Interview: Brawlers

We’ve been fans of Leeds’ Brawlers from the first time we heard ‘Instagram Famous’ from last year’s ridiculously good ‘I Am A Worthless Piece of Shit’ EP. 2015 began with high expectations which the quartet recently delivered on thanks to their debut full-lengh. ‘Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’ combines break neck riffs and pop sensibilities delivered an authentic punk rock manner. They cut off the fat and keep it simple and as genuine as possible.

Next week they head out on tour with American symphonic pop-rockers Set It Off and fellow UK rockers Decade for a three week stretch across the UK and Europe. It’s just the latest in a series of tours for the four-piece following recent outings with Milk Teeth and Max Raptor. Before they head out once again, we spoke to vocalist Harry George Johns at the Hit The Deck Festival.

We questioned Harry about the importance of playing festivals like HTD, the transition to making an album, the forthcoming tour with Set It Off and Decade. He also shared his thoughts on not getting tied down in gimmicks.

AH: So this is your first time at Hit The Deck. How are you finding it so far?
Harry George Johns: I love it man. I love it. You can tell the Nottingham one is the original one because everyone is super into it. There is really positives vibes here. It’s really nice. The sun’s out. I’m loving being here.

AH: This year is slightly scaled down compared to previous years but I think community feel is still here.
Harry: Yeah. I’ve never been to it before so I don’t know if it has been scaled down or anything but it feels really cool. Some of my favourite bands are playing. You get the impression everyone knows each other and stuff, so that’s cool.

AH: Who are you looking forward to seeing or did you see anyone yesterday?
Harry: Today I’m going to go and see Cancer Bats because I really like them. Yesterday we saw Decade, who are friends of ours and that was really great. I would of like to of seen AllUsOnDrugs. They’re our buddies but they’re playing exactly the same time as us.

AH: I just caught five minutes of them.
Harry: How were they?

AH: Yeah they were good. They had quite a big crowd which is good for the main hall.
Harry: Good on them. I heard they struggled a bit yesterday actually but that’s cool. I’m just happy to be here.

AH: How important is it for a band like Brawlers to play a festival like Hit The Deck?
Harry: It’s a funny one because it is safe to say that Hit The Deck is a mid level festival, so yeah it’s really important because the amount of people who will spend £30 just to go and see While She Sleeps and Cancer Bats will do that and then here they’re like “let’s waste some time until those bands play, oh I heard Brawlers have got some good press” or something like that. It means it gives people the opportunity to see the smaller bands. The thing is with Brawlers, we have never really played, and never have, will play like a support band. That is not what it is about. We’re really proud of what we do, so we play like it is our show even if it really isn’t. Like this afternoon wasn’t really our show but we still played like we are worth being on this amazing bill. I think that is the main thing. We need to prove our worth for being asked in the first place.

AH: I watched your set and I think you left a great impression with a lot of people who may have not of heard you before.
Harry: I hope so. The thing is with our band we are in this weird position where a lot of people have heard of us but haven’t seen us. So there is an onus on us being good.

AH: So you’re trying to persuade people who have heard the hype as such and get them on board?
Harry: Yeah. Prove to people who have heard the hype we are a legit band, which we are, but nobody likes being told what to listen to. Which is essentially what the music press does these days. If someone said “go and listen to Brawlers”, I would go out of my way to not watch them. So we have to pull all that back and be like “this is what we’re all about.” We play, we’re here to have a good time, we want to make friends and play tight. We want to put on a good show that people will remember.

AH: The album came out earlier this month. From what I’ve read the feedback has been positive overall so far?
Harry: I would say so. We’ve been really lucky. Kerrang!, Rock Sound, Big Cheese have been good to us, those places like us. There are so many people writing about music on the internet, in the magazines and on TV. I think we live in an age now where people care the least about reviews, so it is just an added bonus to us that these amazing publications have said some nice things about us. We really appreciate it.

