Thomas Haywood (“Johnny Dream”) performing with The Blinders (“Codeine Scene”) at The Sunflower Lounge on 16.02.2018
We have hit July now and it is time for another chapter in the ongoing sonic travels of our good ship Indieterria. But we will do something much different today.
Firstly, there is no interview with the band ready yet (we have sent out questions so keep your fingers crossed) but we would like to tell you about them in a long-read format. This blog will be then more of a presentation rather than a conversation.
Secondly, we could have done this blog about two years ago. We have discovered the band in question around October 2016 and have been championing them heavily on our socials and though our contacts and seen them live. Yet we waited until the right moment to introduce them on Indieterria. We knew from first ten seconds that this band will be huge. Call it a gut feeling or experience of an A&R (got to have both). There was no doubt in our minds what they would achieve – and they are doing it in a fashion of rock and roll greatest. Now, before their debut album arrives in September, we want to tell you the story of The Blinders.
The Blinders logo
The Blinders are:
Thomas Haywood (guitar, vox)
Charlie McGough (bass)
Matty Neale (drums, vox)
There is a wonderful article written by Steve Lamacq about one of his favourites performers – The Idles. It reads like a love letter to a band. We encourage you to have a look at it HERE, because in a sense this blog will be our own love letter to an indie band – from a perspective of music fans.
Being a fan of music (or a music obsessive as the term goes) is sometimes the best feeling in the world. It actually allows you to be head over heels at least once a week. You come home, cheeks pink, jaw dropped and a record in hand. And for the next seven days you harp on about an artist who doesn’t even have a Facebook page to whoever wants to listen.
The cover of Swine single – DIY released via Rock Art Records in 2016
If you are an A&R who happens to be a die hard music fan, chances are that you will be harping on about a band that nobody else but you have heard of. If we can throw in here some family anecdotes to illustrate the point. Rita once sent Mal on a quest to buy a single by The Big Moon. Mal walked entire town, all record shops, second hands and charity stores. Even the local indie record place had no clue. “There is no such band as The Big Moon”- they proclaimed. Defeated Mal came back home. After a long search online it turned out that the band existed all right, and their single was awesome. But it was due in about a month’s time and it was only their second release! Back in the 90s we must have been the only people outside radio stations in our country who knew about Helium and Polvo.
Love for obscure and unknown artists may be a silly thing in a world of serious issues, but it makes life a little brighter. And you can look back and say: “I was there when X released their debut single!”
The cover of EP Hidden Horror Dance – DIY released via Rock Art Records in May 2016
So where were we when we first stumbled onto The Blinders? Hard to tell really. Up to writing this blog we thought that we first heard them on October 28th 2016, few days after their debut single “Swine” came out. Now, it must have been around May 2016 as their self released EP “Hidden Horror Dance” was saved in our SoundCloud history. But we can clearly record what an impression “Swine” had on us – hearing Thomas Haywood scream “There is no hope” over and over again on top of a punkadelic anthem, full of fury and despair. Mind, our birthday is October 29th – so discovering The Blinders is one of our best birthday presents ever (next to The Americas BBC Introducing sessions from 29.10.2017).
When working on this blog, we began to wonder if there was a way to somehow measure the impact newly discovered artists have on us. Our own “harping-on level measure scale” (HLMS). We found out that search option on social media can be a good indicator. We ran a quick search on our posts in the last two years and The Blinders have been mentioned over 60 times on our channels. There is one particular thread on Twitter, written by Malicia that summarizes what big fans of the band we have become. Trigger warning! Malicia specializes in using big, dramatic words, so if you are allergic to highly emotional content, please skip this paragraph.
The cover of Brave New World digital single from 2017. In a style similar to Green Day`s Dookie cover, it includes many references to current political and economical issues such as border walls and Donald Trump presidency
Artwork by Fennuala Butterfield
This is what was written in January 2018, shortly before we have seen The Blinders live (as you can imagine after the gig things only got worse ^_^):
“I need to write something longer at some point but a short thread will do for now. I realize it will read like a love letter to a band. Well it is. Because you cannot NOT love a band like The Blinders.
October 28, 2016 – a day before my birthday and I hear Blinders` debut single Swine by accident. It usually takes me about 30 seconds to know if a band has potential. That time it took about 10.
That line in Swine “I need not to be a man on the street” screamed into ether in despair, band thrashing their equipment in pointless rage like its Manics` last gig with Richey at Astoria. Fury at everything. That’s how Sex Pistols looked at The Lesser Trade Hall in Manc in 1976.
Next day, I come into the office telling everyone who is mildly interested about one of the most exciting bands that came out of UK in the last 30 years. I exaggerate but I don’t care. I just found a musical gem. Life is worth living. Faith in humanity restored.
