Shonen Knife – Live at The Joiners pt I
Tom Millichamp had just arrived at Southampton Central Station where I was waiting for him; he threw me a lager and told me to drink up quickly because we were going to be late for the gig. Since befriending him, I’ve been going to a lot more gigs than I used to, which was great because not only was I hanging out with someone as cool as Tom, but I was also listening to more music. Tom’s girlfriend Ella was with us; quiet at first but very polite. I don’t think she had listened to The Gillies before tonight, but I think she was just as excited as me and Tom were. With a brisk pace, and the time in mind, we moved through Southampton swiftly (despite Tom taking us the long way) before arriving at The Joiners, a name quite famous on the block for its involvement in supporting smaller bands. The Gillies weren’t even the headliners, a Japanese punk rock band called Shonen Knife were the head honchos, but I walked into The Joiners with no other band in my mind except for The Gillies.
“Six Feet Deep In A Heroin Sleep”
I’ve listened to enough music in my time to know that grunge rock is dead, and that too many boring, samey bands keep poking at its corpse with sticks expecting it to twitch back into some form of existence. Grunge hasn’t disappeared in time though, because music is timeless. It just takes one band to convince you that maybe there’s some electricity still shooting about inside a seemingly lifeless genre. Hell, what do you think I expected when I first heard of The Gillies? Flannel shirt wearing, Gold Leaf smoking, Red-Stripe drinking, noise spewing kids with a Soundcloud page? Or another band of posers gagging for Cobain’s dick in their throats, running around shouting about the dead music of today while displaying some element of talent? I’m just working with stereotypes here, not particularly good ones either. Maybe its not grunge music we should be talking about, but something with a different name all together? I don’t speak for everyone, I speak for myself, but I think that we should be talking about grit-pop, something I didn’t know existed until I met Kristian Eveleigh. I’d compare my first time listening to The Gillies to the first time I ever smoked a joint; I got way too into it immediately and felt like I needed a sit down afterwards.
The Gillies, as described by frontman Lucas, are ‘a four-piece grunge outfit’ from Portsmouth, composed of brothers Lucas and Kristian Edwards, Ben Thomson, and Louis Moore.
Shonen Knife – Live at The Joiners pt II
After four rollies, two cans of Fosters, and about twenty minutes of Ella telling Tom he was going the wrong way, we made it to The Joiners. We were putting our bags and jackets in the coat room when The Gillies started playing, Tom dragged Ella to the front of the crowd while I struggled to stuff my new jacket (£3 from a charity shop, I might add) into Tom’s bag. I joined the other two at the front, and assumed a comfortable stance to stand and bop my head for a while. The Gillies were already midway into their first song, and were radiating out to the crowd a kind of energy I’ve never felt at a gig before; so intimate and enclosed, yet so large and raw. All of them bled into the music, with Ben shredding like his life depended on it, and Louis beating the skin of the drums with so much power its almost as if they abused him as a child. I made eye contact with Kris a few times, he smiled and waved at me and Tom when he noticed us. That was quite strange to see actually; when Kris was onstage it was almost as if he was an entirely different person, like he was just an actor playing a character so serious and dead set on playing a good show. He danced manically with no embarrassment or fear, and played the bass like a fucking champion, keeping a straight face which only broke during momental outbursts of passion. To see Kris only momentarily break that character, and transform himself back to the smiley, happy mate Tom and I have grown to love (before bouncing back into his character), was strange to observe. But I may have got it all wrong, because Kris swears to me that everything he is offstage is just a disguise, and he prefers to show his true colours on stage. That’s when the animals are uncaged.
“Moving To The Window With A View To Kill”
Well, what the actual fuck can I say about them? I’ve lived almost 20 years now and I’ve never heard anything like The Gillies. Influenced by grunge, heavy metal, and brit-pop (hence ‘grit-pop’), The Gillies are putting out a sound that you probably won’t find anywhere else. Catchier and more memorable than most grunge bands you hear, yet just as hardcore and powerful as some of the greats. Its without a doubt some of the liveliest music I’ve heard in a long time. Grunge is dead, but grit-pop is where its at; The Gillies are carved out of a rusty aesthetic, but they sound like solid gold.
