Amidst the churning cauldron of Bristol’s music scene, a post-punk act by the name of Knives has achieved the enigmatic feat of evolving while staying true to its underground roots. Their upcoming single ‘Babooshka‘ promises an audacious twist on Kate Bush’s original, ingeniously accentuated with the unexpected element of an electric harp. Far from your run-of-the-mill cover, ‘Babooshka’ has found its niche as a crowd-pleaser in the live circuit, where the band’s energized presence and the harp’s novelty often conspire to provoke awe in even the most jaded audience members.
The track, set to drop on September 1st, captures the creative spirit that has come to define the band’s ethos—organically manifesting from a casual experiment with the original’s riff into a full-fledged composition.
“I really think we achieved something that nobody else would have thought to do, which is why the cover works so well,” says a band member during our interview.
Of course, the narrative of Knives goes beyond just their studio aspirations; their live engagements bear testament to their commitment to audience fulfillment. They are a band that appreciates the visual and sensory experience, challenging the limitations of small venues by injecting a level of production value often reserved for more massive arenas.
“We have a firm belief that if someone is paying money to see us, it’s our duty to make sure they feel fulfilled,” the band elaborates.
However, do not mistake their meticulous planning for complacency. Knives have always been experimentalists, frequently shuffling their setlist and even altering little nuances to maintain an element of surprise. Their upcoming Autumn headliner at Bristol’s Crofters Rights with DHP seems to promise just that.
The band’s trajectory so far—beginning with a sold-out gig at Bristol Rough Trade before releasing their debut EP ‘Newshounds‘—signals both serendipity and strategy. With over 20,000 organic streams and coverage from several publications, they’ve expertly navigated various lineups and festivals. From Outer Town Fest and Dot to Dot, to Ritual Union and Bristol Harbour Fest, they’ve earned their reputation for “authentic noise that feels urgent, inspired, and filthy,” as Noizze Magazine puts it.
What could be considered luck is, in fact, a confluence of factors: shrewd management, a dedicated team, and the unbeatable aura of the Bristol music scene. But if you’re looking to pigeonhole them into a ‘rise to stardom’ narrative, you’d be somewhat misguided.
“The Bristol music scene is the reason we’ve achieved what we have in such a short amount of time,” acknowledges the band.
Their calendar is brimming with commitments—Burn it Down Festival, Attitude Fest Bristol, Love Day Manchester, and Fest Shalom in London, to name a few—culminating in a debut EU tour in October. Though it seems they might take a breather from releases for the rest of the year, don’t consider that a sabbatical. A new EP is already in the works for early 2024, and if the whispers are anything to go by, there might just be an album lurking in the not-so-distant future.
You’ve just released ‘Babooshka,’ a harp-infused take on the Kate Bush original. Can you walk us through your process of reinventing this iconic song?
So the song wasn’t originally meant to be a Kate Bush cover. I just jokingly did the vocals over the main riff once and we were like that actually fits really well and it evolved from there. I ended up contacting my friend G to say “Hey i’ve got this track and I think some electric harp would really work on it”. They came over to a session to demo it and it just came out so much better than I ever expected it too. G absolutely killed the harp which was just elevated to another level when we took it to the studio. I really think we achieved something that nobody else would have thought to do which is why the cover works so well!
Your live performances of ‘Babooshka’ have already made waves in the alt punk scene. How do you think it will resonate with audiences who are hearing it for the first time on streaming platforms?
I love Babooshka live, I think it’s a great way to involve the crowd! Live, everyone appreciates the harp intro and looks up almost amazed since a punk band is using the harp. However, as a studio piece I could understand how a long harp intro could be harder to digest and the dramatic shifts in dynamic is something that works great in a live scenario. I hope people can still find the same enjoyment in the song from a studio perspective!
‘Newshounds’ amassed over 20,000 organic streams. What do you attribute to the EP’s success, especially for a debut release?
A lot of luck to be honest. We’re Privileged that the right people caught us at the right shows who could put us onto bigger and better stages which built up all the hype around that first EP. Honestly though everyone involved in the band from the Members to our management, promoters we work with and everyone else has been super on the ball with the work load and just keeping the grind going.
With your upcoming appearances at Burn it Down Festival, Attitude Fest, and more, what’s your game plan to keep the energy high and your performances fresh?
