I am incredibly honored to share this interview with you and hope you’ll read it through and give your thoughts. Why? Because it’s one of the best records I’ve heard ina while, really worth your time! I caught up with Simon Parr from Liverpool, UK’s WE CAME OUT LIKE TIGERS to talk about the band’s new album “Ever Crushed At Pecket’s Well“, to be released in May via Dog Knights Productions, one of the best independent labels around. The outing brings in loads of heavy, experimental blackened post hardcore sounds that work well on both conceptual and aesthetic levels. A definite must-hear!
Besides discussing the obvious, which is of course their genius new piece of work, we focused on the current situation in Ukraine, tried to explore more alternative solutions to democracy and touched upon the ever-interesting subject of touring!
Full album stream originally premiered at Quietus.
Hey Simon! Thanks a lot for reaching out man! How are you? How’s Liverpool doing?
Hey dude! Thanks for talking to us! I’m fine, Liverpool is great, it has it’s problems, but it is a really cool place to live, and has a really supportive DIY scene. For now, it is definitely my home.
Has it been home for you during the whole process of writing and recording your incredible new LP “Ever-Crushed at Pecket’s Well”?
Yes, we have a permanent practice room here, that we have spent a lot of time in over the last few months! It feels slightly isolated from the rest of the ‘scene’ sometimes, which can be nice as we have been able to be quite secretive whilst writing this record!
Yeah man, the atmosphere is right there! You managed to create an amazing, extraordinary and monumental record. How do you guys feel about the final result?
That’s really kind of you to say that, so thank you! We are really excited about it, we always try and write a record that we would want to hear, and this is the happiest we’ve been with a record so far. I think this record is a lot more realised, more focused and more violent. We are getting better at expressing our ideas and emotions, and better at succinctly getting our ideas down onto a record. I’m now looking forward to people hearing it, and finding out what sort of response it gets!
Who’s the mastermind behind this release? :) Tell me a bit about the creative process and how you actually wrote this record.
We write songs very much together. The lyrics are written seperately, and we often start with a basic song structure on guitar, but we all spend a lot of time together outside of the practice room talking about music and artwork, so a lot of the ideas and intention is formed before we even play any music. There isn’t any one person driving this band, we would never limit ourselves in that way. We all share a similar vision of what this band should be and are constantly trying to get ourselves closer to that.
In terms of composition, what do you consider your main challenges?
I think it is easy to be lazy with writing heavy music, and to stick to things you know work, or things you have done before. At the same time it is easy to over think that and end up with a very sterile sounding record. Finding new ways of expressing things without being ‘experimental’ for the sake of it can be a fine line I think.
It feels great to hear that you are still following the path of experimenting with violin. Weren’t you tempted to go even further and add more symphonic or brass arrangements?
We actually have some clarinet on one of the tracks which is a first for us. Again it can be tempting to add things in and hope that just having new technical ideas will make a song more effective, but I really don’t think that’s how people listen to music, novelties wear off pretty fast! For me, a song is all about the atmosphere it creates, the emotions it invokes, not the technical details of a record. If we had felt the songs needed different things we would have added them, (on the previous record we had banjo and accordion on some of the songs) but I guess the songs sounded honest and powerful when we wrote them the way we did, which is always the priority.
How about the lyrical side? Was there any particular inspiration you had for crafting the themes of that album?
I personally think there has never been a more relevant time to be writing heavy, angry music, capitalism is facing it’s biggest crisis yet, the earth is being destroyed quicker than ever, fascism is on the rise across Europe, it isn’t hard to find things to write about.
Specifically though, there are songs about how hard it is to try and fight back against those things but feel pretty powerless, but also the defiance that brings, of refusing to be beaten no matter how hard things get. There are also some personal songs on there too, but the two sides are constantly linked throughout the record.
Inspiration wise I was reading a lot of T.S Elliot, Sharon Olds, W.H Auden and Yannis Ritsos at the time, so I have undoubtedly plagerised them all pretty thoroughly.
Haha! It’s a damn fine piece of plagiarism, Simon!
Lyrics-wise, can we link them somehow (not directly, of course) to the current situation in Ukraine? By the way, how do you react on events at my neighbours?
