Bad Sounds are a band from Bath, whose sound takes influence from a variety of genres - stretching from old school Hip Hop, forgotten progressive rock albums to the King of Pop himself. They have released several singles and two EPs in the past and are currently touring the UK. Nani Porenta sat down with them before their show at the Mash House in Edinburgh.
Your most recent single ‘Are you high?’ was given the title of “Hottest record in the world” by Annie Mac for BBC 1. That’s a title that’s been given to artists like Beck, the Foo Fighters or Lana del Rey for example. Was that a milestone for you and how do you take stuff like that in?
Callum: It’s a weird thing for it to be happening to us. I think we’re just really grateful for it. I know obviously with those types of slots you have big labels who are pushing for those types of things. So, there is a lot of pressure on people at Radio to fill those slots with stuff. And it’s amazing for us that Annie just gave it to us. The first time she gave it to us we were totally unsigned she had no reason to do it, except for the fact she liked us. We were super shocked, and it’s obviously awesome for us. We weren’t complaining.
Ewan: For us it’s more like Annie’s continued support of us, rather than the kudos of having it. Someone off their own back is just like “I really like these guys and I want to support them”.
Why bad sounds by the way?
Ewan: It’s a really boring story. We had this demo before we were a band, when we were just recording at home. We really like the song, but all the sounds just sucked, they were just really bad. So, we labelled that demo ‘Bad sounds’. Much, much later when we were trying to come up with a band name, we were just coming up with terrible, terrible names. We ended up ditching them all and just going back to the name of the first demo we worked on.
I really like it now, at the time I was like “Oh god, this is such a dreadful name”. But the fact that it was the best out of that whole list, really says a lot about how bad that list was.
You have dropped some great stuff like your EPs PHRESSSH and Mixtape One and your current single ‘Are you high?’. Can we expect a debut album any time soon?
Callum: We’re sort of writing with a view to an album at the minute, but we don’t have any dates. We’re not really setting it up as what it’s going to be. We’re just trying to write what feels right to as now and then hopefully it will form a cohesive thing. It’s part of what Mixtape One was - this first go at trying to make the whole thing a cohesive piece of work and not just our ten most commercial sounding songs.
Ewan: It’s really important to us that whatever we put out as our debut album is a worthwhile piece of music as a whole. When we talk about our favourite albums a lot of them are artists’ debut album, when they’re still trying out ideas, being brave and pushing boundaries. It’s just a lot to be said about just really throwing your all into it. So, we’re really keen not to jut whatever the next ten songs we write that will be the album, we don’t want to do that. We want to write a whole bunch of songs and then choose which songs fit best together and then weave them into something that really works and flows well.
Let’s talk about song-writing a bit. What kind of process do you have?
Ewan: It varies from song to song how it starts. ‘Are you high?’ for example - we wrote just melodies [first], before we did anything else. It was really weird. I was watching something on TV and the adverts came on. I went and got a drink and hummed the melody and thought “that’s kind of cool” and just recorded it on my phone. We then just build the whole song around it, which we’ve never done before.
And other times you just start with a beat, a little guitar riff or a piano lick – chords or whatever. There’s not one way to writing a song. And if you feel like you’ve found the formula to writing a song, you’re just going to write the same song a lot.
Callum: I think we’re still finding our way, still trying to learn from other people. Do a lot of interview watching and listening to music and trying to find new things we can try. The lyrics also comes from conversations and people we actually know, sort of trying to form it into what feels right in a song, that’s normally what starts off the song – it’s a line, and then join the dots.
Then for example for ‘Zachariah’ – how did the lyrics fit in that song?
Callum: I don’t know, everybody always asks about this ‘Zachariah’ thing – like “Who’s Zachariah?”. It was based mainly on one friend, but his name is not Zachariah. That line just sort of came straight when we had the beat – trying out that first melody, sometimes the first thing that comes just feels right – and for some reason it was that lyric and the phrasing of it. But the Michael Jackson influence is huge, that’s probably our biggest collective influence. I think he was the first musician [Ewan and I] were both into. Probably the same for most people.
Which of your songs would you say has the best story behind it?
Ewan: My favourite in terms of stories is ‘Avalanche’, because there’s three stories in one. Each verse is about a different person. I just really like the little tales within it, they’re kind of open for interpretation. There’s just something about it. And the “Julie” who’s in verse two – when she first heard it she was like “Is that about me?” and I said, “Yeah it’s a story you once told me one day at work”. That’s probably my favourite. That’s where we found where we were comfortable writing lyrics and doing that sort of style just taking lines out of conversation with people and putting it into a song.
Looking at your videos: The ET reference in ‘Living alone’ or the Bruce Lee one for ‘Wages’ – how did you come up with those ideas?
Callum: I didn’t actually want to do a bad B-movie – I wanted to do a proper martial arts movie. I literally wanted to do a 100-grant budget [movie]. I remember sending our manager footage – chopped up from “Crouching tiger hidden dragon” and said, “This would be the bomb – this is how we make it”. That was obviously never going to happen, so we thought it would be funny to edit us on top of that stuff. Plus, we’ve never been the band to be the moody cool band and we never wanted to be that band. So, we thought, if it makes us laugh and if we think it’s cool – then let’s just put it out and see what other people think.
Ewan: A lot of the videos are just imagery that we like as well. Sometimes you have to tie a bit of a story line into it – like we tried with ‘Living alone’. But most of the time, like with the Kung Fu stuff – we really liked that aesthetic and it probably played a much bigger role in sort of our development than we realized – that whole scene – so we were pretty keen to play on it.
A lot of people say your gigs are just a big party and you include the audience really well. How do you achieve that when being on stage?
Ewan: I think it’s just us vibing off what we do and just really enjoying the music that we’re making. It helps that we’re playing as five people that really get on. A lot of it has to do with the people who come to see us as well, when we can see that they’re having a good time and we’re having a good time – it’s just this incredible cycle of good vibrations really.
Callum: Again, we don’t want to be the moody cool band, so we never really take that stance to just stand up there, look cool and don’t really do anything. I think we’re just a bit silly on stage and it seems that the crowds so far liked that – or at least most of the time.