On their Soundcloud page, you’ll find a few of their tracks (some recorded live, and some recorded in a studio). Their most popular song, Tastes Like Honey, is to me a perfect summary of The Gillies; a collection of cleverly composed lyrics written by Lucas, sung almost without melody in a shouty fashion, a catchy chord progression lathered in perfect distortion, angry and melodic guitar solos, and all of it played with fast energy and angst coming from a few weird kids from Fareham. Tastes Like Honey is the song that grabs you by the throat and shows you just what these kids are capable of. They have a music video for Tastes Like Honey on YouTube, give it a watch if you have the time.
Lucky ol’ me had the opportunity to do an actual, big boy interview with Lucas and Kris during a day trip to Southampton where Lucas is currently studying. Its quite long, and it goes a little something like this;
Alright cool, Lucas Edwards and Kristian Eveleigh…
Lucas: Oi, watch it! Wrong names!
So my first question to you is…
Kris: Next question.
*Lucas and Kris giggle*
Tell me the story, where did The Gillies come from?
Kris: Where did The Gillies come from, Lucas?
Lucas: Well… Young… 14 year old me, pretty much obsessed over Nirvana for a bit, over Bleach… Thought, “oh these skanky kids can do it, so why can’t me?” *laughs*. Why can’t I do it? So basically I spent two years in a load of shit bands, and that all eventually merged into what it is.. Very slowly… 2015 summer, thats when it started officially I would say. That’s when Ben, Louis, and Kristian were all there at that point. I met Ben and Louis through school, then through skating. Got to know them better. Obviously, known this kid since day one *gesturing to Kris*.
How would you describe The Gillies?
Lucas: Grit-pop, like silence coloured in. Angry, um, grunge I guess is the main thing, but a bit less boring than most grunge bands. A bit more catchy, thats where the brit-pop element comes in. Somewhere between Oasis and Nirvana in terms of vibe and melody, and a hardcore influence on sound I’d say.
Kris: Agreed, its true.
How would you describe your development since your formation?
Lucas: I guess its maturing really, sort of understanding what tools are available and using them instead of just being like ” Oh I wanna do this specifically and its gotta sound like this and its gotta look like this” That was very much the start because I think you need something at the start to hold onto, like a very clear vision. And then it sort of became everyone’s joint vision slowly. Just deciding what we’re good at and doing that to the best is what it is. Loads of communicating and working together and stuff. Teamwork makes the dream work… That took quite a while to be fair, but I think thats why quite a lot of bands break down; they just don’t like each other enough to deal with it. Its been pretty chilled out with us. Obviously I’ve assumed a kind of a leader role, but its not like that. Its more of an admin role *laughs*. Managerial opposed to dictatorial.
Would you say your sound has stayed consistent throughout the years or have there been changes.
Lucas: Nah, its gotten better.
Kris: Its different. Kind of recognisably the same, but you can tell the songs are better.
Lucas: Its more finely tuned, less chaotic. More tight, more crisp, more together, less punky I guess, less arty. That’s kind of what I was thinking at the start, like it doesn’t matter because “Oh punk is art! Whatever” Now its like well, it could be art but it can also sound nice. Its just about development of skill, and improvements in musicianship have led to more open songwriting options. Then also playing with other people has shown us what we’re good and bad at. Then its just like stagecraft I guess, being a bit more engaging. Not just another group of smelly teenagers. “Come see my band bro!” Give people something to remember, I’d say.
Who do you think influences you?
