It’s been almost two years since Eagulls released their self-titled breakthrough album, which saw their swirly shoegaze guitars and thumping punk energy capture plenty of hearts.
At that time they regaled us with entertaining tales of encounters with Bill Murray, so with a follow-up record on the way, we spoke to drummer Henry Ruddel about the Leeds band’s new material, the appeal of independent venues and – of course – a few more celebrity name-drops.
You’re a Leeds-based band, now out in the big wide world. If you could bring one thing from Leeds on the road with you, what would it be?
That is fairly available elsewhere?
“The Brudenell Social Club. Yeah, I’d just take that.”
You’re about to go on a new UK tour in March with new material. What can you tell us about the new album?
“It’s very much still an Eagulls album, but it is a slight departure from the last LP. It’s more melodic. I think there’s different themes in the lyrics. The songs are a bit more thought-out. It’s less abrasive. We didn’t want to just go down the same path as last time, but not necessarily change in a conscious way.
“On the last one, from the start of the album to the finish – it’s just one gear all the way through. It starts and doesn’t stop. This one we wanted to be far more dynamic, a lot more ups and downs and different themes. It’s not like a grand departure or anything, we’re not reinventing ourselves – it’s still us. But we just wanted to push ourselves.”
You’ve chosen a lot of intimate venues for this tour – was that a conscious decision?
“We just wanted to do something more interesting in terms of venue space. We got in contact with the promoters and said ‘can you find somewhere for us to do something off the beaten track?’.
“We wanted to go to towns we’d never been to before, we just wanted to do something a bit more interesting really. A lot of bands used to do that, but they don’t any more and we didn’t want to fall into the same circuit – doing the same things that we’ve done over the last few years. We wanted to work with these people that we’ve put on good shows together – but just in a more interesting environment. Both for the listener and for the band.”
How much outside pressure is there to release new material after you’ve toured the previous album for the last 12 months? Is there a sense of anticipation from people who really want to hear the new stuff?
“You do feel pressure, but it’s just about how you deal with it. Everything we wrote until this new album, it was all about portraying our certain head-space at the time. When anyone starts a band – you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to make music or do anything in a creative sense. You do it because you want to.
“I think that over the last few years, it comes to a point where you realise there is a fanbase there. People are watching and want you to do something. I think going into the second album, there was definitely a bit of pressure there because people are talking about you. Over the internet or social media, it doesn’t take someone two seconds to tell you what they think about you.
“But if you let that hang heavy over you, I don’t think you’d come up with anything that’s worth it. If you try and write for a fanbase, or try and write for a certain demographic – there’s just no point. It stops being relevant. You just have to block that out and try to write something you want to write.”
It’s about trusting your own instincts then?
“Absolutely. The second you start not doing that – I think it would just fall to pieces. People can see right through that. If you don’t trust your in own music then why should other people? There’s definitely pressure there, because you feel like you have expectations and you want people to like it. But if you want to provoke thought, then you’ve got to do it for yourself first.”
You’re playing a show as part of Independent Venue Week. Why is this a cause that you think is important?
“Independent venues are like our lifeblood with the way we started off. Even before we started playing in a band, it’s where all of us would spend most of our time – watching other bands. I think that’s where we met and where we met other interesting people.
“Going back to that idea that people don’t have to make music, people don’t have to start independent venues for these bands to come to either. All the people that do it aren’t in it for the money – definitely not – they’re in it for the community. It’s because they’re music fans themselves. There’s just something about independent venues that have that attitude and that atmosphere.
“We spend so much time in these venues, they need to be celebrated. They’re so important. So important to bands. They’re shutting down at an alarming rate. It would be awful without them I think. It’ll never happen because the community is too strong, I don’t think they’ll allow it – but they are disappearing.
“But then in the same breath, new ones are starting up all the time which is pretty good. They’re so important to any band. Bands that in ten years time could be selling out Wembley Arena will start in these venues. We like to think that no matter what level our little band gets to, we’ll always spend time in these places.”
