In a small cafe in Crouch End, North London, Anteros are plotting the next few months. Laura Hayden and Harry Balazs are already thinking about how they’re going to prepare - enjoying some rare time-off to gear themselves up for what’s to come. The main issue though is packing…
“I’m waking up every day like - oh my god, I need to do this and that,” exclaims Laura. “Figuring out what to wear for like a month and a half, travelling to Texas too. How do you pack for Paris in February and then Texas in March?!
"We haven’t toured this extensively since about two years ago when we went on three tours in a row which is pretty much what we’re doing now. I aged about ten years after that. I got ill; I got up on stage some nights wondering if I was going to be able to sing or not. I’m now mentally preparing, like okay, I don’t want to lose my mind; I’d like to keep my age as it is, I’d like to maintain my mental sanity.
"It’s taking the time right now to prepare - seeing family or making sure you’re exercising because you’re not going to get to do that when you’re in a van for 15 hours travelling to Milan! I don't know how I’m going to do that."
“That’s a long drive,” chimes in Harry. “I haven’t packed anything yet! I’m just so unorganised. I end up spending like £100 at the first services from stuff I’ve forgotten.”
Laura points squarely at Harry. “Remember your charger! Shall I write you a list? The one thing I thought of actually is getting water bottles instead of using plastic ones.”
“One less thing to forget,” returns Harry.
“You’re going to have to pack your own bottle mate,” bounces back Laura. “I’m not going to be taking it about.”
Things continue with a potential idea for an X Factor-style tour voting system, where people get voted in and out of bands. Things move quickly on to Harry’s fidgety sensibilities (“you know where a dog has to stick their head out of the car window every five minutes…” jokes Laura) and the topic of doing yoga in a moving van.
This is how an evening out with Anteros goes. There’s a palpable energy that jumps out from being in their company, a band bustling with ideas, creative outlets, hilarious stories but also an understanding and perspective of what they want to be and what they want to mean in 2019 - it’s a ride that captures a band on the cusp of a thrilling journey.
“Right now, we’re in a blissful in-between spot,” notes Laura, “because the album isn’t out yet but it is finished so I’m just really making the most of this moment because whatever happens when the album comes out, I feel like we’re proud of what we’ve made. We didn’t want to follow any trends; we wanted to stick to the music that we wanted to make and not try to go, well, what are we? Are we this or that? We were more like, if we want to chuck in weird fucking sounds, then we’re going to do that. Since the beginning, we’ve wanted to make music that’s not going to sit in an algorithm.”
That desire to do things differently, to not follow the pack is, is a message intertwined with everything Anteros are. They’re in this for the long-haul, and they’re not fitting into any boxes people try to put around them.
“I remember at the start we kept getting asked what our music sounded like,” recalls Laura, moving forwards and backwards in her seat as conversation flows. “One day I was like, we need to come up with the words to sum it up, so we said bitter dream pop, and then that got taken seriously! One time I said we sounded like a banana in a blender with tequila in it.”
“That’s a good one!” cracks Harry.
“I was like, if you want to do this, let’s find the weirdest most obscure box to put us in,” smiles Laura.
Spoiler: with Anteros you can’t.
From the very beginning, there was one philosophy that stood at the core of Anteros. A mission statement if you will. “There are no limits. That was the only goal, that there wouldn’t be any limits,” explains Laura. “We said the sky’s the limit, the longer we can do this for the better - and that it’s also okay to say that you want to do this for a long time.”
Joined by guitarist Jackson Couzens and bassist Joshua Rumble, that desire and standing as people that can’t be categorised into one lane has been a permanent one that’s risen from a young age.
“From a young age, you’re meant to know where you belong, and people project what they want for you, onto you,” recalls Laura. “If you dare try to get out of that it’s like, woah - wildcard! I didn’t fit into one type of person.”
It was similar for Harry: “There was one of four kinds of people you could be, and if you didn’t skateboard or have a bucket hat then you certainly weren’t fitting in."
It makes sense that from those childhood experiences they would find each other, a band refusing to stick to the tick-boxes asked of them and instead doing exactly what they want. Not playing with scenes or phases, but really, actually, properly, doing what they want.
Early shows saw the expected scenes and ridiculous moments you’d associate with a British comedy flick - but what stood tall was the fact that Anteros were willing to travel anywhere, sacrifice what was needed and pour themselves into not just a band, but a home one another could see themselves in.
“Touring that much is a write of passage; you have to. I mean…” laughs Laura, “we’ve had some really shit gigs.”
“When we first started, and we weren’t even called Anteros, we’d play these nights…” begins Harry, “and it would be in some like pub in St Albans and the line-up for the night would be a heavy metal covers band, a vocal choir and then us. There’d be like four people in there and would usually involve someone walking on stage to tell some jokes too.”
“It’s all good though,” points out Laura, “because when we finally got there to that album recording moment, we really did appreciate it more. No time was wasted. No procrastination. We were all happy to do 12 hours a day, go home, sleep and then come back to record again - no complaining. I feel like, it’s easy to take things for granted sometimes, and I don’t know if we would have, but we definitely appreciated it more when the time came.”
Festival bills. Support nights. Showcase evenings. Anteros would do it all and become a beating heart of new music nods and whispers for years. Early releases like ‘Drunk’ and ‘Bonnie’ took them across the globe, supporting the likes of Two Door Cinema Club and crowning big stages as a whirlwind took them on a ride that finds them at ‘When We Land’ - a debut album that refuses to play ball with categories or easy wins and revels in Anteros being Anteros.
Laura takes a moment to think about what pressure there could be after spending years working away and getting to that moment.
