The B-Leaguers - introduce us to the band and tell us about the journey thus far?
B-Leaguers are an original, four piece Punk Rock/Powerpop band (though we're not keen on labels) from Lincoln, UK. Featuring, James Styring, vocals, Ched Howard, guitars, Mikey Barraclough, bass and Mark Barrett, drums and percussion.
We're all experienced musicians, and have been in bands before, with varying levels of success. Mark, our drummer, still plays with punk/pub rock legend Bram Tchaikovsky, from time to time. I was the frontman with UK powerpop band, The Popdogs.
We came together with a shared love of loud guitars, melody and the punk DIY ethic. We wrote a bunch of songs together and recorded our debut album, 'Death of a Western Heart' in our home city of Lincoln, at Insonic Studios. It was released earlier this year, on prestigious American label, Kool Kat Musik. It's all happened pretty quickly.
How has feedback gone regarding the album and what tracks are you particularly proud of?
Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive up to now. We're really grateful how people seem to have taken to the album. As a band, you never really know until it's 'out there'. You write and record the best bunch of songs you can, at the time, then it's out of your hands and up to everyone else.
I think every member of the band has their own favourite track. I guess mine would be, 'Rock and Roller Toons' Just kind of sums up what we're all about. I know 'Lemonade' and 'Numbers' are favourites in the band, too. We're proud of them all, really. We worked hard to make every song as strong as the last. No fillers or b-sides, ha, ha!
How do you plan to get the album more notice - is there a tour coming up, have you any other interviews we should check out?
We have a couple of big gigs coming up. We play our home city of Lincoln on 5th May, supporting a great folk/punk band, The Finest Hour. And then we're over to Liverpool, for the International Pop Overthrow Festival, on 20th May. It's always guaranteed to be a great night down The Cavern Club!
There are more interviews in the pipe-line, and reviews of the album, and all the latest info, can be found on our facebook page, FACEBOOK.COM/BLEAGUERS.
Are there any targeted gigs/festivals you are hoping to get on? It seems people are very keen to do the festival circuit these days, is this a specific area you work upon?
Yes, playing the festivals is a great way to be seen, no doubt about it. And the festival circuit has certainly grown over the last few years. It's an indication of how healthy the scene is at the moment. There seems to be a new one starting up every time you look. It's all very positive for a new band trying to get a foot in the door, and great for live music in general. At this point, we're happy to be out playing anywhere, you can't afford to be choosy when you're trying to establish yourself and spread the word. And a gig's a gig at the end of the day. The punk rock ethic is get out there and make something happen. We'd love the opportunity to go out with a bigger, more established band, a support slot would be great. But we're under no illusion, we're a new band starting out, we have to put the work in and work our way up. Everybody starts somewhere. We'll hopefully be playing a few festivals this time next year, watch this space!
Having been in bands prior to the B-Leaguers surely helps the cause? Contacts are the key after all but I am curious to find out how willing people are to take a punt on a new band on the scene and how do you go about gaining new contacts?
You're right. I made some good friends and valuable contacts through my time with The Popdogs. That album seemed to take off and bring quite a bit of attention our way. Of course, social media helps no end. I sometimes wonder how bands - my own included - managed before the event of facebook, bandcamp etc. I guess we've been fortunate that reviewers and websites that were favourable to The Popdogs, have remained interested in B-Leaguers. We're certainly a different band, different sound, different attitude - but the big melodies and sing-along choruses are still there. We just turned the guitars up to 11. A lot of it is still word of mouth, though. If there's a great new band to look out for, word generally gets around pretty fast. Music fans and gig-goers know what they like, and don't like! If you can start pulling a decent crowd to your shows, promoters and landlords will start to pay attention. It kind of snowballs. Same kind of thing can happen with reviews of a record, or gig. If you're lucky enough to get some positive feedback, it creates its own interest. New reviewers and websites are more willing to give you a listen. And a lot of it, like anything, comes down to how much time you're able to spend networking and shouting about yourself! You have to be driven, and you have to be focused. Being slightly mad also helps. Again, it's the old punk thing - go out and make something happen. There's always room for new music, new bands. It's the lifeblood of any scene. Without new sounds coming through, everything would eventually run its course and die. There's some great bands out there, just waiting to come on to the radar. They are passionate, work incredibly hard, and deserve to be heard!
Back to the album and there is a distinct vibe running through that is consistent throughout - always a good thing but, as time progresses it is always necessary to avoid stagnation. So, have you any plans to alter further releases and do you have any areas/genres that you consider out of bounds?
