When I arrive at The Ringards‘ shared house, I am greeted by the band’s bassist, Gary, who waves at me from the window and rushes down to unbolt the heavy wooden door. Upstairs, the band’s core members Enzo, Jake, Garry, and Henry are sat on their balcony, drinking beer and soaking up the last of the summer’s sun. “You’ve caught us at a good time,” Jake tells me, “We’ve all been away for a while, so we’re gonna have a catch-up.” And that’s the first thing that strikes me: before I’ve even pressed record on my puny dictaphone, it becomes clear that this is a band for whom friendship and music and very much intertwined.
After relocating to London from a variety of locations around the world, The Ringards met in the melting pot of the city’s thriving live music scene. Since then, they have been drip-feeding their fans on a unique blend of swirling bizzaro-punk, steadily building a dedicated fanbase along the way. I caught up with the band ahead of the release of their new single, ‘Moderation Decorum’, which is available to stream now. Having had the chance to attend a couple of The Ringards’ recent shows, I found myself with surprisingly few words to describe them to my friends. Unlike many of their contemporaries, it’s near-impossible to identify The Ringards’ musical influences. They seem to be purveyors of something entirely self-generating, something that seems at once rooted in the musical culture of the late 1960s and undeniably fresh. As Gary explained, The Ringards’ new single was written whilst they were “listening to The Doors’ ‘LA Woman’ like fuck. And you ask yourself, ‘why is it so good, why is it soo good’? And the song you end up with is the result of you trying to answer that question.”
‘Moderation Decorum’ is the perfect example of Ringards’ meticulous songcraft. It oozes with velvet-lined cool and thrums with a cavernous, diaphragm-shaking rhythm. Above the crystalline grit of Henry and Jake’s dual guitars, frontman Enzo modulates between a post-punk drawl and a frantic, melodious baritone. It is a track made to be performed live, and when it is, it never fails to get London’s shy crowds moving. With its intense energy, you’d assume the song was cracked out in 15 minutes during some late-night jam session, but as Henry explains, it took time to mould. “When I joined the band, they were halfway through writing the single. It was a really rocky, distorted – basically crap – song. So we spent almost a month working on the demo until we took it to the studio. It’s just a completely different song to the one we started with.”
On record, The Ringards pack one hell of a punch. But, it is the band’s live show that is attracting the most attention. “When you write music, you wanna take full control and make the thing that you would enjoy,” Jake explains. “But, once you’ve done all that, I think it’s nice to let loose and just have fun.”
The Ringards certainly know how to have fun. Live, they far exceed the sum of their parts, pummelling through their set with the confidence of a group who have been together for decades rather than years. I was interested in finding out how they managed to curate such an intense live show with such ease. Seemingly, it’s all thanks to their shared passion for performance: “We just love to play music,” Jake jumps in. “I know that might sound a bit naff, but since I was 13, I’ve just fucking loved playing music. I work five days a week – at least – just for that half-hour set, which is just the best way to enjoy myself. To jump about and play guitar – that to me is fantastic and whether that’s egotistical, I don’t care. For me, it’s just so fun. And if people have fun too, that’s great.”
The Ringards take as much pride in their live shows as you would expect. As a group of musicians, they seem to understand music’s essential function: to liberate people from the mundane, every day, and the just plain naff. With Enzo’s wide-eyed provocations and Henry’s Bolan-esque verve, they convince their audiences to shed their skins and forget about the world beyond. As Enzo puts it: “The stage is the only place you can embrace your alter ego, release the demons or whatever and just, you know, do whatever you want. Whether you’re an extrovert, introvert, it doesn’t matter.” The Ringards’ control over their audiences is remarkable.
Being such an important part of the band’s live dynamic, I was interested to find out from whom Enzo had learnt the tricks of his trade: “There’s a lot of people,” he begins. “You know, there’s something about a performer with an ease of movement. But I think it just comes down to how the crowd is that night, and how you feed off that energy and that vibe. I mean, David Bowie was a big one. The Libertines as well. They were the beginning of everything. When they play live, it feels as though they’re singing specifically to you.”
The Ringards recognise the importance of connecting with their audiences on a communal level. The best music, in their eyes, seems to be that which allows people to share the same, indescribable moment. Perhaps that’s why they are quickly finding themselves at the centre of the new wave of experiential acts coming out of London’s underground scene. However, as Gary explains, for a long time, it was an uphill struggle. “You build yourself into a scene. At the start, the band was me and Enzo and these two other guys, and we didn’t know anybody in London. We were playing gigs with the wrong people for a really long time. But as soon as you start playing gigs at places like The Shacklewell Arms, you sort of realise: ‘this is a bit of a scene, you know, this is happening.’ And then you realise that there are loads of other venues doing the same sort of night. And you start getting around and you meet other bands like Opus Kink, and promoters like Egyptian Elbows – both those guys are great.”
After the success of acts like Black Midi and Black Country, New Road, London is developing something of a reputation for incubating many of the country’s most important new bands. But, being proud outsiders, The Ringards are hesitant to ride on the success of the city’s biggest exports. “I don’t know how I feel about people saying we’re part of that London scene,” Enzo begins. “Sometimes it seems like all people care about is if a band are [Brixton] Windmill-approved. If you feed into that, suddenly, it’s impossible to break away because people are like: ‘they’re good because they’re an example of that kind of band.’ It’s great, but there’s a lot of bands like that and a lot of labels are picking up those sorts of bands because they’re just repeating the same thing they know works. And it’s great that it works, but at the same time you’re not pushing any boundaries you’re not doing anything new.”
In contrast, The Ringards represent a new chapter in UK music. After the devastating impact of Covid-19, they are helping to re-rejuvenate the health of London’s thriving live music scene, dragging into the future with their anarchic blend of avant-punk. If there’s one live act you go to see this year, make sure it’s The Ringards. To get a taste of their sound, take a listen to their new single, ‘Moderation Decorum’ below.