There are many reasons as to why Hookworms are far from your average band. Noticeably, their music is consistently excellent, something that seems even more remarkable upon understanding the obstacles that they have faced: in 2015 their studio flooded, destroying much of their equipment and material. However, having spoken with the group’s synth-player, Matthew Benn, about their recently-released third album Microshift, their upcoming October show at SWX and more, I discovered that what really sets them apart is their humanity and humility.
“I think it’s the happiest I’ve come away from making an album,” Benn instinctively reflects upon the quintet’s third effort, which has gained critical praise to both match and exceed the rave reviews of its predecessors. Searching for reasoning behind this, he suggests it to be the result of a retrospectively detached analytical view: “It might sound a bit weird but I’m trying to listen to it as if I haven’t had anything to do with making it.” This is something that is perhaps a consequence of the four-year period it took to make the record, due both to the catastrophic circumstances and the fact that each member of the group is also occupied by various day jobs.
“It seems like it would be irresponsible to just talk about the shit that boring rock bands talk about…”
I query whether increasingly lofty expectations from fans and media to replicate the success and appeal of the sound of previous releases could have acted as a heavy burden upon the group. Rather than running scared from these elements, Benn suggests that Hookworms instead seek to embrace them: “I think that if there is any pressure, it’s pressure that we’ve put on ourselves. It’s really natural to want to go in the opposite direction from whatever we did last.” Expressing his initial trepidation: “I almost anticipated people disliking the new record,” he immediately reassures me that, much to his delight, this opinion has scarcely been found: “Either people have been a lot less vocal or a lot fewer people dislike it than I’d thought.”
Naturally, the conversation soon turns towards the flood incident. Benn submits that this is the case with the majority of the band’s interviews. However, it’s through hearing this being recounted that I’m able to understand the admirable dynamic within the Leeds-based group and how to them, music is often the secondary concern: “We put the band on hold; we were more concerned because it’s [vocalist and studio owner] Matt’s day job. We didn’t think ‘Oh shit, the band!’ We thought ‘Oh shit, this is Matt’s livelihood!’”
Also ripe for discussion is the band’s activity on social media which, whilst often satirical, is usually politically charged and used to address societally taboo areas. This is clearly something important to all five members, with Benn alluding to a collective standpoint: “It’s less that we’re a band getting involved in politics and more that we as individuals in the band have very strong views on political matters.” As if to demonstrate this point, he adds: “It seems like it would be irresponsible to just talk about the shit that boring rock bands talk about, like drugs and fucking people, when we have opinions on more important things.”
Having had to cancel their Rough Trade in-store in February, they have proven true to their promise (unsurprisingly) to reschedule, with a performance booked in for 28th July. It won’t be long before they’re back, either. Arriving in Bristol on 13th October, Benn asserts that their SWX show will: “Look and sound as good as it can; hopefully we’ll have our new audio-visual show by then and maybe even a few new songs.” If that doesn’t sound enticing enough, it’s also on a Saturday night, thus hopefully avoiding any clashes with your (and their) working weeks.
Hookworms play Rough Trade on 27th July (plus SWX on 13th October) with Microshift out now.