Interview: Ex People

Laura likes to channel the anger she has about real life situations into the lyrics and melodies of our songs. ‘Not a Drill’ calls for resistance against oppressive regimes. ‘You Creep’ speaks out against cat-calling men.

New Heavy Sounds newest signings, London’s Ex People, are due to release their debut album on Friday 19th May. To coincide with this there is an album launch FREE GIG at the Stag’s Head in Hoxton, London, on that evening. Bird is an impressive debut (review to follow soon), chock a block of thick sludgy grooves, densely heavy riffs, but always attuned to a grungy song orientated melodic flourish, and lyrically have got some serious stuff to vent anger about. Vicki Dawson informs Echoes and Dust’s Andy Little on the full details including riot grrrl history, minimalist aesthetics, and Smashing Pumpkins adoration.

(((o))): Can you give us the lowdown on how Ex People came to be? How long have you been together? Were any of you in previous bands?

Vicki: We don’t have a super exciting tale around how we got together, we were all just more or less ‘between’ bands a couple of years ago, and had a collective itch to do something noisy and doomy because none of us had really tried that before. After a bunch of live shows and a tape release, we started to feel more comfortable with the song-writing and what we were trying to achieve, and we gradually moved away from doing extended droney doom into more digestible, purposefully written ‘songs’, whilst still retaining the heaviness.

We have all been in various bands together and separately stretching back for years with various degrees of success and recognition. Laura and I met when we played in a riot grrrl band together about 8 years ago – the first time we met was in the practice room!

(((o))): What would you say are the band’s key influences?

Vicki: We are all definitely in-thrall to classic 90’s weirdo sludge bands like Melvins and Harvey Milk, especially the way that they’re slow and heavy without outstaying their welcome. Some of the tracks where Calum has gone wild on the fuzz and wah puts us more in that Electric Wizard / stoner rock territory and there is just a little hint of post-metal like Neurosis as well, particularly on the album closer ‘Crested’. There are some less obvious influences too that filter in, like Bardo Pond, Karen O’s vocal style, hardcore bands like Black Flag – even a bit of Ty Segall. Also, most of the band have a secret love of Smashing Pumpkins, but maybe we aren’t supposed to admit that!

(((o))): How would you describe your sound to any readers who haven’t heard anything by the band?

Vicki: Stoner hooks, soaring vocals and motorik beats – it’s heavy but also has a catchy, almost poppy sensibility at times.

(((o))): How did you get to sign for New Heavy Sounds Label?

Vicki: We recorded some tracks with Wayne Adams (who has recorded Vodun, USA Nails, Death Pedals) last summer, and we sent them round to a few labels. We knew of New Heavy Sounds as we were fans of Limb and we thought they would be a good fit for what we were trying to do – so we were really pleased that they wanted to put out an album!

(((o))): I mean this with very high praise, Ex People’s nuanced sound snugly fits somewhere in-between label mates Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s dense doom heaviness and Black Moth’s grungy tune orientated approach. Were you aware of these bands when you signed for New Heavy Sounds?

Vicki: Yeah definitely and that was why we felt like we’d be a good fit. All the stuff they put out, wherever it kind of sits on the subgenre spectrum, is characterised by its heaviness, but also by really strong song-writing and really engaging vocals.

(((o))): Let’s talk about your new debut album. Who produced the record, where was it recorded? How long did it take?

Vicki: The whole thing was recorded and produced with Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse studio in east London. Wayne is a great producer who’s worked with loads of bands we love like Vodun, USA Nails, Casual Nun, and he’s amazing at capturing a really heavy sound.

The recording was done in two stages: we recorded 4 tracks last summer (‘Withou’t, ‘The Host’, ‘Surekill’, and a track called ‘Weirdo Hunter’, which didn’t make it onto the album) and then after we signed to New Heavy Sounds we recorded the rest of the tracks in a second session in January this year. So, in total it was about 8 days of recording, so pretty compact!

(((o))): Are there any themes which spread right through the songs on the album?

Vicki: Laura likes to channel the anger she has about real life situations into the lyrics and melodies of our songs. Her lyrics are often inspired by apocalyptic and dystopian fiction – ‘Over’ tells the story of a planet colliding to earth. Some of the other tracks focus on real-world horror – ‘The Host’ focuses on a woman and child escaping domestic violence, and ‘Not A Drill’ calls for resistance against oppressive regimes. ‘You Creep’ speaks out against cat-calling men.

(((o))): How does the writing process take shape in the band?

Vicki: Different tracks came together in different ways. Generally, we have a stack of riffs that are lying around, either that someone wrote or emerged during a jam, that we keep playing around with and fitting together in different ways until we hit on something that works. Once we have the structure of something concrete, Laura works out the vocal lines and lyrics. Specifically, for this record though, the writing process ended up being a lot more compressed because Ed unexpectedly had to have back surgery at the tail-end of 2016, which meant he couldn’t pick up a bass for about 6 weeks, so about half the album was written by the rest of the band in the run-up to Christmas so it would be ready for recording in the new year.

(((o))): Can you tell us about the thoughts behind the album title and the album cover? Who did the cover photo?

Vicki: Calum did the overall art design for the record. For the album title, we just wanted something simple and punchy and Bird worked with the photo we wanted to use. As a band, we all have an interest in minimalist aesthetics and interesting textures and we wanted to find a photo that was stark and striking. We toyed with various images of Brutalist architecture, but stumbled on the photos of this amazing photographer from the US, Ashley McFarland, who takes these close-up photos of birds, particularly their wings and feathers. The bird pictured on the cover was actually one of her pets, so we are very happy and grateful that she agreed to let us use it!

(((o))): You have a free gig for the album’s launch on May 19th at the Stag’s Head in Hoxton, North London. Do you have any further plans to promote the album?

Vicki: We’ve got some shows planned around London throughout the summer, and some other things in the pipeline, so watch this space…

To pre-order Bird visit New Heavy Sounds website for further info. Ex People play Stags Head, Hoxton, London on 19th May – free entry. More info here.

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