Eight Rounds Rapid prepare to make their Portsmouth debut as The Fallen Leaves return to The Barn in Milton
The Fallen Leaves make a welcome return to The Barn later this month for another set of their searing ‘punk-rock for gentlemen.’
But it’s definitely worth getting down there early for this one as Portsmouth punks The Dinz open, with Essex boys Eight Rounds Rapid then making their debut in the city.
The latter have been making a name for themselves since crawling out of the Thames Estuary in Southend-on-Sea and releasing two albums of their stomping blend of heavy R’n’B and punk, all laced with frontman David Alexander’s finely-tuned lyrical observations.
It’s been two years since their last release, Objet d’Art, and the four-piece are currently putting together album three.
‘I think we’ve got 10 songs now,’ David tells The Guide, ‘so we're just kind of refining some of those and we’re going to be adding a couple more.
‘We're very close now, a few weeks away and then we'll be trying to work out what to do with it and how to get that out to the world, which is quite exciting. We play some of those songs live now too.’
But as David explains, the band’s perfectionist streak has been making progress slow.‘We’re trying to keep the consistency in what we perceive to be the quality of what we’re doing.
‘That's the trick really, because it’s easy to churn out songs, and I think some bands might do that, whereas it takes us quite a long time to get to the point where we’ve got something we want to put our name to.
‘It’s quite a torturous process that can’t be justified on any level whatsoever!’ he laughs.
‘Hence it takes two or three years of playing stuff and sometimes you'll be working on a song for six or seven months, and then everyone will decide they don’t like it. That happens a lot with us.’
As the main lyricist, David says he has to wait for inspiration to strike, if he tries to write about a set subject it just doesn’t work for him.
‘I’ve tried that hundreds of times, and to our ears it always sounds kind of dreadful and contrived. We end up having to rely on serendipity, really, and things presenting themselves and then they become the song.
‘We’ve tried to theme EPs and things around something we might be interested in, but it rarely seems to pay off.
‘You have to wait for the stars to align, and if everybody seems to like it then we carry something forward.
‘There'll be nothing contemporary or fashionable or newsworthy in any sense, it will be a lot of very odd, hard-to-place songs, as usual!’
The band’s early material often featured more storytelling-type songs, but they’ve found they’re doing less of that as the band progresses.
‘At the start, things were more like that. There was a short-story quality to things we were mucking around with, and they were based on things that we might have experienced.‘I think things are slightly more abstract now than they were, which is frustrating, actually, because it is quite nice to write about an event unfolding because there's something really satisfying about that.
‘But again if you set out to do that, it often sounds really contrived. At the beginning it sounded more natural because we hadn’t tried to put it down on paper before, so there was that store of stuff, and we documented the better ones!’
The band’s line-up is completed by Jules Cooper on bass, Simon Johnson on guitar and drummer Lee Watkins. Three-quarters of the band go right back to their school days.
‘I was at school with Lee and we were friends with Simon,’ says David, but they couldn’t find the right bassist, going through numerous players before finally finding a good fit.
‘Then we met Jules and he was kind of perfect - he brought the kind of thing we had been hoping to happen.
‘It’s really difficult to get a balance in the band, so that was a crucial element in it all. Once that was in place we cracked on and things happened really quickly.’
As with so many bands these days, they’re very much a DIY operation.
‘We manage to just about keep it together in these difficult turbulent times and we still get something out of it,’ David notes wryly.
Both of their albums have been put out on Cadiz Music, and David is full of praise for them, but realises there are limitations on what they can do.
‘They have been really good.‘It’s been great to have them legitimising to some extent what we put out, but we’ve never managed to find a situation where we’ve had a booker and a manager, so we generally do gigs if people ask us.
‘If not we do small gigs on Saturdays to try and keep things sharp, and that’s how it’s always been for us.
‘A problem we have is that we’re slightly difficult to pigeonhole so when people are trying to organise nights, they don’t know how to deal with you – so that makes things a bit more complicated as well.
‘We’re not specifically in a genre as such, we don’t care about that, but in terms of making us fit, it’s hard.’
While they don’t like to play on it – quite the opposite in fact – it is an inescapable fact that guitarist Simon’s dad is Dr Feelgood R’n’B/pub-rock legend Wilko Johnson.
When Wilko was diagnosed with seemingly incurable cancer – he has since made a miraculous recovery and is still performing today, which is a whole other incredible story – Eight Rounds Rapid were invited to join him on what was billed as, and was fully expected to be, Wilko’s farewell tour in 2013. This was before the band had even released their debut album.
’Looking back, it was incredible. We only found out a little while before that he wanted us to be involved, obviously because of Simon.
‘I think we did five shows in the end and it was just a really, really strange, strange occasion. It was kind of joyous and terribly sad simultaneously.
‘Playing to so many people who were waiting to see their hero, and understandably they were only interested in that, but you got to experience everybody else’s emotional relationship with Wilko.
‘It was a real privilege, but we shouldn’t have been allowed to do it on any level!’As to trading on the relationship, David only talks about the tour because he’s asked, and he is gracious enough to answer without being snippy. But he makes it clear, Eight Rounds Rapid don’t ride on Wilko’s coat-tails.
‘We consciously don’t really ever mention that connection, we don’t feel it’s specially relevant because Simon is such a consummate musician - that’s the only thing that’s important there.
‘To some extent I think it’s lazy journalism where people want to make connections with stuff because it’s easy to make people interested.
‘In our own amateurish way, we only do our stuff, it’s not trying to mimic or trade on that.’
THE FALLEN LEAVES / EIGHT ROUNDS RAPID / THE DINZ
The Barn, Milton
Saturday, January 25