Under the surrounding influence: a S.C.U.M. interview

We catch up with the band as they hurtle down the Autobahn...

Under the surrounding influence: a S.C.U.M. interview

Photographer:Andy Sturmey

Chris Eustace - 17 November 2011

Having formed in 2008, the band finally released their debut album, ‘Again Into Eyes’ this autumn, having played with the likes of Erasure, Liars and The Residents both here and on the continent. On the band’s website, they cite their time supporting The Kills as a formative experience, and a big help in honing the album’s sound too.

“We took some time out to write the album, we didn’t tour much around then, but we’ve toured with The Kills and we’re out with The Horrors at the moment – it was good to play live for so long to get ideas and get the songs how we wanted them to sound,” enthuses Huw.

There’s an obvious kinship between S.C.U.M. and The Horrors – literally, as Rhys Webb is Huw’s brother, while Tom Furse produced previous single ‘Visions Arise’, so it’s no surprise that the two are touring together. However, while Faris and Co. might have shown them the way, Huw is reluctant to draw any musical comparisons.

“Obviously I’m influenced by him because he’s my brother and stuff, growing up with him and listening to music together and him playing me his tracks. I saw them do it, and so I knew it was possible to make it in a band, if you put your mind to it, but we’re not influenced by them musically I don’t think.”

Webb instead sees the band as “being more influenced by our surroundings.” Certainly, the solitary atmospherics of ‘Again Into Eyes’ stand-outs ‘Whitechapel’ and ‘Amber Hands’ make sense when you hear how the band shut themselves away: “When we wrote our album we went off to the countryside for a month and detached ourselves from everything.”

“We were in the middle of a field, away from everyone - the nearest shop was a 20 minute walk away. We feel like we really found our sound out there.”

If ‘Again Into Eyes’ is the sound of a band isolated, they have their own antidote in the form of their ‘SIGNALS’ series – as the band made their way around Europe, those surroundings also began to inspire, with the results appearing online for download. Four snapshots have so far been recorded, from Berlin, Paris and a forthcoming ‘Athens’ edition, after the idea was born from some downtime in Poland.

“We were doing a short tour in Warsaw, we had a day off in the middle, so we thought we’d book a studio for the day and see if we could write something, and we really liked what we did, so we decided to release it,” Huw remembers. “We came up with this concept and decided to carry it on, so whenever we’d go to an interesting city we’d try to write a song there, so we had another project going on alongside the album.”

There should be plenty of opportunities to add to the list of places to record in, with the band now in full-on touring mode. Having just finished going around the UK on the NME Radar Tour with Wolf Gang, Niki & The Dove and DZ Deathrays, the band obviously aren’t afraid to play to more mainstream audiences. In fact, the more the merrier, it seems: “We’re trying to play to as many people as possible at the moment, we’ve put the album out, so we just want to get out on the road now and play it.”

With keyboard player Sam Kilcoyne, the brains behind Underage Festival (with S.C.U.M. having played there before, of course), they are no strangers to the circuit, and with an album now under their belt, Huw’s looking forward to doing many more festivals next year.

“It was a shame we didn’t get to play that many this summer, Field Day was a good one, we were supposed to play at Pukkelpop but, obviously, that got cancelled [after storms caused a stage to collapse]. We got to play at ATP [I’ll Be Your Mirror at Alexandra Palace this July], Portishead curated it. We didn’t get to meet them, we would’ve liked to though! Grinderman played, Swans played - it was amazing!”

S.C.U.M. made their mark at this year’s Camden Crawl too, with one of their appearances coming on the Red Bull Bedroom Jam stage – right before hardcore rabble-rousers Cerebral Ballzy and an infamous Odd Future performance, where they baited security and caused a stage invasion, a billing and situation which Huw admits was “quite strange.”

However, he has inside info which leaves Tyler, The Creator’s misanthropic reputation in tatters: “We met Odd Future backstage – after seeing their show we were like ‘fucking hell, they’re terrifying!’ but they were all so nice, really kind and really cool guys.”

It sounds like they got on with Honor and his mates as well: “We met Cerebral Ballzy as well and they were cool too – I think they’re supporting doing the rest of The Horrors tour on the dates we’re not doing actually, which is quite funny, should be a good contrast!”

If a band named after Valerie Solanas’ radical 1967 feminist manifesto (the acronym is widely believed to stand for ‘Society for Cutting Up Men’) can get on with Tegan and Sara’s least favourite rapper, then surely all bets are off – the coming year will no doubt see S.C.U.M. embrace many more contrasts, just make sure to point them in the direction of the nearest recording studio if you see them looking a bit twitchy on the tour bus.


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