Leeds’ next big band has emerged. Although in the incubation stage that comes with a debut album, Eagulls have already impressed both at home and across the Pond, bagging a performance slot on US prime-time show David Letterman.
Guitarist Liam Matthews is certainly aware of how well-earned the band’s ongoing success is. Ahead of the band’s October tour, we sat down for a chat with one fifth of the northerners to talk about challenges Eagulls have faced, the recording of their debut album and settle the Reading/Leeds debate.
“We’re just a punk band really. There’s a lot of differences in there, but I’d rather people just listened to it and made their own decision about it.” Liam wisely put it. “It’s punk music at heart.” As a band, Eagulls are difficult to pin down. The majority of songs the group put out are message-centred. ‘Tough Luck’ explores singer George Mitchell’s ties to Thalidomide, the disastrous pregnancy drug, and how it affected his grandfather; ‘Hollow Vision’s’ reflects the band’s disillusionment of life’s promises post-university. “None of us want him to be singing about being in love or broken-hearted.” Liam laughed, “It probably wouldn’t sit right with the music anyway.” he wisely noted. George is responsible for most of the band’s lyricism, from which their unique punk emerges. “He’s never wanted to copy anyone else’s style. He’s always jotting things down and drawing pictures, his mind’s always ticking over things relevant to and around him.”
Despite this, Liam’s aware of the massive spectrum of influences that modern bands in particular are privy too. “There’s a lot of 80s, 90s punk music in there. Obviously, all the experiences we’ve had and the situations we’ve found ourselves in in life make the music sound like it does. The angst of having to go to work 9-5 when you just want to concentrate on writing music and being in a band. It ended up being a release for us.”
Although this year saw the group’s first album hit the stand, Eagulls have been around since 2010. “We all went to uni in Leeds, except for George. I met Henry [Ruddel, drummer] on our first day.” However, picking up the pace during this time proved to be initially difficult. “I think we started the band at the wrong time in our lives, cause we just really got gigging as we all finished uni and had to start full times jobs. It was a shock to the system. You work hard at uni to do well, but it’s a lot different having to go to work Monday-Friday, 9-5. It wasn’t difficult juggling the band with uni, but it was difficult having to drive to London after work for a gig, and driving home straight after for work the next day.” Despite the time taken for the band to overcome the reality of the workplace, Liam has no regrets about the band’s journey. “I think it’s worked perfectly for us. There’s a lot of bands you see that’ll have people working with them from the get go – they started in London, their first gigs are playing to record labels and producers and whatever, they get all the buzz on the internet and they’re the ‘next big thing’. We’re not about that – we wanted a record we were proud of, and happy with. The band couldn’t be our main focus in life cause we had to pay the rent, so the time it took us to get the album out was just a reflection of our life.”
The band are definitely proud of their northern roots, and getting together out of the country’s main musician breeding grounds. “I’m from the north and I love being up here,” Liam proudly declared, “but it is good going to London – you understand it’s a big city there, there’s a lot of people there, but I think if you work hard you’ve got as good a shot. Obviously you have to be considered a good band and work hard to get any attention, so I guess you have an advantage being a band in London cause there’s so much going on, and it’s such a big place, but I think some people that live there don’t live in the real world sometimes.”
It certainly doesn’t look like being northern has really ended up slowly Eagulls down. Their self titled album, release in March, has had a positive reception and gained Eagulls impressive festival and support slots, with their headlining shows to follow in October. “The week the album came out we were on tour and you could tell the different straight away, people were singing along to the songs, more were turning up to the shows. That was all we wanted, for people to finally be able to hear the songs and relate to them and see them live.” Although this was their debut, the band have been releasing singles and EPs for a while now. Liam, however, found that the recording process was noticeably different. “We’ve been writing the songs for a long time prior to the album release and recording. We didn’t have a label in mind or anything but we recorded it anyway, then came across Partisan and its turned out amazing.”
Eagulls have already started receiving awards and accreditation for their work. NME awarded their ‘Nerve Endings’ video Video of the Year Award earlier this year. “It wasn’t anything we thought we’d end up receiving or being part of. That video cost us £300 to make, and we got to share a room with Paul McCartney and Debbie Harry and so many legendary artists. It was amazing that it was something we’d done ourselves and been given recognition against things that cost like millions of pounds.”
In a busy year of festival dates, Eagulls have spent a lot of time across the Atlantic, playing SXSW for the second time, touring America for 6 weeks before hitting Canada. “We’ve been to the USA three or four times since playing SXSW last year – it was actually the first time I’d been to America in my life, so it was cool that the band had taken us there.” Despite this, Liam isn’t overly sold on the practicalities of an American tour. “In America you don’t know where you are, you’re just driving for so long. You turn up at a city, wake up, set up, play, then drive again. I love touring Europe and England cause we’ve done it so many times. It’s home.” The band made their first appearance at Leeds and Reading festivals this year too. “I was really overwhelmed by the reaction of the crowds and by how many people came. Especially at Reading – we were expecting Leeds to be the better of the two shows, but I think I enjoyed Reading the most.”
October sees the band travel up and down the country on their album supporting tour. “We always love playing in Leeds – we all live here, we started the band here. We’re going to a lot of places we haven’t been to before, but that aren’t as renowned for gigs as places such as Leeds, Manchester and London. There’s a venue called Cabin in Exeter that’s meant to be famous and cool. We’ve never played places like Cambridge or Hull before, so I’m really looking forward to that.” Support on this tour comes from fellow Leeds lads Autobahn, who actually shared a practice room with Eagulls not so long ago. Nowadays, the two bands have practice rooms next door to one another. “It’s always fun going on tour with them, even to just have some familiar faces when you’re travelling around”.
Eagulls hit the Jericho Tavern on Saturday October 18th.