It’s important to write the music that you believe in, we didn’t write for a market or a demographic.
Eagulls gave us a reality check with their self-titled debut album a few years back. It’s been a hard wait but now the Leeds bunch are back for a follow up and some live dates. I gave drummer Henry Ruddel a call to find out more. He picks up down a crackly phone-line and assumes a position in a graveyard away from the hum of Leeds city centre.
There’s been very little said about the new album, how did it all come together?
It feels like quite a while since we made it really. We were so busy touring and we’re not really the sort of band who can write on the road. Then it came to the point where we felt ready to go in and do something new, so we finished every live show that we’d committed to and just isolated ourselves. We went to our little rehearsal room together and just saw what we came out with. Like you say, we didn’t really want to say much about it. We just wanted to release the music and let people decide for themselves. We don’t want to be a character based band. We don’t want to be a gimmicky band where people know loads of stuff about our personal lives. We just want to release the album and let the music talk. It is quite different, it’s still us, but we just want to put it out and go from there.
Did you feel any pressure or was it just a case of completely shutting off?
Whether you want to admit it or not, there’s definitely some pressure there. I mean with the first batch of material we did, we just made it because we wanted to, but now we’re in a certain spotlight and there’s people out there who are actually waiting to hear our stuff. It’s important to write the music that you believe in, we didn’t write for a market or a demographic, I think there’s absolutely no point in that. That’s the real pressure I felt. We make the music that we want to make and it’s a bonus if people like it. It will be interesting to see what they think.
I’m imagining your rehearsal room like that cold northern Joy Division space…
Yes. It was like a windowless brick room, it was really small and there was a toilet in the actual room. I think it definitely had an impact on the album. I can’t imagine us at this point of our career in a really plush white studio. We’d end up making the most pop record ever made.
There was a real sense of restlessness and unease on that debut, is that still the case now?
Yes definitely. If you were to strip it down I think that’s maybe the guitar melodies. They’re a bit more optimistic in terms of their tone and how they feel this time. One thing I’ve always liked about what we do is that we can have big pop guitar melodies and as soon as George puts his lyrics over it, they just become the most bleak sounding things ever. When we first started before we had the lyrics, it felt like we had a more hopeful outlook than the last album. George and his pessimism then got dropped on top of it and it completely changed the feel of the songs.
That debut album had a real coldness to it that no other band was providing at the time…
I think it’s a lot to do with the environment and head-space that we were in at the time. The band to us at that point was our outlet. It was George’s take on modern British life. We were all young adults who had just moved out of home for the first time. We were going through the system, being re-assured by people. It wasn’t like any of us have been hard done by but the system is broken and it’s ridiculous. We didn’t know what we wanted to do with ourselves but we were together and we were surrounded by instruments. The band was the result of that. The artwork had that ironic tone to it in that sense as well.
Lyrically George tackled some chilling subject matters, was that a surprise to you guys?
Not really no. He’s always been interested in that side of life. It’s a bit strange because he becomes very passionate about these dark and bleak subject matters. I’m happy for him to write about things like that because he means it and he can put it across in his own way. I’ve known him for my whole life, so I don’t see it as an outsider. When we go to the pub and chat, it’s just normal to me. He’s tackled some very British problems on the new album. You’ll understand, he’s taken very common phrases and turned them on their head. It’s about mundanity and first world problems. The subjects are less factual and topical, but it’s more to do with human interaction.
You’re not afraid to speak your mind about the music industry, is it important to be blunt in that respect?
I don’t know it’s hard. Sometimes things like that can do you favours. We don’t want to be a character based band though. We don’t like to say things to push albums so we just speak our opinions. In this industry you’re surrounded by people who are in it for the complete wrong reasons. People who want notoriety and fame, once you go down that route you’re knackered. I think when we got to a certain level, you find yourself surrounded more and more by that. We liked to speak our mind against that or just put it into the music. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve met some of the best people ever through this band, we’ve met some of the nicest people ever in this industry. Whether this band continues for two years or ten, hopefully we’ll stay friends with those forever.
I’d love to just go to the arse end of Scotland and play a show.
This upcoming run of dates come before the album, what’s the thinking behind that?
It’s going to be an introduction to the record. We started to plan what we were going to do last year and we wanted to do something that we haven’t done before. We hand-picked a load of venues that we’ve never been to, so we picked unused spaces or just places that are just a little bit more interesting. They’re all venues where our parents probably used to go out in the seventies or eighties. We thought it would be fun to do something like that. It’s not going to be a blast of the whole new album, it will be a good mixture.
It’s great that you’re breaking into those towns and cities that are often left out from the touring circuit…
Well bands like The Clash and The Smiths always used to do it. They’d do like two weeks in Scotland and bands just don’t do that anymore. Hopefully in the year we’ll do something like that. I’d love to just go to the arse end of Scotland and play a show.
The Smiths live at Derby town hall in 1983 was one of their more iconic shows…
Yes! I’ve seen that online. I’m from just outside Derby actually and I used to walk past that building every day on the way to college, it’s just mental to think The Smiths played there.
George often maintains a withdrawn stage presence at your shows, do you still feed off of the turbulant crowds though?
I think the better we tend to play better when the crowd are more into it. George is withdrawn but he definitely feeds off of it in his own way when people are moving around. He does it more through his eyes than his physical movement. That’s where the song ‘Possessed’ came from, everyone always mis-interprets that for drugs but it’s not.
Eagulls will play Bristol Fiddlers Club on March 3rd.
Check out the chilling ‘Tough Luck’ right here: