We arrived into October not so quietly. Our ears are still ringing from both Worcester Music Festival and Musicians Against Homelessness gigs, but there is no sign of slowing down. Actually, next week we will rock out again – back at the Marr`s Bar for the EP launch of Nuns of the Tundra. The Nuns are from Malvern and they have built themselves quite a reputation in the last few years. It will be a sonic pleasure to see them live and to listen to their new material. We hope you enjoy first installment of Autumn selection of Indieterria.
Music from the Shire
Nuns of the Tundra
Troy Tittley: Guitar
Arran Davies: Guitar
Jim Smith: Bass
Melos Moody: Drums
West Midland quartet, Nuns of the Tundra, is a rare beast. They easily melt American rock tradition with typical British favoritism for distorted sounds and gritty tunes, creating a fresh sound that has a chance of revolutionizing the rusted structures of the indie genre. Vanadian Avenue sat down with Nundra’s (their pet name!) lead singer and guitarist, Troy Tittley, to discuss their newest single “Float Away”, the Hobbits, road movies and composing on top of the Malvern Hills.
According to your biography, Nuns of the Tundra was formed nearly two years ago. Can you please introduce yourselves? Tell us how the band was formed and where did you meet.
Troy Tittley: The band is the brain child of me and my childhood friend, Arran Davies. We’d always be showing each other cool new music we’d found since we were about 10 years old, and in fact were in a band together called RoadKill when we were 13. We’re better hopefully by now. We had all these riffs and song ideas that were floating around not doing anything, and we had a ton of free time. We didn’t take it overly seriously at first; we made songs about swamp monsters, vampires, goblins… The song about killer sex robots from the future actually became our first single. I also have been in a band before Nuns with a producer Curig Huws, and Curig basically taught me some song writing rules that made me feel confident enough to give it a crack myself. So after that band broke up, Nuns were formed.
You have to admit that Nuns of the Tundra is a very interesting choice of a name for a rock group. We tried to look for possible explanation and this is our theory: You come from Malvern that derives its name from the old Welsh word “moel-bryn” meaning “Bald Hill”. The tundra biome is usually described as barren, treeless or bare. Also, Malvern as a town has been established by Benedictine order in late 10th century. Maybe as a joke, instead of the monks you called yourselves The Nuns. Nuns of the Tundra. Sounds pretty good to us!
Troy Tittley: I absolutely love your theory and I wish we were that clever. I have to disappoint, but Arran loves nuns, my favorite word is tundra. Deep, right? Tundra Nuns sounded too indie, Nun Tundra doesn’t really work, I don’t know why. When I came up with Nuns of the Tundra, it was a joke, but when I said it out loud, it just stuck with me. We were going to be called nilbog (goblin backwards), but I think Nuns of the Tundra is equally as ridiculous and that’s why we love it. We also have some twitter followers using Nundra to save precious characters, and we really dig that name too.
Let’s talk about Malvern for a while longer. You describe your music as “dirty desert stoner rock from the unlikely Midlands town of Malvern”. However, Malvern always had a strong links to (popular) music. For many years it has been the home of Edward Elgar and Julius Harrison, classical composer and professor of composition at the Royal Academy of Music. Through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, Malvern Winter Gardens was a popular venue bringing top rock acts such as Joy Division, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbaths and many others to West Midlands. It seems that you are continuing the local tradition of crafting good music.
Troy Tittley: Yes, you’re totally right. Malvern just feels like a tucked away music hub. The hills are pretty inspiring; I did a lot of writing up there because you can get away from everything, so Elgar was definitely on to something. It’s basically the Shire and we’re the Hobbits. It’s rather unlikely because I’d kind of expect a rock band to come from Mordor or Isengard. Maybe Sigur Ros lives in Rivendell! (laughs)
Your music has been categorized as a wild mixture of psychedelic, progressive rock, American collage rock, grunge and mainstream harmonies. Fugazi, Stone Temple Pilots, Queens of the Stone Age, Muse and Grant Lee Buffalo have been mentioned as possible influences. Which other artist you would add to the mix and why?
Troy Tittley: As you can see we have a lot of American influence. I love that Fugazi made its way into that list by the way! Live we can be quite raw, but we like to get the layers and intricacies in there too. Really, I want this sound to evolve into something that shifts from chaos to complexity and back, but that’s for another time. Right now, we are very guitar driven, and try our best not to retread ground structure wise or atmosphere wise, so the wild mixture is probably down to that. I’d probably add Nine Inch Nails and Foo Fighters to that list; it’s basically all I listened to growing up.
