Sometimes seeing bands in Warsaw can be stressful. Especially when you saw them few months earlier in other country, playing with a huge band in a large venue for thousands of people. That’s our case with LIFE. We saw them in Reims playing with IDLES and it was huge. Warsaw show [on october 6th 2019] on the other hand was going to be much smaller. We were even wondering if anyone would turn up. But as I’ve met with Mez – their lead singer – he was completely chill about that. And he was right – the crowd was nice actually and the show was great. But before that we had some time to talk about their new album, writing personal stuff, young people and that famous gig in kebab shop.
What have changed in your life since [LIFE’s first album released in 2017] “Popular Music”?
Everything. I mean this album [A Picture Of Good Health] has been very much like a therapeutic process for us. For me personally, and I write a lot of lyrics, I went from being in a relationship with my boy [Mez’s son] and my partner to coming out of that relationship and being a single dad and struggling quite a bit with elements of that. Not in terms of like “I love my boy” – I love everything about him, he’s my best friend – but the isolation that it can sometimes bring. On this album we sort of decided to bring the microscope in on ourselves, so we wrote about ourselves. The first album was political, but it was broadly political. This album is political but in terms of like… It’s about ourselves, about our mental health, about looking after yourself, about trying to find love again. So we very much changed the way we wrote and made it much more personal. But at the same time we made music broad so the lyrics are quite personal but the music is quite… wide. And also the first album was like a collage of works – we never recorded it as one body of work. With this we lived in London for four weeks just as a band, as a family and wrote this record so it was very much more intense.
Is it easier or harder to write personal lyrics than political ones?
It’s actually probably harder to write personal stuff. Everyone can be political and everyone can state political statements and that’s great and I embrace that. But to write something personal is a lot harder because it exposes you to questions, to all sorts of things. That’s hard but I guess it’s braver and we want to be braver. The first album was political which was a brave move but we wanted to be braver.
And isn’t it tempting to write political stuff right now because of the political situation in Britain?
Yeah, I think that when the political climate is so bad and dark, not just in the UK – I mean, it’s disastrous in the UK at the moment, but the whole world right now is politically changing towards murkiness. It’s fear-led… When that kind of politics is in place you get a lot of artists coming up and speaking out because it’s a way of speaking out, it’s a way of voicing your concerns. In dark times art always thrives, so you can see bands like us or IDLES being embraced because there’s a room for that voice because people are angry.
You mentioned IDLES, but there’s a whole scene that fits to that description. Do you feel a part of something huge right now?
Yeah, we definitely feel a part of a movement that’s brave, honest and wants to speak out and feels like they have to speak out. That’s a great thing to see in the music industry because for years and years it was so beige. Everyone was told what to write about whereas right now people have their own voice again. And that’s a great thing.
When was the moment you felt “Oh yeah, this is something huge” for the first time?
Even being here tonight or being on tour… This tour lasts for six weeks. We’re touring across Europe for two weeks, then UK for three weeks, then we go to Ireland… You know, a year ago we might not even be able to do that so I think that’s a massive change in how music is being consumed now. I think the new punk is in grime, but now you’re getting this pelethon of great guitar music that’s saying what they want to say again and there’s a room for that and you see these bands on road and people turn up to their gigs. This is our first time in Warsaw and there’s like a hundred in to see us and that’s a great feeling, although it doesn’t sound like a lot, you know, we’ve never been here before and it feels like you’re welcomed.
Weren’t you afraid of going on this tour on your own?
This is our first headline tour, especially in Europe, but you have to do that. It’s about testing yourself, proving that you’re an artist in your own merit, so we wanted to do it and so far it’s been amazing.
What’s the best experience you had on this tour?
Berlin was great, Hamburg was great, I’m really looking forward to tonight. Being on the road and going to these different places – tomorrow we wake up and go to Prague – it’s almost like an acknowledgement that we’re doing this now. You know, people want to see us… That’s just a great feeling.
I saw that sometimes you take your son on tours. Is it hard for you to do that?
It’s hard to be away from him for so long so when I can, I take him with me. When we do festivals, especially in the UK, because the festivals are outside and there are family areas and kids zones. He just loves it. For a three year old kid being at festival is… you can only imagine how exciting that is and he really seems to love it because there’s music and everyone dresses crazy.
What would you say, If he’d ever come to you and said: “Dad, I want to be a musician”?
I’d say: “NO!” [laughs] No, he has actually started in nursery recently. He gets a lot of his friends and they pretend to be in a band and it’s like daddy’s band. So yeah, I think he’s probably gonna be in a band, but it’s not the best way to make money. I’ll probably tell him to do trade.
Is it so bad for you?
It’s ok, but it’s quite hard earning as a musician.
I shouldn’t probably say that you don’t have to worry about money, because you’re in a huge label right now. How does it help you?
It helps us with trajectory, exposure… Touring here wouldn’t be possible without our management team and PR staff. We were independent, DIY, but we’ve expanded our team so it would help us grow. And to be a successful artist, you have to grow. A label means exposure really.
I’ve heard that you’re working with young people in your day job.
Yeah, I’ve just literally finished two weeks ago but for five years I’ve been working with young people in Hull in a sort of open access youth center for anyone under 25. You can access free counseling, food banks, education, music, sexual health… Anything like that. Hull, where I come from, is quite isolated town, quite poor, there’s a lot of problems with drugs and homelessness so a place when young people can really sort of feel like they mean, feel like they should feel and be themselves and be appreciated is very important. Working there was a huge influence on how i see the world. I had to leave obviously because we had to go on tour.
Do you think that young people right now have the same or different problems than previous generations?
I think the most challenging thing for young people at the moment is that their voice is not heard. They’re so disregarded in society… That’s almost why, in my opinion, politics has become so dark, because young people are so apathetic to it, because they don’t think they’ve got a say at the moment, they’re so far removed and that’s how goverments want them to be because they are probably the most powerful resource the world has to offer. By hiding them and by treading on them it keeps that force quashed. You know, young people are the most important thing, they do have a voice and that voice is the most important, because they are the future. Once eventually and hopefully it will change and they’ll begin to lead the way and I think the world will be a better place.
I think it starts right now. There are young people like Greta Thunberg…
Yeah, exactly! She’s amazing! Yeah, I think literally now, because the situation right now is that everyone’s had enough, everyone’s fed up, everyone’s angry. Young people are very angry and that’s a powerful force.
How many of those young people stories are in your lyrics right now? How do they inspire you?
I think, we always write about what’s happening in the moment and we are writing literally what we see, so when I’m working with these young people and seeing what they’re going through and stuff, is always going to influence how I write. I’m just reflecting that and almost like computing it and writing it down, because I can see it.
Have those young people that you’ve worked with ever listened to your music?
Yeah! We did a show in a record shop which is attached to that youth center and it was full of young people and they were there and there was a big celebration after that and they felt like they’re a part of the band. That’s what we always wanted. For us to be in a band is not just four or five people on stage. It’s a mentality.
Speaking of shows in shops. I have to ask about that release party in a kebab shop.
Because our album is so personal and is about embracing your own health and talking about things honestly… you know, when you go out and you have a good time, you often end up in a kebab shop to sober you up. The album is called “A Picture Of Good Health” and obviously kebabs aren’t healthy, but it was kind of tongue-in-cheek response to that. That’s why we did that.
LIFE @ Berlin, photo by Agata Hudomięt. More on our Instagram.
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