Interview: Introducing pre-apocalyptic angst with South London band Talk Show

As futuristic as it might be, we will soon be celebrating the start of the 2020’s. One hundred years ago the 1920s was synonymous with high fashion, artistic merit and at the forefront of the everything exciting blissfully unaware of the cultural and social impact the following two decades would bestow on the world. Yet with rose-tinted glasses, young urbanites and bohemians alike must have clamoured at the thought of a bright new beginning.

What this previous century can tell us is that, with political differences aside, the ubiquity of art and free expression is self-evident. And those purveyors of literature, music and art that matter, really matter. Leaving the 2010s where we found it, YALA! Records, ran by ex-Maccabees chap Felix White and their publicist Morad Khokar, have ended the decade with the most stylish indie music label of modern times. Promoting style over substance is key to YALA! and luckily right on their doorstep, in South West London, a plethora of bands are making plenty of noise that is hard to turn away from. Yak and Magic Gang have been hitting all the right marks of late with excellent song writing ability and a decent enough following. So far though no band has come close in being able to take us roaring into the twenty-twenties quite like Talk Show can.

Harrison Swann with his swirling guitars like helicopter blades and his Northern growling vocals feel like a Julian Casablancas in reverse, the syncopated rhythm reminiscent of all the punk bands your Dad likes is manifested at the sticks of Chloe McGregor. Whilst bassist George Sullivan and guitarist Tom Holmes spark delight in lurching you from Echo & The Bunnymen through to Gang Of Four. Their debut single Fast & Loud is evidence of this at work. That’s if you managed to get hold of it. A limited run of 500 copies quickly sold out on Rough Trade’s website. An intelligent way of buzz marketing for YALA! or just enough to whet the appetite of the hottest new band in Britain? 

It’s not that they’ve only played a few chords and then gone down the boozer, they’ve put in the groundwork, particularly since the start of the year. That includes half a dozen festival appearances. What the 2020s will suddenly start to show us is that you can’t rely too much on Facebook marketing or flyers to get yourselves noticed. People want you to put on a good show and if you can allow an audience to support the independents rather than the corporate fatcats with $$$s in their eyes, that’s the new regime. Voting with your feet is good, stomping on the ground is even better.

Talk Show deliver masterfully with their pre-apocalyptic angst for a generation shedding the burden of political ineffectiveness, wary of change and tired of being cheated. The cut and dried wit of the lyrics, slice like barbed wire as social echoes of the ’80s are utilised, until now the most politically charged decade of recent times. This band don’t preach but provide deconstructed accounts of what our future could hold. A dystopian sci-fi novel set to angular guitars and crackling anxiety. The band are called Talk Show and you are their number one guest. Take a seat.

We had a chat with guitarist George Sullivan about New Cross, what to go do if you’re ever in Zurich and how to get through to lizards…   

Far Out: Now then George, tell us a bit about how you all got together to form Talk Show?

George Sullivan: “We were all studying in New Cross when myself and Harrison met at a house party. Someone started playing New Order and The Stranglers and we began to notice that we had a very similar taste. We got Tom in (guitarist) probably at a pub, I can’t remember. Then, we found our drummer (Chloe) when she overheard Harrison talking about the band at the library. She quickly joined in, despite thinking Harrison had titled us Torture.”

FO: Signing for YALA! enabled your music to gain a greater following, many of your shows this year and your debut single Fast and Loud have sold out rather quickly. Are you taking the hype around Talk Show in your stride?

“Yeah, the reception we’ve had towards the single has been unreal, and we all consider ourselves lucky with it. It’s definitely motivated us to work harder for our shows and we’ve really enjoyed every one of them. Now, our plan is just to get our heads down and crack on with writing more material.  

FO: Your sound – as explained by Felix White of YALA! – draws comparisons with Echo and the Bunnymen and Gang Of Four. With Fontaines DC and Idles being nominated for Mercury Music Prize best albums recently, do you feel there’s a greater appetite for modern bands in replicating the sound in that coiled, tightly wound fury last heard in the punk and new wave era?

