Sunday, 13 July 2014

#317: Catching Up With...No Hot Ashes (U&I Music Magazine - July Issue)

Back in February, when Mr Rock 'n' Roll himself, Alex Turner, talked about smashing “through the glass ceiling” at the Brit Awards, the chances are he probably wasn't thinking about four lads in a funk band from Stockport. Many suggested he probably wasn't thinking much at all, whilst others suggested he was probably thinking about the rolled up 20 in his jacket pocket and his favourite mirror backstage. The fact of the matter is however, that No Hot Ashes are closer to the embodiment of traditional rock 'n' roll (as an idea, rather than genre) than the Monkeys have been since their debut. And whilst they might not yet have shattered that ceiling, with the way they've progressed recently it's hard not to imagine the first cracks appearing before long.

Indeed, the band aren't even your traditional rock band, fusing together a host of styles in to cohesive hybrid that drips with the best aspects of funk, ska and rock; never feeling convoluted, never feeling self-indulgent. Tracks like single, 'Cigs and PG Tips', seem loose enough to adhere to the band's funk aesthetic, whilst in actual fact, are tight jams in which the spaces between notes are just as important as the notes themselves.

Despite only having a small of arsenal of songs at their disposal, the tracks they do have have make for both a solid debut EP in the form of last year's 'Wob', and a solid live experience that oozes swagger, without any of the arrogance; singer Isaac careers across even the smallest of stages, feeding off his band mates, and just looking like he's having the time of his life. Perhaps one of the most exciting things about the band, is the potential shown in the newer tracks they debut live, 'Goose' and 'Skank' for instance both suggest the band have matured since their EP, and serve to heighten any sense of expectation behind their inevitable second release.

It's the potential exhibited by the newer material, especially in a live environment that makes it easy to see why people are getting excited by No Hot Ashes, a relatively young band whose ideas and influences, not to mention musicianship and chemistry, reaches out far beyond their actual ages. They might not be anywhere near the dizzying heights of stardom that will win them a Brit Award just yet, but there's more rock 'n' roll in fags and teabags than there is in corporate award ceremonies anyway, no matter how shiny your leather jacket is.

U&I: Cheers for taking the time out to have a chat with us guys. First of all, you've been a band for a couple of years now, and have started to make a name for yourself over the last few months or so. What do you think it is about yourselves that has allowed your reputation to gain momentum?

Isaac- Hi, no problem, it’s a pleasure.

Lui- Yeah, we’ve been at it for 2 years now but it really doesn’t feel that long. The past 6 months have been ace, been nice to receive so much attention, we want as many people to hear our tunes as possible and it’s exciting to see it happening.

Jack- I know it’s pretty cliché of a band to say it but we really think our sound is unique, and we like to cover a wide spectrum of genres when planning our set so I think that’s what has grabbed people’s attention.

U&I: Your sound isn't your straight forward indie, more a fusion of influences and styles that manifests itself as a punk/funk hybrid. How have you found supporting more traditional indie sounding bands? Has your sound gone down well?

Matt- Yeah, we like to keep things fresh and we think it shows in our mixed genre sounds. To be honest we have supported a lot good bands in the past two years but then we’ve also supported a lot of shitty sounding bands, I think we shock people once we hit into our set, they’re always expecting your generic group of four young Manc lads to start belting out a few Oasis influenced, Arctic Monkeys rip off tunes but that’s not what we’re about.

Lui- I think overall our sound goes down well at gigs. It’s always going to be hard for any band to find entirely compatible support acts, but if the audience is up for going out to see unsigned talent, then they’re up for seeing something a bit diverse.

U&I: Your growing reputation has obviously allowed you to start playing some bigger gigs and festivals of late, most recently the Deaf Institute and Headlander Festival, but how do those kind of gigs compare to each other, is it a different kind of buzz?

Isaac- Definitely, we’ve really enjoyed playing at a couple of well-established venues, I think we all agreed after the Deaf Institute gig that it’s now our favourite venue, such a cool fucking place.

Lui- The Deaf Institute gig put on by our good mates Puppet Rebellion and the man himself Mr Peeps was up there as one of our biggest gigs, a top night and we smashed our set. Headlander Festival was a different buzz, not the best crowd we’ve played to but again, stuff like that doesn’t bother us and we still just go ahead and smash our set regardless, I think it’s important that bands give their all when playing live, regardless of who you’re playing to. We always want to give it our all, not look like a bunch of moody pricks.

