Thursday, 27 March 2014

Music: Interview with Eagulls

Over the past few months Leeds-based post-punk band Eagulls have shot international attention with their captivating live performance on popular American late night talk show David Letterman.

The group consists of Mark Goldsworthy (guitar), Henry Ruddel (drums), Liam Matthews (guitar), Tom Kelly (bass), and George Mitchell (vocals), and will be performing on the first episode of the new series of Later with Jools Holland.

“We’ve had messages recently from San Diego, Indonesia and the Philippines – it’s crazy,” says Tom.

“It’s strange because we’ve not made a concerted effort to reach these places – but I think there’s been a lot of word of mouth online.”

The group recently had to make a leap of faith when singer George had to decided whether to give up his day job as a retail manager so the band could play a series of shows in New York – away from the familiarity of their receptive Leeds audience.

“You play the same songs, but wherever you go it’s a different experience,” says George.

“Leeds is always a good gig because it’s home and a lot of our friends always come down – people know who we are and it’s always a lot of fun.

“When we go somewhere like New York, the people are coming to see us because they’re curious about hearing the music – the first time you play anywhere there’s always that anxiety of everyone judging.”

The group has taken to life on the road with enthusiasm and have enjoyed the experience of travelling.

“Mexico was amazing,” says Liam. “We drove for nine hours from Austin, Texas, in a people carrier with 14 of us squeezed in.

“Just going from a huge city, to barren southern America, and then as soon as you hit Mexico it was like a shanty town – it’s a proper culture shock.

“It was crazy to see all that just to play at a gig for about 20 minutes.”

Mexico is not without its dangers, and the country has gained a reputation over the past few years for its high levels of crime.

“The week before we went about 20 musicians were kidnapped and found dead down a well – it was pretty scary,” says Tom.

“We were put in this hotel and we weren’t allowed to leave it. Outside there were police driving round on the backs of four by fours with roll cages and machine guns – it was absolutely mental.”

“The most telling thing for me was that there were a few prosthetic limb shop right near where we were staying – there must be a lot of people getting their legs shot off,” says George.

“All I thought when I saw it was how weird it was – the fact there were so many of them that could survive as a business.”

What has surprised the group about playing international gigs is just how poorly bands in the UK are treated by promoters and venues.

“The promoters treat your really well over in Europe – they’re a lot more respectful and appreciate that bands actually make them money,” says Liam.

“You feel like you’re the reason why they’re putting the gig on – we’ve done a lot of gigs where the bands are the last thing on the promoter’s mind.”

“If you turn up to a show in Europe there’s always food, drink, somewhere to stay,” says George. “A lot of promoters in this country treat you like they’re doing you a favour letting play, when really it’s the bands who make them money.

“England’s renowned for being one of the worst countries to play gigs.

“So many bands come over here and have such a bad experience playing in dives that they don’t want to come back after putting in so much effort.

“They’ll come over from Europe or America, the promoter’s not there and then the band wonders where their food and beer is and no one can help them.”

Eagulls have supported bands including Merchandise, Parquet Courts and Franz Ferdinand, and have been very careful about where they choose to play.

“We’ve been really lucky with all the bands we’ve been able to support,” says Henry. “When you’re at a festival it’s a bit out your hands, but we’ve been able to go on tour with bands we actually like.

“I think the worst gig we did was at this festival that was full of either druggie scumbags or families with kids.

“Druggies don’t want to listen to guitar music anymore and the families didn’t go for the music, they just like the festival scene, so we had about five people who actually wanted to watch us.”

“The worst places to play we’ve found are the city festivals – it just feels like people are too scared to have fun because they’re afraid of spilling their six pound beer,” says George.

Eagulls have gained a reputation for their rock and roll antics – a reputation the group see as unfair.

“We’re not rock and roll, it’s our mates that get us in trouble – people are always surprised how polite we are,” says Tom.

“Our mates kick up a fuss and we get the slack – they just think it’s hilarious.”

“I don’t think it’s anything to with being in a band – I think if we went on holiday as a group of lads we’d still be in the same position,” says Henry.

Eagulls support Franz Ferdinand at O2 Academy Leeds on March 26 and the Manic Street Preachers at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on March 28.

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