Following a stonking set at this year’s Live At Leeds festival, we caught up with the city’s own Narcs. Despite channelling a political urgency and visceral stage presence, the guys were jovial and friendly on initial meeting. Frontman Wilko arrived with a pair of freshly picked daisies, and brought Joe (lead guitarist) and John (bassist) along for the ride. The band were fast to open up about the nitty-gritty of their mission statement, their influences, and their new album…
On Facebook, you guys describe yourselves as ‘a guitar-centred alternative rock band aimed at Tory scum’. As far as you’re aware, do you have any conservative fans?
Wilko: We did!
Joe: We did have, they rear their head every so often saying ‘we don’t like you anymore’; we’re devastated to wave those guys goodbye. We’re a very political band, and as with any art, you push it to the most extreme point you can, but we’re humanist too, it’s part of the band’s thing. We have had Tory fans, but you stick with what you agree with, stick your neck out on the line; you’ve got to be ready to defend that.
So on the subject of politics, you recently released PIG, is that also a political statement?
John: That song actually came about before the whole David Cameron pig incident!
Wilko: We never liked the name of the song at all, wanted to change it. But then all this stuff came out about David Cameron’s private school experience…
Joe: We’ve got another song on the new album named Swinehound, which actually was written about that event!
So would you say there’s a common driving force behind a lot of your material?
Joe: More so with this new album. It’s driven by everything happening around us, every song is to do with politics in some way.
How does the new album differ from your debut?
John: It’s far more politically charged, which might put a few people off. See, the first album catered for a much wider audience, a lot of people not into politics could’ve listened to the first album quite happily, but this album might put people off who aren’t as interested.
Joe: Musically it’s a lot more diverse than the first one, much more production, and far more dynamic range to reflect the music’s subject matter. It’s more mature, and we got so fed up of hearing songs we’d done, this next album was inevitably going to distance ourselves from that. We needed to break away and do something different.
And how has the reaction been to this new material?
Wilko: Positive, really positive, surprisingly so really. There’s a group who love the first album, who come along to all the shows and are loving the new stuff too.
John: We’ve got other mates in bands doing ok as well, and they said how it really sounds like we mean what we’re saying with conviction this time around, which gets people involved and on board.
Joe: I think we just felt (after the first album) that there was nothing else worth writing about at this point, and we thought ‘what are we writing about, thinking about?’ And it was all political stuff, just ‘cause of how things have been (in the UK) the last few years, almost a decade. If things get better, maybe we won’t be so political anymore, but honestly that’s what we care about right now.
You guys are based in Leeds, how has the city influenced your music?
All: A lot.
Wilko: It’s really nice to be part of the Leeds music scene. You meet some ace people, ace bands.
John: We’re just aiming to bed ourselves down in the scene; it feels amazing to be part of this group of artists, having fun, doing what you want to do. Everyone wants to be selling platinum albums, but I feel like this city has a great history of doing exactly what you want to do musically.
Wilko: The annoying thing about today is, I listen to a lot of local stuff, and we’ve missed them all live, ‘cause they were playing at the same time as us!
John: But Leeds caters for so many different things, it’s got everything going on really!
Any pre or post gig rituals?
Joe: We just try and keep each other positive really.
Wilko: We’re always rushing around and stuff before shows so there’s not really the time.
Joe: I sometimes listen to political bands I like sometimes prior to shows. Like Public Enemy, Rage Against The Machine, The Smiths actually; they’re not overtly political but they have a British pop music version, the anger’s there. I’d like to think we do that as well. But yes I like to juice myself up before I go out I suppose.
Wilko: So the short answer, no!
Your new album ‘A Thinking Animal’ is out 8th July. Are you doing any touring, launch parties?
John: A few festivals.
Wilko: We’re doing a launch gig at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.
Joe: We’re releasing the new album bang in the middle of festival season; you can’t do touring in clubs (at that time of year) cause everyone’s out at festivals.
Wilko: We intentionally put it out now, even though it’s such an anti-summer record. But we just wanted to get it out, let people hear it.
Ok guys, final question: you can time travel to one place in time and stop one person from being born, who and why?
Wilko: Him! (pointing at Joe) Because I was happy before I met him! (Laughs)
Joe: Ignorance is bliss and that’s why that’s been the case! I’d go with Lars Ulrich or Boris Johnson, it’s a weird question! But, Boris Johnson is like a British Goering; he has horrendous views, he’s within a pubes breath of being leader of the fucking country. As for Lars Ulrich, just ‘cause he’s the worst person ever to have been created… John?
John: I’d have to second that on Boris Johnson! He’s a comedy character, lovable rogue.
Wilko: So Lars Ulrich, Boris Johnson, and Joe.
Narcs release A Thinking Animal on July 8th, and are celebrating by playing a launch party at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, on the day. To find out more, head over to the band’s pages linked below. All that remains is to thank Narcs for chatting to us, and to tell you to go check out their stuff.