For as long as I can remember, the underground guitar music scene in Leeds has been based around the student district of Hyde Park in LS6. From my time growing up in the area, the sight of black on white A4 posters pasted on lampposts, bus shelters and the side of houses was pretty much standard.
Some bands that I remember seeing regularly (such as Polaris and Brown Owl) formed part of the DIY infrastructure along with promoters such as Claire Circuit, Flame In Hand, British Wildlife, Chinchilla and Johnny Strangeways.
From outside Leeds the type of music one might expect to encounter may be coloured by indie-pop success stories like The Kaiser Chiefs and The Pigeon Detectives. However, from within it is more obvious that the majority of emerging talent lies mainly within the garage-punk and noise rock scenes and in particular bands like Eagulls, Blacklisters, Broken Arm and (you guessed it) Hookworms.
I caught up with a couple of Hookworm’s band members to check out their story to date.
Can you introduce yourselves please?
MJ: We have an initials only rule outside the band. Hookworms are MB, EG, MJ, SS & JW.
I’ve heard it mentioned that the EP was around 9 months in the making. What took so long?
MB: I think it ended up being about 6 months in the end. We originally recorded the basic tracks back in November 2010, with the intention of the record being finished not long into the New Year, but the bad weather hit, and there was a pretty unfortunate situation at MJ’s studio (Suburban Home) when one of the pipes above the studio froze, burst and subsequently flooded a large section of the room.
From then on a series of misfortunes occurred, and combined with how busy MJ was being kept with recording work at the studio, and the heinous quest to make the best sounding record we could, it just went on and on. It eventually got finished a couple of months ago, and was sent off to Carl Saff for a pretty great mastering job. I think we’re all psyched with how it came out though, and people seem to be digging it, so I guess it was worth the time and effort.
“I think it’d be fair to say that the music we play is fairly self-indulgent, so obviously it’s an added bonus if anyone likes listening to it or coming to see us. I think we’d just like to play some good shows with bands we love, and maybe put a few records out.”
Can you explain the logic behind using cassette tape rather than say CDs, which have a similar cost?
MB: Tapes have made a bit of a comeback, and I’m not complaining at all. They’re far more pleasant on the eyes than the average CD, and there is a lot more interaction when it comes to playing them, like records. The downloading of music has made CDs obsolete, if anything. People stick them in their laptops, rip them into iTunes, put the CD on their shelf and never look at them again. Even cars have aux inputs now for mp3 players. There is a wealth of great tape labels in the UK at the moment too, namely Suplex Cassettes, Tye Die Tapes, Sex is Disgusting and our very own MJ’s Sea Owl.
MJ: Our tape/12″ was clearly conceived as two sides of music rather than a set of songs, and I’d prefer it to be ‘experienced’ in that manner. We discussed only releasing the mp3s as ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’ rather than separate songs, though it was probably an obnoxious step too far.
There has been talk of a further release on vinyl. Has there been any progress on this?
MB: There has been some progress, and it’s definitely going to happen, but I don’t really want to say what the vibe is yet, because we’ll look real dumb if it falls through, or if the situation changes by the time this gets published.
You now have some merchandise for sale too – tote bags and t-shirts. Where did the designs come from?
MB: One of the designs was done by our very own JW, who is currently studying art in Leeds. I think he got the design from the cover of some old Yugoslavian book cover from 1965 that he stumbled across. It has an all-seeing eye/13th Floor Elevators vibe anyway, so we were all into it. Our friend Kate Prior designed the other shirt for us. You may know her work if you’ve been into Nation of Shopkeepers, or seen a few of the posters she did for the Brudenell. The image kind of hurts your eyes if you stare at it too long, which is great.
What’s the relationship between Hookworms and Idea Shower? How do Spectrals factor in to the equation?
MB: MJ, JW and EG have a new group called Idea Shower, who are a repetitive Garage band in the vein of Thee Oh Sees and Eddy Current Suppression Ring, kind of like if a song off the Nuggets comp got stuck in a locked groove. They’ve only played one show so far, but they have a few booked so I fully recommend you go see them. The recordings I’ve heard are superb, I think they’ve recorded a tape EP to come out sometime this summer.
I play guitar in the live backing band for Louis Jones’ project Spectrals. An excuse to hang out with my friends, tour with some great bands and drink endless free alcohol. Not much more to be said than that, you’ll have to ask Louis if you want more info.
There was some positive feedback from the last Brudenell show, but the Cardigan Arms gig seemed to be a significant jump forward in terms of people turning up to see Hookworms rather than just whoever was supporting. Did that give you a buzz?
MB: I wouldn’t place that on us, Kogumaza were playing their first Leeds show in about 6 months, and Bilge Pump gigs seem to be a rare occurrence nowadays, so I doubt all those people had just come to see us! I think we all “buzz” off playing full stop really, shows have been few and far between thus far, so we all look forward to playing live.