Thanks! Absolutely, it is really easy to think that people who live far away from you are different, or that their struggle is alien to you, but working people getting fucked over by capitalism is a universal struggle. The working classes of every country have more in common with each other than they do with the ruling classes. The fact that a protest that started as people fighting back against oppression seems to have become people willing to kill or be killed to decide which imperialist power will rule over them is terrible, as both Europe and Russia will only make the rich richer and the lives of the poor harder, although maybe in slightly different amounts. I am hesitant to comment on the situation too much as it seems very complicated at the moment, and it is hard for me in the UK to get a clear picture of what is happening, trying to balance the spin put on it by the left and the right news sources respectively.
One thing that seems clear though, is that no matter how hard people fight back, if fascists are allowed any influence then nothing will change for the working people in the long run. It doesn’t matter if the government is changed, if it is replaced with another government that uses police, military and capital to control people’s lives and exploit their labour then the working people will lose out.
What’s an acceptable alternative then?
That is the ultimate political question isn’t it? Anarcho-communism? Leaderless organisation where the workers own the means of production? A broad based, working class uprising where the workers are organised, take control of the factories, and everyone is paid the same? If fear of scarcity and capital are gone, then people will not be desperate, violence will be lessened, there will be no need for human, animal or earth exploitation. If no central power is trying to control people then the tool of fear that is prisons will be done away with. You and I do not murder, rape or exploit people, because we don’t feel the need to, if everyone had a stable childhood and enough to eat, then you would do away with most of the causes of violent crime… This is all based on things I have read recently, I am absolutely not any sort of expert on these things, and I am trying to work this out for myself too. We have seen the effects of fascism in Spain, Italy and Germany, and while it may seem to benefit a few (sometimes even the majority of a population for a short time), there are horrific consequences. Both Europe and Russia have left the rich/poor divide bigger than ever recently, look at the sanctions placed on Greece and Ireland, measures that try to force the poorest people to give the most to try and re-float the European economy. What is happening in the Ukraine is a crisis of capital, and it is hard to see how two capitalist powers will make this any better.
Can we predict or forecast a solution for the Ukrainian crisis?
This is really getting beyond me now, I wouldn’t know where to start. I’m really hoping that we don’t see a war. It is crazy how similar this decade is to the 1980s, huge global recession, with governments trying to distract people’s attention away from unemployment and poverty by scapegoating homosexuals, or starting wars to increase patriotism and loyalty to the government, then all of a sudden we see a conflict between Russia and the USA on the horizon… I really don’t know enough about the situation or which reports to trust. I hope things become better than they were, and that people don’t lose their lives.
How is your friends’ and the general approach towards such issues in your country? Do you believe people care about such happenings?
The biggest obstacle to overcome is liberalism. We see people being murdered by the police, the officers go to court and the court rules that no crime was committed, and still people refuse to blame the system as a whole. Fascists and nationalists are tolerated under some delusion that their rights to free speech out weigh the rights of the immigrants whose lives they threaten. That said there is a strong underground resistance to fascism in this country, that operates differently to other countries, but does make it almost impossible for fascists to organise and grow. There was a good student protest movement a few years ago, but police violence became so intense that people were afraid to go demonstrations anymore. My sister was in a group of protesters that were charged upon by police horses, I have a friend who had his eye socket cracked by a police baton, huge amounts of arrests were made, with very harsh sentences issued… The other issue is that the UK is a rich nation, and things haven’t got that bad for most people here yet. Sure, the hospitals are in the process of being privatised, huge amounts of jobs are being lost, front line services are being reduced to the point where people are beginning to die as a direct result, but on the whole people just want to keep their heads down and hope it doesn’t affect them, and wait until all this blows over. The reality is that this is never just going to go away, we are seeing the direct result of global warming now, this recession is predicted to be the worst yet, and yet the rich get richer.
I have a lot of friends that are very angry about what is happening, but with liberalism and apathy being so commonplace, it is hard to know what we can do in such relatively small numbers to actually make a change.
Simon, it all sound pretty damn depressing. Is there something compelling and somehow invigorating about the system?