I think, when a new bunch of musicians get together, you're kind of testing the water at first. You know you're all sat in the same rehearsal room because of a shared love of a similar sound, or style, and you all want to move in the same direction. But everyone will bring their own influences. Ched, our guitarist, for example, is the big punk guy - he's into bands like, Pennywise, Rise Against, NOFX, Bad Religion, Lagwagon, etc. So he brings that to our sound. Mikey, our bassist, is a huge Ramones fan. I'm pretty sure when you hear/see us live, you'll pick up on that! Mark, our drummer, is diverse in style - he can hit them hard and rock out with the best of them, or back right off and calm things down. I write melody - I'm always looking to find it, even in the heaviest songs! Your first record is you're introduction, your calling card. Not only to potential listeners and followers, but to each other. If things click, and songs flow easily, it sets things up for your follow up - album number two.
As a band, we're always writing new stuff. We have half a dozen songs written for the next record already. With us, it's kind of knowing where we don't want to take it, and avoiding that. Then you just write and follow where it leads you. I think people will be surprised with some of the new tunes - there's some ska type stuff in there, and some punk/folk. We can't wait to get back in the studio!
Are there any bands you particularly want to play with, some crews you would think that are ideal to compliment your sound?
I think initially, you just want to get out of the rehearsal room or studio, and play to an audience - that instant feedback you get. It's all about connecting with a room full of people. There's no barrier there for us - physically or mentally - the band and audience are all in it together. Without a crowd, there'd be little point the band being there!
So any band that values their audience, and has the same approach to things that we do. I've mentioned we don't necessarily like labels too much, I think if you label yourself, you're restricting your writing and sound. You're creating rules for yourself. So we're open to play with anyone who likes what they hear/see in us.
I honestly believe for a DIY scene to remain healthy, everyone should be helping everyone else. There's no competition. There's room for everyone. So bands of a similar mind need to come together and make something happen at grass-roots level. I know you work tirelessly Dave, over your side of the country, and a brilliant job you do, too. Good promoters, who are passionate about what they do, are so important. We have some great nights and promoters working hard over here in Lincoln. Our city's music scene is alive and well. But it doesn't just happen. It takes hard work.
So, in answer to your original question, we're open to offers! (we're cheap, don't drink too much, and are happy to sleep on a floor!)
Tell us about a few of your special songs and what they are about? What makes them stand out tracks?
We deliberately kept the debut album short. We didn't want it to outstay its welcome! We wanted to keep the energy and adrenalin level up - and give the whole thing a sense of movement. I think sometimes a full eleven or twelve tracks can be a little too much info - there's always one or two songs that get skipped over. So we wanted to make each track strong enough to stand on its own, so a radio station could play any of the seven. And to be fair, most of them are getting played.
I guess the whole album is about 'movement' - how everything in life is transient, and nothing is forever. Without getting too deep (or boring), 2015 was a pretty rough year for me personally, and a lot of that found its way into the songs.
The title track, 'Death of a Western Heart', for instance, can be taken on face value, and that's fine; a piss-up on a plane! But you can dig a little deeper if you want. So many people seem to be looking for some kind of 'guru' or 'saviour' to get them out of a mess. Sometimes, I think it pays to look at yourself, before you start pointing the finger or looking to the skies. It's not a preachy song, or anything like that, just an observation on life in general. It's that DIY thing again!! "If you fly east for long enough, you come back to where you start".
A song like, 'Numbers' is again dealing with moving on and loss, albeit in a 3 and a half minute blast of pop punk! But I always think it's far more important what the listener thinks the song is about, than what the writer had in mind.
Before we finish, the penultimate question I reckon - what are your opinions on the punk ethos in the modern world - is it relevant, does it work, what effect does it have on what you do?
I think the punk ethos is as relevant now, if not more, than it's ever been. In a modern world, where we are force fed, 24/7, the latest 'pop sensations' and karaoke kings, it will always thrive, it can't fail to.
People want more than what's seemingly on offer - and if they can't find what they're looking for, they'll make it happen themselves. They always have. The more we're bombarded and suffocated with mainstream, commercialised, pre-packaged 'music' - here today, forgotten tomorrow - the more people will kick back and demand more. And the bigger, and stronger, an alternative DIY scene will grow.
We're more than happy to be the underdogs, or whatever. Proud to be part, and support, the punk ethos/DIY attitude. It's hard work. It's blood, sweat and tears, ha, ha! But it's real.
And finally - where do you lot hope to be in 5 years time - what would make you convinced of a job well done and a future looking rosy?
5 years? That's a long time in music! I guess, as long as we're still writing and making music, we'll be happy. We're musicians, and we can't turn that off! I do know for sure there'll be a second B-Leaguers album - as I mentioned earlier, we're currently writing that, and it's coming together and sounding great.
Convinced of a job well done? As long as people still listen to our music and come to see us play, we're happy, job done. I really don't think you can plan too far ahead, just be 100% focussed on what you're doing at that moment. You can quite easily set yourself up for a fall, if you get carried away with it.
We do this because we love doing it - it becomes its own reward - so anything else that may come along, or opportunity it may create, is a bonus