully, with the help of like-minded promoters and websites like Punktastic, we can make the London pop punk scene just as good as the one in Kingston.” Sounds great to us.

How important is a DIY attitude? “Very. We have no interest in having an overly polished sound, getting hipster haircuts or having a MySpace page with a million promo photos on it. We just want to play shows with bands we like as often as possible.”

Sometimes if you want change to happen, you’ve gotta roll up your sleeves: “Back in 2007 Tom Howells and I ran a pop punk club night in London called Melody Pops. It only lasted a few months, but it was awesome. We recently put on a punk rock show using the Melody Pops name. By taking a DIY approach we were able to craft a bill packed with bands we love: Home Advantage, Real Adventures, British Teeth, Our Time Down Here and us.”

It genuinely seems like they want to do their best to try to make a difference, and with their attitude they could really make it happen. More on that club night: “We didn’t put the bands under pressure to bring their friends to the gig like many promoters are guilty of doing. We promoted the show by handing out free mix CDs which featured one song from each band on the bill. Everyone who came to the show was there because they were passionate about pop punk. It was exactly the kind of show we want to play more of.”

For Royal Fisticuffs, 2013 is all about writing and recording new music. There have been whispers about possibly putting together a couple of mini tours with their friends in Home Advantage. It could be an important year for London pop punk and we’ll be behind them all the way.

Chris Marshman