I google everything I can find about the band. Singer`s Youtube video when he was 10. Their gigs, clips from gigs, their first interviews. I want to know everything. At once. I draw comparisons to Idles, The Doors, Pistols, Manics, Savages.
I discover Strange Bones, This Feeling circuit, The Velvet Hands and others and suddenly realize a new genre is building up and we have no name for it yet. And The Blinders are on the front”.
In the next two years, some of the reactions we had towards the band also included these (gems) statements. We may be smirking while re-reading the posts, but they have been written on particular days or when listening to band`s new songs, and we find them to be quite a powerful data. Raw emotions expressed by fans (us) recorded by the social media:
- “And there is magic in The Blinders. If you can – go out there and see them. Judge for yourself. Agree or disagree but go and experience their fury, despair, hope, longing and listen to their own voice on what is happening around us. Their voice is strong. And unique.”
- “A band to die for. You cannot describe The Blinders any other way. Proper legends”.
- “Most important band of the decade.”
- “The best new talent we have in this country”.
- “ Music is the best remedy for dark and uncertain times. Hand on the heart The Blinders are our cure.”
- “Mighty band – something seen so rarely even on an ever changing indie scene”.
The cover of Ramona Flowers single – B side to “Swine” and our favorite song of the band
We could just take these statements and put them together to create an amazing and quite eloquent review. And so can each of us – the music fans. Every day we share songs, thoughts and our passion for many artists. We sometimes do not realize how powerful is the love for music. How expressive we become when we refer to art.
We did our search with a pinch of self-deprecating humour, just to see how much we have been impressed by The Blinders, but to be very serious, it taught us that music is such a strong force in the lives of us and many others. It is quite a discovery.
When we were gathering information about the band, we have approached their PR team (amazing Caffy St Luce of ArtBeat Promo and formerly of Hall or Nothing) asking for a press pack. We have received a detailed bio of The Blinders with links to their videos. We want to share that bio with you now so you can learn about the artist and how quickly they rose to where they are now:
The Blinders are a force for good who attempt to be in your face at all times. They emit smelting loud, visceral political punk rock with enigmatic, psychedelic poetry and tones.
Their diverse, unique raw music forces them to give everything they’ve got, in their frenzied performances, leaving only blood-stained instruments behind.
The verging-on-madness thrill of their live experience is shocking most of their audiences out of austerity inflicted apathy, into instant obsession.
Formed at the end of 2014 after school, The Blinders moved from Doncaster to Manchester to be a band, and to study.
They released the ‘Hidden Horror Dance’ EP (Rock Art Records) in May 2016 (with Gavin Monaghan, who has produced all their releases) and grew the seeds of a small but genuine fan base, over the summer, from these tracks and impressive live shows.
The first London gig at the start of October 2016 (This Feeling at The Water Rats), picked up instant smitten new fans and further music industry support.
They then released debut single, ‘Swine’, at the end of that month (just after their second London gig, a last minute stand-in set, at The Roundhouse, for Venues Day).
‘Swine’ was played on BBC Radio 1, excited fresh interest and The Blinders haven’t looked back, since it’s release. The video ends with the word ‘REVOLT’.
The scene was now set, by the end of 2016, for The Blinders to introduce themselves to a wider public and make an impression within a year.
This started at the sold out Manchester and London ‘This Feeling Big in 2017’ shows; “scores of people left outside, a pair of tickets went for £50” reported Clash Magazine, citing them “UK’s hottest new rock band on “the brink of big things.”
February/March 2017 was the first headline tour by The Blinders – for long term supporter, This Feeling club – of small UK venues.
Chris Hawkins played the ‘Swine’ tour-7” B side,‘Ramona Flowers’, on his BBC 6 Music radio show noting that “The Blinders are “a band about to explode”.
All gigs were packed (most sold out in advance). “16 immense shows, powered by heart and soul, have shown this is just the start. A very special band.” (This Feeling).
What happened on tour created a visual thank you from the The Blinders to their audiences: ‘Ramona Flowers’ – released on digital platforms in April – it was accompanied by what the band describe as “a pseudo-documentation of our recent This Feeling UK tour.”
Nasty Man Creations present the following motion picture introducing The Blinders as Johnny Dream & His Codeine Scene: Ramona Flowers, a film by Sam Crowston, documenting the band in stills and film.
The reviews for this download/stream/video are as breathtaking as the song, a comet sized slice of sex-Rock, probably the best “B-side” since ‘Fools Gold’ by The Stone Roses in the 20th century.
