Amongst the seemingly endless swarm of post-punk bands to have converged on our inbox over the past couple of years, there have been a few that have stood out from the angular crowd. Bristol-based quintet Home Counties are certainly one of them, and with the release of their new EP A Middle English Town – four tracks of spoken word social satire set to wonderfully wonky punk-funk guitars – on the dependably fabulous Alcopop! Records today, we caught up with the band to find out more about the music that has shaped their lives and their sound.
1) What is your earliest music-related memory? What do you remember being played at home when you were a child?
I remember getting a Busted CD for Christmas when I was probably about 4 or 5. I pretended to play the guitar and mimed along to ‘Crashed the Wedding’ that day, and was furious when someone turned the CD player off half way through my performance.
2) What was the first single/album that you ever bought? Where did you get it and do you have any recollection of the experience?
I have a vivid memory of going to HMV with my Granddad and buying the ‘Insania’ single CD by Peter Andre. I don’t really recall liking Peter Andre very much, but I must have liked this song. Weirdly he did a guest appearance at a local town festival when we were young teenagers. A big part of my youth apparently.
3) When did you really start to develop a passion for listening to music? How did that come about and what were you into at the time?
Me and our drummer Dan were particularly obsessed with School of Rock as kids. We had a simplistic love of all things ‘rock’. We went to the library to take out all of the rock CD’s and burn them onto iTunes and would set about learning all the songs. One song we never mastered, and still can’t play to this day, was ‘Black Dog’ by Led Zeppelin.
4) What was the first gig that you went to (as a member of the audience)? Where was it and what was it like?
When we were all about 14 and getting more into indie music we went to a gig at the o2 Academy in Oxford for a local band called Futures. In hindsight they were not particularly remarkable, but at the time I remember it being very exciting. From then on, we went to every indie gig in Oxford for a long time.
5) What are your memories of starting out making music? What was the first song that you learned how to play?
My first memories of playing guitar properly were through folk guitar lessons at primary school. I am not sure of the first, but ‘Home on the Range’ was a favourite of mine.
6) What was your first band/musical project? What music was influencing you at that time? What are your memories of playing your first gig and are there any recordings out there?
Although we had our primary school band, our first proper band was called Haze, which we started in secondary school. We started out just playing covers, but when we started writing our own songs we were extremely guided by the Parquet Court’s Light up Gold album (although failed to sound like them completely). Our first gig was at a Mod Scooter Rally.
We took a lot of the earlier recordings down off the internet years back, although the later stuff still exists. A few friends still have the tracks downloaded for posterity.
7) What are your memories of forming Home Counties? What was your first recording and what do you think now when you listen back to it?
Forming Home Counties was an exciting time. Towards the end of the old project we started writing songs which we knew were a lot better, and sort of outgrew Haze. The first big moment was writing ‘Redevelopment’, which became our first single. I found the original demo of it the other day, which instead of lyrics has me squawking random noises over the top.
8) Which band/artist do you think has had the biggest influence on your music over the years? What is it about them that inspires you?
Television is a band who we have all loved through all the different obsessions over the years. For me, quite a lot of the attraction is through the guitar playing, which provides a huge inspiration for the way we play. More generally, it’s their ability to convey such emotion through jagged and unconventional songwriting which draws me back.
9) Who are some of your favourite current artists?
I’m really into The Bug Club at the moment. I love how succinct and catchy their songs are, and the amazing combination of the two vocalists. They’ve got a cool Loaded-era Velvet Underground thing going on.
10) You have a new EP out in February – how has your approach to making music changed since you started out, and how has your sound developed over that time? Is there a particular song on the record that epitomises what you’re aiming to achieve or that is particularly special to you for any reason?
Our approach over time has become a lot more production-centric I think. We’ve gotten a lot more influenced from the ‘pop’ world in a way, starting to craft songs in a much more considered way than we did in the past. We’ve also become a lot more electronic-music influenced, drawing on synths/drum machines as primary instruments rather than additional flourishes. I’m not sure any one song epitomises this shift, but Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius of Love’ is an example of the sort of weird synth/production stuff we’ve been after.
Find out more on Home Counties’ social media pages
Interview by Paul Maps