eagulls have landed
Leeds five-piece Eagulls are angry. Just not as angry as you think.
"When we first started booking the tour, we wanted to play places that were off the beaten track, places we hadn't been before," explains Eagulls frontman George Mitchell of how a tour named Ginnels, Alleys, Jitties and Snickets ended up opening in the decidedly on-the-beaten-path city of London. "To be honest it didn't really work out properly."
You get the impression this isn't the first time the Leeds five-piece has been misunderstood. Pegged as angry, Northern post-punkists following the release of their incendiary, self-titled debut in 2014, the band is used to turning up to venues with bar staff fearful of a Jesus and Mary Chain, North London Poly style riot (an impression the group is quick to dispel). "I could happily sit with my Grandma and just drink tea," says affable drummer Henry Ruddel today and, what's more, you really believe him.
Eagulls, you see, are a band of contradictions. As funny as they are angry (which, admittedly, is very), they thrive on the oddness of not quite fitting in. With a more considered second album, Ullages, due for release next month, we joined George on their opening night at London's Oslo to talk anxiety, Bowie, and being anything but normal.
It's your first show in six months. Presumably you've practiced?
We've practiced… Whether that'll come into effect, I don't know.
Did I read that you practice in a church?
We recorded the album in a converted church. It was an old Catholic church. Whether it makes any difference if it's Catholic or what, I dunno.
Did it imbue your music with any particular qualities? I know that you've spoken about your, shall we say, difficulties with institutionalized religion…
Yeah, in a way, I think it's quite funny really… that we're writing in their house. Recording in God's house. It's quite funny when you look at it in that sense. But by the third day of being in any recording studio, you're just sort of like, fuck this, I want to go home. You're not bothered about what it looks like!
What's Leeds like at the moment, musically?
There's a lot of bands… I mean, it's quite funny really because people always think there's a scene and there's all these bands that are intertwined and what not. But it's quite the opposite… I mean, a lot of us are friends, but we don't really play shows together or anything like that.
You're quite a singular band though. Could you imagine yourself being part of a scene anyway?
Not really. From the start we didn't fit in with anyone. We always wanted to try and make bills with bands that were similar to us, but there wasn't anyone around at the time that was similar. I think there were always bands that were coming over to England. So Iceage, when they came, we clicked with them. Holograms. Then after our album. there was a few bands that started in Leeds. Autobahn and stuff… But I still wouldn't call it a scene. It's just Leeds. I think Leeds has always had that ability, because a lot of people come in and out of it from being students. And I always recite this and I don't know where I read it or I watched it, but someone was talking about bands and they were saying that Leeds was a really good place for bands to form because of the architecture of the buildings. Because of the terrace houses. They've all got cheap rent. And they've got basements. So students can just go down stairs and make a racket and then start a band.
Is it strange being a band from the North of England and playing your opening night in London?
Well, yeah. We were supposed to do Hull but I was ill. I mean, we don't have anything against the South…
No, but your music does sound Northern. I think of that first record; it was very, very angry yet there was this definite sense of Northern humor. And that was missed a lot of the time.
It was, yeah. Any anger is funny! When you was at school, and your teacher starts laughing at you, the first thing you did was laugh. So when I'm singing about stuff, even when I'm writing stuff, I think, oh my god, that's stupid. That's just funny.
Do you think perhaps you come across angrier than you are at times?
Yeah, I do. Especially with the first album. Everyone always expected us to turn up the venue like these crazy, crazy lads. And it was just like, give it a rest. We're just normal people, voicing our thoughts through music. We're not like that all the time.
And that's not to say that you weren't pissed off…
A lot of it is more social anxieties. A social mentality of anger. It's hard to put it down. Especially for me because I just write it and that's what I do. I don't sit and reflect upon it too much, because I think I'd just go mad. And that would make me even more angry!
It's that misconstrued anger. Like the infamous letter you wrote in 2013. It was supposed to be found more funny than angry, but it was lost in translation somewhat.
