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SPERARE: crafting to the best of the combined abilities

UK’s Carnage Club is one of those labels that somehow know how to feed my ever-hungry soul and surprise me with artists I’ve never heard of. Stourbridge’s SPERARE (est. 2006) is no exception. Called “one of the UK’s most underrated screamo bands”, the British act has a new EP out is just about to explode with a variety of cool stuff in the coming months. Check out the interview below to find out more about their new record, their upcoming record release show with NEW ALASKA and SEALCLUBBER, their local punk scene, zines, and the new MySpace :)

To sweeten it up a bit, I have teamed up with Carnage Club and SPERARE to give you a free download of the first track from their EP. It’s called “Such Things Are…” and can be grabbed for free right here:

Hey guys! Good to talk to you! What’s up? You have a new EP coming up, right? Tell me about it.

Heya! Yeah, we’re alright cheers, and hope you’re well! We do indeed have a new EP coming out called ‘The Sea Takes The Rest’ through an awesome local label called Carnage Club, the launch of which should hopefully be taking place at the end of April. It’s four tracks that we’ve had written now for a heck of a long time, but for a load of reasons got quite seriously delayed in making it to a release, so it’s with a great deal of both excitement and relief that it’s finally coming together.

Yeah, it must have been one of a hell road to this release. You founded this band back in 2006 and revealed only a few demos and EPs, right? Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that some of the new tracks are re-recordings of previous versions, aren’t they?

Eeesh, has it been that long?! To be honest, as well as dealing with a fair few member changes, we spent a lot of that time experimenting with different styles, working out what we were all happy playing, and just honing our process of constructing songs; there were a lot of scattered influences that we had to get out of our system before we could actually select, define, and subsequently channel the right ones into what we like to think of as the more ‘refined’ and consistent sound that we have now, which really became present in 2009 when we self-released ‘The Solace EP’. We’re intending to put a tape out later this year featuring four more songs that were written between that EP and the new one that also never made it to recording, but as far as the new one goes, only one of the tracks, ‘Such Things Are’ has been recorded previously; the rest are pretty freshly captured.

What caused those line-up changes?

Well, we started out as a four-piece, with Robbo, our other current guitarist playing drums. When our first bassist, Joe Stein left the Midlands to study at Uni in London, we went without a bassist for a short period while we hunted around for one locally, but also started looking for either a second guitarist, or a new drummer so that Robbo could switch to guitar. The latter finally occurred when we kind of stumbled upon our current drummer Ryan who, unbeknownst to us, happened to be the brother of one of our friends. The first EP was released with us muddling through on bass, before we enlisted our friend Richard Chamberlain to play interim gigs with us; when he decided to call it a day, we were incredibly fortunate to discover Ben, our current bassist, who was studying on my course at Uni, and luckily for us, he agreed to come on board and complete us.

What other bands have you been in? Do you have any side projects running collaterally?

Ah yeah, there are a couple actually! Dean, Robbo, and myself infrequently make noise in an old-school melodic screamo project called TAURUS, which has a three-track tape due out soon, and a three-piece grind outfit called NUNS, a six-track CD of which we’ve just finished mastering; aside from that, I try to work on and release stuff in about a million different solo-projects under the umbrella of Glass of Spit Recordings, which we release all of our DIY efforts through. As far as previous bands go, I think for the most part they were of little accomplishment, but Ben used to play bass in a pretty awesome metal one called ORACLE back home in Malaysia.

He’s from Malaysia? Awesome. What’s his story? How come he ended up in your area?

As far as I know he came over here to study illustration, and for greater opportunities to work in the design industry… I think that’s right anyway. Or maybe he just likes British weather. I’m not sure. I’ll let you know if he informs me of any other reasons.