The last time you spoke to us was not long after the ‘Bill Murray kissing your bassist’s bicep‘ incident. Have you had any other interesting celebrity encounters since then?
“I don’t think any of us have been kissed by a celebrity since… I missed all of that anyway. It’s really annoying. I went upstairs to the green room to get my jacket and then I came down and everyone told me and showed me the photos.”
If there was ever a time not to go and get your jacket.
“I know. It was a bit of an error. But I don’t think we’ve been in a situation quite as funny as that. When we played Jools Holland, George shook hands with Engelbert Humperdinck and had to go and take photos with him. He said that was quite an experience.”
Your live shows have been described as raucous and manic. There’s a lot of energy. Do you have any mosh-pit etiquette or guidelines that you want people to keep in mind when they’re at your shows?
“Not any I would say. I mean, there’s unwritten rules with that sort of thing. You look after each other. There’s nothing better than sort of feeling of completely letting go – it’s the same for us on stage as it is for the people in the crowd. When you go and watch a band, you want to use that as an outlet to lose yourself a little bit. But there’s other people in that room, who are using that outlet in a different way. It’s just about respecting one another basically. I don’t quite get why some people use it as a violent outlet, where they deliberately want to hurt people. That’s pretty alien to me.
“I think it’s more to do with the security that it gets frustrating. George, on plenty of occasions, has had a shout at security between songs. You’ll have a barrier between you and the crowd, there’s loads of people there dancing and then you see some six and a half foot monster dragging people out because they’re trying to have a dance. That’s more frustrating than people in the crowd because the crowd know what they’re doing – they’re there for a reason. You know what I mean?”
Totally. I think it can sometimes take the focus off the band, if you see a security guard throwing someone out – it switches people’s focus on to what’s going on there.
“Yeah definitely. They’re not looking at you any more, they’re looking at the incident.”
You’ve supported both the Manic Street Preachers and Franz Ferdinand. Out of the pair of them, who had the best ‘on-the-road’ stories to share?
“Franz Ferdinand were really, really, really nice. They treated us so well. We spoke to them pretty much every night of the tour. Because of band etiquette, I can’t tell you the stories they told us. You’ll have to ask them yourself. But they were really nice.
“Unfortunately with Manic Street Preachers, because it was an arena show and it was only one night, we didn’t really get a chance to speak to them too much because they were really busy. They had loads of press, it was the first gig of their tour so they were all tied up. But they came to the dressing room just before we went on and they bought us a bottle of champagne and said thank you. Which we thought was really nice. Playing with a band of their size, we didn’t expect to get more than a handshake – but they made an effort to come and say hello.”
After seeing the inner workings of a big stadium show, did it make you think you would love to do that in the future? Or was there anything you noticed about doing a show that size which you hadn’t before?
“Going back to the independent venues thing, I think any band will tell you that you can’t replicate that. The feeling of being in a venue right up there with the audience. It’s a completely different feeling [at an arena show] because you’re so far away. It’s so big. I think it’s more about creating a visual show for them, rather than creating that energy between you and the crowd.
“As a supporting band, it’s hard to say. If we ever got into the position where we were doing an arena tour ourselves, I think I’d definitely try and think about it a bit differently. You just have to let your ego as a band disappear when you are supporting. If you’re playing to 15,000 people, they’re not there to see you – they’re there to see the headline band.
“It’s really important as a support band to understand that. You’ve just got to go on and do your own thing without any expectations. That’s the duty of the support band, you come away with fans if you do it like that.”
Eagulls play the following UK tour dates:
Jan 26: The Adelphi Club, Leeds
Mar 2: Oslo, London
Mar 3: Fiddlers, Bristol
Mar 4: Norwich Arts Centre, Norwich
Mar 5: West End Centre, Aldershot
Mar 10: Oddfellows Club, Leicester
Mar 11: Islington Mill, Salford
Mar 26: Broom Hall, Sheffield
More info at eagulls.co.uk
Independent Venue Week begins on Monday (25 Jan) – more info at www.independentvenueweek.com