Nico wears all clothing model's own. 

hmltd are the glitter kids ripping up london's music scene

Outlandish, strange, and on the rampage, HMLTD are all dressed up with somewhere to go. Ahead of their biggest ever headline show at London's Scala, meet the six club kids breathing new life into the capital's music scene.

by Matthew Whitehouse
03 May 2017, 3:44pm

Nico wears all clothing model's own. 

Picture the scene: a dark, sweaty night at London's Corsica Studios. Six androgynous club kids, dressed head-to-toe in velvet, faces full of make-up. The sound's too loud. The guitars keep knocking out of tune. The singer throws a seven-foot polystyrene model of a crucified Christ into the audience. This is HMLTD live and it is, as you've probably guessed, absolutely brilliant.

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For those in the know, HMLTD (it stands for Happy Meal Ltd) are rock 'n' roll past, present, and future; a mix of music hall, spaghetti westerns, gay clubs, hedonism, iconoclasm, David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Adam Ant rolled into one exhilarating whole. They are, whisper it, the Real Deal™, and now they're sat here, in a photographer's studio in East London, explaining the story of the Polystyrene Jesus for themselves.

"We were meant to return him to the National Theatre prop hire," laughs Henry, who fronts the group, alongside Duke and James (guitar) and Achilleas (drums), Nico (bass), and Zac (keys). "It was about seven-feet tall and I had to carry it on the tube all the way from Oval to Elephant and Castle. For some reason, I threw it into the crowd and within ten seconds it was dismembered. We had to tell the National Theatre people that we lost it."

Henry wears top and harness Dior Homme. Trousers, belt, boots and cap model's own.

It's not the first time the band's shows have gotten out of hand. Henry, while softly spoken out of the spotlight, performs like a man possessed when he's in it: eyes wide-open, Joker-like smile spread across his face. To watch him is to realize just how uncommon it is, in 2017, to witness someone carve out a wholly singular onstage persona. Little wonder streams of glitter-daubed disciples have started turning up to the gigs wearing masks of his face. "A lot of things do happen at our gigs which are very unplanned," he admits. "It's nice when we do regional shows and people come dressed in our aesthetic. There was a kid in Leeds who got his hair cut to look like me. That was good. I do feel like there's a bit of a community burgeoning around us."

Perhaps a lot of it comes from the fact that none of HMLTD are originally from London. Meeting at various parties south of the river, they are, like most great groups, a band of outsiders. Achilleas is Greek; Duke, Parisian; Henry, "most recently living in Devon, in the countryside" — a sight that is almost entirely impossible to imagine. "I certainly knew that I wanted to be in a band and London was the only place I knew where it was guaranteed that I'd be able to do it," he continues. "Everywhere else there's obviously a chance, but in London I knew. It just gives you so much room to blossom" ("a good thing if you want to write," adds Achilleas).

Read: Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY and the importance of doing things your own way.

Duke wears top McQ. Trousers and belt model's own. 

So far, that writing has culminated in two released songs: the coolly restrained/unrestrained glamour of "Is This What You Wanted" and the Death Grips's sampling stomp of "Stained". The latter of which came accompanied with possibly one of the most unhinged videos we've ever seen (think the last days of the Roman Empire — if the last days of the Roman Empire took place at a fucking good party in Dalston's Vogue Fabrics). "We've moved to our own studio. We needed somewhere we could focus not just on music, but on the wider project as a whole," Henry confirms. "We intend to expand beyond music. Moving towards a more complete artwork, which incorporates lots of other mediums. The music is obviously the integral part of the project, but it doesn't stand-alone. It exists as part of a wider context."

And what is that context? "I think a big thing is to do with the internet and what it means for creating and consuming culture," says Achilleas. "It's radically changed that. Because consumption is no longer linear, it's no longer monolithic. It's a hundred arrows from a hundred different places. And at the same time, the only way to be relevant is to shoot a hundred different arrows back."

Achilleas wears jumpsuit and coat stylist's own. Necklaces Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY. 

What's great about HMLTD is that they're exactly the sort of group you can imagine would have once found themselves on Top of the Pops; slightly too weird to be there, somehow slipped through the net like a Cockney Rebel or a Sensational Alex Harvey Band. "I think there's quite a big tendency for artists and bands which inhabit what would typically be more left-of-field sort of territory to keep preaching to the choir," suggests Henry. "By staying in that kind of like alternative world and not trying to take forays into a wider audience. But, again, all you really end up doing is preaching to the choir."

So what sets HMLTD apart from the pack? "I guess one thing is the immersion in the speed and absurdity surrounding us," says Achilleas. "Some people have this false modest attitude, they do their thing, play guitar, whatever. And that's okay. But we don't view it that way. We accept the speed and we love the absurdity and we want to take over it," he smiles. "People are there to see a show. You might as well give it to them."

Read: Shame's guide to the south London music scene.

James wears suit and belt Dior Homme. Vest Sandro. necklace model's own.

Zac wears top McQ. Trousers Wooyoungmi. Belt Paul smith. Bracelet model's own. 


Text Matthew Whitehouse
Photography Pani Paul 
Styling Bojana Kozarevic
Hair Nicole Kahlani using Kiehl's Since 1851. Styling assistance Lula Ososki.

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