Indie-rock act Spear of Destiny's new album has a rather ominous title. The vintage rockers' 14th album is called Tontine.
Frontman and founder Kirk Brandon explains: 'It’s a funny one. The keyboard player, Steve Allan-Jones, came up with the idea as a joke. Basically it was a scheme back in the 17th century where the last man standing takes all of the cash. Everyone laughed, then we thought about it for a while, and we were looking for a title, and someone said, why don’t we use what Steve said? So I did a bit of research on it and thought, that is funny. It’s a word that’s not in use in English - it’s French, but we had them here as well, people would literally go around murdering each other.'
Hopefully by the time Spear of Destiny reach Southampton on their latest tour, all of the band will still be standing.
Formed in 1983 by Brandon after the demise of his previous band, Theatre of Hate, Spear has had more than two dozen members pass through their ranks, but it has reached a degree of stability in recent years.
The current line-up features Adrian Portas (New Model Army / Sex Gang Children), Craig Adams (Sisters of Mercy / The Cult / The Mission) and Phil Martini (Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind) on drums, as well as Steve Allan-Jones.
'This line-up's been together about 15 years, apart from the drummer who’s only been with the band a couple of years, but I have known him longer.
'It helps in many ways, familiarity, you don’t have to explain things, they know where you’re coming from, as opposed to having to explain things from scratch, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you know – meeting new people and stuff comes out that would never come out. But it’s really good.'
While Spear have flirted with fame – four of their albums in the 1980s reached the top 40, and two of them went top 20 – but the band has settled into cult notoriety.
'When I look at the mainstream and all that silly stuff on the tell, the X Factor, The Voice, it’s like a swansong, and there’s a lot of collateral damage when these people come out.
'Eventually there will be,' he adopts a deep TV announcer voice: '"X Factor Rehab – who wins in rehab? Watch them sober and reignite their careers - one of these possible drunks..."'
'You know it’s coming.
'I’m not demeaning these people, I’m not up here on my big proud horse, but I don’t like that kind of thing because it’s mockery, it’s that very British game of humiliation. Set against all of that, I’m quite happy to be called a cult act. I had a go at selling out in the '80s and I failed.' He gives a big laugh.'
But recently, the band has seen an increase in its popularity, and they now release their albums on Kirk's own label, Eastersnow.
'People just like the tunes,' says Kirk. 'It’s been a steady climb, people getting into it, people coming back, it’s fantastic. It’s not like Theatre of Hate in '82, with people camped outside your front room, shouting your name. But it’s enjoyable.
'It probably sounds silly, but I enjoy it more now than I did back then because I have some control over it, and back then it was just a money game. It was just guys minting money, and all the sharks in the water and get their fill, which is hardly news in the record industry.'
Kirk was last this way just back in April as part of an acoustic duo tour when they played at the Tea Tray Cafe in Southsea.
'We did two weeks of it, and it was absolutely excellent.'
'The Tea Tray?' He laughs at the memory. 'It was amazing – you couldn’t get any more people in if they tried, it was a really cool event, and they were really great fun.
'It’s a very separate thing, just me on acoustic and Sam (Sansbury) on the cello. To be honest it’s quite a challenge – everything you do is under a microscope, so if somebody bungles, it comes out quickly. But I enjoy it.
'I like to be challenged. Just sitting around has never suited me'
Theatre of Hate have also been active recently. Since splitting in 1983, they reformed in 1991 and have released several more albums, most recently Kinshi in 2016. Once this tour finishes, Kirk heads out on the road with his original band at the end of June.
Kirk laughs again: 'I’m more busy now than I’ve been for about 30 years!'
The 1865, Southampton
Saturday, June 2