Bad Sounds are a groove-based, hip-hop inspired 5-piece band from Bath. Since forming, their single Avalanche has been hailed ‘Best Record in the World’ by Annie Mac, they’ve performed at Glastonbury and Bestival, and were shortlisted for MTV’s ‘Brand New’ competition in 2017. I was lucky enough to catch up with brothers Ewan and Callum Merrett at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, before their debut show supporting Rat Boy on their Civil Disorder tour.
Let’s start with the origins of the band – when and why did you decide to start Bad Sounds?
- Ewan - me and Cal are brothers and we used to play in bands when we were kids. Cal moved away to London and Bristol, and got into recording bands and learning how a studio works, while I got more into hip hop and sample based stuff. We were doing separate stuff for a while, but after moving back we were both in the same house again so we thought we’d try something out. We really liked what we did – what we were doing separately felt generic, but coming together we found a better direction.
- Callum - It was exciting working that way because we were learning things off each other, whereas before we were just in the same place as guitarists.
You’ve been compared to artists like Beck numerous times, along with being associated with an indie-funk style – who do you consider to be the biggest influences for your music?
- E – not indie funk, that’s a term that destroys me! Haha no it’s fine… I don’t know - I feel like we’re more into albums than artists: Demon Days by the Gorillaz is a massive influence on me, as well as Midnight Marauders by a Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. I find it hard to put my finger on why I like an album – there’s good stuff in everything.
- C – I like Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys. That was produced by the same guys who did Odelay by Beck, another great album. That production duo had the biggest impact on the overall way that we think about constructing a song and our production technique. They use really cool breaks and don’t seem to worry about chopping songs straight into each other. They make the music seem like it’s fluid which I really like.
Why the qualm with Indie Funk?
- E - I think for me, I never considered myself into indie music. I like funk music like James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone but ‘Indie Funk’ makes me think of every worst band at a festival ever. I don’t really have any qualms with ‘Indie Funk’ - I feel it comes out really bad if we’re like DON’T CALL US INDIE FUNK!
- C – I think it’s just that if someone had never heard us and then someone described us as indie funk, I don’t really feel like that’s the best introduction to our sound. When I think about the influences we just talked about, there’s definitely a lot of groove based stuff and we definitely have a DIY approach to certain things which I guess the indie thing would come into, but we’ve never really related to the indie scene. The thing is, we seem to have been taken under its wing which is a really nice compliment to be honest.
You’ve said in the past that a lot of your lyrics come from conversations you’ve had with friends. Is there a favourite memory that you associate with any of your songs?
- C – I really like the Julie story, because I don’t really see her anymore. I used to work with her and she was just the loveliest character, so I think that every time we perform. When I get to sing that line I always think about her, and it’s just nice for me.
- E –I don’t have a favourite, but the line about the dog tattoo has become more of a thing than I ever thought it was going to, especially because I’ve never spoken to the person about it. I’m always worried she’s going to read it in an interview or hear somewhere that the line was about her and be like ‘alright, this guy’s a bit mental!’
Talking about gigs, what’s been the most inspirational gig you’ve been to?
- E – I wouldn’t say so much in terms of stage presence and stuff like that, but before we saw The Flaming Lips, I never really liked live gigs. It was the first time I’d seen an artist put on a proper show – a gig could be fun and you’d go home having actually enjoyed yourself and not just watched four moody people. We also saw De La Soul in Bristol, and they properly threw a party which was really cool. But yeah, I really liked the idea that it could be a fun night and not just bands playing their songs.
What kind of stuff are you listening to right now?
- C – I feel like people will get the wrong idea if I say, but I listen to a lot of jazz and new jazz hip-hop hybrid stuff. There’s a guy called Chris Dave who’s an insane drummer. This guy plays live drums like J Dilla programmes them, which is really interesting. We grew up as guitarists, but as you get into sampling and hip-hop and making beats and stuff, you start paying a lot more attention to the drums.
- E – Me and Sam were just listening to some Dr. Dre…
If you could have a dinner date with any musician, who would it be?
- C – QuestLove – he’s my idol. I love his passion for music and his enthusiasm for learning everything about music. I want his brain.
- E – Timbaland because it would be amazing to watch him say the most awful things over and over again.
To wrap up, can we expect a debut album anytime soon from you guys?
- C – I hope so! We’re working on it.
Catch Bad Sounds at Community Festival this summer (https://communityfestival.london/) or on the remainder of Rat Boy’s Civil Disorder UK tour. For all the latest news and releases you can hit up their website at: http://www.realbadsounds.com/.
All photo credits go to Alice Hadden at http://www.alicehadden.com/
For a full review of Bad Sounds’ performance, click here: https://freshair.org.uk/posts/bad-sounds-at-barrowland-ballroom-glasgow