Gnarwolves: "We’ve always been the outsiders"
Gnarwolves may be outsiders, but they're still here to make a big noise.
Published: 2:52 pm, May 08, 2017
For Brighton punks Gnarwolves, being in a band is about more than just playing music. It’s about life, relationships, big feelings and big ideas. Gnarwolves are a band to believe in. For their second album ‘Outsiders’, their ethos of inclusivity and one big communal expression of belief in the DIY scene in which they were forged, burns stronger than ever. Six years in and bass player Charlie Piper is perhaps most proud of the fact that not only have Gnarwolves endured, but their bond is stronger than ever.
“My proudest moment was that we got together and produced something again,” says Charlie of the two-year gap between albums, unusual for a band known for their relentless productivity. “I’m proud of the fact that our heads are still together and when we meet up we can still do it. We still bond the same way. It’s the best record we’ve done. We’ve had two years to do this album.”
The two years that Gnarwolves spent working on the album saw them exploring new ways of working and tailoring them to the spirit of the band. “With this album, we wanted to go to America and do something crazy,” begins Charlie. “We applied for a grant and started talking to Steve Albini. We liked the Cloud Nothings album he did and liked the sound of it. We wanted to go for that more indie punk vibe. It was looking positive, but we got let down in the end and couldn’t get the money together. Our idea then was to go back to our producer Lewis Johns but for him to do it the way Steve would do it. We’re gutted we’re not going away to do something crazy that we haven’t done before, but thought why don’t we use those techniques with someone that we were already comfortable with?”
The resulting album is Gnarwolves distilled to their primal best. “It’s got that crazy raw sound,” says Charlie excitedly. “The debut album was a lot of effects peddles and tracking. This sounds better. In my opinion, that’s punk. We all grew up listening to the 80s movement, none of those records technically sound good, but there’s just something about it. We wanted to be comfortable. For us, there’s a lot of tension so we want to make it as comfortable as we can.”
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The songs may sound sharper and rawer, but lyrically they’re more developed and more impactful, with primary songwriter Thom Weeks delving deep into heartfelt and personal songs dealing with mental health and the everyday realities of life. These songs have had a profound effect on the band. “I don’t think I’ve cried in the studio before, but when Thom’s doing those songs, you just feel so much. It means so much to him and all of us.”
‘Outsiders’ is the sound of Gnarwolves setting their stall out as a band with something important to say. “There’s so much more intent on this record,” says Charlie. “We’re getting older and moving on a little bit. We’re not changing, but it’s time to say we’ve grown up a lot and pass the message down on how to deal with mental health issues and help people. We’re not a party band. We’re portrayed like that through our artwork and stuff but you listen to the lyrics, and they’ll rip your heart out.”
The desire to take things further than ever before can be heard in closing track ‘Shut Up’, a pivotal song on the album and for the band in general. For a band who cut a four-minute song in half on their debut because it was too long, a seven-minute tour de force is quite a statement. It’s a hard song. A really emotional song,” says Charlie. “It’s a lot different. The song reminds me of an epic, emotional Brand New song.” It’s one the whole band are immensely proud of.
While previously established working methods are torn down, the beliefs the band held in the early days are still held dear: “It’s overwhelming for us. We haven’t gotten over people liking our band. It’s still crazy. When we do our tours, we still play those no barrier shows because we still want that connection. If we change that it might not work anymore and we won’t want to do the band. Our way of keeping the band going and staying friends is to be who we were from the beginning.”
Nothing is off limits for Gnarwolves. When they were recording the album and a song turned out to be uncannily similar to Placebo’s ‘Nancy Boy’ rather than sheepishly canning it they decided to embrace it on the thrilling ode to Placebo’s frontman, ‘Channelling Brian Molko’. “We all love Placebo,” laughs Charlie. “The melody we were writing sounded like ‘Nancy Boy’ and basically ripped it off. Rather than saying that sounds too much like it, we’ll go, let’s channel it. It’s like a tribute to them. As soon as you listen to it, it’s like, 'Oh, yeah'. It happens quite a lot when you’re writing songs. It’s an ode to Brian Molko.”
‘Outsiders’ is a perfect album title for Gnarwolves. “We’ve always been the outsiders, and we’ve never changed or been told what to do,” says Charlie. “We’ve been the outsiders of the whole pop punk scene for the whole time that we’ve been a band.”
They might feel like outsiders, but Gnarwolves are now more important than ever.
Gnarwolves’ album ‘Outsiders’ is out now.