Stick a pin in any page of most ‘new music’ magazines and, chances are, you’ll have pierced the seemingly superhuman cheekbones of some truly odious ‘sonic pioneer’ or other; a middle class, early 20-something noise merchant so aloof and nonchalant he even ignores himself. However, peel away the ice and Topman nylon and you’re left with a void – paper thin riffs and pained, desperately angst-ridden syllables where lyrics should be. Barnsley’s The Hurriers are very much the antithesis of everything this ‘cutting edge’ does wrong.
A bruised, banner-waving juggernaut of social conscience with undisputed political pedigree, they have, in a little over two years, become favourites of some of the nation’s biggest names in left-wing music, not least Billy Bragg (at whose behest they played Glastonbury’s Leftfield stage in June).
Named after the adolescents who pulled carts of coal in pre-reform mines, The Hurriers’ music is indivisible from their political stance. The name also fixes their point of origin and illustrates their pride therein; while more superficially driven Barnsley bands are claiming to be from Sheffield in an attempt to get noticed, The Hurriers have made a conscious effort to wear their roots on their sleeves.
The next few months hold great promise for them; support slots with well established and much lauded acts at respected venues and the upcoming release of their debut album will inarguably nail down their reputation as one of the finest socialist acts in the country.
With this in mind, I interviewed them in early November.
I realise answers to this question rarely are brief, but could you give a brief biography of The Hurriers.
Tony: It all started in June 2011 when I was at the Unison conference in Brighton – it got me thinking how, when I was younger, there were a lot of political bands talking about issues that I related to. Now, there aren’t many around. I was in left-wing bands in the 80s, and I fancied having another go at it. In January 2012 I started putting feelers out, and we eventually had a full five piece line-up by that spring. We started doing covers – The Clash, Tom Robinson Band, The Redskins – we knew what we were going to be from the beginning.
You started with a political ethos? There was a definite agenda at the beginning?
Jamie: I don’t think any of us was interested in JUST joining a band – it had to be about something.
The answer’s probably obvious, but do you all share that zeal?
Tony: I think there are degrees of how political or left-wing you are, how much of your life it takes up, but I doubt any of us would be able to stand on stage and play those songs if they weren’t – the message is too strong.
Jamie: We only do gigs with that sort of agenda – it’s got to be something we stand for.
On that note, how did you come to be involved with the Orgreave campaign?
Tony: Obviously, it’s the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike. The song we’re best known for, ‘Truth and Justice’ [The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign is an organisation striving to help miners, activists and trade unionists who were victims of government-led oppression and cover-ups during the strike. The Hurriers’ song about the initiative has garnered over 3000 plays on YouTube.] is about what happened at Orgreave. As soon as they heard that song, they wanted us to be a part of the campaign, and we wanted to be involved.
What other causes does your music address?
Tony: There’s one about saving the NHS (‘Faith to Fight’), there’s an anti-Tory song, a stand against their message that we’re ‘all in it together, which we clearly aren’t (‘Happy Families’). ‘Beat and Then Some’ is an interesting song because it’s not obviously about a political cause. It’s about a young couple who are really struggling to survive, the key message being that their love sees them through. That’s quite a positive one – ‘we can get through it if we stand together.’
Which other organisations have you supported?
Tony: We’ve played gigs for People’s Assembly, anti-fascism groups, Philosophy Football – a national company that produces t-shirts displaying political messages.
Do you think you’re now established as one of THE left-wing bands that those types of initiatives approach first?
Tony: We went to see Attila the Stockbroker recently, and he said that, at socialist events across the country, our name comes up. That’s what we want! That’s why we formed.
Jamie: We only did the first recording in December 2013, and we’ve already been offered all the big left-wing events.
Not least Glastonbury… How did that come about?
Tony: When we started drew up a list of the gigs and events we wanted to play, but we didn’t put Glastonbury down because we never thought we had a chance! We sent CDs out to various places and then, last March, I received an email from Billy Bragg; effectively ‘I like what you’re about, do you fancy playing Saturday night on the Leftfield stage?’
Jamie: He’d seen the video, too.
Tony: Yeah, that’s an important point; we had Wayne Sables [a filmmaker based in South Yorkshire] record a video for ‘Truth and Justice’ for free, and the NUM let us use their headquarters. There was no doubt about the ethos of that song, and it ticked Billy’s box for this years strike commemoration.
I know you’re currently recording an album. When do you hope it’ll be out?
Jamie: We have two more sessions booked in, so, hopefully, March or April. He [Alan Smyth at 2Fly Studio in Sheffield] is very much like us, very likeminded.
Tony: Yeah, he was in a socialist band in the 80s so he understands, comes up with ideas.
Will there be an album launch?
Jamie: There’ll definitely be a launch in Barnsley before summer, if it’s ready.
Does the songwriting process mirror the band’s ethos? Is it democratic?
Jamie: We email ideas to each other, there isn’t one way of writing.
Jim: We tend to write by social media and voicemail! That said, at the last practise we all chipped in and wrote a song together. It’s the first time we’ve done that.
Tony: Yeah, it was brilliant to work like that, build a song line by line.
Are the lyrics your job, Tony?
Tony: Up to now, it has been. I’m open to suggestions, though!
Jamie: We’re happy to leave him to it.
Tony: I talk the most sense…
The Hurriers can be seen:
Supporting Sleaford Mods, The Underground, Barnsley, Sat 28 Feb
‘With Banners Held High’ (commemorating the end of the Miners Strike) w/ New Model Army – Wakefield Unity Hall, Sat 7 March
Durham Miners Gala – Friday 10 July
Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival, Dorset – Friday 17 July