"It’s as loud and feral as our first offering. The whole record is about making people form an opinion – whether they like it or not." Yorkshire psych rockers Manuka Hive tread the boards down at Café Totem and play live in session for Exposed. Read the full interview here: https://www.exposedmagazine.co.uk/music/in-session/exposed-in-session-manuka-hive/
Posted by Exposed Magazine on Monday, 1 October 2018
You know when a band turns up to an interview joined by a mute nun covered in glitter it’s going to be an interesting one.
In fact, from the very moment we heard the screeching, psychedelic cacophony of Manuka Hive’s debut track ‘R.E.D’ in the Exposed office we wanted more. A search online revealed little in terms of released material from the Yorkshire four-piece (although an EP is in the works), but one thing that doesn’t take much seeking out is a wealth of glowing live reviews praising their raw, raucous energy and commitment to creating a spectacle. A perfect opportunity, we thought, to kick off the summer instalments of our Exposed sessions off with a real smack in the mouth.
But before all that, we sat down with Joel Phillips (bass), Tom Laffey (lead guitar /vocals) and, erm, the nun (real name Brad) to learn a bit more about what they’ll be bringing to the table.
Right, first things first. What’s with the nun?
JP: It started out as a bit of a joke really. We’ve got a song called ‘The Holy Father is Inside Me’, and it was bit of a tongue-in-cheek joke at first, but we let him loose at a gig and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. He’s not really all there in the head I don’t think.
TL: We played a show with The Blinders in Doncaster and found him going nuts at the front. We pretty much commandeered from that point onwards; he looks a little bit like he needs an exorcism when he’s onstage.
Your live shows are already picking up a reputation for being crackers. What boxes have to be ticked to make it a good gig for Manuka Hive?
TL: First thing is obviously playing to the best of your ability music-wise, but also you want to create a reaction from the crowd. We interact with each other a lot onstage, really let go a bit, and that filters down to the audience.
JP: Yeah, you want to make people feel something. I’d rather somebody leave a gig hating us as a band than not having an opinion. When you perform you just want to be able to provide an escape for the audience, you want to derive some emotion out of them.
Is it all quite spontaneous?
TL: We don’t really have a plan. We just go with what feels right, so where we go, how we move about, how we interact with each other and the audience – everything’s off the cuff.
JP: I think that’s one of the main things for us, it’s about being authentic. I think we’ve reached a point where a lot of the music industry is so massively sanitised and watered down, so we’re just going against the grain of that a little bit, not trying to fit into a box or tick the right boxes to be a Radio 1 band or whatever. We do what we enjoy, what we love, and hope that other people like it as well, and if they don’t then well, you know, that’s fine.
You’ve already managed to tick off a crazy Paris gig, which not many bands can say after only a few months of being together. How did that go down?
JP: Yeah, the first time we’d set foot in a room together was Halloween last year. The France gigs came around four or five months in, and it was just a chance we took. Someone videoed our first gig and put the videos online, then the promoter – a real character called JP – reached out to us and we went for it. It turned into the maddest few days.
TL: We were playing this little café/bar venue and it was nuts. Absolutely rammed and there were people trying to climb through the windows because it was going so mental inside.
JP: There’s just a whole different appreciation for live bands over there. The promoter put us up in a house, the landlady had us behind the bar putting our heads under the beer taps. We even had this mad old French guy who was crowdsurfing and kept telling us we were like The Who.
Going back to the point about the need for more authentic acts. Who is doing it right at the minute in your opinion?
JP: There are a fair few. I think what’s happened now is that we’ve reached a point of saturation where people are sort of seeing through it themselves and getting interested in this whole sort of underground thing again. The Blinders, Avalanche Party – their live shows are just like a spiritual experience. You can’t really put it into words, but you just can’t take your eyes off it.
JP: There was a lot of indie by numbers around, and I think for a while the whole guitar band thing got a bit stale. You had the whole wave of landfill indie coming through and guitar music got a bit stale; it just felt like student types jangling around with guitars on a stage. There seemed to be a time where we lost the art of the live experience, the raw energy that you’d see in something like a Sex Pistols performance. But it does seem to be coming back around again.
I think we’ve reached a point where a lot of the music industry is so massively sanitised and watered down, so we’re just going against the grain of that a little bit, not trying to fit into a box or tick the right boxes to be a Radio 1 band or whatever.
Could you argue that the accessibility of making music and getting it online kind of means bands are too busy recording and updating their SoundCloud rather than gigging and nailing live shows?
JP: That’s kind of the thing that I latched onto. Obviously we live in a time now where the barriers of entry to the music industry aren’t there, which on one hand is great because you can have an artist who sits in a bedroom and make something amazing without much expense. But at the same time there’s the other edge of the sword with no barriers meaning no quality control anymore. You can fart on an iPhone and get it up on iTunes within two days. Live gigs should be a testing ground for music.
You’ve all cut your teeth in various music projects before this one, so what sort of lessons do you feel you’ve learnt and can take into Manuka Hive?
TL: Stay true to yourself. Don’t try and write songs just because you think other people will like them. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen – simple as that. If not, then tough, but at least you didn’t sell yourself out.
JP: You’d rather be nobody as yourself then be somebody you don’t recognise when you look in the mirror. Being in a band, as long as you’re all mates and stuff, it’s the best feeling in the world. And when it’s not that, it can be hard work, you know? Trips at 4 o’clock in the morning and when your heart’s not really in it, it can really wear you down. But we’re all hungry for it, we really are, and it doesn’t feel like a chore for us.
What was it about this band that reignited your passions?
JP: When you’re a band you’re basically a gang and you’ve got to all be equal and on the same page. I think that’s the only way it can truly work, hence the word ‘Hive’ in the name – it’s a reference to working together for the same thing. I think in bands you have two different types of people: people that do it because they love music, and people that like the idea of being famous. We’d happily just write tunes and vibe in our studio, but the fact that we’re getting out and doing shows and people are getting into it is a nice little bonus.
Speaking of which, summer’s looking pretty hectic.
TL: We’ve been invited to play the in-store gigs for Pretty Green.
JP: Yeah, getting a nod from Liam Gallagher was nice.
Does he have to sign it off?
JP: He has to approve any bands playing in his stores, yeah. We’re playing in the Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester and London stores so we’ve been looking forward to that. We’ve got a couple of major festivals confirmed too which we’ll be announcing soon, and there’s a massive support we’ve got with Deap Vally at Plug in July. That’s really exciting for us; I’m seeing them the night before playing with Queens of the Stone Age in London, so I might try cadge a lift back up north on the tour bus.
Tell us a bit about the session track you’ll be playing.
JP: We’ll be playing a new track called ‘Slaves’. It’s a bit of social commentary on our relationship with the social media machine.
TL: Yeah, the title refers to how we’re all slaves to social media. There’s a lyric “You wake up and you lose”, and it’s just a comment about how people are no longer doing things for themselves anymore; it’s more for the benefit of other people watching.
You can’t win, can you? There’s always someone out there doing something better.
TL: Always someone with what might look like a better bird or a better car, and everyone’s trying to chase that dream rather than doing what they want to do and what actually makes them happy.
JP: There’s no pot of gold at the end of that rainbow. It’s as loud and feral as our first offering; the whole record is about making people form an opinion – whether they like it or not.