Kris: Well my first big influence was heavy metal, and bands like System of a Down, you know. That dark, horrible, loud, obnoxious, big music. I guess the kind of energy from that sticks with you. But then these days its more like the bands around us. Like The Wytches, HMLTD. But I guess we’ve kind of had that underground 90s approach.
Lucas: 90s bro!
Kris “Ohh I love The Smashing Pumpkins!”
Lucas: I used to love The Smashing Pumpkins a lot, I still do. I think I’m definitely more like hardcore, or jazz recently. Classical… Classical’s good because its not shit. Like, all music thats not classical is shit, really. If I could write it, then its easy, isn’t it? I’m not even musical. Classical’s interesting because its non-repetitive. Nothing ever repeats itself, I like that. But then its also like weird fusion genres recently. Like Asteroid Boys I guess, mixing rapping and guitar, I think that’s quite punchy. I smashed Oasis for a bit recently, I like the easiness of the songs. Its the same with Nirvana as well, its so catchy and memorable.
What sort of aspirations do you boys have in mind for The Gillies?
Lucas: Just… being cool.
Lucas: Just not stop being cool. What was the question again?
What sort of aspirations do you boys have in mind for The Gillies?
Lucas: I wanna do the album. Have a legacy of some kind.
Kris: I’d like to tour.
Lucas: Yeah a tour would be cool.
Kris: A collection of products…
Lucas; A perfume range, get The Gillies scent this summer.
Lucas: Have a collaboration with Gucci. Peng – For Men. I don’t know really, just play bigger shows really, play with some more cool bands. Make more friends, thats the social aspect of it, its good. There’s so many friends and bands we just never really play with, maybe reach out that way and more. Probably expansion. Just explore, have some jokes times. If it stops being jokes, we’ll pack it all in.
Does The Gillies’ music stand for anything? Is there any message you want to get across?
Lucas: Being angry for no reason.
Lucas: For no real reason!
Kris: Anger for fun…
Lucas: Yeah, it just kind of keeps it chill. If you can rage to one thing, you’re just gonna be chilled out every other time. Its just a reflection of what we see, really. Its just Fareham isn’t it? Sort of reactionary to boredom. Something fun to do, something wholesome. Good clean fun. Its pretty much just like my emotions, written down, coloured in.
Do you think that society has influenced you in any way? Like how you sound? What you say?
Kris: Well without society, there wouldn’t be any sound anyway.
Lucas: Yeah true. I think its influenced the way that… I think people want something more real. We’re living in a time now thats much more… digital. Thats like a very mainstream kind of approach, because obviously the media is the main concern of the media, which is why we see so much of it on the media. Its not necessarily dominant but it kind of is. I think theres a craving for something more experiential and real. And we want that as well. We don’t care about Facebook likes or opinions, we just wanna have fun and do something thats jokes, and just sweat one out on stage. I think its just authentic, because we’re just us really. Our songs don’t sound impossible, there’s nothing pretentious about it. Maybe a bit of Ben’s guitar can be considered impossible, but I don’t think he does it in such a wanky wanky way… That’s just how he plays, because he can. He’s probably got like that through Fareham boredom as well. And maybe sexual frustration. Everyone’s so sexually frustrated so you just scream out onstage. Its the only way.
Do you think you can change the world?
Lucas: I think you can change your world, and by extension, other people’s world. I think the world… That’s boring isn’t it? Imagine how much work you’d just put in to change the world *laughs*. I think you can change the world like… as a VEGAN bro.. Don’t you know I’m VEGAN? I think I’ve changed the world in my own way, I don’t have to be part of bad things. I’d like… There’s nothing I’d like more to be a super vegan band that would “spread the message“, everyones gonna go vegan because of us! But like, thats just not gonna happen. You just come across like a prick. Like, if we can just change the world of whoever likes us then thats good. If even one person that we don’t know finds it and can rock out to it, then thats chill isn’t it?
Kris: I’m not sure about changing the world, more like being part of the world. To be in the photographs.
