With 2019 just around the corner Underscore Part 3 have been keeping our eyes out for the upcoming bands you’ll be hearing from next year. Having just come off tour with Slaves fellow Kent band Lady Bird caused quite a stir as one of the support acts and with their own headline tour in March we caught up with Sam before Christmas to find out more. Chatting with a light-hearted full of fun Sam he was pleased to hear that Underscore Part 3 was named after the legendary Ian Dury song admitting Ian Dury and the Blockheads are a big influence on Lady Bird. Sam and the band burst with enthusiasm for next year having overcome some extremely difficult situations to make them the now physically and emotionally strong ready to learn from their peers and continue making the impact they did on their last tour.
With Slaves bursting on the scene a few years ago and now yourselves, what is it about Kent that produces what is becoming a signature Kent sound?
There’s a really good music scene and it comes from a number of things [including] The [Tumbridge Wells] Forum which is our local live music venue and The West Kent College. Our regional music course is run by about 8 top professional musicians who wrote a course [which has] a great reputation. I studied there, Issac from Slaves was also at West Kent and that’s where we formed the band that was the predecessor to Slaves and Lady Bird. That platform is the perfect circumstances for the fertile terrain that allows for new music to evolve and it just happens to be that a lot of us share the same sort of music taste, so that’s why there’s similarities with Ian Dury, The Streets and Blur being really prominent.
For people that haven’t heard you yet how would you describe your sound?
‘Someone else described us as kitchen sink music which I thought was quite good because it expresses the mundanity that we like to talk about. [We like to talk about] real shit.’
Certainly, social commentary is something that people used to describe us which I will paraphrase. Someone else described us as kitchen sink music which I thought was quite good because it expresses the mundanity that we like to talk about. [We like to talk about] real shit [which] is really important these days because a lot of people aren’t necessarily getting real with themselves and other people; it’s hard to when we’re in a society that’s so demanding and so materialistic. We like to have a good laugh [and are] trying to be good people through the portrayal of music.
What are some of your favourite records of the year?
We’ve all thoroughly enjoyed listening to DMA’s, Dala, FONTAINES DC (we’re really representing them at the moment when people flick through our Apple Music), Lucia from Glasgow. I really enjoy Chronix, he’s a Jamaican Rastafari representative. He’s just killing it, he’s playing the most soulful interpretation of cultural roots; he’s got an album out called chronology. We really like Guru and Arks, they’re 2 Brighton bands and also Witchfever (they’ve got some new stuff coming out).
You have a sold-out Christmas party at the Tumbridge Wells Forum and another date at the same venue on your March tour, what does it mean to be playing on home turf?
‘It’s like when you get home and you relax, when we play The Forum it’s a massive exhale that you feel in your body.’
It’s absolutely cracking, we’ve been playing there since we were kids, it’s how we met actually. I was at college with Issac [of Slaves] but I first met him down The Forum, it was the first place I met Alex and Joe [of Lady Bird] all watching each other’s bands, and this is where the music scene gave birth to our various collaborative projects, it’s also where I met Laurie [of Slaves] and the band he was in before.
It’s so nice to be on the home turf because loads of family and friends or people we’ve played in bands before will come and it’s such a familiar space. It’s like when you get home and you relax, when we play The Forum it’s a massive exhale that you feel in your body, you feel that throughout the duration of an event when we play at The Forum or The Sussex.
It’s also Christmas so we’re going to have friends and family there. The population of the youth doubles or triples at Christmas time so you see a lot of old faces out and about.
Having just come off tour with Slaves, how has that influenced you as a band moving forward? How was it to tour with such heavyweights?
‘I’ve noticed about them is their safeguarding the gig; for the people in the crowd, the security, their crew, for themselves they’re constantly watching.’ Sam on touring with Slaves.
It really is wonderful, there’s been different stages to watching their development and different feelings when you watch such an amazing journey be had. It sets the bar really high when your friends are doing so well, but not in a way of being competitive or envy but admiration and adoration. There were a number of nights on tour where I would sit in front of Laurie [in the photographer’s pit] and watch him. I’ve always looked up to Issac ever since I knew him when we were kids. I became friends with Laurie a bit later, it’s interesting because I’m not a guitar player really nor am I a keys player really that’s not how I started in music I played drums. Alex in Lady Bird is so incredible the way he moves when he plays but I never really get an opportunity to watch Alex do his thing, but I’ve spent my whole tour watching Laurie and how he moves around the stage with such conviction and is in total control throughout. I’ve been trying to absorb as much as I can to apply to my own [on stage] strategies.
Another thing I’ve noticed about them is their safeguarding the gig; for the people in the crowd, the security, their crew, for themselves they’re constantly watching. Neither of them really drink, Laurie doesn’t drink at all and Issac is very health conscious so he doesn’t really drink either, just in moderation. They safeguard the environment they’re playing in; if something kicks off at a gig they stop immediately just to stop anyone getting hurt. They’ve learnt to really manage that [incidents] in the moment.
