For the many festival lovers who weren’t quite ready to let the 2019 season go, this year’s The Downs offered one last, heady dose of weekend-long live music.
The Saturday lineup saw the likes of Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones, IDLES, Loyle Carner and Nightmares On Wax take on Bristol’s excited crowds, all gleefully glowing under the warm hue of the late August sun. But when night drew over the city’s final blow-out of the summer, the previously quiet and mysteriously elusive Information Stage came to life. Those lucky enough to find themselves in the right place at the right time were treated to an evening of infectiously energetic sets from some of the most talked about upcomers on the alternative scene, handpicked exclusively by IDLES. For me, however, the night was all about Talk Show. I’d seen the band at their last Bristol gig back in July, and eagerly hopped on the opportunity to secure an interview with them whenever they next headed back west.
Talk Show have had an exciting evolution. Based in South East London, the band have an impressive history of shows alongside some of the nation’s favourites – think Fontaines D.C. and Shame – and continue to curate and host Cultural Treason, their own (very popular) nights at Peckham’s Rye Wax. With the release of ‘Fast and Loud’ on YALA! Records earlier this year, Talk Show’s raw, authentic songwriting and live magnetism has proven not only to entice the capital’s loyal locals, but also some of the industry’s biggest names.
What strikes me the most about the band (lead vocalist Harrison, guitarist Tom, bassist George and drummer Chloe) is the endearingly humble happiness they all so effortlessly radiate. Undoubtedly headed for some very big things, it’s clear to see that Talk Show are, first and foremost, best mates that truly love what they’re doing – something that’s also perfectly palpable in their live sets. It can be said with total assurance that every member of Talk Show’s festival crowd was left wanting more, and fortunately, that’s what they were promised. Loosening the grip of his guitar and taking one final step forward, frontman Harrison declared, with both a deserved assertion and characteristic gratitude: “We’re Talk Show, and this is not the last you’ll ever see of us”.
IDLES have curated this line up tonight, so to know that they’ve picked you guys is pretty cool! Have you met them personally or played with them before?
Tom: We’ve never met them before. We didn’t even know that it was them picking it until we saw the poster saying ‘IDLES handpicked’. That is madness.
Harrison: Yeah, we’ve never met them. And they’re one of those bands that are obviously extremely present right now, so it’s cool. It’s just weird that they know about us – we still view ourselves as a small band, just a bunch of mates doing music and doing what we enjoy. So to have a band like IDLES go, “yeah, we like what you’re doing, so come and play this stage”, is nuts. It’s a massive compliment, we’re extremely grateful for it.
George: Yeah, for a band like them who are inspiring people like us… it’s just really humbling to be recognised by them.
For sure. As a London based band, you’re often considered part of the South London scene. Do you find this a limitation in any way? Can it make you feel like you’re being categorised and pushed in a particular direction just because of that image and the potential label that comes with it?
Harrison: It’s a weird one, because yeah, we are based in South East London, but I don’t really think we are part of that scene. We don’t know any of the bands that have come out of it personally. That’s not to be defamatory of them at all – it’s complimentary for people to consider us part of the scene, but at the same time, we’ve just never felt like we’re part of it. It’s always just been us four, in a basement rehearsal room in Deptford, writing tunes and rehearsing. Often when people refer to the ‘South London scene’, a lot of references end up at the Windmill Brixton, and we’ve never played there. I’ve never been there! We’re more South East based, New Cross and Deptford, those are our stomping grounds, which is probably why we feel like we’re not part of that scene.
Chloe: At least it doesn’t define us – we don’t identify ourselves through that.
Harrison: That ‘South London music scene’ tag can get a lot of stick. But at the end of the day, it’s a community of musicians all moving forward for a similar kind of goal. There’s power in numbers, that’s why a scene comes about. It’s that DIY thing – people can get behind that. People want to support that and be a part of it.
George: And they enjoy doing it! Everyone’s helping each other and it becomes a scene of locals all working together to have a good time, rather than sneering at each other. People want to go out and book venues, have their best mates play nights, and give everyone opportunities to enjoy it.
And that’s definitely happening here too, there are some really cool bands that come out of Bristol. There’s a scene, people know each other – a real community. Are there any Bristol bands you guys are big fans of?
