Every few years, just as music aficionados everywhere begin to lose faith in the Great God of English Rock ‘n’ Roll, a band of historic proportions will emerge from the underground indie circuit and begin reshaping the contours of the musical scene. It happened with Oasis, The Streets, The Libertines, and most recently The Arctic Monkeys, and now – according to a plethora of hired audio propagandists – the time is right for some kind of monster band to announce themselves as Rock Music’s heaviest players.
Of course, most musical units tend to come and go without ever managing to live up to their own hype. For this reason, tipping new bands for everlasting success is an almost impossible task, but being tipped as the next big musical thing is an even bigger burden to bear.
Just ask The Vaccines, and also Camden based four-piece Tribes, who, after being named last February as one of our Five Unsigned bands and signing for Island Records earlier this year, have been compared to just about everyone, from Kasabian, to the Libertines, and even The Beatles.
But, in this instance, the noise surrounding Tribes is more than just hard-sell and hollow whooping, because Johnny Lloyd, Dan White, Miguel Demelo and Jim Cratchley can really play. The unveiling of their debut studio album, Baby, released this month, is proof enough of their untamed talent, with ‘We Were Children’, the excellent ‘Nightdriving’, and the poetically inspired ‘Sappho’ the standout tracks on an über classy album that, thankfully, can be played from start to finish without the listener having to skip past slow interludes of dumb filler. “I think Baby will change a lot of people’s views of the band,” says Lloyd. “There are a lot of acoustic songs on there and slower stuff. Hopefully it will end this ‘grunge’ bullshit people keep labelling us with. We can’t wait for people to hear it.”
After ganging up in Camden a few years ago, Tribes have worked quickly to establish themselves as one of the areas most cherished musical outfits. “Jim and I grew up together in The Midlands,” explains Lloyd, “while Dan and Miguel were growing up near Maidenhead. We all had a similar idea of what we wanted the band to be, as well as musical tastes and influences, and our ability to gel musically was fairly apparent from the beginning. We never dwelt on things too much; if it didn’t sound right immediately, we’d just move on, and put it to the bottom of the pile, so we worked quickly together.”
After many practice hours in the studio honing the pitch of their sound, Tribes spent a good deal of 2011 touring the globe, playing gigs and performing live at some of the loudest festivals on the planet. “It’s been great to be given the means to do this full time,” continues Lloyd. “Life has changed mainly because we are always on tour now and travelling to places we have never been before, which has been amazing. Reading festival was our moment of 2011 – the place heaving and we had never experienced people singing the songs back to us in that number before.”
Earlier in the year, the boys also took a trip to Japan to perform live on the Rainbow Stage at the massively popular Summer Sonic Festival in Tokyo. “We were tired as hell when we arrived,” recalls Lloyd. “It’s like stepping out onto the set of Blade Runner – a pulsating mass of strangers, years ahead in technology and with a culture that couldn’t be anymore different. The audiences were huge and very receptive. It was weird arriving at the hotel with fans with Tribes signs waiting for us. We are yet to release anything over there so it feels like a place we wanna visit more. We also met Flea and Chad from the Chilli Peppers backstage after the show – wise men.”
But just because Reading was heaving and Tokyo was pulsating, there’s no decent reason to overlook Tribes rooftop gig in Camden, where the boys performed ‘We Were Children’ to thousands of ecstatic onlookers who packed the surrounding roads and pavements and quickly brought the colour lashed London suburb to a complete standstill. “Angry bin men are my main memory of that day,” laughs Lloyd. “As soon as the ambulance got blocked we shut it down. It was pretty hectic and we didn’t want to cause anymore trouble for the police and end up getting arrested.”
Clearly, the Tribes road-show is heading in the right direction. Up until now, nobody has been seized by The Law and the boys say that they are determined to keep their feet firmly on solid ground; and when, in July, Radio 1’s Zane Lowe named ‘We Were Children’ his hottest record in the world, Tribes weren’t giddy enough to mistake the honour for an immediate ticket to ride. “Zane has been a great supporter of the band,” says Lloyd, “but these days I don’t think anyone can give you a golden ticket to success. That’s not how we work anyway. We always work hard to achieve every step and we just take one day at a time.”
Words: Johnny Lee
Photo: Michael Robert Williams