That definitely happened. I remember the first interview we did in New York and they brought that situation up. And I was just, like, it was a laugh! I know that there's parts in it that really do sound extremely sketchy and I was just, like, trying to say sorry about that. And that really affected us as a band because it felt like people had an opinion about us that just wasn't true at all. And, in a sense as well, it stopped us from further posting because we felt that, if we was to post anything, it'd be judged so much that people would come up with these skew whiff ideas about us, even more. And we sort of went a bit introvert really after that. And just spoke through the music.
Which is a shame really because that anger, which does exist, is vital to what you do.
Yeah, I know that a band or anyone should voice their opinion. But it's a fine line between voicing your opinion, for yourself, to get the message across and then there's like the other-side, where it's so easy for people nowadays for days to just nit-pick it.
Did you think about that musically too? Listening to Life In Rewind, it's a lot grander, a lot more sweeping, and the melody seems more at the core. Was it a conscious decision to be less of that "angsty band from Leeds"?
In my head I knew that I didn't want to be just shouting. Because we said from the start that we needed a lot more texture to the album. Ups and downs… In the back of my head, I have thought about that. I don't want to be coming across as this angry teenage boy, just shouting about stuff. A lot of people, when they first listen to music that's loud and angry, they just tune into that idea. They don't really think about all the thought that went into that it or all the ideas that I was thinking of at the time, around that album. It's just not a basic punk record of, like, I'm angry at this. There's a lot more going on there. Even still that I don't understand, because it was me trying to figure out anxiety. Anxiety that I just didn't have any idea about at all.
Your own anxiety?
My anxiety, yeah. I never got diagnosed with it or anything and it was through the songs that I was trying to work it out. And when I look back at it now, it's quite scary really. Because I had no idea of it at all. It was really quite a strange, weird time for me.
What about this album? Do you feel like you've figured that out?
No, it's still the same! It sounds so bleak, but if the last album was anxiety, this album's more depression. That's how I look at it, when I reflect upon my lyrics, that's where it's gone. It's bizarre talking about it. It makes me feel weird.
Do you like doing interviews?
Not really. The thing is though, what I do like about it is it sort of makes me think about what we've done. Because we never sit down and go, let's talk about this. We never do that. We just make music… So, in a way, I do like interviews. I've changed me answer!
Where does your sense of melody come from? What's the shared link in what you listen to?
When we first started, I felt like Henry and Goldy [Mark Goldsworthy] and Liam [Matthews] were into a lot of 90s sort of music. And I wasn't really that into it. I was more into punk sort of stuff. And I feel like that's why it happened really. Because I was that side and they was that side. And they had the pop sort of melodies and I had the… Whatever I was doing. And throughout the years, you lot went a bit more punk, post-punk or whatever you want to call it. And now it's gone back to the more pop.
This new record has?
Yeah. it's got a lot more beauty this record. Whereas the last one was a ruckus sort of sounding thing. There was pop melodies in there, but they got a bit lost with the melancholy of the sound.
I like that you describe it as beautiful.
Yeah, it's a wrong beauty. You know when you go into an art gallery and you look at something that's really bleak and it's disgusting to some people… But it's beautiful. It's dark beauty.
What do you find beautiful?
The odd. And displaced things. They're more beautiful than the stereotype beauty.
Were you a Bowie fan?
Very much so. I love Bowie.
Where were you when you heard he died?
I was in bed. And I just cried all day. Literally cried all day. And there were other things going on at that point. I wasn't really in a very fucking good mood. But that just topped it off to be honest.
It's that same finding beauty in oddness.
And that's why I loved him. And certain artists like L. S. Lowry. His stuff's really bleak, and quite ugly in a sense, but it's beautiful. I dunno… I think a lot of people are like that, they're just scared to go with it… They have to travel with the norm. But normal people to me, they're not normal. It's like being imprisoned. Anything different, I've always loved it.
Eagulls releases its second album, Ullages, on May 13.