Haha, sorry to be so negative! This is what we have tried to deal with on this record, that no matter how difficult things get, you must not give up! I read a poem by Yannis Ritsos recently, in the poem there is a caged dancing bear, the bear hates living in captivity, and everyday she is watched by children who love seeing her dance. Initially she wants to just lie down and refuse to entertain the children because then she could spite her captors by stopping them making money from her, but she decides that actually the children do not know any better than to love watching her, and she loves the children, and realises that if she just lies down and refuses to entertain them, then her spirit has been broken and she has given up. She then decides that she will dance for the children everyday and enjoy the delight this causes in them, and she will make the children happy because that brings her happiness, and in doing so, her final defiance is simply to live, and refuse to be broken. Life has to be beautiful, and the reason we must fight back is because life is worth fighting for, and we must never lose sight of that! We must keep writing songs, keep making art, keep loving, keep caring about each other. The greatest weapon we have is that the politics of anarchism is the politics of caring, of protecting the vulnerable, and of trying to create a world where no one suffers. It is possible and it is worth fighting for!
Now that’s the spirit, mate! I can see the flowers blooming, the Spring is coming! Haha!
No, but seriously, I believe it’s extremely important what you’ve just said. I’m curious though… You issued a press release stating that you “sang songs about changing the world, because you believed you could”. Were you really mistaken?
I was wrong about certain things, but times change and so must your tactics. Everybody changes the world a little bit every day, and it is up to you to decide whether that will be for better or worse. Although the huge political questions have huge theoretical answers, this doesn’t necessarily help people who rely on food banks, but giving what you can to those that have less than you does! In a book called The Brothers Lioheart by Astrid Lindgren, the main character says that there are certain things in life you have to do, even if they scare you, and if you don’t do them then you are just a little bit of filth. I think about that a lot, if no one else around you is going to try and help those that need it, then it is up to you. Sometimes you feel powerless, but even the smallest actions can mean a lot to the right people.
We have just written another record about changing things, but maybe this time we will try new tactics, so I guess we haven’t given up yet!
Now it’s all about revenge, isn’t it? Upon what or whom do you rebound?
I find a lot of political actions can feel pointless, be it a demonstration, graffiti, property destruction, disruption of right wing organisation, spoiling ballots… but sometimes even if you don’t feel you can change anything permanently, it is still worth taking those actions simply to spite those in power, to be a nuisance, to cost them money, make their lives harder, spray paint slogans that make the police feel less powerful, more afraid. Even if you can’t win, you must make it harder for them to beat you, go down swinging. There are many different things politically and even within the wider music scene that we could apply this to, but I couldn’t begin to list them all…
Do you tend to discuss some of it at shows, or do you focus on providing a strictly musical experience, spiced up with your lyrics?
We often talk about these things at shows, but I like to think that if we do, it is a fairly brief mention. We exist as a band to make the most emotional and engaging music we can, and as soon as we are on tour, the main focus every day is to play those 5 or 6 songs every night as hard and well as we possibly can, with as much sincerity and passion as we can, it doesn’t matter what else is happening that day, we are there to play music. We have a lot of songs that are very personal, and they are often my favorite to play because it is such a cathartic experience to scream all those dark thoughts you have as hard as you can every night. We sing about what is happening around us, and I feel that it is impossible to live in Liverpool and ignore all the aforementioned issues, but these are songs about what we care about, what makes us angry, what makes us cry, what we feel we need to say a thousand times into microphones to get off our chests. They are about our lives, and I don’t think in the world we live in at the moment that you can ever fully separate the two.
How has your approach to your live shows changed, if at all?
Fundamentally I don’t think it has changed since the start, we try and play the best and most intense show we can. I really like watching live music, and maybe it is me getting older, but I am easily bored by heavy bands live, but also when it is good it is my favorite style of music to watch, so I always try and incorporate the best bits of what I have seen in bands I really admire.
On the flip side, it is always changing as we write new songs. We have a much stronger metal influence now than when we first started, I used to do some spoken parts in songs but have chosen not to do that anymore, and the whole set continues to get more relentless and brutal I think. We also have a couple of things to incorporate this time that we have never tried before, so I’m excited to see how that works!
You recently went on a nice the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, and Belgium. How do you recall that tour through trek?
The last few tours we have done have been great, although the last mainland tour we did was fun but hard work. We tried to cover too much ground in too few days, in 2 weeks we went through Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, so most days the drives were pretty long. It would have been better to add in maybe 4-5 more shows just to break it up a bit. It is hard to tell sometimes though, we had never been to half the countries we played in so it is difficult to know if people will want to book you, or even turn up to the shows! In the end we could have played more and didn’t need to worry about that, but hindsight is a wonderful thing! We haven’t played a show since December now, and I am so stoked to get back in the van and tour this new record.