In terms of confidence and conviction, they are absolute pros and know everything about their show and their set up, they very much man the ship whilst maintaining furious compassion for everyone and there’s very much a love energy amongst their crew because they’re loving young chaps. We’ve been very fortunate to observe from a close proximity which will give us the opportunity to incorporate as much as we can into our ting!
You’ve got a string of tour dates in March 2019, what can people expect of it?
We’ve got some new material which we’re going to put out around the time of the tour, we don’t know what form we’re going to do that yet, but we’ve got a number of songs that we’re going to put out, it’s not an album but [we’ll put out] some singles or an e.p.
‘We’ve got some new material which we’re going to put out around the time of the tour.’
You’re one of a host of positive bands right now encouraging people to be open about their difficulties with their mental health, what is it about 2018 that has made mental health conversation ok?
‘I couldn’t speak properly for a year.’
People have talked about it in varying degrees over the years but its become a bit of a buzz word which is really positive; buzz words don’t necessarily have a positive reputation, but mental health and anxiety in particular is very much on people’s lips at the moment. The way we’ve been talking about it is to normalise it. When something’s spoken about so much it can be very easy to become desensitised to the importance of a very real component in everybody’s make up. We all [society] have our own varying degrees of mental health or anxiety around different things.
I had a battle myself with anxiety which led to my life becoming very transformed and led to us writing the song reprisal because I couldn’t speak properly for a year and not being able to sing so both boys [Joe and Alex of Lady Bird] ended up singing.
There’s lots of people that lose the battle to mental health, it’s heart-breaking really so to talk about that and to spread awareness of great organisations that are working on that like Mind and CALM. It’s really important for us that we like to incorporate any kind of element into our dialogue and do it in a way that is talking as close to our normal tone as possible.
It appears all of you have had your personal demons which you’ve worked through, has this brought you closer together as a band in an emotionally healthy place and what’s next as friends and as a band?
‘We’re in a really healthy place and we’re writing loads, we’re writing indefinitely basically to see how much material we can create.’
It’s just wonderful we had a right laugh the other day, we’ve been doing some stuff in the studio lately. Creating is always something that’s been challenging to do as a group and in light of the recent challenges that have brought us closer together in a really healthy place. It translates into anyone’s life really, if you resolve challenges when they rise up in your life you’ll be in healthier state to meet further challenges and life’s full of them. That works for relationships too and similarly creative relationships. We’re in a really healthy place and we’re writing loads, we’re writing indefinitely basically to see how much material we can create and then look at an album at some point in the next year or so. We’ve having loads of fun!
The word reprisal is a noun which means ‘an act of retaliation’, is your new single ‘Reprisal’ an act of counterattack against the issues you’ve had with your voice physically and mentally?
‘It was sort of that I was speaking to myself, pushing myself to step up and get over this mad struggle.’ Sam on recording the break in Reprisal.
That happened naturally, we didn’t choose the title Reprisal for that reason, but it is exactly what happened. We were in the studio and towards the end of the song there’s a Hammond solo which was initially just that, but the engineer suggested me to freestyle basically words over the top of it because he thought it would add more interest to that section which I’m really pleased he did. I ended up coming out of that [the vocal booth] and it was the first time I’d spoken in months really and the first time I’d been in the studio for a year because I couldn’t sing. It was sort of that I was speaking to myself, pushing myself to step up and get over this mad struggle of a psychogenic voice condition. [The vocal break was] very much a response, there’s other bits of music that relate to that song but they’re not out yet.
It’s fantastic news to hear your voice back to health, how has the bands sound changed because of this?
I like to hope that we’ll have more of Alex singing in the future, he sings in the choruses and sings on Leave Me Alone which is a track we released on our first e.p. [I hope in the future] we’ll incorporate his voice more because that was born while I couldn’t sing, and he has a great style.
In single ‘Spoons’ you speak in a witty manner of the many lacklustre elements of the national pub chain of a similar name, if I was to take you there now what would you order to eat and drink?
‘I might go all out and get a Punk IPA depending on the change in my back pocket.’
I’d get the ultimate veggie burger or the gourmet veggie burger if I was indulging in the stodge and I’d get a pint of Shipyard Ale or I might go all out and get a Punk IPA depending on the change in my back pocket.
All at Underscore Part 3 wish you a great Christmas and new year, what do you all like to do in the festive period?
We all like to spend our time with our families and meet each other for a drink as well and fortunately we’ve got this gig just before Christmas as well to be with our pals and friends and really connect. Home time is really important to see family members that you don’t see very often to encourage them in whatever they’re doing.
What elements make up the perfect Christmas dinner for you?
A nut roast, roasties obviously, loads and loads of hummus and my mum does banging gravy which I sample once a year and I’m looking forward to it. In terms of veg which is crucial as well, broccoli and cauliflower are my favourites at the moment, I’m still not big on sprouts but I will eat them. I’ll be popping round the Walkers [Joe from Lady Bird’s family] household as well, Alex [from Lady Bird] likes to come over too when he’s finished at his mums. We’re fortunate that we’ve got really loving families.
Questions James Wadsworth
All photos and promo material used with kind permission by Lady Bird/Seven 7 Management.