Nestled in one of the corridors of London’s Islington Academy, I met with Alex, frontman of DEAD!. Having recently signed to Infectious records, home of Alt-J, Local Natives and DMAs to name a few, things have been looking up for the soho based band. I sat down with Alex to talk about growing up on the Isle of Wight, the closure of small venues and how the EU referendum could change the scene for up and coming bands.
So I guess the best place to start is, how did you guys meet?
How did you guys meet…? Me, Sam, Louis and our bassist Chappell, we all grew up on the Isle Of Wight, and we all ended up going to music college there. I dropped out and a year later the other guys ended up going to the Uni of Southampton. That was kind of the end of our musical relationship. Then I got a message from Sam asking if I wanted to sing in a new band called DEAD! That they were doing at uni.
They all went away there to meet people from the mainland, and go off the Isle Of Wight and the music scene, but we all ended up kinda coming back together which was quite funny. It started from there, the band kinda started in the Isle Of Wight and it grew from Southampton and has now moved to London.
Talking about the Isle Of Wight, how’s the music scene there?
I’m really glad you asked that. The Isle Of Wight is a tiny place, it’s about 20 miles long and it has a population of about 140,000 people. Six or seven years ago there was a music scene on the IOW, there were venues in a couple of towns, there were some really cool bands like Goodbye Stereo, who were a great band that had some amazing songs. They were one of the big hype bands around. Unfortunately the IOW now doesn’t really have a music scene. There’s so many talented musicians, musicians I studied with, musicians that are still there making bands, but there’s just not the scene to encourage the growth out into the rest of the country. I’m sure that’s the same in lots of small towns across the UK.
You were saying about the closure of the small venues, how do you think that affects you guys as a “new” up and coming band?
Well we’ve been doing tours for pretty much the last four years. Turning up to a shed, a bit more than a shed but pretty much a shed, in these towns and we put on our own shows called “Damned Restless Future” shows. They’ll be in a really weird place, like a recording studio, or in small venues, or venues you wouldn’t really think about associating with a punk rock gig and these are all closing down all over the country. This is where I keep on using the word “scene” and that, and it’s a word lots of people throw around, but these bloody scenes used to thrive. It means that the small, sweaty 20 cap, 30 cap, 70 cap, punk rock shows that we all love vanish, and this band learned to play at shows like that – that’s what’s in our blood. These shows at the moment are amazing and I’ll always love playing them, but you feel at home in the small venues. Just stop moving into buildings next to venues and then complaining about it. Look on Rightmove, there’s a link where if you hate loud music that much you can check it.
The internet can be a very important thing for a small band, how do you think benefited you guys?
The internet, as much as I knock it, and wish I could live in a field with a caravan, it’s a great thing. It’s information to everyone, or at least it should be. For a band like us, especially, it’s a very powerful tool. To obviously put music out there, the live sessions you can put on, but you can constantly reinforce your brand through the aesthetics of things. Even the merch store or the website. If you’re trying to create something live and your merch kinda all flows together then you should really take that online. That’s what you try to do and anything you use that’s associated with us, that’s associated with DEAD!, you get this “vibe” that’s thrown off. It’s great that you can really express visually more so than in the past when it’d just be in the back of vinyls. That’s a fucking amazing thing, that’s the perfect place to express yourself visually for people listening to your music. The internet obviously for bands and promos is a great thing, but it’s also a very odd thing where people can say whatever they want, and that’s fine. People slating on you is a thing that happens to every person in this world.
Going back to the IOW, what influences were there for you, especially as a punk rock scene?
As a punk rock scene? Well you know we play in what we call a “punk rock/rock and roll” band whatever, but all our influences are very diverse. Punk rock is the crossroads where we go “oh yeah we like that”. The music we play is not necessarily the music we grew up with or the music that influenced us.
For me my dad fucking loved The Who back in the day, and he still does, He’s always been into music and I got into rock through him. I’ve been going to the IOW festival since I was seven years old. Unfortunately it’s not the same as the original, but it’s a great event. This is the first year I’m missing it because we’re doing Download.
We’ve had so many good bands there: The Stones, Pearl Jam, The Who. I saw Iggy [Pop] there in my first year, well the first act I saw there was fucking Iggy. Looking back at it that’s probably why I like rock. Obviously going from The Who, and when the internet all started I got into Emo, I got into Alt Rock and so much of the pop stuff.
I did an internship at an R&B Hiphop studio for a year and I learnt so much. I think the fact that we can all appreciate rock music and pop music and the melodies and the chords and the production and the vibe and the emotion and there’s so many different aspects to music, even how people interpret music in different way that putting punk together is the influence that we try and make with the band, if that’s an answer?
It’s just the guys, the guitarists in particular, we’re very influenced by movies in particular, so it’s a really hard question. But that’s where that came from.
So you did that internship in the R&B studio, do you think that influenced your sound in any way?
I don’t think it necessarily did. I say R&B and hip hop, but it was very broad but that was the most stuff we were working on. The guy I was interning for, it was his studio and watching him track a vocal, and the way that he stacked the harmonies, how many times he laid them, what he’d do with them. I wouldn’t say our music is directly doing that but I learned so much about what you can do, especially with vocals. I got to see a side of the industry as a complete fly on the wall. Obviously as an intern I was making tea, but I got to see it and make educated decisions if I ever crossed that path. Musically, no, but the way I approach music, yes.
With the EU referendum coming up, what are your thought on the matter? In? Out?
I think, I’ll try keep this short. If you like music, and you like going to see live music, and there are a million reasons why we should stay in but this is my main reason. If you like touring bands and you like seeing your smaller bands tour and getting around and grow, then vote to stay in. Because if we leave then it’ll become impossible for bands like us to tour the EU… There will be more taxes, more visas and it’s going to be absolute hell!
Having recently signed to INFECTIOUS music, were there any differences releasing a single through them compared to yourselves or with a smaller label?
The greatest thing about this signing, and the way we and the people at the label approached it, was that we’ve always been a very DIY band. We’ve always had a lot of control over what we want to do and what we want to put out, and when we want to do that. They know this, and they’re so supportive about the decisions we want to make and it’s great. With the release of You’re So Cheap from the and the PR side it’s certainly reached a lot more people than it had before, but I think the only way this band is going to be able to sustain any form of growth is by true word of mouth. People going “I checked this band out and they’re fucking sick”, the passion for this kind of music… and them allowing us to put it out there is only going to be helping us. It’s going to be a great year ahead.
As a DIY band, how would you suggest your fans who are in bands and want to get their music out there do it?
The last two words you said in that sentence is the answer to that question really – just do it! So you want to start a band? Do it! Write some songs! Find some mates, jam and write songs. You’ll be fine. If you practice enough you’ll be good at it, you can practice enough to get good at anything, that’s a fact! Get in a room, get in a garage and play some songs. Book a gig in your local area do 20-25, get good, and go on a DIY tour. Call up some venues, book it yourself. Get involved with the local bands, fly up and make it a thing. Getting in a van with your mates, even if it’s to three people a night, around the country is fucking sick!