Whilst nobody needs reminding what an abysmal few years it has been for the independent artist and venue, audiences appear to be more willing than ever to make extra room to amplify success stories of recent months. As the London DIY scene evolves into a colourful and inclusive community, new and exciting artists have been brewing and are now emerging at the tail end of restrictions. headboy retains a traditionally London pop-punk sound, whilst simultaneously embracing the experimental and post-genre landscape of the 2020s.
Forming in lockdown, the band won a competition in collaboration with Dr Martens and Goat Girl which worked to help female, trans and non-binary artists get shows post-pandemic. Since then, it seems the fun just hasn’t stopped for headboy. Last September, they headlined a sold out Windmill show, which was the first time I saw them play. There was a palpable joy steaming off the stage as Oli (Drums), Mars (Vocals, Guitar) and Jess (Vocals, Bass) led a boistrous crowd through their energetic set.
It’s exciting to see a band formed in the midst of a global pause, now able to experience London and benefit from its grassroots venues back at full capacity– but this time from the other side of the barrier. As my conversation with the band wanders onto the topic of their own heroes and influences, what is clear is the the sense of community within London’s new wave of indie artists. Musicians, audiences and venues are looking to prop up and amplify, having all been knocked back hard by the pandemic.
headboy’s latest offering is delightful guitar pop jolt. The track explores an unpredictable nature of human emotion, through an allegorical alligator. There is nostalgia in Mars’ melodic narration, paired with a dreamy tapestry of sonics. Although taking a lighter direction than their debut ‘Televised’, the trio are beginning to form a discernible style whilst still managing to experiment. They are excited for people to hear what else they are cooking up.
Sitting down with the band for a chat about their journey so far, their drive and love for what they do is infectious; it is no surprise they have a healthy London backing already.
So how are you doing? It feels as though the last few months have been so busy for you, you’ve hit the ground running with live shows; has it been a dramatic shift?
Oli: There’s definitely a sense of surrealism. It just kind of happened so fast we haven’t stopped to really think about it too much. I feel like we’ve been rolling and rolling but it’s definitely giving me some momentum to just keep going and creating and it’s definitely given us a push.
I came to your Windmill show back in October of 2021 and had the absolute best night, there was such a energetic pace to the show. You were clearly having the best time up there – what do you enjoy the most about performing live?
Jess: I really enjoy seeing the response of the crowd. It goes both ways – would be fun seeing how audiences respond to different songs. It really motivates you when you see people enjoying your music and you feel that connected experience.
Mars: I just think it’s the most fun thing ever. We love developing our own set list, we hope that it takes people on a journey and we put quite a lot a lot of thought into it. It’s nice to curate exactly how something gets heard.
Oli: We put a lot of emotion into the set and when audiences fully engage with it, it does create that special moment where we all just bounce off each other.
I loved your cover of Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’, that really surprised me. Do you pull influences from lots of artists or is it more self contained than that?
J: I am still waiting for the ‘Televised’ Charlie XCX remix.
O: I think Charli is a bit of us – we like to give a bit of razzle dazzle. Most of our other influences come from the scene around us, artists that we that we have played with and listen to.
J: We played with Goat Girl and Porridge Radio who we really admire, as well as Speed Training and Paddywak, the way they are pushing sound is super interesting.
M: I think it’s quite interesting as we all come in from slightly different directions. There’s a lot of 90’s band influences. I’m not sure I can imagine our sound without the 2000’s – 2010s. Weezer, Pixies, and personally I have listened to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers and I think that has shaped my writing a lot. I think there is also a bit of funk influence.
O: Someone the other day said to me “do you listen to a lot of jungle?” and I did, I used to listen to loads and he was like “I hear that, I hear that.”
And what is your writing process?
M: It’s kind of shifted but I’d say we are either very much writing parts individually and sending them round on GarageBand files, especially when none of us were in the same place. This was really interesting because we all had a really long time to think about what exactly it was we want to say. Then as we have started gigging we rely more on how people react, some we have jammed on, I think it yields different results. Lyrically Jess and I are quite different.
J: Tracks really transform as well, someone will bring an idea and then it can move in a complete different direction, which is really nice. There was a punky track I shared with the band and Oli suggested we take it down a more country route, whilst maintaining punk elements. I think that’s the best thing about being in a band, explored each other’s ideas.
You’ve just released your second single ‘Alligator’ but I believe this track has been in the pipeline for a while now. Has this track transformed a lot over time?
O: I do think it has retained its original quality. The vibe, it is one of our softer songs but it keeps the same energy from the original demo.
M: I think it was actually pre-Jess even joining the band, maybe the second song we ever wrote.
J: I think when we got into the recording studio it changed quite a bit, we re-wrote a bit of the bridge for example, but tried to keep the same flow to it. That was in South End in a very spacious studio which I think is reflected in the sonics.
Over the last two years and the scarcity of live music throughout the pandemic, its really made me appreciate the role of independent venues for up and coming musicians such as yourselves. I know you have a lot of supporters at various venues across London and was wondering what that meant to you as a band?
M: I mean there is no way we would be here without The Windmill. There’s a guy called Tim who runs the Windmill who we met through the Goat Girl competition and that was very much our entry into the scene.
O: We have met so many great supportive people along the way who will push our name, knowing we are a brand new band. People will reach out to us to offer us slots, we will meet producers and musicians down the way and it’s a great network to have.
What venues or festivals have you set your sights on?
M: There is actually a list I made when I couldn’t sleep. End of the Road, Visions, some of the London ones like Wide Awake, All Points East, Brainchild.
J: There are lots of venues I would like to go back to. I’d like to play Shacklewell again.
O: We haven’t done the Old Blue Last.
Jess: Or Moth Club.
Mars: Ultimately, I know it’s cliché, but we would like to play Brixton. And we loved Village Underground.. there must be millions to choose.
What does the rest of 2022 look like for headboy?
Oli: We would like to get some tracks recorded and released out into the world. We have a ton that we do live, I guess we just want to wait until we feel ready to put that energy and emotion into recording. We are also creating new tracks at the same time which is really refreshing.
Jess: We’d quite like to do an EP, with an album as the final goal.
Mars: We are very much writing all the time, and I really don’t feel satisfied yet. There is still so much more for us to do. ‘Alligator’ maybe showcases a different side to us but we are slowly establishing this really quite broad sound. It will be nice when more of that is available for people to delve into what headboy can do.
Words: Rachel Mercer // Photos: Willow Shields
‘Alligator’ is out now via Blitzcat Records. Stream and purchase the track here.