Birmingham serves up a tasty indie treat

Superfood are playing a recently performed version of mega-hit ‘Happy’ in the moments before their interview. It’s a clever reworking: indie guitars mixing with chilled-out percussion, while idiosyncratically Brummie vocals have their way with Pharrell’s catchy melody. It’s a decent representation of Superfood as a whole. More than anything they are a playful band. They take a wide array of influences, and produce neatly formed music reminiscent of The Bends-era Radiohead and some of the best bits of Britpop.

Superfood are part of a number of acts who have come up through Birmingham’s burgeoning indie scene recently, including Peace, Swim Deep and Jaws. For singer Dom Ganderton, whether they fit the type is up for debate: “I think so yeah, if it is a thing. We’re all from Birmingham and we’ve kind of come out at the same time as a lot of bands that have been labelled with that B-Town thing.” Many of the people in these bands were good friends, rising careers have got in the way. “We’re all best mates to be honest, but we don’t get the chance to hang out as much as we used to so we rarely play gigs with each other anymore.”

The band most often brought up in the same breath as Superfood are recent stars Peace. They also happen to be the people they have enjoyed touring with most. “We were all pretty good mates before we were all in bands together, so that was just fun, especially as it was our first tour. It was a good easing into touring just having really helpful people.” It’s the same for guitarist Ryan Malcolm: “I think we had it really easy that first tour as well. They took all our stuff in their van as well, which was a lot, and it was just pretty chilled out… We were going on picnics, barbecues; we had loads of time.”

Touring has been a major preoccupation for Superfood, who have “been on tour for the last two or three months”, but it has come with some amusing moments. A bar where the staff poured drinks straight into their mouths and a long trip back from Ireland are the standout stories. “On the way back from Galway to Belfast, Dom’s girlfriend was driving, and we were spooking each other out with ghost stories. Going down these dark country lanes we had no petrol – we were looking for a station.” “There weren’t motorways or anything, so we were like ‘should we stop here?’. But it was blatantly the start to a horror movie or something.”

While this extensive touring has been taking up their time, they are also trying to put the finishing touches on their debut album. “It’s been pretty hard to find a week or a couple of weeks to just sit down and get everything perfect. It’s kind of up in the air at the moment; it’s hard to just get it down. It’s really annoying trying to get it done over email as well: it’s so much better just sitting there in the room while they’re mixing it than trying to do it on the phone and stuff.”

“We’re still at the mixing point,” says Dom. Guitarist Malcolm is more optimistic, though: “Everything’s there though. We’re just working on the details.” The band seem somewhat resistant to my suggestion that they should self-title the album, to match their excellent song ‘Superfood’. “That was the one thing our A&R guy said not to do: ‘Have you got a name for the album yet?’. We were like, ‘no’, obviously, and he was like ‘please don’t call it Superfood’. But who knows – maybe we’ll throw him a curveball.”

It’d be tempting to label the upcoming album as part of a revival of sorts, but describing them as a ’90s band doesn’t sit too well with Dom. “We get it a lot. I guess it’s just because what we do is not really reverbed out or washed out tropical kind of stuff that everyone’s done over the last year. We’ve done melodic, straightforward stuff, which harks back to what a lot of bands were doing back then, so I can see the comparison. But it’s not like we sit down and say: ‘We need to write something that sounds ’90s’.”

The ’90s are definitely present, however, on their excellent website. The Ceefax based display of superfoodjunk.com has to be seen to be believed. “It was a guy, Zack, who did the video for ‘T.V.’. One of the sequences that was on the TV was one of these Ceefax pages that came up. We saw it and were like ‘that’s amazing; that’s so cool’. Then we just asked him if we could rip it off. He sent over the picture, and we turned it into the website. You can play Pong on it!”

Ryan is keen to stress the band’s modernity, extolling the virtues of modern demo-making: “We’re pretty lucky because we’ve got computers now; we can record songs onto computers and demo them so easily. So even if you’re not in a big practice room with drums and bass and stuff, you can just sit down and get a whole song together. It doesn’t matter what time it is.” Regardless, the band’s eyes are firmly on the future, with a range of festival dates coming up: “We’ve got Glastonbury, Down the Rabbit Hole, Truck, Secret Garden Party, a load of others like Strawberry Fields.”

But the effects of constant touring can take their toll on the band, as a question on how they relax on the move rapidly dissolves into a description of the cabin fever that can take over. “I find myself talking for the sake of it. We’ll all just be talking about absolute nonsense,” says Ryan. Dom adds: “We’ll be going stir crazy, sitting there for hours on end.”

The worst case seems to be a problem with, of all things, a satnav. “Dom was shouting at the satnav today, it was making me laugh, in the back I was just giggling to myself. Every time she said something Dom was like: ‘Does it need to be that loud?’” Even bassist Emily Baker agrees: “It beeps all the time for no reason.” Dom’s beef with the disembodied voice of authority is still the strongest. “Especially when you’re in a city centre and it says the command and then it’ll say it again just before… I fucking hate that satnav.”

While the band resolve their dream line-up (“We’ve got Jeff Lynn on vocals and acoustic guitar, Prince on lead guitar, James Jamerson on Bass and John Bonham on drums”) and pick their favourite food (unequivocally “pickled onion Monster Munch”), there is just enough time to get some vital health tips. “Drink plenty of water. If you have a few days where you don’t eat healthily, and you go out drinking especially, you’re just setting yourself up for a letdown.” It is wise advice from a band, that more than anything just seem fun. Whether you think of them as ’90s revivalists or simply melodic indie stars, OxStu can only recommend a healthy portion of Superfood. It’s for your own good.