Let's paint the scene: a squinting sun lowers itself in the sky as the slow steel castors of the last train roll to a standstill.
Pfssst. Smoke chokes the platform.
The doors noisily unbolt and open.
Welcome to the End Of The Line… ain’t many folk gettin’ off here.
You see, just ain’t many bands left round these parts. Guildford is a one-horse town. Last sheriffs round ‘ere were The Stranglers and they got spat out long ago. Their tobacco-chewed myth weakens each generation [hocks up phlegm, spits it out].
That is until Sissy and the Blisters rode across the horizon. They just roped up their horses and swung open the batwing doors to the local saloon. There they stood, Jack James and his fellow musical gunslingers – James Geard, Nick Benton and Ed Kirwan. These boys are gonna pin these plains back on the map.
“People tend to come through here, as opposed to staying here permanently,” drawls their organist and guitarist Jack James. He’s talking about the Guildford music scene – or lack of it.
“Not enough people are drawn here like they are to various areas of London… There’ll be another band like us here for a bit, but they’ll end up leaving or just disband.”
Thing is, there can’t be that many bands like them around: thumping garage rock, sub-three minute whirlwinds with a trio of organ players and no bassist. It’s delicious retro rock, a sound schism that gallops live.
If Jack keeps his spurs stuck in, Sissy and the Blisters won’t end up sounding like any current bands either. “There isn’t anything that excites me personally guitar-wise,” he says. “[People] think guitar music‘s dead for some weird reason…but there isn’t anything different enough to change everyone’s mind.”
‘Let Her Go’, a gruff-guitar bruising take on Phil Spector pop, leads their latest EP of the same name. Liverpool or Manchester would’ve clung and run with a sound like this, but here it seems Jack and Co. are destined to be the Lone Rangers.
“I’d like there to be more bands,” he says optimistically, before revolving those thoughts around his barrel. “There’s actually quite a few, but it’s not the music that everyone wants. The fact that everyone’s saying there are no guitar bands around shows that there isn’t one that people want around…so we’re playing music to fill in the gap for ourselves. That’s why we originally started doing it.”
A love of garage rock helped to solidify their bond. “Even though it shifts around genres, old garage is on all our playlists,” explains Jack, “we all like different stuff but that’s one thing that brings us all together.”
The 50s and 60s touchstones are hidden in the layers of guitars but it’s an updated, raucous racket with distorted vocals and plenty of rousing backing vocals.
The debut is in the pipeline, but it’s not going to come out until it’s fully saddled up. “Unless everyone’s 100 percent into it halfway through a song, we’ll throw it away,” he measures. “If one person sighs we’ll scrap it and start again. We’ll effectively write ten songs before we come up with one we like.”
Clearly they crack the whip hard.
“We want to give the album a feel, it’s not only the best songs, it’s the ones that are going to make sense within the album.”
What themes are you looking to cover with the LP? “James tends to have running themes on what he writes about. He gets excited about certain things, he’ll get excited about a certain saying and he’ll say it over and over for weeks, then get bored and move along – he’s like that with his lyric writing.
“He’ll get something in his head, like girls. At the time we wrote the EP, everyone was talking about them all the time so that’s what we wrote about. We haven’t got a vibe yet, ‘cus we haven’t written all of the songs, but there will be.”
Capturing a sound on wax is one thing, but Sissy and the Blisters are building a notorious reputation for the live shows too. Even outta town cowboys and gals will huddle in darkened spit n sawdust venues, whiskey in paw, to watch the four-piece in action.
“I’d say live is one of our strongest things, there’s definitely a reason to come and see us,” rasps Jack. “It seems to make a lot more sense for people when they see us live…for a band to have a exciting live show is really important, especially as it’s such a big deal for people at the moment.
“We’re really obsessed with pulling that off, and helping people enjoy themselves,” he adds.
Notoriety isn’t essential for Sissy and the Blisters but perhaps the myth is. “I don’t want to say I want everyone to like us,” Jacks finishes, “I want everyone to see us.”