Alright, guys. Tell me about your local screamo scene. Is there such a thing over there? Oh, and how do you react on calling you the most underrated screamo band in the UK? [smiles]

Nah, I wouldn’t say we have a local ‘screamo’ scene as such, but thanks to the guys in Carnage Club, Stourbridge does have a pretty vibrant and varied experimental scene, which, in all honesty, is as great of a scene as we could possibly hope to be a part of. Over the years we’ve been privileged enough to see and play with a really strong, varied collection of bands and artists, virtually on our doorstep, and even though a lot of the stuff we get here is actually really incredible instrumental work, and aside from a few exceptions we’re probably a little more abrasive than the majority, thankfully, people seem to have been quite receptive to the stuff that we make. You never quite know what to expect when you go out to a Carnage Club show, and with the sheer variety of influences that you frequently subsequently find yourself around, I think it’s a really inspiring thing for us to be involved in.

[laughs] That’s a bit of a wild statement! [blushes] but to be honest, I think with real ‘screamo’, or ’emo-violence’, or however you like to refer to it, being the almost ‘remote’ genre that it is, it’s rarely going to reach or appeal to large audiences, so we’ve always just done our thing, crafting to the best of our combined abilities, and hoping that the right people discover it. And everyone knows that this kind of stuff doesn’t get recognition until after the band is dead anyway; ‘screamo’ is to the music world what Van Gogh was to painting.

Ha! Well said! How often do you perform live, in order to build your own legend? [smiles]

[chuckles] We actually only play live on quite rare occasions, but I think that’s something that has quite suited us over the years, given how much time we spend writing each song; we’d love to play more shows, both locally or outside of our area, but I don’t think we’d much like to be a band that plays frequently but always plays the same set of songs. I also like to think that with such an infrequency of live performance experience, we still have that awkward, rare, almost ‘nervous energy’ that is often only present in young, or new punk-rock and hardcore bands, and prior to them becoming comfortable with such a thing, which is something that I quite like to see. Playing live is still an incredibly exciting and surprisingly fresh thing for us to do, so I hope that’s reflected in the short space of time that we DO spend in front of an audience.

So why not perform more frequently? Come on! It’s the essence of punk!

[laughs] Yeah, that’s probably true, but to be honest, we can be pretty terrible at self-promotion and networking! We’ve put on gigs locally before and stuck ourselves in the line-up, but aside from the Carnage Club boys, and Rhi Lee who puts on some awesome shows at a pub called ‘The Flapper’ in Birmingham, few people have really shown an interest in putting us on. Like I said though, we’d love to get out more, so maybe when this EP is finally done, dusted, and distributed a bit, we’ll find ourselves with some ground from which we can push ourselves, and consequently tread the boards of a few more stages and floors.

Alright boys. What are your modern (post) hardcore punk favourites these days? Have you heard the “Epilogue Of A Car Crash! A Tribute To Orchid”? Any projects or bands you’d like to extol?

Ah no, we haven’t heard it yet actually; have you? I think that only came out last week, so I need to get onto that, not only because we’re all pretty big ORCHID fans, but also because there are a tonne of amazing new bands on there, including our local buddies in HISTORY OF THE HAWK, who since disbanding formed the killer doom band OPIUM LORD. To be honest, though we all listen to a real diverse range of stuff, a lot of our music taste is quite central to that old school emo, hardcore, and screamo era of the 90s / 00s, with stuff like FUNERAL DINER, NEIL PERRY, and SAETIA, but it’s awesome to see bands like PIANOS BECOME THE TEETH and THE SADDEST LANDSCAPE still playing really amazing hardcore. We obviously all have a bit of a thing for anything ENVY do, and TEXAS IS THE REASON have definitely been a huge influence, so I’ve been frequently revisiting their stuff through their retrospective release that came out earlier this year. Personally, I’m into a lot of melodic punk-rock and hardcore, and I love stuff like STRIKE ANYWHERE, ABOVE THEM, BANGERS, and CAVES, so if anything we write ever sounds like it belongs on a pop-punk record, then it’s probably my fault! There are tonnes of bands as far as other recommendations go, but to name a few, MINUS TREE from Italy are just amazing, NASDAQ from Manchester are pretty sublime, and locally ADAM BECKLEY, NEW ALASKA, and CONSTANT WAVES give us goosebumps.

