Bold and rebellious, Leeds-based post-punk band, Eagulls, knows how to rant, both musically and in writing. Since their debut single, Council Flat Blues, hit the airwaves, the quintet—George Mitchell, Liam Matthews, Mark Goldsworthy, Henry Ruddell and Tom Kelly—has earned and maintained a reputation for serving their dissatisfactions up raw, via their vexed lyrics, angsty music and on-stage antics.
Their latest single, Tough Luck, off their upcoming self-titled debut LP, is relentless and infectious, leaving every frustrated insurrectionist out there with a smile on their face. Eagulls is expected to drop March 2014 via Partisan Records, and the other day I called Mitchell in England to see what he had to say about it. Exhausted after a long day of work at a retail store, he told me (in his ridiculously charming accent) about the band’s goals and origins, his religious beliefs, his adoration for David Bowie and what it’s like being in a band with four other angry punks.
So I hear you just came back from work. How was your day?
I’m pretty tired. I work in retail at a shop in Leeds, and I hate it. Don’t like it at all, but it’s life, isn’t it?
You guys all have daytime jobs, right? Is it hard for you to balance work with being in the band?
Yeah all of us do, we’re still all working. We certainly struggle but we gotta do that, for now anyways, so that’s what we do.
But the record’s coming out next year, so that has to be pretty exciting.
Yeah, I mean hopefully then we can open up and leave these jobs to just do the band. That’s our dream, but as of yet it’s work, work, work.
Tell me a little bit about the story of Eagulls.
Well, Henry and me have known one another since we were little; we grew up together. Then he went to university in Leeds and met Mark and Liam; they were in bands before, but those bands fizzled out. So they just decided to make a new one, and decided to call me as the vocalist. I think it was a last minute thing. At first I said no, but then I broke my arm and couldn’t do the drawing job I was working on at the time so I just thought, “All right, I’ll try being in a band and doing that.”
Do you like Leeds or are there any plans to move somewhere else in the near future?
I don’t know. I don’t really see Leeds as home; it’s just where I live. I mean it’s not a bad place, it’s not great either; there’s nothing special about it to be honest.
Do you think Leeds influences your music in any way?
Maybe like the grimness of it. It’s pretty morbid here, so maybe that sometimes can affect my feelings. I suppose, yeah, maybe the greyness…it’s pretty grey.
Your songs are filled with angst and frustration. Where do you think all these feelings are coming from?
Just from being fed up, basically. Going to work and waiting away for no reason. It’s just frustration really.
Are these ideas dominant throughout the upcoming record, or is it in any way more hopeful or optimistic?
Well, I’m probably not the most pessimistic person you’ll ever meet, but I don’t really have much optimism inside of me. I’m an empty glass.
That’s an interesting way of looking at it. How is the debut LP different from your cassette, Songs Of Prey?
I think it’s a progression from the EP. We’re still learning how to write songs. I wouldn’t say now we’re amazing songwriters, we’re still learning, but I think the record shows the learning curve in the LP compared to the EP.
Is there a song on the album you’d like people to pay more attention to?
All of the songs in the album represent our sound, and I wouldn’t say there’s one song we want to push. ‘Cause I mean, all of them are something on their own. I don’t know, I never really thought of that. We try as a band to see every song as a single, if we could we’d release each song individually, but that doesn’t really work.
What about you, do you have any favorite Eagulls’ song?
I think one of the songs on the album called Yellow Eyes is one of my favorites. Actually, I don’t know. I like the song Under Veins, it’s a song about heroin users and what it does to you. I don’t use heroin myself, but some heroin addicts moved in next door to my house once. I just watched them decay, and that’s what that song’s about.
Sound’s horrible. And what’s Yellow Eyes about?
Yellow Eyes is about how I never believed in religion, and still to this day I find it really strange that people think that it’s a real thing. I mean my granddad is a vicar, so there’s that. Someone that you love so much and stuff, but then still at the end of the day they just think that someone’s talking to them, yet I’ve never seen it, I can’t hear it, so I don’t believe in it. To be honest the recorded version is slower than how we actually play it live, and I prefer it that way. I don’t know why we recorded it a bit slower. But it still works, it still has its presence.
You’re known for your stage antics. Is there a particular show that you found most memorable?
I don’t know. To be honest a lot of the shows, I don’t really remember that much because I think I just go on a trance. When I’m doing it on stage, I don’t really understand what’s going on around me. Some shows I remember. There was this one show in Brighton, at Green Door Store where everyone was just jumping around and the bouncers didn’t like that everyone was having fun and decided to kick people out. So they were kicking them out of the site through the fire exit, but at the same time everyone just kept running back in and it was just an endless circle of people. Like, get kicked out, come back in, get kicked out, get back in…. that was pretty funny.
What about playing CMJ this year, did you have any expectations of the Marathon and coming to New York?
Well, I didn’t really know what to expect. If I’m told we have a gig, I just get on the plane or the van and do what we do. I don’t really have many expectations, but it was cool because we got to see Partisan Records, and we got to meet everyone there.
Was that your first time here in New York?
Yeah it was. We didn’t really get to see too much, we were mainly in Williamsburg, but we went down into Manhattan to do an interview in P-Diddy’s [Ed. note: presently, Diddy] entertainment building. That was pretty funny. We didn’t see him, but it’s pretty funny in there.
On a regular day what would you be listening to?
On a regular day I would definitely listen to David Bowie.
I saw the handwritten letter where you wrote, “David Bowie is a star.”
Yeah Bowie is God. Also, I listen to Iggy Pop. I don’t know, I listen to a wide range of music; I’ve started listening to a lot of classical music recently. Like, Russian classical music. Probably the most I could pinpoint is David Bowie; I at least listened to it while I was at work today.
Did you like the new album?
Oh yeah, it’s amazing. I think it’s great, I think everything about it is great. I love it.
So what’s your favorite Bowie song?
Oh I don’t know, there’re so many. Maybe Fame. I don’t know. It confuses me even thinking about how good he is.
Wow, you really love him. Do the rest of the members share your love for him?
Yeah, I do, I think he’s great. I would say no one loves him as much as me, but everyone does love Bowie. We all have a lot of respect for him. I’m sure no one would shut it off if we put it on in the van.
It’s funny, ’cause your music is really nothing like Bowie’s.
Not at all, really. I mean I don’t just sit and listen to punk music. I grew up listening to it, and I think now I see it more as an outlet for me to write and say what I want to say and what I feel. It’s more of a path to put out what I want to say, if you know what I mean. I still listen to punk music, but not as much as I used to.
Which band do you think has had the most influence for Eagulls?
Um, Magazine. There’re too many, but yeah, probably Magazine. I don’t know, a lot of people have said that some of our songs sound like The Cure and we all love The Cure, but we didn’t set out to write music that sounds like them or Magazine. I think it just so happens that it sounds similar.
Any specific goals you’re aiming for as a band?
I’m set out to show as many people as possible our music, and what I and we have to say. And then we’d like to keep on writing music, not just our same old, same old stuff, but at least try to do something more artistic and more creative. Just carry on spreading the word, that’s what we do. Mission statement!
Yeah, write that down! And do you guys all get along? Are you close friends?
Yeah we’re friends, but we’re more like a family; a dysfunctional family that fights constantly. We all fight one another. It gets pretty intense sometimes, but we can say shit to one another and then it’s okay, like the next day or whatever.
Last question, if you could choose one band to share the stage with (dead or alive) which one would it be and why?
It’s gotta have Bowie in it. So Iggy Pop and Bowie when they did The Idiot Tour. Yeah that would be pretty good. Or Slipknot (laughs). Not really.