Looking for some #newmusicmonday inspiration? Look no further than our new band of the week, London’s Keep Up.
Forming from the remains of two of East Anglia’s most fun bands, Keep Up have regrouped, relocated, and refocused on taking back the music scene for themselves.
They take post-punk influences and inject a little joy with the kind of guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on the C86 tape, then run the whole thing through a light filter of fuzz.
We sat down with drummer Fab Bell to talk about the band’s thoughtful processes, their glorious recent single ‘Fear’, and how they are “less silly” than they used to be…
Hello there! Just as a quick introduction, please introduce us to everyone and tell us what they do.
“We’re Keep Up. Which is Evan Jones who is the lead vocalist and guitarist, Christian Daniels who is the guitarist, Rory Hill who’s the bassist and myself, Fab Bell, who is the drummer.”
What’s the story behind Keep Up? How did the band come to be?
“We pretty much formed from the wreckage of two previous bands, having all tried our hands at taming the music industry, we decided to regroup and make music we all felt was more appropriate to who we were and what we wanted to achieve.
“We’d outgrown old projects and wanted a new start. To be honest we really wanted to have the opportunity to make music without the shackles of what was expected of us previously.”
For anyone who’s never heard you before, how would you describe your music, and why should people listen to you?
“This is the question that makes all bands freeze up, even if it’s a quiet chat in the pub or talking to the taxi driver who’s just ferried your amps to practice. The best way we can describe it is by using other references; if Velvet Underground and The War On Drugs made poppier records, and had grown up watching Joy Division… but in London.
“Our sounds are always attempting to convey a melancholic kind of joy, which we hope people can get behind and relate to.”
You tasted success with The Kabeedies (European tours etc). Has it been difficult or strange to start over from scratch, or was it a welcome chance for reinvention?
“It was very much a welcome chance. We felt we’d done all we could with previous bands and having Christian (formerly of The Cheek) on board playing with us under the name ‘The Kabeedies‘ just felt a little forced.
“We were able to move away from the teen-pop sounds, as we’d tried to with our later work as Kabeedies, but this was a chance for a clean break.
“We’ve also been glad of the time to get our heads down and properly song-write – so now we have a solid base of songs to work from, which was honed and crafted to our own timetable, meaning we could put much more into it.”
Keep Up certainly seems to be a more mature band, aesthetically. Has the ‘rebrand’ allowed more freedom to experiment with styles and find a more distinctive sound?
“It was almost more of an ‘unbranding’ in comparison to previous bands, which were sold on style over substance I feel. A more adult appearance means we’re, hopefully, going to be taken more seriously.
“It is more of who we are. Less contrived and silly. Plus it means we have more confidence in the project if it looks and feels complete.”
Do you feel Keep Up is a truer representation of the individual member’s tastes then? There seems to be a lot of post-punk elements (on a personal note the pre-chorus on ‘Fear’ really reminds me of Joy Division’s ‘Digital’), with lighter, even dream-pop, influences.
“That’s pretty much bang on, kudos old boy. We actually got told after our show at the [famous Camden venue] Barfly that we were channelling Joy Division and aspects of New Order. We hadn’t considered it ourselves but being big fans of both bands ourselves (New Order were fantastic at Brixton Academy recently) we were pretty chuffed to hear the comparison.
“Our guitar sounds lend a lot to the dreamier aspects; Evan and Christian are using much more expressive pedals and amp sounds – which just adds to the arsenal of tools with which we can convey the right feelings in a song.
“They tend to be the dreamier overlay, with myself and Rory’s fuzz-bass sound providing the tighter, Joy Division-style core. Also having a moody old vocalist doesn’t hurt.”
Keep Up: (l-r) Fab Bell, Rory Hill, Christian Daniels, Evan Jones
You seem to be taking a slightly more considered approach, picking and choosing higher profile shows rather than just gigging as much as possible. Is this something deliberate or a result of circumstance?
