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Eagulls interview: How post can post-punk get, now it's 2016?

Eagulls frontman George Mitchell talks us through the band's latest album 'ULLAGES'.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 14th Jul 2016

Image: Eagulls

Eagulls may well be synonymous with the DIY underbelly of their home city, Leeds, playing tiny rooms where sweat drips from the ceilings and scores of young kids throw themselves around whilst the band propel an incendiary racket, covering Wipers tracks alongside their own brittle yet melodic brand of punk.

Yet in the wake of their superb 2014 debut album, they were catapulted to another level altogether. A David Letterman appearance occurred, in which they joined Bill Murray as guests.

Shortly followed by this they won an NME award for best video for their track ‘Nerve Endings’, beating off some major competition by the likes of Arcade Fire, Haim, Arctic Monkeys and Pharrell Williams.

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A year or so of intensive touring followed as the group took their melody-drenched angst on the road, playing venues and festivals all across the world.

Two years later, in May, they are releasing their follow up, ULLAGES, a record that takes a step back in pace from their first and instead retains a notably contemplative tone for a band that have spent little time elsewhere than on a stage for two years.

From earlier songs released, such as ‘Lemontrees’ and ‘My Life in Rewind’, on the surface level it may appear like an entirely new direction for the band, like if Magazine had morphed into the Smiths in the space of one album to the next but further listening will see the connecting link, the deeper sense of evolution the band are reaching for.

Lead singer George Mitchell talks us through the band’s latest album. They appear at Reading & Leeds Festival, Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and play an intimate date at The Ferrett in Preston in September among others in the coming months.   

How do you feel the band have evolved from your first album? What do you think separates the new material from earlier stuff and at the same time what would you say connects it? 

I feel we have evolved our overall song craftsmanship in comparison to album one. The first album was all about stating an emotion in its full complexities without taking our feet off the accelerator.

It was about creating a record that was a mirror-image of our live show at that exact period in our lives - non-stop and very full on. The new material differs from the first album in a number of ways with pace being one of them, as the first album was strictly 4/4 beats we wanted the second album to venture into different time signatures.

Sonically on ULLAGES we were more fixated on the idea of creating beauty in our music more than the speed-ridden, harsh forces of album number one.

Lyrically, ULLAGES is more advanced exploring varied subjects inspired by various themes like social mentalities to contemporary artists. I feel the connection between these records is our ability to capture and marriage melody and energy into one.

How much of a focus/discussion point was texture on this record? It feels like a very rich and dense record - what were some of the desires, sonically speaking, on this record?  

We were extremely focussed on portraying arrays of textures from the word go on this record. The last album had some great qualities to it, but was always leaning towards the heavier, brash side of the spectrum.

We felt we should display all ends of the spectrum on this record, harsh to soft, thick and thin, and I feel we have achieved that. We wanted the textures to represent emotions in a see-saw effect, enabling the listener to be up and down throughout the album.

The first album openly dealt with some issues around things like anxiety, has a steady period of touring and being on stage aided this at all? Do you feel more confident or comfortable now?  

Suffering from anxiety is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my days. A lot of the first albums lyrics were about the complexities of the common mental health issue and also an exploration into trying to understand why it was occurring not only to me, but also my generation.

It’s an on-going issue that isn’t really resolved by going on tour or putting a plaster on it, as you say. But, I do feel I have more clarity on the issue now than in 2013.

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It's likely the new record is going to draw some comparisons to some big hitters from the 80s: The Smiths, The Cure, Cocteau Twins etc - are these bands you feel comfortable being associated and compared with? Is there also any link between a fascination with or desire to explore sounds particularly from that decade?

As much as it’s great being compared to those bands that we were lucky to have to listen to growing up, it also can become quite a burden of a label on us. I hope some people can put aside the comparisons and listen to our songs as new, original material.

Surely by now everybody knows that art is always inspired by the art that comes beforehand. And also how post can post-punk get, now it's 2016?

I feel comfortable being associated and compared with those great bands though, as they were the last flock of bands to really explore rock and pop music in a contemporary and tasteful manner.

Our fascination with sounds from that period has much more to do with the equipment those bands were using at the time, as for us an analogue sound is by far more interesting than these poor quality digital sounds modern bands are constantly using in a throw away manner. Effects were so much lusher and open back then compared to nowadays digital sounds.

Eagulls have always struck me as being a quintessentially British band. Which I know sounds daft given you are of course British but given how many young British bands seem locked into pretending they are from mid-nineties America, it feels refreshing. I wonder if you consider yourselves to have a strong British musical identity and if so, what that means to you? 

It’s kind of daft as yes, we are all British! You see when we started our band the whole nineties American thing was in full swing in the English underground, just like the whole neo-psychedelia movement is in full swing in the underground today.

Personally I just couldn't associate myself with it. I feel lost in my own country, so why get myself lost inside an imaginary other land? I guess those bands just try to escape our dreary UK in some deranged idea of the expat California dream. The thing is with us is that we are not actors. We are who we are and that’s what comes across in our music and words. We don’t try to be British, we just are I suppose.

When you listen to ULLAGES yourself, what feelings, images and emotions does it bring up for you? Where does ULLAGES take Eagulls when they listen to it or play it? 

Listening to the record places me into the mind frames I was in at the times when writing the songs. I think about all the surroundings that I somehow absorbed and all the art and writings I’d read around those times that helped me put my subconscious thoughts down onto paper.

The record makes me feel all kinds of feelings, but the main emotion is a sense of pride that we got it completed as it was quite a battle this time round.

I'm aware you have quite a hardcore fanbase from the DIY/punk scene, do you think they will follow the slower and more melodic direction happily and do you care if they do or don't? 

I feel like most people will take our new direction happily and will enjoy our progression. I feel our previous fans music tastes will have matured along with our song craftsmanship and they’ll happily accept what we’ve made.

Of course we care about our fans, but at the end of the day music is like public art, we display it for anyone to engross in and if they don’t like it they’re very free to walk on to the next artist’s piece.

What are you plans for 2016? Anything beyond the usual touring and festivals circuit? 

We’re trying to play the more interesting independent venues around the UK when we can as we want to keep the live act and overall experience a little more interesting than the usual mundanities.

Other than the UK we have a bunch of EU dates planned, including festivals and headline slots. A US tour is being planned etc, etc. We missed out on some big festivals this year as our album came out too late so, hopefully more of them next year.  We have a new website that we promise we’ll update too! So head to that to see our future plans.

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Read: Deap Vally bring 'Femijism' to additional UK dates in September

Words: Daniel Dylan Wray

 

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