Let me tell you a little secret. Being a music journalist isn’t always that great. You see a lot of groups, meet a lot of people and meet your heroes, but more often that not your illusions are quickly shattered. Of course there are tons of free gigs and promos but all too often you’ll find yourself jetting across the country in a rusty van on a half tip only to find that the would-be ‘next Clash’ make the Hoosiers sound like Queen. It’s something you put up with though. Because one in every thousand bands you see skulking round shit-end venues is as glorious as Tribes. And finding them and being able to tell the world makes it so fucking worth it.
The last new band we saw that was this good was The Heartbreaks (you’ll recall FMS exclusively revealed them last spring). And if those cheeky Mancs were a Smiths reincarnation for a Broken British decade, then London-based Tribes are a post-modern Pixies; soundtracking love, hedonism and revival for one and all. The charity-shop styled four-piece are the band One Night Only wanted to be: a credible, fiery rock band with guts, energy and guile. All the things lacking in so much new British music.
Singer and songwriter Johnny Lloyd is a proud Brit with a slightly apologetic fixation on American grunge. “We’re very much British,” he declares. “I love Pulp, Blur and Oasis but we’ve always been looking Stateside for influences. It’s not that they’re better – just that there’s a greater variety of influences.”
Born in Newcastle before moving to Coventry where he grew up with bassist Jimmy Cratchley, Lloyd developed an ear for music thanks to his father’s own record obsession. “He’d always be giving me stuff to check out and he still is today,” he says, adding that Warpaint are his band of the moment.
“I’ve never been into jingle jangle indie pop, I know there’s a lot of it around Camden,” he adds, “but we grew up on stuff like Oasis and Pixies and that’s what we wanna sound like.” And since forming just over a year ago, sound like that they do: huge riffs, big basslines and even bigger choruses.
Joined by Dan White on guitar, hailing from Maidenhead near Kent, and drummer Miguel Demelo, originally born in South Africa, Lloyds’ songs lurch from stadium-burning anthemics to more raucous, lo-fi rock. He explains: “We wanted to do something a bit heavier and get away from the indie guitar sound with a bit more grit and a bit more grunge.”
Having dropped out of the various art colleges, life for Tribes consists of rehearsing, writing, partying and working odd jobs. “I’ve written a book as well,” Lloyd adds, “called A Journey Through the Heart of a Pig.” It’s a sci-fi novel influenced by his love of Kurt Vonnegut, the acclaimed American writer.
His song craft involves writing on an eight-track recorder and Lloyd insists that the band can quickly tell if a song will work. “We want it to be easy music you can get your head around first listen. The depth will come through the lyrics and the live shows. We wanna make immediate rock songs to jump and get pissed to.”
As you’d expect for a twenty-nothing Camden four-piece, Tribes’ fashion sense is very much of the charity shop chic variety. “We just wear each others’ clothes – we’re completely skint,” he says. “They’ve called us the Camden Vampires. We’re four blokes – we’re not in a band to have an excuse to dress well.”
At the minute though, Tribes focus is on playing their skins off everywhere they can. “The Libertines were explosive – it didn’t matter what they played. That’s the kind of energy we’d like to exude on stage.” But he admits that if they don’t succeed on their first album, they’re likely to be dropped. “Radio One completely dominates the country and you can’t even buy a CD in Camden any more,” he complains.
But like all great bands, Tribes have a strong work ethic. “We don’t want a fast-track route,” Lloyds says. “I know bands that have been signed for silly money, but I don’t wanna be in that position. I’d rather grind it out.”
Words: Andrew Future
Photo: Michael Robert Williams
Art Editor: Elliott Webb
This feature was first published in Issue 08 of FASHION.MUSIC.STYLE, February/March 2011.
Tribes’ ‘We Were Children’ and ‘Whenever’ featured on the accompanying album, Five Unsigned Vol.8