Musically on their own planet, a theatrical experience, photogenic on stage. Students off stage. Recently they’ve done a gig in-store at Fred Perry, a live streamed performance on the Pirate Studios launch tour, have had airplay support from Amazing Radio and various independents, been added to key Spotify playlists and totally packing out their first festival appearances. The Blinders may be unknown to most people, but have made an impression, on 2017 already.
By May 2017, The Blinders have been announced as one of the seven rising stars chosen by Jack Daniels UK. They graced the Jack Rocks/This Feeling stages at The Great Escape, Isle Of Wight, TRNSMT, Glasgow Green and Reading Festival. The band also supported The View, Idles and Membranes.
They released stand alone digital single “Brave New World” that put them for the first time in a regular rotation on nation wide stations such as Radio X and BBC 6 Music.
At the end of the year, the band went into the studio to work on their debut album. The winter months were well spent, because once they emerged to play their first headline tour in February 2018, they have been bolder, darker and more focused than ever. Their attack plan was not only in detail – they were to execute it flawlessly.
February 2018 tour poster – first headlining cross country tour for the band
The tour in February 2018 sold out on ten shows out of eighteen. We have seen the band at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. If we were to give you a frank review of what went down at that show, we`d have to quote Nick Cave. Mr Cave described his first ever gig by stating that he was standing in the crowd with his eyes closed feeling the sound physically going through him. It felt exactly that. It was a cacophony of sounds, anger, passion and hopelessness. Tom looked properly possessed while Matty and Charlie built walls of sound that would make the guys from Ride green with envy. We loved every second. Off the stage, Tom was quiet and read books at the upper bar. We had a lovely chat and our admiration for the band, their crew, tour management grew even more. Few days after the gig in Birmingham, The Blinders played Lexington in London supported by one of the Worcester bands – The Americas. So we sent a book of Beatnik poetry to Tom with Americas as a gift for the lovely time at the Sunflower. Tom thanked us from the stage in London. He also stated that Americas were great. Second time we fell in love with The Blinders at that point.
Some images we took in Birmingham when we weren’t having our eyes closed.
The Stage times for the Blinders gig at Sunflower Lounge on 16.02.2018
Set List from 16.02.2018 – if you compare the set list with track list on band`s upcoming album Columbia
The signature of the band on the walls of a green room in the back of The Sunflower. They are definitely not picky. They are actually very humble and down to earth.
Light in the darkness – Tomas Haywood mesmerizing the public.
Iconic facepaint and piercing stare – Johnny Dream is a stage persona unlike anything we have seen since Manics.
Charlie McGough combines glamour and bass duties on stage.
Charlie McGough at the Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham
Matthew Neale behind the drum kit – he is the beating heart of the band.
Matthew Neale – one of the best drummers on the indie circuit.
Since the end of the tour in February, The Blinders are on a roll. They move as quickly as ninjas and each appearance or a single is a proverbial bull`s eye. In March they recorded a live session on XS Manchester for Clint Boon (Music Made in Manchester), were featured on Amazing Radio and their single/video to Gotta Get Through was released on 2nd March 2018.
In April The Blinders recorded session at the legendary Maida Vale Studios in London for Steve Lamacq show/ BBC 6 Music and appeared as guests on the drive time show. Their session was also part of BBC Introducing scheme. They performed live version of “Ballad of Winston Smith” for BBC Manchester and supported The Courteeners in Sheffield.
The band played on Viola Beach stage at the Neighbourhood Weekender in Warrington in May, attended Live in Leeds and Liverpool Sound City festivals to full houses and rave reviews. They also had a residency at Salty Dog during a Norwich takeover mini festival organized by The Charlatans.
The cover of Gotta Get Through single released 2nd March 2018 via Modern Sky
Two videos have been released for their single L`Etat C`est Moi (French for I am the State). Story video (with script penned by Tom Haywood) debuted on 7th May 2018, while alternative version (with uncensored text) was released on 21st May 2018. The single itself was premiered on 3rd May 2018.
Cover of L`Etat C`Est Moi single released 3rd May 2018 via Modern Sky
In June The Blinders played 53 Degrees North in Hull, two sold out shows in London (Borderline) and Manchester (Gorilla), supported Miles Kane at O2 Academy in Oxford. L`Etat C`est Moi was reviewed on Steve Lamacq`s Round Table to highest notes, became Lamacq Livener (best single of the week) and was added to BBC 6 Music playlist for 4 weeks.
“The future’s bleak, but at least we get to decide it’s soundtrack.”
