Brothers Ewan and Callum of Bad Sounds released their captivating debut album Get Better this summer, demonstrating that a lifetime of making music both together and apart certainly pays off. The exploratory work of the five-piece group belies the blending of Callum’s pop background with Ewan’s work in hip-hop, creating an innovative, genre-fusing sound. I interviewed Ewan to find out more about their background as well as their upcoming Nottingham show.
Having played in various bands as teenagers, Ewan described the boys as having reunited after years of working in different areas of the music industry. Whilst Callum had been in London studios working with ‘classic’ pop, reminiscent of Jackson, Ewan was exploring hip-hop and sample-based music. However, neither was able to fully develop their own sound without collaborating and going out on a limb: “when we just started writing some tunes together, it felt a lot more exciting than the stuff we were doing separately”.
The pair were able to mesh aspects of what they had been working on together, “filling in gaps for each other”. Although the band’s overall sound is not necessarily hip-hop, Ewan noted that the hip-hop mindset of “cherry-picking” from different genres and blending them is key to Bad Sounds’ composition.
“We don’t wanna do something that just feels like the trend of the day or a flash in the pan”
After questioning whether they had any particular musical influences, he commented that whilst he might point to MJ or Gnarls Barkley, everyone in the group would say something different. In contrast, Callum’s individual inspirations manifest themselves in each piece of the band’s artwork, creating a unique and instantly recognisable group image.
The compilation of both quintessential and brand-new Bad Sounds tracks in Get Better makes for a diverse yet fluid listening experience. Ewan pointed to ‘Another Man’ as one of his favourite tracks: “it probably took the longest to write on the album…I don’t know if that just made it more rewarding”. As well as ‘Honestly’: “it felt like I got to do a bit more lyrically on those two tracks…they just appealed to my tastes a bit more”.
On the subject of lyrics, whilst Ewan admitted that they were not a huge priority when the band first started, they had an epiphany when working on ‘Avalanche’. They suddenly felt that they had some lyrics they liked and decided from then on to only write about personal experiences, moving towards the effortlessly relatable music they have since produced.
Following on from the release of their debut, I asked if Bad Sounds were currently thinking about anything new. Noting that they are always working on things like collaborations and remixes, Ewan asserted that they are currently just writing for fun without huge pressure for another album just yet.
This process of constant production fed into his advice for up-and-coming bands: “the main thing is to write a lot and try and get as good as you can be at that, as I think the song is the most important thing”.
Ewan admitted that whilst it was hard for the group to pinpoint their main goal in making music, a concept constantly kept in mind was a desire to create something genuinely lasting: “we wanna make sure we’ll still like it in ten years time… we don’t wanna do something that just feels like the trend of the day or a flash in the pan”.
“With our own show we can put on our own production and it really feels like a Bad Sounds evening”
Having seen Bad Sounds support Rat Boy during his 2016 tour, I wondered what it was like for the boys to have progressed to getting their own. Whilst Ewan maintains that it was great to meet new people every night and spread their sound to new people, the group were excited about having their own gigs: “we finally get to put on the Bad Sounds show we always talk about doing, it feels like everything comes together”.
The tour is clearly highly anticipated by Bad Sounds followers as well as the boys themselves, with many dates having sold out early. With a love for performing at both festivals and concerts, Ewan compares the summer season with touring: “it’s hard to say which I prefer… [at festivals] everybody’s in a good mood…[but] you never know what it’s gonna be like until you step on the stage… with our own show we can put on our own production and it really feels like a Bad Sounds evening”.
Despite the huge range of cities in which the group has played, Ewan professed to have a special place in his heart for Glasgow and of course, his hometown of Bristol. However, he also declared that he is seriously looking forward to his evening in Nottingham later this week, as I am and you certainly should be too.
Bad Sounds performs on November 1st at the Rescue Rooms. Tickets are still available.
Featured image and article images courtesy of Beth Squire.
Image use licence here.