Interview: Eagulls

Eagulls - Photo by Sandy Kim

Eagulls – Photo by Sandy Kim

For a band that released its debut album just last month, a lot’s already been said about Eagulls. A quick Google search will yield myriad inflammatory stories involving decomposing pig brains, police break-ins, a vitriolic open letter to the music industry, and a divisive performance live on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Behind all this speculation is a five-piece from northern England that plays barbed, urgent post-punk. Eagulls’ lead single “Nerve Endings,” is a teeth-chattering ode to anxiety, showcasing the band’s glitteringly dark, atmospheric sound. Introspective and visceral, there are more than enough echoing clangs and vicious, serrated guitar work to satisfy any punk purist. Set off by lyrically intimate but audibly aggressive, piercing vocals, Eagulls is a band that doesn’t sound anything like your average TV guests.

It was hot and humid on the afternoon of the Berlin show. Vocalist George Mitchell sat in the parking lot behind Magnet, beer in hand, cheerily showing off pictures from a trip to Spreepark earlier that day. Although it was the penultimate show of a grueling European tour that kicked off in France some 60 days prior, according to Mitchell, the members are none the worse for it.

“I honestly thought we’d be crumbling by now, but I think it’s because we haven’t stopped? It’s been a long time, you do try to pace yourself,” he said. “Though I’m not saying we’ve paced ourselves that well.”

With a firm belief in DIY and elbow grease, the band has worked far harder for its big break than recent shock-tactic headlines and click-bait articles would have you believe.

Aas soon as we had a few songs on us, we just played as many shows as possible,” Mitchell explained. “In the first year we were a band we played over a hundred gigs–we’ve made our own name by ourselves.”

It’s an old-school ethos, one that ties into Eagulls’ semi-nostalgic sound, and it’s clearly effective–a direct antidote to what Mitchell dubs doing the “plastic-band thing.”

Mitchell won’t entertain the suggestion that recent controversy could have had a hand in propelling the five into the spotlight, crediting instead the simple fact that they now–finally, after four years together–have a tangible release. And it’s been off the back of this critically acclaimed self-titled album that an encyclopedia of weird things have recently happened to Eagulls.

Alongside the aforementioned rumors, bitching and break-ins, Eagulls had a run-in with none other than Bill Murray, while performing on Letterman.

“It was right weird,” Mitchell shared. “He grabbed [bassist Tom’s] arm and just started snogging his tattoo. It was weird. Watching a Ghostbuster kiss your mate. That’s why you start a band, right?”

This, and a coveted slot live with Jools Holland, has exposed Eagulls to an unusually broad audience for a gritty northern punk band.

“It’s exactly what we’re trying to do: just let anyone and everyone hear it,” Mitchell said, grinning. “We get to put our music into places where people just can’t stand it at all, and it’s great to see the reaction. We’ve probably woken up a lot of grannies–and that’s a good thing.”

Debut “Eagulls” burrows into the confusion of an unemployed Generation Y, frustrated by the “dead end” post University.

“You try and do all these things, but you don’t get a job. There [are] no jobs. There’s nothing. You get pissed off, and that’s what spawned our music,” Mitchell explained. “When you’re talking about personal things it can sound pessimist, it’s like, who really sits there and talks about themselves that much? But out of it, there’s an optimism that people can relate to. Where you go wrong, you can go right.”

Mitchell maintained that they don’t have a political bent, though.

“I don’t intend to talk about stuff like that,” he said, before launching into a breathless, expletive-laden tirade against the current voting system, culminating in a punchy “the day your vote counts is the day that I’ll vote, so I won’t ever fucking vote.” Right, then.

It’s clearly this opinionated streak that’s landed Eagulls so much attention of late, and Mitchell doesn’t hold back when describing their manipulation of the sudden press attention. Laughing, he confessed the cynicism behind several recent covers.

“I don’t say this much, but journalists don’t tend to understand who you’re influenced by, and I don’t like to talk about it because I like to see what they say,” he said. “But, if you do a cover, suddenly they’ll be like, ‘oh, Eagulls sound like The Mekons, they sound like Killing Joke.’ Ha–I wonder where they got that from.”

Probably inevitably, talk turned to the infamous letter. Mitchell sighed, “it took me five minutes, and then someone read it wrong, and then the Internet exploded. An honest joke with a big hint of dark humor that got blown completely out of proportion. I did write a poem about it all, but we’ll keep that to ourselves this time–I don’t really know if I can handle it.”

It’s clear, both from his conversation and the blistering, no-nonsense show that Eagulls delivered later that evening, that the band just wants to cut out the fuss and get on with its music. The storming set was enthusiastically received by a boozy, sweaty crowd: the living proof of Mitchell’s simple strategy for success.

“People come to our shows, they’ll come again, and the next time they’ll bring friends.”  Does it need to be any more complicated?

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