Bad Sounds are using infectious melodies to work their way out of the retail game.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ewan Merrett, one fifth of Bath-based groovers Bad Sounds, is desperately trying to stay hidden from view as he stands outside a pole dancing lesson. “I keep walking past and I think they think I’m creepily looking in constantly,” he laughs down the phone from Bristol University. Tonight the five-piece, consisting of founding songwriter brothers Ewan and Callum, and band members Charlie Pitt, Sam Hunt and Olivia Dimery, are playing a gig in its student union, The Anson Rooms.
“We’ve just finished soundcheck, so we’re all chilling in the dressing room having a few beers,” Ewan reveals ahead of the last set of a ten-date tour. It’s a run that’s seen them perform to rowdy crowds in venues up and down the country, supporting Rat Boy. Rowdy is, almost certainly, selling it short. “The rumours are definitely true,” Ewan confirms; “his crowds are always really wild.”
Bad Sounds’ experience in Glasgow was particularly memorable. “It was pretty mad because we had thirteen-year-old girls queuing outside at the front ready for Rat Boy and they were asking us to buy them alcohol as we walked by. Because, obviously we didn’t, they were just like, ‘Fuck you guys then!’ We were like, ‘Sweet, Glasgow’s cool’.”
What happened after their London show, as well, won’t be something they forget any time soon. “We walked outside and the band and crew were just setting fire to the tour van and shit like that… The tour’s been all fun, but a bit mad,” Ewan confirms. “They’ve been super sweet, but they’re definitely wilder kids than us!”
Having been doing “music stuff” since they were just 12-years-old, Ewan and brother Callum started Bad Sounds when they decided, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna do this properly’. Growing up on their dad’s music collection, Bob Dylan, The Lemonheads and Beck formed the Merrett brothers’ early influences. Now in their 20s, the duo is joined by drummer Olivia – who Ewan used to work with at a music shop – and Charlie and Sam, who they met through friends of friends in Bath and Bristol.
Bad Sounds’ biggest single so far, ‘Wages’ - full of euphoric brass, harmonies and infectious rhythms - came about from “normal life” and wanting to quit their jobs in retail. “When you’re a kid you kind of have this expectation, at least I did, that when I was in my early twenties I’d be making a living off of music and doing it full time,” Ewan recalls. “If I could see myself at 14 I’d be so disappointed with the fact that I’m just working at a shop and it’s not at all what I had planned for my life… I guess, that, and then having a whinge about it.”
Thank god they did have that whinge, because their soul-infused banger went on to become Annie Mac’s Hottest Record in the World on her Radio 1 show. “It was really last minute and a bit freaky,” Ewan remembers of the career-boosting breakthrough. “It came at a time when literally none of us were expecting it at all. We sent it over to her but we hadn’t even got the finished master yet; but she was like ‘I wanna go with it tomorrow’ and obviously we didn’t want to turn it down…”
As a result of Annie’s interest, they decided to release the anthem – but on their own terms, by setting up Bad Records and rejecting offers from major labels. Before that, though, performing on the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury was an undeniably massive moment in their young career. “When I got there I was thinking, ‘Shit, this is fucking big, it’s actually quite intimidating’,” Ewan remembers. Needless to say, the nerves were kicking in. “There was so much riding on it,” Ewan recalls. “Weirdly, when we got booked for it, it seemed like everybody’s ears pricked up around us. We had the tune of the week at the same time with ‘Avalanche’. It almost felt like too much was happening at one time. I prefer the shows when there’s no pressure at all and nobody cares.”
He’ll need to get used to the pressure and big crowds quickly, though, because Bad Sounds are gearing up for their first proper headline shows later this month – at Camden Assembly and Bristol Exchange the day after. “We’re super excited for it. It’s going to be weird doing proper headline shows again. It feels like we can run the stage a bit more; set some stuff up and go wild.” If that wasn’t enough to sell the ticket, Ewan promises there’ll be “madness. We definitely want to do something big. I find a lot of live music can get a bit boring, just watching a band, so we really want to go all out: backing dancers, rocket launchers, cranes…”
Though their rise has been a whirlwind so far, Bad Sounds certainly aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. “We definitely want to go all the way,” Ewan says confidently; “but I don’t want us to be one of those bands that has a lot of success early on and then falls off the face of the earth. If we’re gonna go for it, we want to go the whole hog.” Though they’re not necessarily working on an album at the moment, their debut record is always something that’s in their mind. “We’ve been writing demos for Bad Sounds for over two years and we’ve got almost 200, but we haven’t finished producing a lot of them,” Ewan confirms. Better get cracking, then!
Taken from the November issue of Dork, out now - order your copy here.