Having first seen Civil Partnership when they supported post-punk group Slagheap in London, I immediately fell in love with their sinister sound; a mix of 90s trip-hop, post-punk and post-rock. Civil Partnership call themselves ‘a musical collective devoted to DIY methods and minimalist live arrangements’.
After five years of performing live, they are finally releasing their songs, starting with debut single ‘Good Morning Britain’. What I love most about the single – aside from the eerie vocals and ethereal guitar riffs – are the lyrics: ‘Every day I get up just to watch Good Morning Britain // But only on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday ’cause those are the days Piers Morgan is on // I just love to see that guy argue’.
Civil Partnership say they got inspiration from ‘absurd worldviews presented in Internet comment sections’ and overheard on the streets in South London. “‘Good Morning Britain’ could be considered a comment on the heightened alienation, fragmentation, and discord seen in British culture, politics and society,” they said.
‘Good Morning Britain’ perfectly captures that alienation – the feeling of waking up in a strange place. The moment between sleep and realising where we are; that’s what this track is a perfect soundtrack to.
I had the chance to sit down with the band and talk some more about their music, the new single and what making music together means to them. Jack sings and plays bass, Will also sings and is the guitarist, Josh plays the drums and Jake is a multi-instrumentalist who contributes as producer when they record.
Tell me a bit about yourselves: where did you grow up? Since when have you been doing music?
Josh: Me and Will grew up together in a town in West Yorkshire, but Jake is from Brighton. I’m not sure where Jack is from to be honest.
Jack: I reckon I’m mainly from the South West. Shouts to BA15 and Bovey Tracey. Always in my heart.
Will: We started creating music together a few years back in London.
Jack: Me and Jake met back in 2017 when we both played in this jazz big band. Jake was on drums and I was on bass. I remember we went for a drink together when the brass section was tuning up and we quickly realised that while we both love jazz, we weren’t too excited about playing standards anymore.
Jake: Pretty soon after that we both got drafted into this awful rock band which is where we met Will.
Josh: Before that me and Will had a band together when we were at school called The Electric Press.
Will: For a few months we were absolutely the best band in West Yorkshire. We played these two incredible gigs, one at Ilkley Lido and the next at Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds. I think we’ve got some recordings lying around on a CD somewhere.
What has drawn you to making music?
Josh: I actually took the last few years off from playing music, but in the past three months since I started playing again I’ve gotten the itch back. I love creating and playing great songs with my friends – it’s great fun. That’s why I love this project so much.
Jack: That communal thing is a big part of it for me too. I’ve met so many incredible people and made so many cherished friends through playing in bands.
Will: I think I was drawn to music because it makes me so emotional. I’m quite an unemotional person outside of music, so it’s amazing to feel every emotion all at once while performing and writing.
Jake: For me it’s mostly something to do. If it weren’t for music, I reckon I’d get a little nihilistic about the world and my place in it.
What inspires your music?
Jack: I think the social experience of the internet has inspired some of our lyrics.
Will: For the past few years I’ve had this kind of morbid fascination with Facebook and YouTube comments. Some of the stuff people write on the Internet is wild. People have these intense arguments with each other.
Jack: It still blows my mind when I think about how the internet has helped bring people together. There’s obviously a long way to go but it’s incredible how it has facilitated, democratised, and amplified so much creativity. I do worry how long that trend will last, though. Sometimes it seems like people understand each other less and less online. Nowadays I see a lot of alienation on the Internet which makes me feel quite anxious and depressed, to be frank.
Will: I think if you read enough comments on YouTube it is easy to start imagining them as one homogenous voice, which I think informs the lyrics in our upcoming debut single. A lot of the lyrics are sung from the subjectivity of a protagonist who is something of a composite of YouTube comments.
Jack: Also, a bloke we used to live next to in SW9 but best not to go into that.
Will: They’re definitely not the most sympathetic character but I hope the lyrics provide some grasp on the quite wound-up, misinformed and isolated voices which sometimes feels like prevailing perspectives online. Or maybe not – honestly people can read what they want into it.
To you, what is the most important and most fun part of making music?
Will: I think the most important thing is working in a supportive way. I find it hard to create when I don’t feel truly comfortable, at least work that is personal or honest.
Jack: For me Civil Partnership is all about collaboration. I also write and record on my own, but I find playing/writing/recording with others so much more fun. Reacting to other people’s ideas and chasing the ideas which their playing prompts in me, always seems to lead to more interesting music.
Josh: This reminds me of those mad Brian Eno prompt cards. Somebody should buy Jack those for Christmas.
Jack: Exactly! It’s like the music my bandmates play is this constant evolving, unpredictable prompt. I think nurturing improvisation and exploring the ideas that it flashes up continues to be a huge part of our song writing process.
Will: Most of our songs were written within two hours in the rehearsal space. Thank Christ for voice memos.
Jack: I think our music is most inspired when we work fast. That urgency brings out so much creativity. Personally, when I commit to an idea quickly it forces me to really inhabit and explore it fully which I think leads to more inspired results, especially with bass which can be easy to play formulaically. I love how improvisation necessitates adapting my playing.
Josh: For me the most important thing when writing is to leave no stone left unturned. Band democracy is really important to us. If anyone has an idea, we always run through it, even if we decide whether to use it or not later on.
Will: It’s really nice seeing how some of our older tunes have evolved over the years, with different lineups, instruments and equipment involved.
Josh: A lot of that comes from playing live. That’s really important to us. The main thing for me in this project is being known for a good time and making music we love and people (hopefully) enjoy.
Jack: It’s always surprising how people respond to what we play. People often vibe hardest with our weirder ideas. That’s always super encouraging to see.
Will: For me playing live – and having a beer afterwards – is the most fun part of making music. I really hope live music will survive the winter.
Words: Clara Bullock // Photos: Julia Kobak
‘Good Morning Britain’ is released on 22/02/22 together with B-Side ‘NW1//NR1’. Both tracks are also being released in a limited run of tapes from Just Step Sideways Records, which include exclusive live recordings of ‘Vienna Circle’, ‘Adrian’ and ‘Submarine’. Purchase it via Bandcamp.