Lucas: Out of focus, but always in the picture. I think that bands that go on with a MISSION BRO are just dickheads, like “We’re saving guitar music man!” I think yeah, changing the world is a big idea. Just cut out the meat! Changing it already.
What does music really mean to you?
Lucas and Kris: Expression.
Lucas: Its just good innit?
Kris: Doing something rather than just sitting and thinking.
Lucas: Connecting to another person, I feel. Thats effectively what music is, its the bridge between creator and listener. I think, yeah its just a nice way of looking into people’s minds. The soundtrack to life, really. You can trace your important moments to specific songs. First gig, first album, first sexual experience or whatever. You might remember your wedding song. Funeral tunes, everyones always banging on about funeral tunes. Its just the way we live now. But thats decent I like it. I couldn’t deal without it at all. I can’t imagine people that don’t listen to any music, or just listen to whatever the radio tells them to. Its just dumb. Not that that music isn’t very high quality. If it sounds cool, if it sounds catchy, then vibe to it. Thats decent. I think lyrically theres issues. Songs sounding overly shit, overly sexual or whatever. Heavily sexualised, sex sells. Its like, I don’t wanna hear a girl whine about how she needs another human being to function or whatever. Like “I need you, I need this” what you’re saying is “I want this, I lust after that”. Its just to fire people up and get them randy, the most basic and relatable thing of lust. Thats what they’re selling. I think that cheapens music but you can also have a good time on it. Bit of Britney… I bought a Britney CD today, 49p. Decent.
Lucas and Kris, who’s your favourite member of Westlife?
Lucas: Who’s in Westlife?
No fucking clue.
Lucas: What’s Robbie Williams in?
Kris: Take That.
Who’s your favourite member of Take That?
Lucas: Robbie, obviously. *proceeds to sing Let Me Entertain You*
The Gillies, the four piece grunge outfit from Portsmouth, are many things; talented, passionate, angry, happy, mature, immature, but above all that, they’re smart as whips. Its not about appealing to the mainstream, its not about attention, its not about getting the chicks, its a reaction to boredom. Bloody cool how something as heavy as The Gillies can be concocted through being a bit bored, and staying indoors listening to Bleach. I won’t force you to listen to them, nor will I be as bold to say they’re the best band in the world, but I will go on to say that what with all the bullshit you hear nowadays in the mainstream, if you’re searching for some form of authenticity in music, something loud, heavy, angry, and full of emotion, then I would urge you to listen to The Gillies.
Shonen Knife – Live At The Joiners pt III
Out of nowhere, Ben started playing a bit of what sounded like Spanish guitar. Presumably an introduction to a new song, I imagined. I looked over to Tom, who turned to me, he wore a shocked look on his face. “If I Were Romeo” he spoke excitedly. I thought for a second; thats one of Kris’ solo songs, was it now a Gillies song too? Was this the song that Kris was telling us about? How it was supposedly meant to be the next Wonderwall from The Gillies? I kind of laughed that statement off, but then Kris came in with his vocals. Fuck, they’re about to play If I Were Romeo… Kris sent me an audio file of his rough demo of that song on the day he recorded it. I thought it sounded amazing with just Kris playing it acoustically, recorded using the microphone on his mums iPad, but holy shit, when The Gillies played it I thought for a second I wouldn’t ever be able to love something as much as this. Everything about it; the guitar, the bass, the drums, Kris’ vocals, you just couldn’t find this shit anywhere else, it was so powerful and jaw-droppingly incredible. The floor vibrated with the power and almost the animosity of The Gillies, true passion mate. True fuckin’ passion. I could tell that Tom was just as mesmerised as me just by looking at his eyes fixed on Kris, with his jaw hung open. You might think I’m just being overdramatic for the sake of writing content (which I am), but I’ve can safely say that The Gillies, while they may not change the world, definitely changed my world.
PS: If you already can’t tell by this point, I quite like The Gillies. Check them out!