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November 2020
Feature

Working Men's Club: "This mundane turn in British music is the most annoying thing"

Through line-up changes and delays, Working Men’s Club’s debut album has had a bit of a difficult birth - but it’s here now, and frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant isn’t short of things to say.
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Published: 2:28 pm, September 29, 2020Words: Jake Hawkes.
Working Men's Club: "This mundane turn in British music is the most annoying thing"

It's been a bit of a bumpy road for Working Men's Club to get to the release of their self-titled debut. First, there was a complete line-up change, with frontman Syd Minsky-Sargeant the only founding member left. This shift led to a move away from traditional guitar music and more towards synths, drum machines and cowbell (lots and lots of cowbell, in their live show at least). With that upheaval dealt with, the band set about getting ready to release their debut album. That was then derailed by the ongoing global pandemic, but now, months later, it's finally time.

"I was pretty annoyed that it got pushed back, to be honest," says Syd down a less-than-ideal phone line. "I just had to put it on a shelf and forget about it to avoid it winding me up, but I was really happy with it and excited for the release. Obviously, it was pushed back for good reasons, but I don't think it was fair on anyone who had ordered it to get told they couldn't have it for a few more months, when it was all ready to go.

"The one good thing is that it didn't end up clashing with the Black Lives Matter movement, because I wouldn't exactly have been happy promoting my work when something so much more important was going on. My main issue was someone who paid 20 quid for the vinyl 8 months ago is still waiting for it, which isn't a great look. That's one of the reasons we released that megamix a few months back [a 20-minute medley the band uploaded to YouTube in June], just to give the fans something to tide them over. Well, that and to keep me from feeling depressed and sorry for myself whilst I was stuck at home."

"A lot of writers are so hung up on recreating the past, and it's really fucking sad"
Syd Minsky-Sargeant

The megamix is an indication of the more electronic sound that Working Men's Club have been veering towards as they develop, a trend that sits front and centre on the album. "I think it was just that nobody had encouraged me before," he explains. "Then Ross [Orton, the producer] was keen on both the indie stuff and the electronic bits, so it helped me finally commit to moving over into that sphere. That meant I was freer to express my ideas in the studio. There were less people in the studio a lot of the time too, which meant it was easier to bin the shit stuff and run with the good ideas. Less ego in the room meant less tantrums, and we ended up doing most of the recording in about 10 days.

"Because of the earlier stuff, I am worried that people will think we're just fucking around with synths and that, instead of actually caring about the genres we're moving into," he adds. "I love electronic music and whilst the album was being written and recorded I was listening to a load of African dance music, as well as what was going on in Detroit and Chicago in the 80s and 90s, the Sheffield stuff like Cabaret Voltaire too. I love the industrial stuff that all traces back to Kraftwerk, but people seem to assume we're just a band from the Manchester scene who are doing a bit of throwback synth stuff."

He pauses, before saying: "Honestly as brilliant as playing in Manchester is, so much of it is so bland and stuck in the past. Some people might think we're the same, but I write the songs, and I know I'm not sitting here trying to bang out a Happy Mondays rip-off or whatever. I think a lot of writers are so hung up on recreating the past, and it's really fucking sad, to be honest. If you want to go and make music that has already been made, just go and join a fucking covers band – make your own music or don't bother."

Working Men's Club: "This mundane turn in British music is the most annoying thing"
"You need to have an opinion, don't you?"
Syd Minsky-Sargeant

His frustration at the lack of creativity isn't just a dig at other bands on the circuit, it's a way of vindicating what Working Men's Club are doing, and the frustration clearly stems in large part from the band being lumped in with other acts who they really don't have much in common with. "I just want to be blunt with people and say that we are not a post-punk band – at all." He says in a tone that doesn't offer any room for argument. "Maybe when we started out with the old line-up, we were a little bit that way, but we're not now. It's good to mislead people for a bit, but I don't want us to end up so far down that path that we can't come back."

"Every four years or so you get a revival of something or other," he continues. "But whether it's good or not? That's another question. We had psych a few years back, and now we've got post-punk, and all these bands are just doing the same thing, and it's all just a bit shit really. It's nice to see independent bands selling out bigger venues, and a lot of the music is good too, but I just don't find it very interesting, basically. Again, they're not doing anything new. So many bands are blatantly ripping off stuff from now even that long ago, with no character, no soul at all. These bands come from these synthesised big cities where everyone's telling them that everything's great and there's no struggle or pain. Some guy gets on stage and starts singing songs about his fucking cat – that is literally what's going on at the moment, because they've got fuck all else to talk about.

"This mundane turn in British music is the most annoying thing, however well you're playing. You've gotta have a fucking purpose, otherwise what's the meaning to your art? This focus on singing about what you're doing just to fill space, make music and not analyse it at all is shit. That's my opinion, anyway, and you need to have an opinion, don't you? If not then what's the point in doing interviews, or even getting up on stage? You'd be proper fucked. Half the time I read an interview and the band are just talking about how cool or intelligent they are, and I'm just sitting there like 'I don't give a shit!'" He laughs. "I just don't like reading all this bollocks where a band is completely up themselves about all this pretentious stuff."

He stops and collects his thoughts, before summing up: "At the end of the day I'd much rather sit here and talk about how shit the world is, rather than wanking off about how great my music is – although the album is great." 

Taken from the October issue of Dork. Working Men's Club's self-titled album is out 2nd October.

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