“I feel like there is more pressure to make something that fits an algorithm than there is to actually make something you like. The reason I say that is I feel like a lot of music and a lot of artists have changed that to fit a certain aesthetic, and I feel like there is more pressure at the moment because there are a lot of people paying attention to streams.
"The only problem is when you’d make music 20 years ago, or even ten years ago it wasn’t about this instant gratification, it was about making something that is going to last. I feel like actually staying true to yourself; there’s less pressure on doing that these days then there is making something that fits into a box that people are going to instantly connect with.”
“Most people are only comfortable with things that they know,” she elaborates, “and I got stressed when making the album, not with pressure, but more with this idea of what does this sound like? It doesn’t sound like anything, what is it? That was the big issue, and then I thought, there’s only one of everything that becomes something incredible, so it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing that your audience doesn’t just fit in one bracket. It’s a good thing that there are people of all ages listening to your music and wanting to come to your shows. That’s effectively how you get people who are going to stay there with you for what comes next and then after that too.”
Decamping to the Distillery in Somerset, when the time came Anteros were more than ready. Taking the years of touring and honing what makes them so special, they thrived in an environment they’d been waiting to nail since the very beginning. “There was no fucking about; everyone was hands-on” points out Laura, turning to Harry. “You can get bored easily, but even you were in there!”
“At that point, so much had happened,” continues Harry, “so much had changed. Not to overly romanticise it but the whole starting of a band, all the work that went into it. Being able to stop and make an album is a great feeling.”
Teaming up with Charlie Andrew (fresh from his previous work with alt-J, Bloc Party and Marika Hackman), it was a natural process full of exploration and fun that couldn’t be any further from a tricky recording run.
“Charlie’s amazing at getting the most out of us as individuals,” remembers Laura. “We were in this beautiful studio with daylight coming in and he’d take time with all of us. Remember when I was doing vocal takes, and he’d come down and start asking weird questions, almost like a therapist? He’d get me talking about all of this stuff and then be like, okay, I’m going to go upstairs, shall we record? I only realised when I was on the second-to-last song! He found a good way of making us work together.”
“I remember walking around the live room with headphones on just hitting things,” cracks Harry. “I was literally hitting fire safety equipment.”
Fire safety equipment included, the result is a sharp and direct debut album that builds on the ambition, and potential Anteros have shown for a while now. Blending new-wave pop and strutting hooks galore, it’s a glorious celebration of pop done right, with a varied and enticing chronicle of a band only getting started.
“More than anything,” explains Laura, “the album for us is about coming of age, moving into your 20s and having to figure life out - I think, for us, it’s exciting that people are listening to that. Like, not wanting to fit in and being alright with that. Being alright with, as cheesy as it sounds, being you.”
It comes careering out of towering cuts like ‘Call Your Mother’ and ‘Ordinary World’, fizzes with crisp Killers-esque ease on ‘Drive On’ and revels in playful party on ‘Breakfast’, ‘Wrong Side’ and ‘Fool Moon’ before the epic self-titled ‘Anteros’ pulls off the greatest closing act a debut album might see this year. It delivers, and delivers big, while staying true to everything Anteros are about.
“I was watching a documentary at Christmas about Fleetwood Mac,” begins Laura, “and it’s been like 50 years since ‘Rumours’ and you hear the mus…”
Laura’s interrupted by the manager of the cafe coming over, seeing if anyone wants any water. “Oh, could I have a glass please?” The choice is mint or orange flavoured. “Ohhh Fancyyy!” she cracks.
It’s closing time, and Laura and Harry are jumping back and forth on stories, it’s clear the Anteros party is not even close to shutting up shop.
“It’s been like 50 years since ‘Rumours’,” picks up Laura, “and you can hear the music they were creating before Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined and it’s a completely different ball-game. Then they joined, and everything happened, but then ‘Tusk’ happened and then the 80s happened. They evolved with it all, and they owned it - and what category do they fall into?!”
“I feel like there’s a beauty of not wanting to stick to one tag,” notes Laura. “I was talking to Alex Rice from Sports Team yesterday, and he said that indie was such a naff name for guitar music. And I was thinking, that’s the thing - you don’t want to fit under a category or into that box because then you can’t leave it. The thing is, if you want fans to stick with you, you have to challenge that opinion.”
“Challenge that opinion that everything has to sound the same, make it your thing that you’re like Pandora's box and when you open it you’re not going to know what to expect. It’s not good to put humans into a box so why would you want to put your art into a box because it doesn’t allow you to evolve.”
Sticking to their own path and refusing to play by the rules, Anteros are reaping the results. It’s something you can see at any show they pull up to, a true community forming around their defining moves.
“The weirdest thing happened on the last tour, the biggest one we did in October,” recalls Laura. “When you do festival shows or support slots people talk between songs as you’re not the main event, and then on our last tour everyone was so quiet. I kept thinking, oh my god this is horrible why is everyone so quiet, I was super self-conscious. I turned to our sound engineer, because I was talking it like they’re not enjoying this and he goes - this is good! It means they’re listening; they want to hear what you guys have to say.”
“People listening and connecting with what we’re saying; it feels nice because you feel less alone. Doing this crazy thing, you’re not doing it on your own.”
Closing time has been and gone, so it’s time to head out into the night. For Anteros, they’ve done exactly what they set out to do - make an album that they’re proud of and one that they’ve done their own way. There’s still packing to do (or start) but now’s the moment they’ve been waiting for - things are only beginning.
“We don’t want to be a band that you only listen to when you’re teenagers,” notes Laura, “where you’re stuck being that kid but you’re not a kid. We’re growing up as a band in the long run.”
Anteros are in it for the long-haul - trends and boxes be damned.
Taken from the April issue of Dork. Anteros' album 'When We Land' is out 22nd March.
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