It`s hard not to agree with The Blinders. It feels like the world is on fire and orange puppets with bad hair don’t make things any better. But here is the silver lining. We have the music and the soundtrack provided by the upcoming generation of bands on the indie circuit is awesome. From Idles, to Slaves to Strange Bones, False Heads, Sheafs, The Wholls, The Americas, Emily Capell, Estrons, Bang Bang Romeo, The Velvet Hands, Calva Louise, HVMM, nth cave, Nuns of the Tundra, Garage Flowers, Sisteray, Karkosa…the music keeps getting better and better with every week, every release.
The cover for Columbia – debut album for The Blinders set to be released on 21.09.2018 via Modern Sky
The Blinders will add their own voice to the newer wave of punkadelic belters. Their debut record
Columbia was announced on May 30th 2018 to be released on 21st September 2018.
It is a strange beast before the LP is released. For starters, it is advertised with a mysterious texts that is made out of fragments of the lyrics. Like this one, though we have seen several shorter or longer versions:
„We welcome you to an alternate world informed by reality, Indulge in the drudgery, under an absolute autocracy.
Echoes of Johnny’s Dreams run through the Codeine Scene streets, as The Man stalks his prey and hunts for his meat.
The party will serve to subdue and neglect. It’s a Brave New World. What did you expect?
Know your place and serve your time, Roll of Thunder, Hear Our Cries. Freedom is Slavery and Peace is a Lie, You’re Never Gonna Escape From That Watching Eye. Daddy told me it’s us and them.
Welcome to Columbia. You are being observed.”
If you have heard some songs from the album (either on YouTube or live), you will recognize the lyrics. Brave New World, Hate Song, L`Etat C`est Moi, Ballad of Winston Smith. Then there are obvious references to 1984 by George Orwell. Mighty political party, scrutiny and lack of privacy.
The Blinders logo using the image of white dove or colomba
Something tells us that Columbia is a or may be a concept album. Is Johnny Dream a protagonist in totalitarian town/state of Columbia? Is he on the run? Who is The Man (always written with capital M)? Rock music haven’t had a proper concept album protagonist in dystopian future since Fear Factory`s Edge Crusher on Obsolete. If Johnny is a good character, then is The Man an indie version of Smasher/Devouer?
There are other elements that make us think Columbia is a concept record. The imagery/ symbolism is interesting. Since the record announcement, we see images of white doves being used. There are doves in Gotta Get Through videos, the birds appear on promotional materials. Even the make up that Tom wears seems related. And of course there is the name of the record itself.
Columbia in cultural and historical sense is a female personification of United States. Similar to Themis (Lady Justice), Brittania (United Kingdom), Melita (Malta) and French Marianne. Some equal Columbia with Statue of Liberty. Columbia is derived from Columbus (the mass murderer who discovered New World), but is also very similar to Italian word „colomba” or white dove. No wonder then that Columbia was often shown in white dresses and wings in American paintings.
John Gast “Spirit of the Frontier” – created in 1872 painting showing Columbia in her white dove form leading settlers in the Wild West. Dressed in a roman toga (symbol of Republicanism), aided by technology (telegraph poles) driving Native Americans out of their land. This is classic example of “Manifest Destiny” a belief that white, European settlers were morally and technologically superior towards First Nations. “Manifest Destiny” is still alive among the conservative and religious minorities in United States.
Tom`s stage persona – Johnny Dream wears very distinct make up, it almost looks like wings of a bird. We have seen comments online that compared the make up to that of The Crow. The comic hero who becomes The Crow after his death is Eric Draven, he is a musician turned vigilante to avenge the death of himself and his wife. Johnny Dream with his own make up looks like he could blend in Gotham after dark. Perhaps Columbia has its own dark hero, but we cant shake the feeling that Johnny Dream`s make up is a dove rather than a raven.
October and November 2018 tour poster
In the Bible, white dove was sent by Noah to find land after the flood and came back with an olive branch as a sign of peace and deliverance. Would it not make sense for a rebel who plans to free citizens of Columbia from totalitarianism to wear the make up of a dove? Wouldn’t it be a delicious fun to mash Winston Smith with Ziggy Stardust and The Crow to create this new figure we all can relate?
We may be stretching things here, but just coming up with those ideas is exciting. We love to read into things to find some new meanings and pop-cultural references and then make long blog posts about it. Everybody needs a hobby.
We cannot wait for October/November to arrive. For the next tour we are hoping to see The Blinders in Birmingham and Bristol. We will surely update our blog with images, video clips and our review of the record. Watch this space.
For now, we will end the blog with this little appeal. Support your local scene – be it music or any other form of art. Without support and people in the audience, even the best new bands or artists stand no chance. Times are tough, so being there for the artists is more than just being a fan. Standing up for culture and art becomes an act of transgression against materialism, fascism and totalitarianism.
Rise citizens of Columbia!