RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW BRISTOL BAND BIRDMAN CULT
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Thanks for hosting the cult. I’ll have a black tea, no sugar, ta.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I’ve always loved writing lyrics, stories and crude poetry. I was obsessed with hip hop as a young ‘un and always admired the genre’s dexterity and command over the English language. So, I always knew I wanted to do that.
Introduce us you / all to the members and your musical history?
We’re a quintet so there’s myself, Joe on vocals, Sam Otis on lead guitar, Rowan Ensoll on bass, Luke Wookash on drums and Elouise Colliou on rhythm and backing vocals.
We have all independently been in bands growing up. I started as an MC in Newcastle – ‘Chattabox’ – then joined a crew in my teens called ‘Dialect.’ Then I moved to Bristol and met Samuel Otis at 22 and started a band called ‘Three Kings High,’ making neo-soul, anthemic stuff and experimenting really. We only recently started this venture with the current line up making pre-apocalyptic post-punk.
Name me your 3 favorite Albums?
Death Song by The Black Angels
The Last Waltz by The Band
Music from the Corner by Task Force
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path? It wasn’t so much a song, but rather when I started going to gigs at about 13 / 14. That maybe seems commonplace now, but back then we would have to sneak in to Student Union nights in Newcastle.
We saw Task Force (a legendary UK hip hop crew) when I was 15 and they announced that they were from my hometown of South Shields, a small north eastern coastal town, despite being from London. They were born there and their dad was in a popular punk band ‘The Tourists’ in the 70s.
That showed me that It could be done, even from a largely forgotten small town and Task Force were incredible live. The next day I started writing lyrics with a mind to perform them.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
We’re doing ok, taking it in our stride and trying not to get bogged down with the pressure to be ‘an influential online brand.’ I get it, but it’s a far cry from why I started making music.
You can never do enough to sate the social platform gods, but I’m human, I’m not made to obsess over my algorithmic place in this world.
I think as a band we have a good balance of being online but being grounded by doing gigs and being physically present. I hate this online identity crisis music is going through. It was much better when live gigs were how you discovered, valued, and supported bands.
Im seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help? Venues need to brief staff on the issues and exercise a zero-tolerance policy towards any toxic behaviour. And this should be default.
I’m a man in his 30s so my experiences are of a very different type of violence and paranoia. I’m also a dad and it would break my heart to think my daughter was too anxious to enjoy something that me and her mother loved to do as kids.
But this isn’t something specific to live music, it’s just a shame people choose to operate with this type of shit in places where you should be able to safely leave your worries at the door and enjoy some abandonment.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
My only advice is to focus on what you naturally enjoy using, if TikTok’s not your thing (it’s not for me) then use Instagram. It’s better to commit to one platform and do it well than try and spread yourself too thin and not be consistent on any.
I dunno, I’m not the best on social media but we’re on there and I don’t feel like I’m nagging or blagging because I hate seeing an artist beg fans or update us on their latest bowel movement. Bring some mystery back eh!
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you? A member of the band has webbed feet, we once played a gig where The Troggs, Susie Q, The Animals, The Yardbirds and Slade were sat watching us up front, and I’m related to Big Bird from Sesame Street.
What are your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry? As a punter it’s great, I discover a lot of new music through it. But as a musician it’s terrible and it’s reduced us to the Shakespearean plebs of days past, begging for pennies. Swings and roundabouts.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Not really, I mean I believe in things like aliens existing and the government being corrupt, but the specific QAnon-style theories are just stoner pub chat waffle and I’m more interested in reality.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
I don’t think so. I lived on a narrowboat so there was no room physically for superfluous buying.
What was the worst experience on stage?
In an old band I was in, we drove all the way to Hamburg and played to a DJ. That really keeps the ego in check.
Tell us something about yourself that you think people would be surprised about?
I run two record labels, one for hip hop and one for post-punk, and I once had a cup of tea in Ridley Scott’s childhood home.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I don’t think we sound like anyone else. In a sea of rip-offs and The Fall wannabes I think we have a unique style, probably because we all come from very different musical backgrounds, there’s the aforementioned ‘boombap’, jazz, funk, metal, punk and classical. We’re none of those, but it’s all distilled in our bone marrow I suppose.
I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it.
We became a band in 2020 which was, well, not the best year for music and making big moves for obvious reasons. All we could do is release our initial singles, we did a few podcasts and supported the local Bristol scene during that time.
It was fine, but we missed gigging. Since then though we’ve been recording towards a debut album and releasing a few singles along the way. Yorkshire label AnalogueTash got on board this year and now we’re excited to have an album release goal in place for Autumn 2023.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune
‘Maiden, Mother, Crone’ was banged into place by Sam and Luke one dreary winter evening.
We don’t have one formula for how we write, sometimes it’s all together, others it’s just one or two of us. In this instance I received a pretty well-formed demo in my inbox one morning and loved it. Sometimes it can be quite intimidating coming into a song which already has fully formed arms and legs, but it was a joy to write to.
I was reading these three volumes on neopaganism, namely the triple goddess. In a nutshell, it suggests that there’s three stages to the female lifecycle: the maiden, the mother and the crone.
I had recently become a new father and it all just felt quite poignant at the time, so I wrote each verse as a dedication to the women in my life – my daughter, my wife and my mother.
I was also reminded of a reggae song I used to like by Governor Tiggy called ‘I Wrote You a Letter’ where Tiggy writes to his kids, his wife and his mother, a letter in each verse.
What was the recording process like?
We’re lucky because we’ve worked with some great producers. When we were starting we had the pleasure of recording with Chris Ellul of The Heavy. Chris is a childhood friend of our drummer Wookash. He’s aptly dubbed ‘Chris Nice’ and has a knack for getting the best out of you. He knows what sounds good and has built up a good body of equipment to get the exact sounds he’s after.
Luke our drummer now produces our music and he learned a lot from Chris and our old producer Tom Lingham, both of which are pro’s in their own right. So we took to our studio (UNIT 43) in Bristol to craft this LP, and it’s been a pleasure working in that spot
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
I guess it’s learning how to capture the energy and excitement from a live performance in a studio track, without it sounding awful. By the same token you don’t want to over produce and be too clean or polished.
We always wanted the recordings to sound as close to live as possible without losing the nuance that a studio set up can offer. A lot of that’s in the drums I think, picking up energy and speed when the track calls for it and the band just having it in the pocket as it happens without adhering strictly to a metronome or formula.
Would you change anything now its finished?
No, we sign off the track as a group when we’re all happy so I’m good with it. Maybe I’d have Iggy Pop singing the chorus for us but that’s not gonna happen so I’ll have to do it!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Just ignore all the propaganda beamed into your mush on a daily basis, enjoy this experience and base your actions in common human decency. Oh, and support your local cult!