Just after they performed their 3rd set for touring Dot To Dot Festival, I had the opportunity to interview Bad Sounds – an upcoming Bristol-born band known for their unique hip-hop indie sound and energetic stage performances. Following the release of their single, Evil Powers (released on the 9th April), we talked about everything from scary hotel experiences to Spotify and the music industry.
Could introduce yourselves, and tell me about the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you on tour?
Callum: I’m Callum!
Ewan: Hi, I’m Ewan.
Callum: The funniest thing that’s ever happened to us on tour? There was that time we stayed in the ‘death hotel’ in Manchester. We were on our first proper tour, we’d booked the cheapest hotels, and we hadn’t really had a great show that night so we were desperate to get home and forget about it. So we went to this hotel and when we got in there the woman behind the counter was off her face on something. As well as this – you know how they have a tuck-shop in B&B’s sometimes? All they had was energy drinks and condoms.
That’s when you know its bad!!
Callum: Then she said, “I’m going to show you down to your rooms,” and we were like wait, are we on the ground floor? She took us downstairs into the basement and carved into one of our doors was “You’re dead.” We ended up just staying in the van because we didn’t want to sleep in the room.
Ewan: Yeah, there was blood on the sheets.
What’s the story behind the name Bad Sounds?
Ewan: Basically we had a demo where we really liked the melodies and stuff, but we had just made them on a crappy Casio keyboard. It was labelled as ‘Bad Sounds’ because we were going to change the names afterward. But when we were going through band names later, like any band does, ‘Bad Sounds’ ended up the best of a very bad bunch. Shows how terrible the rest of them were.
What were some of the other options you had?
Callum: We take that to the grave
Ewan: Yeah, no one can ever know those.
What are your musical influences, so what did you listen to as children?
Callum: When we were kids, like everyone, we just listened to what our parents listened to. Luckily our Mum and Dad have pretty good taste in music. I remember listening to Lenny Kravitz or Dido in mum’s car, and our dad was super into Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.
Ewan: Anyone called Bob, really.
How long have you been writing music and singing? When you started, did you start together?
Callum: I mean, we always wanted to play guitar, and being brothers we used to spend weekends with our Dad. He bought this 4 track cassette recorder, so we would spend our weekends just messing around on that with Dad; he showed us how to use that stuff on a very basic level. That was sort of when we started, and we would have been around 12.
This is a full-time career for you, so what would you be doing if you weren’t in a band?
Ewan: We both used to work in clothes shops. I worked in a suit shop. I measured a lot of inner thighs.
Callum: Inner thighs? Yeah, the inside leg, but it doesn’t just stop at the knee *laughs*. I don’t know what I’d like to do if it wasn’t this. I’d like to think it was something creative, but it’s hard enough to get into one creative industry.
Have you consistently stuck to the genre that you are with, or do you feel like you would want to branch out to more electronic or rock or others?
Ewan: I don’t think that we’re that defined as a sound anyway. it kind of comes from a hip-hop mindset, which is what I was doing before we were doing Bad Sounds. Like, sampling stuff from loads of different places and making it something new. We do lots of mixing with the music and genres we like. So I feel that Bad Sounds is always an amalgamation of mine and Callum’s tastes mashed into one thing. We are always going to find new things we like. Even when we write demos now, there are certain tracks that lean more towards a certain genre, but when we’re finalising they becomes more balanced, more collected.
Callum: They go through a few rounds, too, so it kind of depends on what we are heavily into at the time.
How long does it take you to write one song?
Ewan: It’s very varied. The longest song on the album took 6 months to write. The shortest was perhaps a day – at least the basic foundations – but it’s one of those things where we tend to write the bulk of the demo and come back to it at a later date. Do the lyrics, work on production, do that a few times over, and then we go in with our producer, James Dring. He helps us get it as good as it can be.
Do you feel like you have to be in a certain mindset or mood to write certain songs?
Ewan: Definitely. I find it’s kind of weird because we are doing this for a living now, but I write music to relax as much as to do Bad Sounds. A much different thing tends to come out when it’s written in the evenings and just messing about, compared to during the day when you want to be doing something energetic and less self-indulgent.
