MALE BONDING Interview
The Boys Of Summer
Over the past 6 months legendary Seattle label Sub Pop has put out some incredible records. Avi Buffalo’s self titled debut, Jail’s ‘That‘s How We Burn’, and of course Dum Dum Girls brilliant ‘I Will Be’. Now they can add to that illustrious list ‘Nothing Hurts’, the debut album from London’s very own Male Bonding. A group that over the past year has released a handful of lo-fi singles and played countless shows whilst building up a strong and loyal fanbase in and around the ultra hip Shoreditch scene in the big smoke.
I caught up with bass player/vocalist Kevin Hendrick and guitarist/vocalist John Arthur Webb in the bar (where else) at Canterbury’s Farmhouse venue and asked them what the reaction has been within their insular scene since the band has been picked up by Sub Pop and found themselves on the edge of success.
“Everyone’s been so supportive, actually last night we played a new venue called Camp Basement in London and that was sold out, it was pretty crazy. Everyone was just so happy for us” A smile forms on Kevin’s face and he adds “Yeah it was really good, you had all those (scenester) people there plus all these people that had seen us before and there was another load of people there that were just sort of into it who had just bought the record maybe and yet it still felt like everybody knew each other. It was a really good atmosphere and it really brought it home”.
As far as it would seem that the band have progressed from their local scene Kevin still finds himself working his day job although for a 9-5 it’s a pretty damn cool one. “Me and Kev met in the record shop where I worked. It was pretty much the perfect job at Reckless (Records, London’s now defunct but still legendary Berwick Road record store). It wasn’t the sort of job where you would wake up and think damn I have to go to work today. It was amazing. Then I worked at Rough Trade and left that to travel to the United States”
“With Reckless in particular” Continues Kevin “We met people there that we are still best friends with now. Everybody is either in a band or an artist, it was really cool, today I‘m still clinging to my job at an independent record store. I’m pretty lucky in that I’ve got a boss who‘s pretty flexible and so far I have been able to keep it but the band is getting busier and busier so I guess I‘ll just see how it goes”.
That of course is the inevitable and an instant reward of hooking up with Sub Pop. “We actually got picked up thanks to a 7” we put out with us our band on it and three others, Graffiti Island and two American bands called Rapid Youth and Old Blood. Someone there bought it and asked us if we were interested in releasing it in America, we said that we were”.
I told the band that I found it strange that there was no bidding war to get their signatures. But before I could go into any of my reasons for saying the bassist cut me off “Thing is it was all done really quick, there was another label that we were actually going to go with called What’s Your Rupture but to be honest it all happened so quickly that there wasn’t even the opportunity to talk to anyone else. Also at that point people saw that we had been releasing our own records so even though we never had any intention of releasing our own album ourselves I guess that people were expecting us to”
Thankfully with the deal inked and the songs tight and ready to go the band recorded fast in time for the summer break. I loved the way that John buries his vocals just that tiny bit under the instruments and the reverb from the mike flavouring the vocal takes with rays of sunshine instead of a raw howl that you would normally associate with Male Bonding’s abrasive form of scratchy rock n roll. “To me they sound very high in the mix, you should have heard the first mixes. I do not see it at all. For me they could have gone down lower, I guess because I know what all the lyrics are it makes a difference though. It’s weird because I can’t really have an opinion on it, I’m too close, that’s strange you would think that”.
“But I like that, that sound of summer, that’s cool. For the next record it might be a bit more poppy and less noisy. More Spring, less summer”. At this point we shake hands and I let the guys go so they can sound check. As first impressions go it’s nice to know that the guys haven’t been through the interview cycle too many times and seemed just as in to the routine of drive, gig, interview as I do. It makes for a nice change not to be speaking to jaded rockers who’d rather be anywhere else.
A few hours later the band took to the tiny Farmhouse stage and gave the audience a bombastic half hour blast of noisy sunshine pop. It’s always great to leave a gig knowing you have witnessed an event rather than just a regular show. And as I hopped on my scooter and headed back home I was clear on one thing. Male Bonding is one of them bands. The sort that you are happy to have seen at such a small venue because you know it won’t be long before they outgrow them and take thing to the next level. A band that you are confident will grow with you instead of selling out or staying stagnant. In other words perfect British indie rock.
I originally wrote this up for pennyblackmusic