Harrison: We’ve rubbed shoulders with Heavy Lungs quite a lot. They came to a house party gig we played last time we were in Bristol. It’s kind of cringey, but it shows the power of the internet – a band that we’ve never really properly met will come to our shows when we’re in town. And a house party show too! It’s not like there’s tickets on the door, but they turned up and gave us a lot of support.
George: It’s not just a South London thing. It’s that community, the alternative music community, that perhaps due to bands like IDLES is really starting to shine through. You’ve got loads and loads of bands doing it who will be involved and help each other out. Those guys are all brilliant. There’s Pet Shimmers too. There’s loads going on in alternative guitar music at the moment everywhere. I think that word ‘punk’ gets thrown around a lot now, but I think it’s a bit of a lazy tag – if you actually analyse and look at the bands that are playing, it’s so much more than that. But yeah, it’s nice to come to Bristol, because there are a lot of really fucking good bands – not just alright bands – fucking good bands.
It’s interesting that whole ‘punk’ idea. How is it defined now… What’s post punk now? Does it even matter?
Harrison: None of it fucking matters! I respect the fact that people want to attach onto stuff, so that you can understand and engage what type of thing a band does… but it doesn’t matter! We’ve never been bothered about any tags that’ve been given to us, it’s just not about that.
Chloe: Because the lines are so blurry anyway, it just doesn’t make much difference what bracket you’re put into.
Tom: It’s funny, when we started playing, in the first kind of 6 months or year, when anyone ever asked me what genre we were, I’d say, “…I don’t fucking know!”. They’d ask what we play, what kind of style, I’d just be like, “fuck knows! I don’t know, I’m just playing!”. Labels get thrown and slapped on shit, but know one really knows.
I’ve just seen a little preview of your new video – looks like there are some exciting things coming up! Can we expect any new singles, maybe a new EP anytime soon?
Harrison: Yeah, we got a new single coming out which we are so excited to put out. We put Fast and Loud out a long time ago, like back in March. We’re still extremely proud of that and we all still love it, but we’re just eager to get more out there. We’ve been playing a lot of shows, and we can tell when we’re playing to an audience that they want to know more of our catalogue.
George: I think it’s gone as far as it can now, we’re ready to move forward.
Harrison: A lot of work and love went into writing all of our set, but particularly this next single and the new stuff we’ve been writing and recording at the moment. It’s nice for it to be so close to being ready to release.
So, you guys have a show coming up with FEET…
Harrison: Chloe is absolutely buzzing about it.
Chloe: I love them! I’ve never met them before, I can’t wait to meet them.
George: All summer we’ve been going to different festivals and FEET have been on a lot of them. Every time Chloe’s like, “Right! Where are FEET playing? What time are they playing?”, just chasing them around all year.
Chloe: I saw them first at Great Escape. I’ve always ended up going by myself! But they’re so, so good live. And they all wear great hats.
George: Yeah. But that gig with them is in Manchester, and Harrison’s obviously from Manchester so it’s always a lot of fun. He’s back in his element.
Harrison: Yeah, anytime we get a show back in Manchester I’m always really excited to go and play at home.
Tom: His voice changes.
Harrison: Yeah. Well, as we’re driving up, the closer we get to Manchester I’m like, “Right… I’m taking over the playlist now… oh… look at that, it’s a Fall track. Oh look! Joy Division. Oasis. Stone Roses. Oh, we’re in Manchester!”.
So you’re big fans of FEET then. Is there anyone else you’re listening to at the moment, any current favourites?
George: I’m really into Famous. And Squid’s new stuff is great.
Harrison: On the way here we were listening to the Warmduscher single. But actually, we all have our own things that we listen to, so our car playlist is pretty varied. I’m always the one who’s gonna put on Tears For Fears – I’m a bit obsessed – but, I don’t know, it always changes. There’s also Walt Disco, who are mates of ours. They’ve put out some really good singles recently that we get on repeat in the car. But then again, we’re always just listening to stuff from everywhere – any city, any genre, any era.
To witness Talk Show in all their mighty glory, catch them at one of their unmissable live shows – see upcoming events HERE.
Words: Ciara Bains (@ciarabains) Photos: Amia Watling (@amiaocean)