Do you have to have experienced something first hand in order to write about it or do you feel like you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes?
Ewan: We try to keep most of our lyrics very non-judgemental, without an opinion or a perspective. We mostly write about our friends and we say things as bluntly as we can. As it is. I mean, though, we do try to word it in a way that feels elegant and creative rather than just blunt.
Callum: I actually disagree with that. I feel like we try to make it as everyday as possible rather than elegant and artistic. It makes it way more relatable.
Ewan: I guess I just mean phrasing – putting it in a way that’s interesting to listen to.
Are there any bands that you’d love to tour with, dead or alive?
Callum: Beck, Gorillaz.
Ewan: James Brown.
Callum: Yeah but then you’d get blown off stage every night.
Ewan: Just bands I’d want to watch. Michael Jackson.
Callum: Jackson 5 would be pretty sick.
What’s the best crowd you have ever performed for?
Callum: Nottingham, Dot To Dot… *laughs*
Ewan: Yeah, tonight was cool. I think our last headline Bristol show… it probably wasn’t the best we’ve ever played, but it was the weirdest experience because it’s the biggest venue we’ve ever played at. It sold out 2 weeks in advance, which we were super surprised and happy about. And when we got on stage, it was packed and it felt like everyone was really happy for us. Everyone was excited to see the show and have a good time – everyone was there to be together.
Callum: Everyone was right there with us, we were performing for them… it was like a party.
Ewan: Most people had seen us at some point over the years.
Callum: Everyone knew how much of a big deal it was for us.
What’s your opinion on the transition to Spotify from CDs? Do you feel like Spotify benefits you or would you prefer CDs?
Ewan: I think it’s just a different thing, Spotify has changed how certain artists can make a living. If you’re really good at fitting into playlists, you don’t really need a label anymore. You can get a revenue out of the playlists. But I think people always tend to bad-mouth the new thing that’s around at the moment. Everyone’s saying “I hate Spotify, it was so much better back in my day.” It’s just kind of irrelevant.
Callum: Also, in history, music formats have changed before and there’s always been a kickback from the buying public or the industry itself as it adapts. Now, for the first time in a long time, artists are actually making money because people are streaming rather than downloading illegally. There are pros and cons to everything.
Ewan: For sure, comparing ourselves with people who were doing what we’re doing now, 10 years ago – it makes you realise how much worse the industry was then. Spotify’s really helped bring the money back into music. Of course, vinyl sales have gone back up, too. All of it together has caused the industry to be in a much better place than it was 10 years ago.
With the world’s current political state, and important issues being spoken about all the time, do you feel obliged to talk/sing about them because of your significant following?
Ewan: No, not at all. I think enough people do it. Every now and again we will make a subtle hint about something if it relates to us, but it’s not really our prerogative. We are in it to do music and we want to entertain and have a good time – that’s our vibe. But yeah, it’s not off limits.
Callum: I feel quite strongly about people who are really vocal about things which they have not properly researched and don’t fully understand. Musicians are in the public eye, but that doesn’t give you a right to say “I’m an expert on this – you should agree with my opinion”. That’s what a lot of people do, and I’ve been guilty of agreeing with someone because I like something else that they do, without considering if their opinion has any relevance to the subject matter.
Issues such as racism – do you think they should be brought up?
Callum: If it relates to you. A lot of artists that talk about, for example, racism – those artists have experienced racism in their lives. We have never experienced that, so we could never talk about that in our music. That applies to every political subject there is.
What advice would you give to people wanting to write music, or start a band?
Ewan: Just write as much as you can, and when you’re at the right point, get management. There’s no rush. Work on your own stuff before you put yourself out there.
Callum: Don’t expect things to happen as quickly as you’d like, because things do move slowly. What we’ve realised from doing this is that everything that happens when a band grows is a sum of all the parts – you don’t have an overnight success. Even with massive bands, where it seems like they’ve just appeared – they have been working in the background for years trying to get to that point.
What can we expect from you in the future? You’ve just released your Evil Powers single, any planned albums or EPs?
Callum: Yeah, we deliver the album this week! It should be out by the end of summer, we’re really excited and proud.