Cool. You really need to check the compilation out.

What does the DIY ethic mean to you? There are so many bands that like to brag about it, but I’m thinking.. it’s a terrible thing, to be honest. No money, no chance for a wider reach. Complete disaster [laughs]. Why go DIY? [smiles]

[laughs] Yeah, I can see how that perception of it might be quite prominent, but I think you have to consider what you define as success and failure within the field of creative production, and especially within DIY. If you’re doing things DIY because you think it’s cool, or that it’s going to get you widespread respect if you brag about it, then THAT’S a disaster, but a bunch of folk recording their own stuff, printing and folding their own CD sleeves, and putting stuff out themselves, whether through financial necessity or because they genuinely enjoy having that involvement at every level with the things they create, far from being a terrible thing, I think that’s one of the most incredibly beautiful things anyone can do with their art, whether it’s music, zines, or whatever. Sure it’s a struggle on a great many levels, such as with limited distribution, and mass consumption of time, money and effort, but then DIY isn’t about how much popularity or money it’ll make you; it’s about being a part of the paradoxically termed ‘DIY Community’ of people that care about punk-rock as a counter-culture. The kind of people that brag about anything like this will usually be the quickest to grow out of it, whereas us and many like us, whether we’re short on money or high on ethics, will still be here recording our own stuff, and I’ll still be cutting windows in cartridge paper sleeves for my zines.

What zines? [smiles] Please extend this thought.

Ah, well the cartridge paper covers with the windows are for a perzine that I write called ‘Larry’, but me and my friend Natalie O’Keeffe, who incidentally seems to have disappeared lately, also infrequently make a little zine calledTHE SCREEVER’, named after a character in ‘Down and Out in Paris and London‘ by George Orwell. It’s a tiny thing that we cram with reviews, recipes, stuff that we think people might like to know about, and interviews with various interesting folk involved in music, art, zines and other interesting things. Issue three, which after many delays is finally due for copying, has interviews with ADAM BECKLEY who runs a local drone label called Armed Within Movement, Birmingham thrash-skate punkers LAUGHING IN THE FACE OF, Karl Stana from Birmingham SxE promotions group LOCKDOWNxCOLLECTIVE, Tom from ACDSLEEVE who printed the packaging for our new EP, and Catherine Elms from the zine news and reviews site SPILL THE ZINES, so I’m pretty excited to finally get it out!

Nice one. I need to put my hands on it and taste it. Haven’t heard of it, to be honest.

What other local zines would you recommend?

[laughs] Yeah that doesn’t surprise me; hardly anyone’s heard of it yet, but you’re more than welcome to a copy or two! As far as I know there aren’t a great deal of zines made really locally, but if you stretch out to the cities like Birmingham you’re far more likely to find something. For example, to name just a few, ‘The DIY Times‘ made by the guys that run the awesome screen-printing company ‘GET A GRIP‘ is always a pretty good read; ‘ZINE ARCADE‘ made by Andrew Owen Johnston always features a really strong, wonderful collection of illustrations from various contributors; SAMMY BORRAS from Coventry does fantastic comic-based zines; and no zine recommendation list would ever be complete without STEVE LARDER from Nottingham; every issue of ‘Rumlad’, or anything else he’s put out for that matter, has been pure gold. If you’re also into perzines, the Midlands based distro ‘MARCHING STARS‘ is a fantastic place to find stuff.

What do you look for in zines?

