By Jordan Reisman
Photo courtesy of CLAWS.
Norwich, UK seems to be on top of the world right now when it comes to underground music. It’s gotten to the point that the output of new and interesting rock bands from this budding cultural hub trumps that of many major American cities.
There are a few reasons behind this. The first is that everyone expects New York or Los Angeles to be constantly producing new young bands, so when they do, it’s generally a blip on the radar. Nobody outside of England knows much about Norwich. The second being that we here at BreakThru Radio have an insider—a liaison, if you will—giving us the scoop of what’s going on in this southeastern English city: Mr Jason from BTR’s Seal of Approval and Planet Beet podcasts.
The latest from the DJ’s pool of greats is CLAWS, a younger, more surfy band formed out of the tight-knit community of musicians in Norwich. With one EP already out (Fairground) and a recent single (“Melt”) with a video coming, CLAWS is ready to make their city proud by taking their act stateside. Though instead of going full steam ahead with American touring, lead vocalist Josie Steward is traveling around the States scouting out locations for future CLAWS tours. BTR spoke with Steward and guitarist Morgan Williams as they were between trips with some time to speak to the press.
Steward recently celebrated her 21st birthday which may not be such a big deal in the UK but since she’ll be hanging out over here, she can take full advantage of our Puritanical laws. She’ll mostly be on the West Coast this week—“just traveling, we’re going to Vancouver, and then we’re going down to Seattle and then LA.” As she does so, she can only really live with the desire to one day play the US: “… especially Seattle since they’ve got such an amazing music scene out there.”
On the subject of wanting to play the US and rocking Seattle, Steward mentions off-the-cuff, “We haven’t got that far yet” which neatly sums up where the band is at right now. They only began in September of 2013, such trips can’t be expected so soon!
It was the incredible camaraderie of the Norwich music scene that brought them all together. Steward says that all of CLAWS’ members had “been in bands before but we’ve never been in bands together even though we’ve all been friends.” All four in the quartet hail from Norwich—or “born and bred” as Steward says.
“The Norwich music scene is quite a small thing. There’s, I’d say about eight or nine bands around here that gig constantly and there’s always new music coming out from here but it’s quite a small scene compared to places like London so it’s all quite a tight-knit community around here,” says Steward.
Steward touches upon something that captures exactly why Norwich seems so on top of its game right now. It’s got “eight or nine bands” that are constantly putting out new material and gigging, as opposed to a much larger pool of bands that aren’t doing much at all. What Norwich lacks in numbers, it makes up for in productivity.
Unsurprisingly, Norwich hasn’t had too many surf-influenced bands grace the stages of its pubs because well, there aren’t too many surfers about town. Even with the popularity of bands such as Best Coast and WAVVES, surf is one department Norwich doesn’t keep stocked. However, such bands are the primary influences of CLAWS and with such a vacuum in their local market, the band decided it could a unique approach by filling the void.
“No bands in Norwich really were playing any type of music like that so we thought it would be cool to start a band with a different twist, with a different influence than anyone else around here. Around here is quite indie or rock-influenced so we thought we’d try something different,” Steward says.
CLAWS’ most recent single, “Melt”, dropped on August 16th and if you listen to the first 30 seconds or so, you’d think they were messing with us or at the very least, trying to weed out the fairweather fans. The song features a buzzy, distorted bass intro that is quite violent on the ears but some part of you just needs to get through it to hear the meat and potatoes of the song.
“We put it on there ‘cause our bassist has this crazy distortion pedal which, I don’t even know where it’s from, it sounds disgusting. We were messing about with it and we were just laughing about how disgusting it sounded. We thought it would be funny to put it on. It was originally just going to go straight into the riff but yeah, we put it on,” says Steward about the sludge.
A video for “Melt” was slated to come out last week but as Williams explains, “The people who made it just can’t get it off their laptop yet.” The band posted a little teaser—not a clip but rather a still of the members wearing creepy animal masks, not unlike the film You’re Next.
Some of the imagery that the members were willing to divulge includes “Evel Knievel going into a toilet,” “people eating burgers,” and “Duncan’s got a massive ginger beard and there’s a bit where Duncan has loads of Nerds just stuck in his beard.”
Williams quietly but eloquently murmurs in summary, “It’s the start of ‘Melt’ but in video form.”
A disclaimer for the video by the project’s art director (Roz Atwood, also of Box of Light) just about says it all: “Guys, you might hate this or love this ‘cause it looks like someone mental has actually sat there and made this.”