I think not playing and rehearsing too much keeps it pretty fresh and exciting. I’ve played in bands before that have 2 or 3 set practices a week and it kind of kills it. It’s great if people ARE coming just to see us, though. I assume it’d be on the back of the record being made available to stream, which is nice to know.
Do you have designs on where the band is going and what you’d
like to achieve? Are there any particular bands that you consider as
MB: Not really, I think it’d be fair to say that the music we play is fairly self-indulgent, so obviously it’s an added bonus if anyone likes listening to it or coming to see us. I think we’d just like to play some good shows with bands we love, and maybe put a few records out.
I really respect bands like the Heads, as far as careers go. They’ve been together 20 odd years, knocked out a tonne of incredible records, but they never feel like they have to do something just for the sake of doing it. They’re not one of those groups that play a local show once a week, they play a few shows a year, always with great groups (recent supports with Wooden Shjips and Mudhoney).
They’re one of those UK bands that always gets the “underrated” tag, because despite the length of time they’ve been together, they’re still not very well known outside of the “underground”. On the flip side, I’ve seen people pay hundreds of pounds for their out of print records on eBay, so they obviously have a very dedicated fanbase.
Where do you see yourself fitting in to the current Leeds music scene? From the outside it would seem that you lean more towards the DIY spectrum with Cops ‘n’ Robbers being the focal point.
MB: In Leeds, I think you’re either trying to “make it”, or you’re one of the many groups like Mob Rules or Bilge Pump that plug away for years, playing great shows when they can, with no false pretence about where they’re going. They have full time jobs, and playing in a band is their hobby and way to have fun. Anything additional is a bonus.
MJ: I can only speak for myself, but I have no aspirations except to make records. Because we’re in the fortunate position of being able to self record (and release if we wanted), then I can’t see what the old fashion ‘record industry’ is able to offer us that we can’t do ourselves. I’m pretty humbled that anyone has an interest in releasing our music as a physical product, and will continue to be so.
What’s the latest in the Suburban Home story? Will the studio be resurrected in a new location?
MJ: Suburban Home continues to exist as an entity out of MJ and SS’s house and will be relocating to new (larger) premises shortly. Whilst without a live room we are taking on more mix work and a couple of other commissions too. We’re always keen to work with other DIY minded and leftfield musicians on a freelance basis.
You allowed the music to be downloaded for free, at least by anyone that was in contact with the band. Why did you choose to do that?
MB: It’s not like we put up a free download link on the internet or anything, we only gave the record to our friends, or anyone that took an active interest in the band. I think that after the amount of time it took us to make, it’d have been a shame if we’d had to sit on it for another 4 months waiting for it to be released. Save that stuff for when we’re on Warner Bros and there’s a year between the record being finished and released…
MJ: Yeah, I was just happy for people to hear it after we’d spent so long on the record; and like MB said earlier – this band never has and never will have any aspirations beyond five friends playing music together.
How do you consume music – in terms of formats and purchasing? Are
you a major downloader?
MB: I reckon anyone that says they don’t download music in this day and age is probably a liar. When it comes to purchasing music, I always buy the LP/7”, then download it later for my iPod. I don’t think there is any guilt to be had from downloading something if you’ve bought it on a different format, but I much prefer the new trend of labels sticking a download voucher in with the record. It’s a nice touch, and makes sure you get the highest possible quality mp3s.
I think most of us order our stuff online, sometimes from DIY distros, but also from places like Norman Records in Leeds, which we’re all big fans of. I wish that place would open a shop. Jumbo usually has something I want to pick up, and I regularly make the trip over to Manchester to visit Piccadilly Records too, where there is a great section of old garage/psych reissues. Wall of Sound in Huddersfield is an underdog too. It’s only about 15 minutes from where I live, and they have some great selections. I don’t visit it anywhere near enough, but it’s where I picked up my first ever Spacemen 3 records, years back.
I’m guessing that Beacons will be your first festival (as Hookworms at least). What do you make of the festival and who would you recommend watching?
MB: Actually, we’re playing this cool little one-dayer festival in Reading next week called Doubledotbash. I think Kogumaza and Bilge Pump played last year, and it looks like a nice line-up. It’ll be our first ever venture outside of Leeds as a band, so that should be nice. There is the Obscene Baby Auction festival in Bradford in a month or 2 as well.
Beacons looks cool, it’ll be nice to go to a Yorkshire festival that isn’t covered in Carling banners and full of stalls selling burgers for £7 a pop. As for recommendations, we’ll probably be going to see Mazes, Echo Lake, Eagulls, Runners, Nope, Star Slinger and the Golau Glau installation, to name a few. Oh, and I’ll be moonlighting in the backing bands for Spectrals and Ducktails, and SS will be playing in his slacker-pop group Wonderswan.
Hookworms play Doubledotbash Festival in Reading on 2nd July, and The Grand Obscene Baby Auction at the Bradford Polish Club on the 29th July.