Hmm, I guess that depends on what kind of zine I’m considering; I’m quite into art and illustration, so anything that’s a little special within that area, or that I feel has a particularly strong visual style will always grab me, as long as it’s not just cute drawings of animals or random images with no real discernible content, printed on nice, glossy paper. I’m quite into perzines though too to be honest, because, in the same way that people do so with art, music, and poetry, I think it’s a very brave and admirable thing to put such a personal and intimate part of yourself into what is quite often a widely accessible medium; they can be, and often are, all at once inspiring, comforting, surprising, humorous, and above all, enlightening. With regards to music and culture-heavy zines, I just like to discover new stuff, which is why MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL and LAST HOURS respectively are and were favourite reads of mine; you know you’ve found something really interesting when you’ve never heard of a single band on the cover of any issue. Zines in general though are an infinite source of inspiration for me, and I’m very much an advocate of the old theory that “if it ain’t cheap, it ain’t punk”, and zines being a very punk-rock medium at heart, I always like to see black and white photocopied stuff that’s more about the content than the print quality; if it costs over a fiver, then it’s not a zine.

Alright, Lee. Tell me, what’s the average age of a scenester in your local scene? [smiles] Is it full of grandpas stuck in the past, or are a lot of young kids involved?

[laughs] Well even just between the five members of our band we have an age range of 20 to 27, so maybe that’s a decent representation, although I think a lot of the guys in other bands are a little beyond us in years, so maybe late 20s or 30 is closer to the mark… then again, I’m terrible at estimating ages, so they could all be 45.

[laughs] Do you still use MySpace? [smiles] Have you checked them out after the re-launch earlier this year?

Ah yeah, I actually used to return to MySpace every now and again just to see if anyone was still using it, and I popped back on after the new launch just to have a peek at what changes might have been made, and I seriously couldn’t get the hang of the whole side-scrolling nature of the new format! I only have a vertically scrolling mouse, and using the horizontal scroll so much on a laptop touch-pad just feels dead awkward, so I ended up opting to use the old format anyway. Are many people active again on there now, or is it still pretty derelict? It’s a shame really, because I always quite liked Myspace for its interface, and how much customization you had over pages on it; well, except when people edited to excess, and viewing their profile page caused your laptop to crash.

[laughs] Exactly! Well said. You see, I’m in the internet business professionally and I’ve been laughing my ass off watching this new chapter and their new mistake with the scrolling (just to make an example). Also, I’m not sure how did they resolved their major spam problems, lack of preference options, etc. I don’t’ think it can become fashionable again. And it hurts, because I liked its new nice look, suited to touch (scrolling panels, large buttons, clear text, etc.).

About the stats, here are their official numbers + this shows its popularity in Google, while Facebook looks like this. I don’t know the real numbers though.

Alright, guys. Please sum it up for me and tell me what are cooking for the coming months. 

As far as the next few months go, we’re literally counting down the days until our EP launch at the end of April, some time subsequent to which, as mentioned earlier, we’re hoping to put out a four-track cassette of songs that were written between ‘The Solace’ and ‘The Sea Takes The Rest’; they’re far slower than our more recent stuff, but still have that same harmonising of melody and aggression, so I like to think they’ll form a nice, diverging bridge between old and new work for those that haven’t heard them, or have only done so live. New stuff that’s largely already been written should make it onto another physical release before the end of the year, the medium of which is yet to be decided, and parallel to all of that, on the back of some hopefully quite positive feedback, we may just break old habits and try to get our stuff out further afield, and play some shows outside of our local scene. Just keep doing what we can, with what we’ve got, and hopefully leave some kind of imprint on our scene and this genre of music before one of us loses an ear.

Great! Thank you so much for your time! Any last words?

Ah, it’s been a pleasure! Thanks a tonne for having us; it really is appreciated. Thanks also to anyone that read this through to the end, and we’d just be pretty elated if anyone reading this were to check out not only SPERARE, but also GLASS OF SPIT RECORDINGS for all of our DIY shenanigans, THE SCREEVER zine if you’re into pocket-sized paper punk, and CARNAGE CLUB because they’re just awesome. Cheers!

Thank you, mateys!

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