So the biggest thing for us is just changing the set up. We’ve been doing a lot of writing so we will be throwing some new songs in here and there and changing small details just to keep everyone engaged. We have a firm belief that if someone is paying money to see us it’s our duty to make sure they feel fulfilled. We’ve been working on improving our lighting rig a lot and the visual side of things as we want to try and bring a more high production concert to the smaller stages and really give people something they will remember.
How do you navigate the multiple lineup inclusions you’ve had, like Dot to Dot, Ritual Union, and Bristol Harbour Fest, while keeping your own unique identity as a band?
All of those festivals and multi venue festivals we’ve played have honestly been so lovely. it’s a great sense of community and everyone loves to support each other which makes them some of our favourite shows we’ve ever done. We’ve never been made to feel out of place where ever we’ve been which makes navigating those varying line ups and being around all those different types of bands so natural as we can just be ourselves. Our energy is unique to us and we just enjoy joking around on stage!
You sold out Rough Trade Bristol for the release show of ‘Newshounds.’ What was it like to have that level of hometown support so early in your career?
Rough Trade was probably my biggest musical achievement of my career. We were only aiming for like 60 – 70% tickets sold. We booked it in because we wanted to play a cool venue for our first single release, never did we think we could sell it out. Everyday We would get updates like another 10 tickets gone, another 12 gone it was crazy!
The Bristol music scene is the reason we’ve achieved what we have in such a short amount of time. The support for local bands is unmatched anywhere else in the UK and if we had started anywhere else I don’t think we would be where we are today!
You’ve managed to create quite a buzz with limited social media presence. What’s your strategy behind keeping things ‘cagey’ online?
I think it’s less of a strategy and more of us holding ourselves to a standard of content creation. We like to use Instagram as almost a portfolio of our work and we want it to look as cool as possible to draw people in. I think maybe it gets misconstrued as us being “mysterious” or “cagey” when honestly we’re just taking our time to create the best content for people to enjoy.
The UK has been experiencing a regression in funding for musicians and artists. Given that you’ve also discussed this in studies and around the scene, what are your thoughts on the state of arts funding, especially for bands like yourselves who are still on the rise?
The UK government is currently trying to halt the ability to teach the arts at a university level unless done through private funding. Our country has always been a beacon for the arts and it’s been something our whole country has benefited from. Venues are closing down regularly, Galleries are closing down regularly, Theatres are closing down regularly and they don’t care.
Ithink everyone is artistic in some way and people use art of any form to alleviate themselves from the stresses of life. To take that away from people is a seriously dangerous and regressive thought process which I think they will thoroughly regret. Ultimately from a musicians perspective funding is almost non exist especially for smaller artists and kick starting your career is hard without the money to back it. To think about all the talent that has slipped through the cracks because of this is insane. You’ve probably never even listened to your favourite artist.
‘Newshounds’ was described as an “in-your-face explosion.” How do you plan to evolve this sound in your upcoming releases?
Our sound is constantly evolving. I think from the “Newshounds” EP to where we are now is night and day. During our recent writing, I think we’ve pushed the sound so much further but it’s hard not to compare them. The newer music feels more mature and more meticulously planned out while also being a step away from chaos and we can not wait to share those songs with you!
Finally, what can we expect next from Knives after the release of ‘Babooshka’? Are there any teasers you can give about your future projects?
I think it’s likely we’re done for releases for the year. We’ve got a big European tour in October, a Big headliner in November and a couple more festivals to see out the year. I will say though we have recorded another 5 track EP which is going to be mixed soon so you should be hearing new music from us again early 2024! There may be just maybe might be an album in the works… who knows?
KNIVES live dates in October 2023:
11th – Tournai, BE – Au Bout de Nos Rêves Café
12th – Utrecht, NL – De Hofman
13th – Landgraaf, NL – De Oefenbunker
18th – London, UK – Old Blue Last
19th – Angers, FR – Jokers Pub
20th – Rennes, FR – TBA
21st – Le Mans, FR – La Fourche à Tigre
22nd – Laval, FR – La Fosse
23rd – Rouen, FR – Le 3 Pièces Musik Club
25th – Bordeaux, FR – The Red Cat
26th – Mont-De-Marsan, FR – Les Amis Du Mad
28th – Malaga, ES – Sala The Hall
29th – Úbeda Jaén, ES – Cafe 31