How does your European audience compare to the one back at home?
That’s a difficult one, one thing we have noticed is that people in the UK prefer white shirts and people in Europe prefer black ones, so make of that what you will, ha. European shows are often more political, I guess because it seems to be the radical spaces/squats that host the shows, whereas we don’t really have that here in the UK. The problem with that is that it is really expensive to put on a show here in the UK, I know the UK sometimes has a bad reputation for promoters, in Europe there is always loads of food and drink provided for bands, beds to sleep in every night and better guarantees, but the reason the UK can’t match this is because we have to put shows on in bars and pubs which charge you to use the space, then pay for your own PA and sound engineer, in Europe there are often dormitories in the venue, but that isn’t the case here, so in the UK you get used to sleeping on floors! I think local scenes suffer because there are then less shows. That said, there are some amazing people here that just work so hard on putting on sick shows and all dayers, running cool spaces and generally providing us with shows to go to, they are often over looked, but without cool promoters there would be no DIY scene at all!
Ok, so what’s the plan for touring this year?
We are doing 2 weeks in April for the release of this record, then we are playing New Noise Festival and a few other festivals in summer, so we are in the process of planning a tour round that. We are going to try and cover the UK by doing weekenders and one off shows throughout the whole year, then we will do another big tour in Autumn I think. We are going to try and step the live show up a bit from now on, I can’t wait to tour this new record.
Yeah we are excited about that! We have asked to play Fluff, but we played last year so I don’t know if it will be possible. I don’t know if I would get there myself if we don’t play as we are touring a lot round then, but I would like to, last year was my first experience of it, and it was insane. It was the most I’ve ever enjoyed playing a show, and the most nervous I’ve been beforehand!
Ok, Simon. Let’s forget about the band for a while. Personally, what are your dreams, goals and resolutions this year? Do you mind sharing it with us?
Bloody hell, this has been a pretty heavy chat! My goals for this year aside from WE CAME OUT LIKE TIGERS… I’m helping out at an art gallery/meeting space in Liverpool at the moment, trying to get it ready to open. It is going to be a genuinely ‘radical’ place, it had pretty radical beginnings that I won’t go into here, it is a small building that has no electricity or running water, but I have spent the last few months helping renovate it, at the moment I’ve been installing a toilet that runs only on rain water, so I had to cut a hole in the strengthened steel gutter, then direct the rain water to be collected in 3 big barrels that are all connect together with 40mm pipe, then run a 15mm pipe from there to the cistern of the toilet. Pretty much everything was done with found materials, I finished it yesterday, so I’m now waiting for a huge rainstorm to fill it all up to see if it works! I guess this sounds boring but I work as a plumber, so it is pretty cool to use that knowledge in a positive way. Next we are going to install a wood burner that has been made from a gas bottle for heat, and we are running lights from car batteries, re-charged by a solar panel. This has all been done from sheer necessity, not for some token environmental novelty. I am looking forward to seeing the gallery open soon, but I am a lot more excited about seeing people flush the toilet, as odd as that sounds…
Also I am trying to grow my hair long because I’ve never done it before, but that is kind of a long term project that requires very little work!
What events will this gallery be used for and what types of workshops do you want to hold in your gallery space?
Well, I’m mostly just there to fix things, but as far as I’m aware it will be contemporary art and illustration, and then reading groups, and a space for groups that we to organise. There’s also talk of starting a community garden. It will be nice to see a genuinely radical space in Liverpool, but one that also has events that creatively are really forward thinking.
Ok Simon, what else interesting have you got for IDIOTEQ? Is there something else you might be interested in this year?
I think I must have told you about most of my life now! My girlfriend is making a film about female wrestlers called Breathe It, so I’m excited to see that finished, it also means I get to go to quite a lot of wrestling matches which is great!
Awesome! I’m looking forward to seeing some videos Simon! We have a nice topic for another interview as well, haha :)
Thank you so much for your time, it was truly a pleasure to meet you and can`t wait to finally see you live with the band! Cheers mate!