“It’s most certainly deliberate. We are older and wiser now than when we first began and realise that the best option isn’t always to play every show, especially when the budget is tight.
“Creating a buzz in the press and through social media by releasing new material is just as important as playing shows. Bands have to be more than just a one-trick gigging machine, they have to be on top of all aspects of their sound and presentation – using all mediums available, that’s why we pored over getting our first video right and getting the songs to the right level.”
Every time you play a gig, you seem to be playing a ‘brand new set’. Why is this?
“We’ve written a huge amount of material in the last six months, and we’re still writing every day so we want to road test as much of it as we possibly can until we find which set is the right one, and then also decide which of the songs are right for an EP or an album to come.
“So we tend to play lots of new material at every show, which also keeps each now show exciting for us too.”
Are you just trying to make sure you’ve got everything as good as it can be before hitting the stage?
“Yeah. Not only the songs, but the set itself as a whole is pored over. Each move from song to song is considered and all the sounds we’re making on stage taken into account.”
With band members spread across the South East, how does a Keep Up song typically get written?
“Well, luckily three of us are in London now, albeit spread about. So each member comes up with ideas and we songwrite 16 hours a week together in a studio in Kentish Town. Evan then goes away and completes the lyrics for it.
“That’s a typical song, but they can get written in lots of other ways; for example Evan may come with three quarters of a song finished and Rory will get the train down from Norwich and we’ll finish it in an afternoon – those are nice…”
With so many songs under your belt, how do you pick the ones you want to lead with, and why did ‘Fear’ get the nod?
“We like to keep an open mind about which songs are strongest, and which songs can be used for which purpose. Each tune has its strengths and weaknesses in a set or as a standalone release. Our set is comprised of the right balance of these songs, and ‘Fear’ is just one of many that we’d choose to lead with.
“We thought it was the right one to put out first though, as it’s got a lot of our key elements in it, and it came very naturally to us in the studio. Evan’s loquacious vocal meant that it was easy to grasp on to what we were getting across, plus it’s a real feel good song for us to play live, and easy to put everything in to.”
What’s the story behind the song?
“It’s not easy for me to put words in Evan’s mouth, but as far as I see it it’s a breakup song about the difficulty of moving on. There are elements of still wanting to be good friends with your ex-partner, being unable to deny those feelings of particular closeness that you shared and finding difficulty in seeing where the next step is.
“But it’s also a more general song, about how breakups are relative to fear in loads of other aspects of peoples lives, that fear of moving on is equivalent to the fear of unknown or unusual.”
The single comes with a great video. What’s the story behind that and how does it tie in with the track?
“We’re very proud of that one. We had an amazing team behind the video and the director (Candice-Joelle) did an incredible job with it, as did the rest of the crew.
“It was filmed in Suffolk over a very long night with a very pretty BMW and an abandoned WW2 pill-box. Our lead actor has the most wonderful expressive face and combined with the lighting was used to create this deep, dark impression of the unknown and phases of human reaction to stimulus.
“It’s tied to the track through its exploration of the ways we perceive fear, and how a person can view a trauma in different ways.”
When can we expect some more new material from Keep Up?
“We’re keeping that under our hat for a little while longer, but you could well have another track by Christmas….”
What can people expect from any upcoming EPs or albums?
“There’d be a lot of variation on an EP, but with a core running through it of melancholic joy. It would be four songs we’re very, very proud of, and very keen to see how people react to them. Power, moodiness, pop, and heavy, driving guitar.
“We hope whatever it is, people enjoy it!”
Will you be putting together a tour any time soon, and what can we expect from your live shows?
“We’ll be looking at putting together more shows in January, so keep an eye open in the new year for more shows in London and beyond.”
And finally, what other new bands around at the moment should people be listening to?
“We’re absolutely besotted with Kurt Vile, whose new album is incredible. Plus we’re very into Big Deal and Drones Club to name but a few.”
More info: www.keepupband.com