“There’s definitely been a change in bands recently. Those who draw heavy influences from punk and new wave are bringing a real sense of community and identity to the scene which has caused a greater appetite for bands in this ilk. However, it’s important to stress that it’s not style over substance. These artists are writing and performing incredible music, and that’s something that really shouldn’t be overlooked.”

FO: Which albums from around this era helped shape the sound that you wanted to create?

“The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys & The Stranglers Black and White albums have been a big influence to us so far. 

FO: For me there’s an equal match between The Stranglers snarling bile and whirring Echo & The Bunnymen’s guitars on your last single Fast and Loud. Do we go deeper down this rabbit hole on other tracks and things you’ve been working for future releases? Or do other elements come into play when you’re in the studio?

“[Laughs] perhaps yes, we have always liked the energy of our live shows so it’s important for us to retain that energy on record. We’re definitely keen to keep that influence of the dark and sometimes gloomy intensity of Echo & The Bunnymen.”

FO: An idol within the 80s alternative scene was undoubtedly Morrissey. Amidst his controversies lyrically and in the press of late, Brandon Flowers sees him as ‘still a King.’ Is there still a voice for alternative musicians to battle politics? Fundamentally, how far is too far?  

“Hmm, that’s a tough one. I think his light may have finally gone out. However, music is definitely a platform to express one’s voice freely, so it’s important not to let one old man ruin that. There is a big divide in our current system and it’s easy to get involved in playing a blame game rather than making real progress. The only way we’ll get through to these lizards is through conversation and empathy.”

FO: I’ll be coming over to watch you guys at Pizza For The People at Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds in August, with a return for you to The Brudenell in Leeds before the end of the year. Has this been a busy period for the band? What’s touring been like?

“Touring has been great. We ended up playing 26 shows in May alone, so it’s been pretty busy. We’ve really enjoyed playing up and down the UK. Heading to Brighton for the Great Escape where we played with the likes of Fat White Family, our YALA! headline show and playing with our good friends Walt Disco have all been big highlights. We also went to Zurich earlier this year and played to a sea of people in a hollowed out army base. If you’re ever in Zurich, try a Vodka Maata… You won’t be disappointed.”

There once was a time when it was all HMV in-store signings, now it’s about flying the flag for the independents. Do you think there’s a shift in how people consume music these days?

“Yes absolutely, especially with the rise of streaming services and algorithms. Music is becoming more and more accessible, which inevitably brings its pro’s and con’s. Listening to music takes less effort than ever before, which is great in terms of getting your tracks out, but it can also devalue its worth. I think that’s why there’s a real focus on a band’s live show, and in particular, a shift towards guitar bands in the last year or two, with live music offering something amazing that you can’t capture unless you’re in the room. “

Finally, you’ve been touted as band to watch out for, but who are your bands and musicians that are currently on your radar?  

“There’s some awesome bands coming through at the moment – we’re really into what Walt Disco are up to. Do Nothing are ones to watch and Oliver Wilde’s new project, Pet Shimmers, are making some beautiful music, too. London-based Scrounge, Italia 90 & The Late Joe Bowman are all up to great stuff as well – check them out!”

Talk Show will be headlining the 14th Pizza For The People, Indie Banquet event at Hyde Park Book Club on Saturday 17th August. Bands also performing are Egyptian Blue, L.D Moses, The Shakamoto Investigation and Autosuggestion. The aim for each regular Pizza For The People event is to showcase top bands and street food traders all under one roof.  Previous bands played have been The Orielles, Warmduscher, The Wytches, Gengahr, Kagoule and loads more. For tickets and info follow the link.

Talk Show will return to Leeds at The Brudenell Social Club for Live At Leeds Ones To Watch on 12th October. 

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