Interview: Cabbage

You know you’re doing something right when someone hates you that much. We like to ruffle people’s feathers.

Exploding onto the scene late last year with their politically motivated post-punk racket, Greater Manchester five-piece Cabbage are currently on top form. Punchy, entertaining and entirely unrepentant, their socially conscious lyrics tackling everything from Trump to the destructive impact of austerity have struck a chord with many. Not that they care much for what others think about them; in fact, they’d probably get more of a kick out of making you feel entirely uneasy – as Leo Burrell discovered while speaking to lyricist Joe Martin.

Hey Joe from Cabbage! How you doing?
Yeah, I’m alright ta!

We’re looking forward to your debut album, Young, Dumb, and Full of… Full of what exactly?
Cabbage mainly! We thought it was quite a humorous title. It’s a collection of the 13 songs on the three EPs we released at the end of 2016. The whole thing was recorded with Simon “Ding” Archer, who has recorded PJ Harvey and the Fall, and he’s a legendary figure in these parts. A really sound guy too. The Fall were in the studio with him the week before us.

And you’ve been smashing out the releases of late – three EPs in three months is a fair slog!
We’re keen to put an album out each year, and we’re already working on new stuff. We’re going to be back in studio in January with James Skelly from The Coral. We put out all our EPs on his label, Skeleton Key Records. The reason we did the three EPs was to stagger it, so it’s not technically a debut album. Doing it that way makes it a much cheaper way for people to get into band. But yeah our first “proper” album will be out this year, for sure.

The EPs seem like mini-manifestos, especially with their accompanying statements titled Exhibit A, B and C.
They’re natural political talking points; it’s the kind of thing we chat about as mates so it makes sense for the music to reflect that. The first one is about war, and the death machine that war is. Soldiers are sent out to fight not really knowing what for – just a serving a money-making machine – and it’s depressing really. The second one was on the subject of the whole Jimmy Saville debacle, when he died no-one seemed to mention his links with Royal Family and his private room at Buckingham Palace. And if you think about it, stuff like that really needs mentioning! The third is about our anger over the UK’s decision to bomb Syria. But all of that said, we didn’t start out with a blue-print to be a political niche band. ‘Kevin’ was the first song we wrote.

Speaking of, have you seen the YouTube comments on ‘Kevin’? Your label Play & Record Records absolutely destroys some guy giving you grief.
Is that the Brian Brown guy? When we started out he was trolling every single video, so we tracked his IP address, found his Facebook, and he was just some bloke in his late 30s, posing with a guitar – just a sad, jealous guy really. You know you’re doing something right when someone hates you that much. We like to ruffle people’s feathers.

There’s been an increased buzz around you in Sheffield since you were announced as support for Milburn’s gig at the Don Valley Bowl. How did that come about?
We did three gigs supporting Milburn and they said as a rule they don’t tend to like new bands, so it was really nice of them to invite us. But we’ll get on that one when it comes around – it’s a long time away! Our headline shows are more important to us at the minute, those crowds are the ones who bought tickets to see us, so we need to honour those people.

How was the tour with Blossoms?
It was a lot of fun playing at big venues. I think it’s good to learn how to play on those kind of stages. Plus you get really good sound, and a lot more room to move around. You can get on each other’s shoulders, do star-jumps, anything! Yeah, really enjoyed it. We’re doing another tour with Blossoms in March, actually.

You’ve often been put in the much over-used “surf-rock” box and responsed that you are in fact “surf-hell”. Nice touch. Do the lyrics and message come before the music for you?
We like to think our lyrics stand up on their own in their poetic form. I used to do performance poetry on my own before we started as Cabbage. We want to work as quickly as possible and do an LP every year at least, to document where we are as a band and what’s going on in our minds. We’re not gonna compromise our work to get on Radio 1, put it that way!

Cabbage play Picture House Social on February 3rd.

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