INTERVIEW: Hull band LIFE talk politics, touring and being DIY
Hull band LIFE have had a hectic twelve months, from self-releasing their debut album Popular Music to recording a Maida Vale session and touring with the likes of Slaves and Nadine Shah.
Alongside this band members Mez Green and Stewart Baxter also work as youth workers in Hull providing vital services to under 25’s in the city.
The pair sat down outside The Globe pub in Sheffield with Far Out prior to their gig with Nadine Shah at The Leadmill to talk all things LIFE.
You’re currently on the tour with the brilliant Nadine Shah, what’s that like been so far?
“Yeah the tour’s been ace, it was a bit of a curve-ball decision to go on a tour like this considering the last one we did like this was with Slaves which was very different but Nadine Shah is a really good friend of ours,”Mez said. “She stands up for the same things we stand up for politically so we thought let’s go with it and we’ve both been featured on 6 Music quite a lot.”
The love you’ve received from BBC 6 music especially from Steve Lamacq has been exceptional, what’s it like having him as a big supporter of the band?
“Steve Lamacq has been a great champion for us, before we were play-listed with ‘In Your Hands’ he played the song ’14 nights in a row’ so we owe him so much,” Mez continued. “He’s been such a great champion of us and it’s great to be recognised by someone like that. He’s a great ambassador for breaking bands and to be mates with him.”
You mentioned last year’s tour with Slaves, I saw you at the Academy here and it was a cracking gig, what was the tour like?
“The tour with Slaves was so crazy, we were playing to 3,000 people every night, it was just a great experience to be on those big stages and were great friends with them now. It was a bit of a moment for us to be put on a tour that big and helped us push on forward. We love every gig we do and these Nadine dates have been amazing.”
You and Nadine both share a similar political stance and aren’t afraid to both use your political voice in your music, how important is it for artists to be political in 2017 with everything going on with the world?
“The world is a crazy place right now so to not be political would kind of be a mistake really. Everyone is influenced by things that are going on around them these days, the squeeze on the country and the squeeze on the average people these days is so bad, I just think we’ve never made a decision to not be political, we will never sit on the fence and we will always speak our mind because we have to.
“Being political runs through the jobs we do, both me and Stu are both youth workers, we both work in a place called The Warren, it’s an open access youth centre for anyone aged under 25. We offer all sorts in there from music help, food banks, counselling, sexual health, employment arcs and all sorts of stuff. That part of politics runs through our music and we like to talk about it.”
Can you tell me more about The Warren?
“It’s as important as the people who use it. The fact that The Warren’s exists shows how important it is because if it wasn’t needed it wouldn’t be there. It’s probably one of the only places where the idea is to run out of business because that means everyone’s alright,” Stu said.
“I went there when I was 15 because I couldn’t afford to go into a recording studio and that sparked off me touring in a punk band for 10 years and that wouldn’t have happened without The Warren.
There’s people who go in there every day who The Warren’s their family and network. It’s a safe space for people to go to and I think Hull’s really lucky to have a place like that because a lot of other cities don’t have that luxury of somewhere that’s so welcoming for young people and isn’t sterile or trying to put young people in a box.”
Talking of Hull, how do you think being named City of Culture has impacted the city?
“I think it’s definitely benefited and inspired people who maybe sometimes took the City for granted to get out and try other things,” said Mez. “Hull’s always been a creative hub but now the spotlight’s shone on Hull, I think everyone’s seeing how good we are and how good the community is.
“I believe Hull’s always been creative but it’s brought us up a gear, you can see it round the Humber Street area, it’s just amazing, it’s like we’ve got our own Northern Quarter. You’re finally seeing things in Hull you see in other cities and you’re like that’s fucking cool.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of, we’ve tried to do a lot for City of Culture in terms of representing Hull outside of the city because the fact we’re always so busy we always brag about Hull.”
Humber Street does seem to be an area in the city that’s really thriving at the minute.
“It’s got amazing potential but it’s important to remember that that area was restored by the likes of Fruit, Humber Street Sesh, Freedom Fest before it was ever City of Culture and businesses like Thieving Harry’s need to be recognised because you’ve seen it in other places where they become very gentrified’ ‘It’s important that the developers realise who made the area and not to push people out just to get a bigger rent.
“Other areas of Hull are starting to pop up in the city centre and old town-like new bars, the old town’s been like a ghost town for many years and it’s a really nice area. I hope it leads to a domino effect,” Mez continued.
You headlined Humber Street Sesh in front of 5,000 people this summer and I even saw coverage of your set on BBC news in a Wetherspoons of all places,that must have been fun?
“It was on in Wetherspoons? That would have been a perfect photograph! That’s the dream that.
“Yeah that was a big thing for the festival getting that exposure, we headlined that festival this year and it was just great to be part of it.”
Was releasing your debut album Popular Music your highlight of the year?
“Highlight for me was Mez puking all over Hamburg and shitting himself,” Stu said half jokingly.
“I caught the flu, I got a bad virus where I was sicking and shitting at 3am when we were flying at 6am, I was sick at the airport, sick on the plane, shat myself in Hamburg and played a gig,” Mez clarified. “There were like 300 people one in one out, it was just like you’ve got to do it.”
“When in the Reeperbahn, you’ve got to shit yourself,” Stu continued with a smile on his face.
“My highlight was definitely the album, all the work we’ve put into this body of work and we’ve finally got into a position where we can release it ourselves, we’ve had three playlisted songs on there from 6 music, we’ve had some great support from Radio 1 especially from Huw Stephens so that’s been a major achievement for us,” Mez said turning the conversation back to music. “We’ve even done a Maida Vale session!
“We self-manage, self-tour, self-do everything so to get it out there and get some great reviews. I don’t think it got under four stars in most publications. That’s been a great moment and something we will remember for the rest of our lives. No pun intended”
How important is the DIY element of LIFE?
“I think it’s a necessity for us because we don’t have any other option. I’m not going to say we’d turn down deals because we believe we are great musicians and get creative people so if a label came in and backed us, I think we’d go on and do something even better. We love what we do, we are not going to stop so if we have to do it ourselves, we will do.”
LIFE are currently on tour with Nadine Shah and are set to play London’s Village Underground with IDLES next month. To buy Popular Music click here.