AH: How was the transition from the EP to the album in terms of songwriting?
Harry: The album is more considered. The EP came out in a rush because we got signed after our first ever show. So this isn’t just a hobby, which it still is, but it very quickly became something a bit more serious. We got asked to do a release and we didn’t feel ready to make an album at that point. We were then given a bit of time until we felt it was the time to do an album. I think the difference between the EP and the record is that the EP can come across as a little jokey, even though it’s not, because of the references to Instagram and silly front cover. So the album was our opportunity to be like “ok we’re going to make an album and this is going to be exactly what we’re about”. We wanted to make an honest record about where we were at that point. The first song, ‘Annabel’, is literally about where we are; “we made you a record so we won’t your time” is the lyric in it and it’s true.

AH: I heard an interview you did where you talked about doing a record a year. Is that still the plan?
Harry: Yeah but we have thousands of different people telling us what to do at the moment. We would love to make a record a year though.

AH: You recently toured with Milk Teeth and Max Raptor, and you’re heading out with Set It Off soon. I think that’s quite interesting as I consider them a pop-rock group.
Harry: Yeah. I think we are a bit grittier than those bands but at the same time us and Decade come from the same place songwriting-wise. We’re really obsessed with choruses. We maybe are a bit dirtier, a bit punkier or whatever you want to call it but we all come from the same place which is regardless of genre, we just want to write good songs.

AH: Also because Set It Off have a growing fanbase over here, it is a good opportunity to play to new crowds?
Harry: Yes I would say so. Set It Off are a funny band. When they announced this tour, I think not many had heard of them really, and I think since announcing it and with having the press and all that, it has gained momentum which makes me a bit more at ease about the whole tour. Doing a whole tour off the back of “hype” can be quite dangerous, so for Set It Off they probably feel like they need to prove themselves on this tour which is really exciting because that’s how we feel everytime we play. So in a way we are all on the same level. I know Decade are trying to move away from the pop punk thing and we’re trying to move away from the pop punk tag and just like I said, Set It Off has something to prove. It is going to be really interesting. Three bands who are very focused on what they are doing.

AH: It should be an interesting tour then.
Harry: I think it is going to be a tour where we all constantly learn things from each other.

AH: Back in January, we named Brawlers one of our 50 bands to watch in 2015.
Harry: Thank you very much.

AH: What bands do you think our readers should be paying attention to?
Harry: A band called the Water Rats. They’re from Brazil. They’re a punk band and they are fucking incredible. They are just a proper punk band. Don’t get me wrong there are heaps of bands here I like and respect, but for me punk rock has lost something. It’s become watered down. So they (Water Rats) are straight up Ramones-influenced. We started this band because of The Ramones, that’s a fact we might not sound like that but that is where we come from, and Water Rats come from exactly the same place. They’re from Brazil. Four chords. Great guys. Great band. Tight. Just super rad. I wish more bands sounded like them.

AH: Going back to the album, it seems you don’t get tied up gimmicks or what other people think?
Harry: Oh man we are too old to care. If I’m honest. There comes a point if you’re a musician or a dentist where you think “if I constantly think about what everyone else thinks of me then I’m just going to stay in my bedroom and never leave” and that’s not life. For me, to live life to the fullest, you need to stop caring what everyone else thinks and do what you want to do. That is what punk rock is about and what life is about. Just do what makes you happy. Maybe you’ve got some friends, maybe you’ve got a girlfriend and if people don’t like what you’re doing then fuck them. It shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Just stop trying to please everyone. We live in a world where everyone is trying to please everyone. We’re just really happy to be here and to be doing what we are doing. If you want to get behind us, then that’s ace. If you don’t then go and listen to another band.

AH: Any closing comments?
Harry: Just thanks so much man for being behind the band. Already Heard have consistently been behind us and it’s really good. Gone are the days where it’s more important to appeal to bigger publications. I don’t think any publication, of any size, is important as the next one. I think it’s really cool that you’re behind us. It’s awesome. Thank you.

’Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’ by Brawlers is out now on Alcopop! Records.

Brawlers links: Facebook|Twitter|Bandcamp

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)

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