Dirtbag Journalism

Interview : The Gin Riots


After playing jam-packed shows at El Mocambo, The Garrison and Wrongbar during this year’s NXNE Festival, London’s The Gin Riots are finally on the receiving end of long overdue North American attention as they gear up to release their EP, Sin + Sinew this July.  Having begun as a two-person folk outfit, Guy Stevenson and Cilian Logue were joined by Tim Burton and Taan Parker, and the band eventually evolved into a genre-straddling four-piece, earning accolades from audiences and critics for their enthusiastic performances and fearless and refreshing sound.  Prior to their energetic and highly acclaimed NXNE sets, Dirtbag caught up with The Gin Riots at the Hyatt to talk about why energy’s become a novelty, their new EP and why they don’t consider themselves a political band.

Dirtbag Journalism: After this year’s SXSW and your last appearance at NXNE, you got a lot of attention for being very energetic and exuberant during your live performances.  Why do you think it’s become almost a novelty for artists to be energetic and seem enthused onstage?

Guy Stevenson: It’s definitely become a big part of our identity as a band – getting into the shows and being active onstage.

Tim Burton: It’s also what we want the crowd to be like as well, so we have to set an example.  We don’t want people to just stand there and watch – we want people to move and dance.

GS: I mean a lot of our tunes have a swing beat to them, and looking back to old swing tunes and stuff, quite often you get a lot of people just jumping around.  I don’t know – is it a novelty for other bands to move around and stuff?

DJ: I think it can be a novelty for both the bands and the audiences sometimes.  There are a lot of times the audience doesn’t interact, and you’ve been cited as being a very interactive band, where with other bands there can be that wall.

GS: Well I think a lot of the bands that influenced us like The Pogues and The Cure – those bands are all about dancing and getting the audience going and letting go, I guess.  That’s the reason we like playing out here – there’s a lot less cynicism, I think.  People get into it, and they’re less afraid to let go and get into the music where in London they’re kind of standoff-ish.

Cilian Logue: Everybody’s too cool for school in London as well.  You can’t ever show that you like someone because it will make you uncool to profess who you like.

GS: I guess it depends on the scene.

DJ:  Is there a genre you feel you align yourselves with the best?

GS: Folk is a big influence.  Folk punk is how it started out – indie folk punk.  Then a little darker and a little more introspective.  There was a quote, “get drunk to make music to get drunk to”, and at the beginning that’s how it started.  But I think over the last couple years it’s just developed – you can’t only make music to get drunk to, there’s more depth to it now.

DJ: I just saw your video for The Polka, and it seems to be a commentary on the superficiality and the seediness of the night life.  Do you use your music intentionally to comment on social issues or is it something that just happens?

GS: I don’t think I aim to write lyrics that do that.  I hate socially conscious bands, I think it quite often backfires.

CL:  For every one Rage Against the Machine there’s ten Coldplays wearing a bracelet.

GS: I don’t think you start off writing a tune with political and social intention.  Maybe there’s some commentary in there, but it’s not a manifesto.

DJ: Well, The Gin Riots started off as a two-person folk band.  How did it evolve into a four-piece? Was it an organic thing?

CL:  No, we actually had a fairytale crystal moment where we thought, “screw this, let’s just go to London and start a band”, and that’s what happened.

GS: We met playing Nick Drake tunes, covers originally and then started writing our own tunes through that, played through the acoustic scene in Bristol, then decided –

CL: Well it was kind of the crunch point and we thought, “what are we going to do next?”

GS: And I think it was a question of wanting to move on and develop as a band and as I said before, The Pogues and The Cure were the two biggest influences of the music sort.

DJ: Which is interesting because they’re very different bands.

GS: Yeah, they are.  So you’ve got the sweetness of The Cure and the harshness of The Pogues.  Dirty Hotel and stuff like that.  So yeah, I think it was just in the name of wanting to progress.

CL: It was definitely not wanting to get proper jobs as well.  That was definitely in there as well.

DJ: And speaking of different bands and genres – and you being a band that encompasses a lot of genres – your digital EP is coming out in July.  Would you consider this a brand new instalment or a continuation of your past work?

CL: We’re almost trying to go for the three songs that are so wide that they contain everything in between, you know what I mean?  So In the Bedroom’s got a dark side to it, and then A Million Promises is very light and fancy.

GS: I think it’s what we were talking about before, too, where I said we started playing fun music, and these songs have more depth to them.  Actually, there’s one tune that’s got a country feel to it and there’s another one that’s got kind of quite a seedy. Quite dark feel, like The Pogues, but it doesn’t have the folk element so much.

DJ: Is there something you’re most excited about with this EP?

CS: I think the country song – I love Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, and stuff that’s got a really good beat underneath it.  So that’s what I’m most excited about playing.  You know yourself when you have a good time playing a song, you know it’s a good song.  You’re your own worst critic as well, so if you like playing it then you know it’s gotta be a half-decent song.  And this song, whenever we play it, it puts a smile on all of our faces.

GS: A lot of the tunes we played before we played for so long that –

CS: It’s got that Radiohead Creep factor.  You’re just trying to get through.

Posted by : Anne T. Donahue