London-based skate/pop-punk upstarts BarCreeps recently released their debut single, the blistering ‘The Hour Between Dog And Wolf’. Formed by 3 friends with a love of ‘90s skate and pop-punk (think of all your favourite Epitaph and Fat Wreck Chords bands, plus some of the punchier records on Jade Tree), they’re combining razor-sharp punk blasts with weighty lyrical topics.
Lead singer Bannister took some time out to answer some questions on the background to BarCreeps, identity and the influence of University of Cambridge neuroscientists…
AH: So what’s the background to BarCreeps? I’ve known Railgrind for a few years and completely independently of his work with The Pipettes – but how did you all get together to form BarCreeps?
Bannister: So I’ve known Hendricks, the other guitarist from school – we went to school in Hong Kong – and we played in bands in Hong Kong together. Then we went to the same university, which is where we met Railgrind. Railgrind was in The Pipettes, I was in a band called The Young Playthings and we toured with the Pipettes; we’re just really good friends. And we’ve always been interested in this type of pop-punk music, even as we’ve got older. We wanted to be in a genre band; doing something very specific and that has a very particular audience. And to do that, we needed to find a drummer who was into that sort of stuff so we put an ad on Gumtree and that’s how we met Campari, who’s from Italy.
AH: It’s funny that you mention The Young Playthings. When I was living in London, our paths crossed a few times and I definitely saw you on at least a couple of occasions. So what happened there and how did it lead to BarCreeps?
Bannister: Yeah, so The Young Playthings kind of finished in about 2009. We put out two records on Smalltown America and we knew by the second one that we were coming to an end. And that was quite a serious band. We toured in the UK, but these things are really hard. The bassist was living in Oxford and was doing his PHD, our drummer was in Kent and I was in London, so we were spread out and it was harder to do. So we didn’t officially call it a day, but it did kind of fizzle out.
I’ve also been in a band called Scandinavia, and that overlapped with the end of The Young Playthings, but we never tried to make it a touring band. We’ve made 4 albums, but no-one’s really heard it [laughs].
AH: You mentioned there that The Young Playthings was a “serious” band; where do you see BarCreeps? Is it harder now? Like I know Railgrind has a family.
Bannister: Well, when we did The Young Playthings and Railgrind did the Pipettes, we were quite a bit younger, a bit more naïve and maybe a bit more ‘free’ in terms of our time. But I also think the music industry has changed quite a bit in that time, so all of the things that were happening then that we were too naïve or inexperienced to see; and 10 years down the road you can really see how the music industry has changed – so the idea of trying to be a professional musician and just solely a professional musician – is just a crazy thing to do, and that doesn’t matter how old you are.
The other thing is, when we did The Young Playthings, we were very focused on things like: “OK, let’s tour, let’s build up an audience” and so on and we were very serious about that. Then with Scandinavia, I decided I didn’t want to do that because it kind of damaged the whole feeling of being in a band. The whole point of being in a band is to have fun, write songs and see where it takes you. And we’d gone in completely the other direction. We put no effort in putting shows on. We just wanted to record and write. But that helps sustain it and ensures there’s a longevity to it as it’s just a hobby.
So with BarCreeps, that’s why we’re thinking “OK, look, this is a type of music that has a very specific type of audience, we want to play that type of music – we’re not interested in merging that type of music with another; and it’s fun to do too.” And as it has a very specific audience, we decided to see if they’ll respond to it, and if they do we’ll continue to do it. We’re not going to try and be “professional” musicians. But then most musicians in this category aren’t professional musicians in the sense that they do other things too.
Last point on this, Bad Religion were a very big influence for me and Brett Gurewitz and Greg Graffin have very specific careers outside of playing music. I have my own company, it’s an education company. Brett Gurewitz runs his own record label, Greg Graffin is an academic, I have a foot in both of those camps and that resonated.
AH: OK, so I’d read that you’re not going to do any photographs and you’ll be known by pseudonyms. It’s almost like anti-publicity? Is there a larger statement behind it?
Bannister: I think, in this type of music lots of people take on pseudonyms – Ben Weasel, Joe Queer, The Ramones obviously – so we were just playing on that, and then we liked the idea of covering up. Railgrind is a big fan of The Residents, and he thought it would be fun. So no, I don’t think there’s a larger statement. It invites curiosity, and let’s be honest, people who play music invite a certain narcissism. There’s a focus on image, and we’re not really into that. I don’t think people would be interested in us if we did do that and we’re not that sort of people. So yeah, it just seems like a fun way to navigate through a few different things.
AH: I think you’ve hit it there with Screeching Weasel and The Queers; they’re bands with a strong identity, rather than just an image, yet it still comes second to writing really fast, really catchy pop-punk songs. Like it’s a good package. And having seen you guys live, it definitely fits in the same ball park. Which brings us nicely on to your new single; ‘The Hour Between Dog And Wolf,’ What’s it all about?
Bannister: [laughs] Well, I’ll try and be succinct. The title comes from a book by a University of Cambridge neuroscientist called ‘The Hour Between Dog and Wolf’. And it’s all about how adrenaline and stress affect us. It’s all biological and, while you can practice at getting better managing adrenaline and stress, there’s only so much you can do. And, apparently women are better at managing that sort of thing compared to men. So, there’s also an optimum point of managing stress and adrenaline, and you need a lot of adrenaline and a little bit of stress and when it tips over you start to make bad decisions. And I thought it was a really interesting book and I extended the idea to our psychologies. We have formative experiences when we’re very young and they colour our lives, so even as we change and mature as we get older we have those experiences that shape our world view. And I don’t know if it’s a positive or a negative thing, and even as we try to change or try to adapt, we’re always pulled back to the way that we were.
AH: There can’t be too many bands out there referencing Cambridge neuroscientists…
Bannister: [Laughs] You never know.
AH: It is interesting though, going back to Screeching Weasel and The Queers; they don’t do that. They write songs like ‘Cool Kids,’ which are very simple. It seems, alongside the anti-publicity, that you’re combining lots of different things that sit at odds with a straight-up 2 minute pop-punk song? Added to that you’ve done work for the migrant camps in Calais, so there’s plenty of different issues that you’re looking to address?
Bannister: Well, Refugee Rocks, that was something Hendricks organised, but it’s something we all felt we needed to do, and we have a song about the migrant issue called ‘Calico’.
In terms of the songs, I’ve written the majority, but Hendricks and Railgrind have also written some songs, but when I was younger I spent a lot of time writing about my personal life – yet I read an interview with Neil Tennant from The Pet Shop Boys a couple of weeks ago and he said that there’s lots of music out there and lots of it is very good, but the one issue I have with it is that there’s only one subject, and that’s the writer. It’s very narcissistic. And I think as you get older and broaden your horizons you realise that there’s loads of interesting things happening in the world; disturbing stuff, exciting stuff, you want to interpret it. So lyrically, although we’ve never said we’re going to sing songs about girls, we’re probably not ever going to do that. We’re all married, some of us have kids and there’s more interesting things to write about. And that’s what makes it interesting.
BarCreepsare also looking for more shows. Drop them a line and get them booked!
BarCreeps will be playing the Camden Rocks Festival on June 4th.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)