U&I: You recently released your debut EP, the fairly self-descriptive 'WOB', how has that been received?

Jack- “WOB” went down really well, it’s picked up loads of attention in the past few months and people seem to find the tunes catchy, which is good to hear. Both tunes are pretty long and kind of tell a story really, we went through a stage of writing really long 6/7 minute songs with complex structures and lots of twists so there’s only two tunes on the EP which we recently found out doesn’t count as an EP but we stuck with it anyway.

Isaac- We got a lot of radio airtime from this EP, it got played on the likes of “ALL FM 96.9” “Fab Radio” “Terry Christians Show” “Salford City Radio” and a few others. It’s always a nice feeling when people are asking to play a song you’ve written on the radio.

U&I: Similarly, any plans for another EP, or even a full-length before the end of the year?

Lui- Well we’ve just recently been successfully funded on our Kickstarter Fund which was amazing, we got well over what we asked for and that has been a massive help in funding our studio sessions. Keeping on the topic of studios, we have something pretty exciting in the pipelines for that so keep your eye out. Our next project will be a “proper” EP. We’re looking at something around 5/6 tracks to put on there so if all goes to plan that should be ready for release in September of this year.

U&I: Being from Manchester, you're obviously involved with a large amount of other local bands, who are some of your favourites. Anyone you'd really like to gig with but haven't yet had the chance?

Lui- A band that stood out for me after catching their set at Headlander Festival last weekend, are called PURGE. These guys are something pretty special and unique, they reminded me of a kind of RHCP/RATM fusion and throwback, very funky with loads of metal riffs. The lead singer’s pretty mental, he’s got a mad style of singing, and you can’t knock that Indian headdress. All I would say is check them out.

Isaac- We like to think we support other bands from Manchester a lot, we’re involved on social media sites and interacting with other local bands, getting down to their gigs and gigging with them. One of my favourites would have to be PURGE too. They’re something else. Puppet Rebellion have been a favourite of mine for the past year, their riffs and lyrics are maybe the best I’ve heard from any of the bands we’ve played with. Watching them at Deaf Institute after we’d supported them was a treat, as was watching The Backhanders. Another band who we’d love to give a big shout out to is Jipsy Magic, a Brighton band who supported us a while back, they’re funky as anything.

Jack- The Backhanders are definitely one of the best bands we’ve seen and played with. They’re a real throwback to the classic Manchester sound. Witty lyrics and anthem worthy song structures.

U&I: On a similar note, what do you think it is about Manchester that makes its music scene as vibrant and as eclectic as it is?

Matt- Manchester is thee place for indie music to blossom. People are still massively influenced by bands that emerged from eras like Madchester and Britpop, I know that we all are. There’s so many cool venues to play and happy people to meet, it’s a unique place and has such a rich musical history. Even the Bee Gees grew up in Chorlton.

Jack- Manchester is full of culture too, and I think a lot of people will agree that music is a big contributor to this.

U&I: As the city seems to be moving away from the traditional indie band format, and more and more acts are diversifying, have you got any ideas of which direction we could be heading in now?

Isaac- We’ve always been lovers of funk music and I think we’ll always keep that element in our music. People like new wave funk without even realising I think, with Nile Rodgers and Daft Punk making a name for themselves in today’s charts, it goes to show that there’s room for funk in modern music. I think we try to be kind of punky in the way we convey our music too. I think we’ll always be heading in the direction of indie funk with a bit of attitude.

U&I: Have you got any plans to diversify your sound even further? Or do you think you've carved yourself a niche that works?

Lui- Who knows? Over the past two years its changed massively but I guess some elements remain pretty grounded in your influences, I`d like to think we can keep experimenting with our sound and keep moulding it to our own tastes and just hope people enjoy it. I`m a huge fan of guitar effects and as you know from seeing us live there’s a few mad sounds that we like to mess about with.

U&I: Finally, any parting words or exclusive news you'd like to share with our readers?

A big thanks again to anyone who funded our Kickstarter Fund, our fans really have kept us going as a band and well we wouldn’t be recording anytime soon without that.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a big party in September. WOB.

Probably one of the biggest gigs of our year will be “Blackthorn Festival 2014” with headliners “Reverend and The Makers” and “Dodgy” it’s going to be a good weekend.
(25th – 27th July)

U&I: Thanks guys, it's been a pleasure, as always.

Cheers Dave.