Some bands, even if you see them live once, leave a strong impression on you as a gig goer. They have this drive and passion, a right balance of stage chemistry and ability of writing songs that make you want to dance. I will admit – I have seen The Assist live once back in 2017 when they came to play a small indie venue off a beaten track in West Midlands. But boy, did they make my jaw drop. They were a colourful assemble of characters, loud, vocal, funny, and sociable. They immediately made friends all over the place, invited me to the green room and shared their own food with just about everyone. They made a point to be approachable and down to earth in striking contrast to the pompous, rich-kids-in-a-band headliner, who would hardly utter a word to anyone for the entire night. It could have been a bad gig – venue was almost empty, “promoter” disappeared halfway through the event, PA system was failing… and yet somehow it turned out to be not only a decent memory, but a gig I often come back to with a “I was there” kind of nostalgia.
It`s not easy to play just about anywhere. Most bands will prefer to perform in towns they have a following, to a sold-out crowd, in a venue they know. It takes guts to jump into a van, drive hours just to find an empty room with a tiny group of attendees. Plying to that room like you have been rocking a whole stadium is a whole different level of cool.
The Assist didn’t care. As far as they were concerned, they were in their element. And before they blew each of us off with their craft, they made sure they were supported by a local act – specifically a woman. That girl – Jodie Hughes – went to form a band on her own (The Lightweights) scooping national radio plays and a BBC session in the years afterwards. That’s how you do it.
After The Assist came off the stage drenched in sweat with huge grins on their faces you could only give the headliner two tracks in, before you understood the night was already stolen and you have seen all there was to see. I have left the venue but I have remained loyal to the band, closely following them on social media.
Fast forward to 2022 and the boys are ready to unleash their debut album to the world. Still independent, still proudly DIY but their sound is bigger and bolder than it ever before. And if you haven’t heard about The Assist yet – this is where you must jump on the bandwagon. Because from here the band will ascend quickly and soon some big industry A&Rs will come knocking on their doors (if they haven’t already). This is the last moment you can say – I knew them before everyone else.
We sat down with Ryan Stanton to discuss their new album, new line up and how the band survived the pandemic:
We always wondered where the name “The Assist” comes from. It’s short, yet it can mean so many things: support, aid, cooperation. Are the positive connotations of the word the reason why you chose this name?
Ryan Stanton: The truth is rather boring. When we first started, we all just loved football and wanted a name that reflected that and “the assist” sounded better than “the penalty kicks” (laughs).
But we’ve evolved its meaning and we’ve only stood by the name because we like to think our music aids and supports other people as well as ourselves!
Recently, you have become a five piece. Care to introduce a current line up?
Ryan Stanton: So, we have Mikey Stanton on vocals, Ryan Stanton on guitar, Ben Faulkner on the drums and Jorge Poole on bass. Our new addition is the fantastic Luke Jones. He’s been a long-term friend of the band since the very beginning, he’s a great photographer and has documented the band from the very start. He’s a class musician and we thought his addition could really make our sound bigger and our writing more creative. He’s been an active member in the band a couple of years, we just forgot to announce it!
The last two years were extremely hard for musicians. The Covid pandemic completely reshaped the musical landscape all over the world. What difficulties do you think the bands will have to face in 2022?
Ryan Stanton: I think we’re starting the year already with rescheduled gigs and I suspect next winter will be the same. It’s difficult because of the uncertainty surrounding everything, I should imagine these difficulties will be faced for a few more years!
We know the list of possible pitfalls seems to be endless but what about silver lining? Fans are said to hold onto tickets despite numerous cancellations, festivals are promising more slots for young artists, venues seem to be more organised – have you noticed any advantages?
Ryan Stanton: One advantage is if your show gets rescheduled you effectively get even longer to promote it. Our silver lining is I don’t think the album would have happened without the pandemic. It made everyone reflect on what they want and we realised we needed this debut album. We spent all lockdown demoing the tracks, so in a weird way the pandemic was sort of positive for us.
Your debut album entitled “Council Pop” will be released on 8th of April 2022. What can you tell us about it?
Ryan Stanton: It’s seven years of hard work and our proudest collection of songs. It’s social commentary of growing up in a working-class industry town of Walsall and all the experiences that come with it. We really believe in these songs and we can’t wait for them to do the talking. The support we’ve had so far has been great and we’re all quietly confident it’s going to do amazing.
The record is being promoted by the “Irrational Movements” single. You are giving Happy Mondays a run for their money, aren’t you? What’s the story behind this song?
Ryan Stanton: Happy Mondays are definitely an influence! We supported them in the early days as well as Shaun Ryders Black Grape. They bring the energy and that’s what we hope to do when we play live and release music. The story behind this song is mainly about influences that social media has on society’s behaviour. With a catalogue of images available at our fingertips, it is very easy to conform to the ideology that life is all about materialistic possessions. It is important that now more than ever people do not succumb to the unrealistic lives that so many public figures unfairly depict. There are far more important things in life than trying to impress people with things we can’t afford.
No spoilers, but if you could choose one track that describes the album the best, what would it be?
Ryan Stanton: I’d say it’s ‘My Friend Drug’. It’s the darkest track on the album and really goes through the themes the album is focusing on. It’s piano lead and maybe a bit different for us so we’re truly proud of it.
Ryan, you became a father last year. Has fatherhood changed the way you compose music or how you see yourself as an artist?
Ryan Stanton: I think most of all it’s made me appreciate my time more and refocused my efforts with the band. It’s also gave us some new experiences to draw from and write with. Music is such an amazing thing and I can only hope my son grows up into great music.
Touring seems a bit of a challenge at this moment with omicron variant sweeping through Europe but predictions for spring and early summer are looking promising. Do you have any shows booked yet? If so, where will you play?
Ryan Stanton: We’ve held off playing because we didn’t want to let our friends and fans down. We’re doing the album tour and we’re hoping to play London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Last question is a bit of a wish list. If you could record in any studio in the world with any producer past or present, who would you choose and why?
Ryan Stanton: It’s quite cliché but I think Ryan Pinson at RML Studios in Wolverhampton who we recorded the album with. We did feel when going into the album we could record it with whoever we wanted and we chose Ryan. He’s been a massive part of our sound and band development and he’s
a genius. He completely understands us as people and musicians and we wouldn’t swap him for anyone. We managed to get our vinyl pressed at Abbey Road so that’s kind of cool, a live session there would be great!
You can follow The Assist on social media:
The band`s new single “Television Kid” will come out on January 28th – you can pre-save it here:
We would like to wish The Assist all the best and can’t wait to get our paws on the vinyl once it comes out. It will be more than a pleasure for us – it will be a perfect ending to an incredible chapter. Join us for this ride. You won’t be disappointed.