I just want all the crowd bullsh*t to go away. They need to stop worrying about what everyone else looks like and start punching each other and getting pissed.
Taking a window seat at the Arnolfini amongst the background clatter of the café, I sit down with frontman Joe Talbot to discuss the new Idles EP ‘Meat’ and the current state of things in Bristol. They’re back with a brutal new dynamic and, as it happens, sound more vital than ever before.
A lot has changed in the Bristol scene over the last few years. People have moved on from beer-stained shows in tiny venues at such a rate that it’s been both exciting and chaotic. The quite brilliant Idles, though, just seemed to disappear. Necking his espresso, Joe tells me, “Well it’s funny. Obviously we were doing well in Bristol but then left and stopped writing. It’s sh*t really, but we had to… we wanted to write better songs. We weren’t happy.”
Despite their departure hurting at the time, it was a wise move. New EP ‘Meat’ is the kind of release that just punches you in the throat; it’s a raw and blunt statement that shows them at the height of their game. Joe glances out at the harbour. “For me personally, it’s about lyrics and delivery. I realised I wasn’t singing in my own voice. I wanted to shout, I wanted to really speak and wanted my lyrics to be shorter, more to the point. I found inspiration in artists who were unapologetic and didn’t paint everything with rose-water.”
Idles will always be held in high-regard as a band with real meaning; so when I ask about the idea behind their second release an interesting answer is expected. “We called it ‘Meat’ because of what I was going through at the time. I was reading a lot of books where the characters were dealing with existential problems, American Psycho for example. My mum was also very ill so I started thinking a lot about my existence. Existential philosophy is always about trying to figure out who you are in the world… and for me, you’re just meat. We are just lumps of meat and beyond that it’s all just a thought process.”
I’ve always had an issue with pride. It means a lot. People are assholes.
A clear ‘Meat’ (and live set) highlight comes in the form of ‘Queens’, which dishes dirt on the vanity of certain people in the world. “That song is an attack on pride. The first verse is all me putting myself in the character of the selfie-taking marine… people who take photos of themselves are self-obsessed. Like marines who find pride in fighting for their country, something that doesn’t exist. So I’ve always had an issue with pride. It means a lot. People are assholes.”
I ask about what it’s like to be part of Bristol music right now. “A few years ago Howling Owl and that were so interesting and hard-working, and they still are. It’s just gotten so turbulent now where everyone has been getting so excited. But then with every interesting scene you also get people who just turn up to look good. The music is still getting better and better though. Spectres have just killed it for me, The Naturals album is going to be f*cking fire… it’s all exciting. I just want all the crowd bullsh*t to go away. They need to stop worrying about what everyone else looks like and start punching each other and getting pissed. Bristol is a bit too swanky for its own boots, it’s turned into a bit of a wine bar.”
You can’t help but feel these words could act as a call to arms as we shoot into touring season this month. There’s a thunderous EP launch lined up at The Louisiana on the 14th, with an afterparty at the Mothers Ruin. “The launch shows will be next level. I mean, we’ve just been getting better and better live. We’ve got so many tunes we love; we’re back properly now. There’re loads of new students in the city as well, we’re going into a really great time.” The anger and passion involved is easy to grasp (and at times, quite stifling) as Joe storms and paces the stage, swigging away at a bottle of Buckfast. “It’s a release thing; with that amount of adrenaline before I go onstage, I just get super excited. Whatever you’ve got pent up inside, whether it’s happiness, or anger, or whatever, that’s what comes out.”
If one thing’s clear, now is a very important time for Idles. “It’s just going to be non-stop now. Everything is ready to go, it’s just about releasing it right, promoting it right and making the right decisions. Then we can focus on the album, which we’d rather release ourselves than let some fat fingered f*cks from London get their hands on it.”
Idles play The Louisiana on 14th October. ‘Meat’ is out on the 30th.
Check out a turbulent session of ‘Queens’ right here: