“There’s a general neglect regarding politics from people in general and it affects everybody.” Impact talks to one of Britain’s most promising bands, The Blinders, about their debut record Columbia, their fearsome live shows and the troublesome times in which we live today.
Coarse, incandescent and beguiling. These are just three words that come to mind while listening to Gotta Get Through, the opening single from Doncaster three-piece The Blinders’ raucous debut record, which highlights an ever-growing shift into politics for up-and-coming rock bands. It’s not a coincidence that bands such as IDLES, Cabbage, and Shame have all gained recent widespread attention for their outlook towards current society, and as I speak to The Blinders’ bassist Charlie McGough, there’s a lot to be angry about.
“We’re sort of happy to nail our coffins to the mask on the politics side of it,” states McGough, talking about his band’s music.
“It surrounds you and it’s so important, especially to a younger generation. I feel we’re a generation of people looking to the future after Brexit and the effects of climate change. What can we do to stop these things? It’s our generation who will all be affected and the following generations who will be affected the most by this so how can you stand by and not talk about this.”
“I feel like out political leaders are regressing, rather than being progressive. You’ve got people who are ignoring climate change and seem to be determined to create a future maybe for the older generation now, and it’s creating a bleak future for younger generations. How can you not talk about that? How can you not reference it?” His anguish is noticeable throughout The Blinders’ debut record, and has been part of him since the band began writing music.
Having grown up in coal-dominated, working-class Doncaster, the band, consisting of Thomas Haywood (vocals and guitar), Charlie McGough (bass) and Matt Neale (drums), packed up and moved to Manchester, where the thriving rock scene embraced them with open arms. From Manchester, they have gained a renowned reputation for being a fearsome live prospect and on 21st September, released debut record Columbia.
Speaking of the record, McGough says “the album itself didn’t take long but some of the songs are actually about three years old maybe. To finally get them out there, in the form that we have released them, the reception has been fantastic and we couldn’t have asked for much more.”
“We wanted the album to be a document of the band up to now”
While the reception for the album has been nothing but brilliant, the process of recording was anything but. “We had a month booked in the studio. Thirty days to record an album, so we sort of went in and we had, maybe, half a dozen songs to record and we hit a bit of a wall in the studio. The decision was to just look at the themes, and how the album was going, and we made the decision with our producer Gavin Monaghan (Editors, The Twang) to record a couple of the older songs we’d already released and a couple we sort of had knocking around in our back catalogue.”
“We wanted the album to be a document of the band up to now, and the older songs we’ve included just fitted so well and it seemed a shame to miss them off. So that was how we sort of finished the album. Looking back, it was a good decision for us really.”
On listening to the record, there’s an innate sense of importance that the lyrics possess. McGough speaks about how the band’s lyrics provide the platform to move from. “A lot of it [tracks] starts with the lyrics really. We like to get a set of lyrics down and get a narrative to those lyrics and then build a song around that and try and stretch it out from that, whether that’s jamming it out or picking it apart.”
“The Blinders … don’t shy away when it comes to emphasising the need for change”
Delving further into The Blinders’ lyrics, McGough astutely agrees that there’s an Orwellian nature to the debut record. “We wanted to write about the current day but not sort of reference the current day if that makes sense. It’s not something that comes very natural to us, to reference it in such a philosophical way. We just read a lot of historic literature and it just fitted. Once you open that box of language, what we’re trying to say went hand in hand with that. We sort of referenced that and used it as a tool to reference society but in a more broad sense of looking at it, a more thematic approach really.”
“I think if you’ve got a platform, you should use it.”
The Blinders might be looking at a broader, more subtle way to convey their message than, say, IDLES or Cabbage, but they don’t shy away when it comes to emphasising the need for change. When asked whether artists have a duty to speak out on societal issues, McGough remarked “Definitely, I think there was a debate in the week about this [where] Taylor Swift spoke out finally. I think if you’ve got a platform, you should use it. I’m not saying every one of your lyrics should be political. There’s a general neglect regarding politics from people in general and it affects everybody. It’s not just musicians that have a stage, it’s a society-wide thing. If you’re asked about it, have an opinion. Everyone should have an opinion.”
Opinions are essential to the band, and the public opinion of The Blinders’ live shows are something to take note of.
About to embark on a 22-date UK tour, McGough’s excitement radiates down the phone. “[I’m] looking forward to it really. We’ve not been on the road properly for a while now really, the festival season comes [and goes] and it’ll be nice to get back on the road and have a proper tour. [Playing live has] been our bread and butter. That’s what we’re most natural at doing and it’s where we feel most comfortable. I think that’s why the audience enjoy it the most.”
There’s a warmth in the bassists northern lilt as he describes the upcoming tour, (“it’s going to be an experience”) but their live shows have tended to cause more harm than you might expect.
The intensity of the band as performers has regularly left them with bleeding hands and fingers. Asked if this has ever caused a hindrance, “We’ve always been able to do the shows,” responds McGough. “I think there’s been a few fingers, maybe joints out of place, but a couple of painkillers and get on stage and everything should be alright. Once the adrenaline kicks in it’s usually alright.”
With or without fully functioning limbs, it’s without doubt that this Doncaster trio are gaining important momentum. Both BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music have regularly championed the band, with Steve Lamaq inviting them to play a mesmerising live session. “Maybe doing the Maida Vale session with Lamaq, that was one of those moments and [realising] the people who have played there and the people who have recorded there was rather unbelievable,” recalls McGough.
However, it’s been the summer that has provided Charlie McGough with the band’s proudest moment. “I think the Reading and Leeds shows, to be honest, over the summer, headlining the BBC Introducing stage,” McGough says. “Leeds was the festival we all went to when we were about fifteen or sixteen and we all went together. To finally play that place properly and to have some massive crowds really was something rather special”
Having just released their debut record and with a lengthy UK tour ahead, you may feel that The Blinders might want a break. This, McGough says, is not the case. “We’ve been working on songs for album two already. We’ve kind of got maybe half a dozen to a dozen now so once we come back after the tour we’ll try and write some more and hopefully record some more new stuff.”
“Hopefully next year we’ll have some more festivals in store, hopefully more touring and we’d like to go abroad, that’s something we’d really like to do if the god’s will have it. Fingers crossed we’ll keep pushing.”
“To finally play that place properly and to have some massive crowds really was something rather special”
Brazen and brash, The Blinders are a band set to break into new heights over the next few months. Their shows have gathered almost cult-like attention and need to be experienced to be believed. As is the case with many upcoming bands, there’s a sense of doubt as to whether a second album will be as cutting as the first, but, with the current political climate warming up to an extreme and unparalleled position, you can’t help but think that The Blinders’ flame will be ignited even stronger than before.
The Blinders play in Nottingham at the Bodega on 24 October, with support from Calva Louise, as part of their 22-date UK tour. Their debut album “Columbia” is out now.
Featured image and article images courtesy of SonicPR.
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