Controlled Chaos: TINFOILS on Punk and the Apocalypse

Live events might have ground to a halt in the very unusual lockdown times that we’re living in, but music isn’t stopping, and punk in particular has a history of thriving in times of adversity. We have been witnessing a bit of a moment of spotlight for the genre in recent years, but this might be yet another way in which the punk sound is turning out to be relevant to the times.

Enter Tinfoils, a Manchester three-piece self-describing as garage punk but who have a much wider range of tricks in their toolkit. Their upcoming single Spitting comes up with what is really uncannily perfect timing, featuring lyrics that channel a sense of claustrophobic frustration that will be all too familiar for many of us right now, together with a familiar vibe of punk anger. It’s a short, punchy track that jumps right in, goes straight to the point, and powers through until the end.

The sound is a savvy mix of the old and the new, with a strong bass line that might just have come right out of a festival in the mid-80s, confident and cutting vocals, and a delightfully contemporary guitar line that comes in past the midpoint, almost to lighten the mood. It seems to weave a narrative of the way we confront adversities, first with anger, then with the determination to work through them, and in the end with a newfound confidence. A statement track that sends Tinfoils high into the list of bands worth watching.

I discussed the new single, as well as the unusual circumstances of its release and its unique blend of influences and styles, with guitarist and vocalist George Unitt.

CS: It’s a bit of a weird moment to be releasing a new single. How does it feel to be doing it in the middle of all this?

GU: It’s not ideal. It threw all of the promotional campaign out of the window, it’s been a bit of a nightmare on that front. But I think it’s all right. It’s a really positive song, so in that sense it will be good for the current time. It’s oddly prescient in a way, because there’s a bit in it that goes, “Lock me up, I’m stagnant water/ I’m just sat here like a squatter.” I wrote that bit in the recording studio because the producer said we should add a bit of vocals, and then immediately after we recorded it I thought I didn’t even quite know what it meant, it didn’t quite make sense – and it makes a bit too much sense now.

CS: Do you want to tell me a little about what the song is about, and how you came to write it?

GU: We came up with the tune very quickly in rehearsals, basically we were just telling Will how to play the bass – even though he knows far better than we do, we still think that we know more – and then he was just like, ‘oh what, should I just play it like this?’, and then he started jokingly playing a bass line – and we thought yeah, that’s just like it. So it basically came out of that, Will’s aggressive bass line, because he was actually angry by that time, and then we just jammed it out as a band and then I wrote the lyrics. I’d had the idea up to that point, to write about something like that.

CS: The sound is interesting to me, because it’s sort of an intersection between a very classic punk sound, and then past midpoint it’s got that little guitar line that’s very new. Did you have any particular inspirations in mind?

GU: Not really. You’re right that there’s a lot of the ’70s punk in it, especially as it initially came from Will, the bass line, and he’s really into Buzzcocks and that kind of thing. And then there is, I think nowadays it’s called indie landfill, but I like it. That was the inspiration for the little harmony in the end, we thought we’d put in something a bit fancy. Another big influence is Sleaford Mods, which I think is the only band that we all agree on.

CS: The cover art for the single also has a very classic punk vibe to it. What’s the backstory to that?

GU: There’s an artist from Indonesia that we follow on Instagram, and I really liked all their art, and then they messaged us asking us if we wanted them to do some cover art, and I sent a little drawing over of what I was thinking, and then they just did it in, like, a day. I really like the little character they came up with.

CS: What other bands have you been listening to that are putting out music in recent years?

GU: I think definitely Cabbage, IDLES, Goat Girl, that kind of thing, and there are so many bands here around Manchester that inspire us. It seems like a pretty cool scene at the moment.

CS: How would you describe Tinfoils, as a sound, to someone who’s going to listen for the first time?

GU: We always use the genre ‘garage punk’, which is sort of vague, but I really don’t know, it’s kind of messy but structured, like – controlled chaos. For the future, we’ve already got lots of songs that we haven’t come round to recording yet, and I think we’d like to record those. After that, we’ve got lots of ideas, we’d like to do something with a full brass band, but I’m not too sure about that. And we’ve got a whole concept album I’d like to make at some point, about the miners’ strike.

CS: So would you call your music political?

GU: I think so, a little bit, but we never wanted it to be very preachy. Rather than tell people what they should think, we just want to say how we currently feel, in the current climate, not just preach about things. We did a date with the Blinders when they did the For The Many tour, in my hometown, which was quite cool, but we don’t know everything, and we don’t want to act like we do. I like a lot of political bands, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m a big fan of Dead Kennedys, but I feel they knew a bit more than I do.

CS: What are your plans for the future, as a band?

GU: Go outside! We do have a tour booked in May, but we’d like to reschedule that if it doesn’t go ahead. It’s our first headline tour, and it’s fallen in the middle of the apocalypse, which is not ideal. We were doing a gig with The C33s in May which has already been rescheduled for October. Everyone else seems to be doing online events, but I don’t know what we’d do, because we all live separately, so we can’t do anything together. But maybe, it depends on how long it goes on for. I’ve done a little acoustic demo which we’ve sent out, we might do that a little bit more.

‘Spitting’ is out now on Foilwrapped Records – available to Stream/Purchase here.

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Chiara Strazzulla
Chiara was born in Sicily and lives in Cardiff, where she is a freelance journalist and teacher of Classics. She is an internationally published novelist and has collaborated with a variety of publications both in English and Italian. She has been a music lover her whole life, and her taste in music ranges from glam rock to punk by way of blues and country.

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