For Leeds post-punk band Eagulls, it has been a whirlwind twelve months. Their self-titled debut album is a riot of pummelling bass and drums, nerve-shredding guitars and edgy vocals. Eagulls have been in Dublin twice in 2014 (supporting Franz Ferdinand in The Olympia and an appearance at Longitude), but this time they are headlining the Academy 2 on October 23rd.
Ahead of the Academy 2 gig Eagulls singer George Mitchell took the time to speak to GoldenPlec about how 2014 has gone so far. Over the course of the year, Eagulls have gone from playing gigs in front of their mates to appearing on Jools Holland, Letterman and touring the US. That’s a huge leap to take and Mitchell has mostly taken it in his stride, though at times he has to stop and reflect on what has happened. “It’s nice to feel the appreciation from people. I mean playing in front of our friends, or small Leeds scene venues and gigs and spreading out. It’s nice that people still understand us on a higher level. We just appreciate it and it’s great. It has been a bit of a whirlwind experience going from nothing to something. It’s nice. ”
Does Mitchell find it overwhelming? “Yeah it can be, from people coming up to you in the middle of nowhere. You could be in Salt Lake City in the middle of nowhere and somebody comes up to you and says ‘I love your album and listen to it everyday’. It’s quite strange coming from little Leeds and going that far and someone coming up to you and saying they know all the lyrics and things like that.”
Mitchell is still amazed by music’s ability to connect with people thousands of miles from where it was written. “It’s pretty impressive how far music can travel and the variety of people it can get to and touch, it’s a nice thing really. It feels like when you have that sort of appreciation that you’ve done something and you’ve actually reaped some form of success. You wouldn’t actually think that something you’ve written in your sketch book would travel that far.”
Lyrically, Mitchell doesn’t hold back and on their self-titled debut album he tackles subjects like his own anxiety on Nerve Endings and junkie neighbours on Amber Veins. It’s usually incendiary stuff and that anger is palpable in the lyrics. Mitchell feels his lyrics have progressed in his time with the band. “I think it’s definitely progressed, not just lyrically. I think the band progressed over time. We had a good amount of time to do it. It was a natural sort of progression we had.” Mitchell also felt that the time being somewhat off the radar was crucial in terms of Eagulls doing it their way. “A lot of bands get thrown into writing an album straight away as soon as they’re noticed and picked up by labels. Luckily we just did everything ourselves, wrote the entire album ourselves, paid for it ourselves. We didn’t have that sort of interference and there was no need to rush which a lot of bands seem to do nowadays. That’s why it works and that’s how we progressed by ourselves.”
Being able to fine-tune their sound away from mass attention enabled Eagulls to hone their sound. “I think we were writing Council Flat Blues, the first song we wrote together [in 2010] and it’s still a meaningful song and still a very Eagulls sounding song. Our sound changed because of the ongoings of life around us. I mean when we first wrote [Council Flat Blues] we were just finished university and we weren’t working and everything was free, life was pretty easy. We just turned those lives into dead-end jobs just so we could carry on with the band. We felt like we were stuck in a rut like most people do. That’s where the sound took a change and took a bit of a darker tone to portray what was going on in our personal lives.”
Being on tour is a hindrance to Mitchell in terms of writing lyrics. While the rest of the band come up on new riffs while on tour, Mitchell has to be back home. “Personally I find that I write better when I’m back at home in Leeds and it’s a bit more real when you’re at home. You can focus more. When you’re on the road it’s a bit of a fantasy world really. There is no time, it just disappears. You don’t know what time it is, what day it is or who you are on the road. It’s a bit of a strange dimension. My surroundings definitely cast out the lyrics a lot better when we’re at home. That’s what we’re doing right now, we’re writing now. We have to be situated back at home. If we tried to write on the road, I don’t think it would really ever work. There’s something in the water in Leeds.”
The debut album ‘Eagulls’ has received widespread critical acclaim. It’s been lauded from the likes from the NME & Pitchfork. Given the level of success the album received it’s bound to create expectations for whatever Eagulls do next. They certainly won’t have the luxury of carefully building to an album over four years like they had with their debut. Mitchell agrees with that. “Yeah, I mean now that we have gained more of a following it does make you think more about what you are creating and you want to produce something a lot more structured. We just want to make things better than before and we want to experiment a bit more also. I think the stuff we’re writing now is a lot more thoughtful, not that the last material wasn’t thoughtful, as it was. But this is going to be the next step ahead. Like anywhere you progress with it and you try to do better than before. At least we try to anyway.”
Eagulls have toured incessantly since the launch of their debut album almost without a break. It’s taken its toll on the band. “When it’s really getting to you and you have that hour on stage, you put more effort into it as you’ve been sat on your arse all day waiting for that one hour. It’s a very strange thing. You could go out and get hammered every night and that’s pretty much what you do on tour. You drink and stay up all night and it smashes you’re head in.”
Being in a band, touring and writing his own music now means that Mitchell now finds himself much more critical of music and live performances from other bands. It’s no longer a case of looking from the outside and just enjoying it. Mitchell was at a gig the night before he spoke with GoldenPlec and admits it’s hard to watch a band when you’re in a band. “When you go watch a band, there’s hardly any enjoyment anymore. You just don’t go watch a band because their good, you’re stood there thinking mmm, why is he doing that or he should have turned up his distortion peddle there or why is it so trebley or why does the snare sound like that. You just nitpick, but I suppose in a way it’s part of creativity. Henry [Rudell, Eagulls drummer] said that’s why I like watching films because you don’t know how to make them. You just sit and watch it and if it’s good, it’s good and if it’s bad, it’s bad. Being in a band, it changes the way you look at things.” So basically if you’re in a band and you’re supporting Eagulls in The Academy 2 you better get you’re shit together as Eagulls will be scrutinizing you’re performance more than any of the music critics there.
Eagulls have become known for their, ahem, memorable music videos. The latest video Hollow Visions is not recommended viewing while having breakfast. The band members themselves have directed each video and Mitchell confirmed the band had wanted to release Hollow Visions ages ago but were on tour. “There’s no point putting music out unless you’ve got something visual to watch on the internet because that’s the only way people will listen to it and stick around for a while if there is some kind of visual input.”
Eagulls record label (Partisan Records) did make a video for Hollow Visions but Mitchell added that because the band had no participation they felt it didn’t represent what the band were about. Eagulls tried a few different things but the final resulting video of an eye operation is the sort that “you can’t watch but you want to listen to the song, it’s a bit of a mind fuck situation. There’s a lot more meaning behind it. With Hollow Visions it’s a song about your visions being dissected by someone else and you having all these visions of the future but then they never turn out like they are supposed to do and the video is a metaphor for it.”
Eagulls will be appearing in Academy 2 on October 23rd.