By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of JUNK.
So you gather together all of your fuzzed out Dinosaur Jr. records, throw in a couple by the Vaselines for good measure (hell, maybe some Pastels while you’re at it), grind them up and set the liquid soup to pulse. The jangly mish-mash of guitars and crudely pop-sensible hooks that float to the top might look like junk, but they sound like JUNK. And that’s a good thing.
The bass-less trio from York, UK know how to squeeze the best out of their raw essence, and don’t waste a moment doing so. Their new EP Car, released just last month, showcases four songs that clock in together at a little over 12 minutes. Just don’t think that these blokes skimp on substance. Despite the whimsy ride, JUNK has crafted an album worth returning to again and again; drawing upon the energy of their predecessors while creating something wholly their own. BTR tunes into the mind of JUNK guitarist Sam Coates to hear some insights into the creative process.
How did JUNK first form?
It started quite spontaneously, we hatched the idea to form a band at the start of the week and by the weekend we played our first gig. I think it was quite a new experience for all of us, Estella and I have never been singers and Danny was/is primarily a guitarist rather than a drummer.
What are some of your biggest creative influences, musical or otherwise?
Our influences are quite diverse, but for me, the bands I was listening to when starting the JUNK, and bands that I wanted to inform our sound were The Pastels, Jesus & Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr. as well as a lot of ’60s girl groups. I don’t think we’ve ended up sounding like any of those bands very much. Our main intention was and still is, to write short pop songs and I think that has had the biggest influence on our sound.
How would you describe your music in five words or less?
Crudely written pop played badly.
There aren’t many bands out there that don’t have a bass player. What made you decide to have two guitars instead, and how do you think it affects your sound?
We never intended to be a bass-free band. It was really just circumstance; there was nobody to play bass for us at the first couple of gigs. We toyed with the idea of getting a bass player but the band dynamic seemed to work fine without. In terms of it affecting our sound, I don’t know if it has had a huge part to play. We do over dub bass on our recordings but I suppose live there is a lot less bottom end. I think our sound is shaped more by shitty equipment and limited means of recording. I think these limitations work well for us.
For those of us in the states, what’s the music scene like in York? How does it compare to the rest of the UK?
As I see it, the ‘UK music scene’ is extremely London-centric. For a small city, York has a load of great bands. Stylistically everybody is very different from each other but I think the common link is that primarily, everybody does what they do for fun. The fact that York, along with a lot of Northern cities are neglected by the music press, has created a real DIY scene and I think given bands space to grow independently outside of any scene or trend.
What has your experience been like working with CHUD records?
Working with CHUD has been great–they’ve given us a lot of freedom to do what we want. Both musically and in terms of artwork they have a similar artistic ethos to us so it’s been cool to work with people that are on the same page.
Album artwork for Car
Your new EP, Car, goes a long way in just four songs. How do you handle the songwriting–as a group or individually?
There is no one way that we write songs. Sometimes me or Estella will write a fully formed song and bring it to the table. Sometimes it’ll just be an idea and we’ll work through it at practice as a full band. We recently wrote a song called, “Dennis Wilson” and that happened totally organically. Estella had a couple of chords and as soon as Danny and I came in and we jammed through it was effectively written.
There’s a great blend of male and female vocals present throughout the album. Is that balance something you’ll continue to explore moving forward?
Yeah definitely. It’s something that’s very integral to our sound. I think it gives us quite a bit of freedom, both in terms of sound and as a story telling tool.
Something I’ve found personally endearing is that the songs never try too hard to take themselves seriously. Songs like “All I Wanna Do (Is Baby Get Drunk With You)” and “Car” are instantly relatable yet retain a definite playfulness.
I think there are a lot of earnest bands out there and I generally find that their lyrics are actually void of anything particularly profound or interesting to say. We’re aware that our songs lack any profound meaning and that’s never been our intention. I hope there’s something human there no matter how crudely it might be botched together.
What are your plans for 2014?
We’re contributing a song to a compilation of Pavement covers that Art Is Hard records are putting out for Cassette Store Day. It’s 20 years since Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain was released and we’re pleased that we’ve been asked to be involved. We’ll be releasing another EP Before the year is out and there was talk of maybe doing a split 7” with our mates BULL from York. They write the most bitchin’ power-pop songs you’ve ever heard. Other than that, just gigging, having fun, and trying to work out which bar does the best Bloody Mary.