Nuns debut single “Robot Love” received fantastic reviews from local and online press. It has been championed by Andrew Marston at the BBC Hereford and Worcester. You were also invited to play at BBC Introducing stage at Lakeview Festival at Eastnor Castle in August this year where apparently “you blew the tent poles off” with your powerful riffs. That’s very impressive start, don’t you think?
Troy Tittley: The thing is that’s not the start! We’ve been going at this for a while now and a lot of the feedback hasn’t been so hot. But that gives you thicker skin and if you can get past it, then that’s when the real stuff starts happening. We used to post demos online to public forums, because face to face people often say things that let you off easy. Online anonymity allows people to be complete dicks to you and you just have to deal with it! So, really it started there. We just got our ass handed to us until our “Mind’s Eye” demo took off. We were on the front page of Reddit Guitar Facebook page for a while and it felt amazing. It doesn’t surprise me as “Mind’s Eye” is currently our most popular song.
Second release entitled “Mind’s Eye” only cemented your reputation as a new band to look out for. Overblown Magazine called you “the saviours of mainstream rock”, Worcester Music Festival described you as “dirty drive 100 MPH through the deserts of the wild west” while Born Music gave you the title of “one of the UK’s most exciting upcoming bands”. By now, you must be accustomed to constant praise.
Troy Tittley: It is a good feeling knowing you are on the right track, but it’s important not to rely on positive press because it can make you soft, in my opinion anyway. I think I work harder when people are being harsh. Josh Homme once said “You’ve got to learn to love being hit by rocks” and I think that’s true. But I am deeply grateful for the positive response.
Your latest single, “Dead in the desert” has almost cinematic feeling to it – a certain dark vibe accompanied by an open landscape of fuzzed guitars and distorted echoes. It is easy to imagine surviving members of Velvet Revolver teamed up with Trent Reznor to write a soundtrack for a new road movie directed by David Lynch. I have to admit, it has been one of my favorite tracks this year. Can you tell us more about it?
Troy Tittley: Can I use that description? I love it. I would definitely watch that movie. That song started off as just the bass riff. Originally, it was a guitar line made by Arran. We changed it hugely and made it way more psychedelic. Then we dropped it from our set for over a year, the chorus just wasn’t right. After that, I got addicted to Arctic Monkeys’ “AM” album and it channeled a lot of how I was feeling at the time and the chorus just came together. Finally, the whole song just made sense. The weird sounds and little guitar licks were improvised in the studio. Our producer Scott Mahoney just set me up with this enormous chain of trippy guitar pedals, went out for a smoke and told me to do whatever I wanted. It was a really fun experience, and we were just trying to create the weirdest and most creepy soundscape we could get away with. I’m glad you like it.
On the 10th of October, you will release your first EP and a new single “Float Away”. How many songs will be included? Where was it recorded?
Troy Tittley: The EP is the first 4 songs we recorded at the Funky Bunker in Malvern. “Float Away” will be the new track and all other singles released will be on there too. It’s our first CD and we’re so excited to have something physical. All songs were produced by Scott Mahoney and the current band lineup: me, Arran, Jim and Melos.
Recently, we found out that an animated video to “Float away” was produced by London based indie/alt rock art company YesMan. Its official premiere took place on the 28th of September and it has already been shown to critics at NYC Indie Film Festival where it was included into official festival selection. It will be competing for the main festival award in short movie category on 7 – 13th May 2018. We are very interested in learning more about this unusual collaboration.
Troy Tittley: YesMan caught our attention with his previous work; it has a really different feel to the majority of the stuff out there. We played him a lot of tracks that we’d recorded, and just asked him to pick the one that vibed with him most. We didn’t want any input; we just wanted him to come up with something, to make a song more than a song. “Float Away” is close to my heart, I wrote the main riff when I was very young, probably 13, so a part of me was hoping he’d choose it. And honestly the song works so much better with the video, once you see it, you won’t be able to separate the two. It’s just how I wanted it to be. Plus I get to be the moon!
Nuns of the Tundra are on the (rock and) roll. What are you up to in the nearest future?
Any gigs your fans should be aware of?
Troy Tittley: We’ve got a few songs that are recorded and ready to go. We like to surprise people, so “Float Away” will be a departure from our main sound. The next batch will hopefully add another element to our repertoire. We have some songs to be yet recorded, a tour through October and big plans for 2018. Also, we’ll be back in the Louisiana in Bristol on the 4th of October, and our EP launch will be held at the Marrs Bar, October 10th. We’re heading back down to London on the 27th of October and we’re playing a special hometown gig in Malvern at the Unicorn too. Can’t wait!
You can follow Nuns of the Tundra online:
That`s all folks. We will see you at Marrs Bar on October 10, for the EP launch.