Bath’s Hidden Music Scene

September 27, 2017

It’s easy to understand why Bath is always bustling with tourists – with its rich history, breathtaking views and stunning architecture. But when you’re a student here, you come to realise that there’s so much more to Bath than that. Hidden underground, in clubs such as Moles and The Nest, there’s an ever-growing music scene, which is quickly making its way out into the world.

Bath Spa University has brought forth some of the most exciting new talent the city has to offer, with bands of every possible genre making their debut here – We Are Parkas and JOY being just two of them.

We Are Parkas | Image by ©Amy Stirling

We Are Parkas
We Are Parkas have been described as one of the most promising Bath-based bands, skilfully creating indie rock without the pretentiousness that the genre is often known for. Formed in October 2015, their shows have packed out venues not only locally, but across the country. And it’s easy to understand why, because as soon as front man Matt Banks takes the stage, the room is filled with an electric energy.

Milk writer Amy Stirling caught up with guitarist Owen Stephens and drummer Joe Strauss, to find out more about the four-piece that nobody can get enough of.

For those who haven’t come across We Are Parkas yet, can you describe your sound in three words?
Joe: Riffy, meat, party.

We Are Parkas was born almost two years ago now. How have things changed since you first started
playing together?

Owen: We’ve spent long, long amounts of time together. Amounts of time that you wouldn’t normally want to spend with the same people, so we all know each other very well now.
J: And we know how to play with each other a lot better, too.

What’s the best experience you’ve had as a band so far?
O: Can we say the whole of the tour?
J: I don’t remember it that well, but our first headline at The Nest was sick.
O: All those early days were really fun, but then going to places like London and Cardiff has been amazing as well. It’s not even just the gigs, but the nights we have after that are memorable.

Are there any big lessons you think you’ve learned from going on tour?
O: You have got to have your shit together. Otherwise things can get messy.

What kind of music do you guys listen to when you’re on tour, to make the long car journeys more bearable?
J: We usually have an album each.
O: Joe will normally pick Kendrick, which has made his music really grow on me. With Matt, it will inevitably be Oasis or the Stone Roses; he’s an easy man to please.
J: You [Owen] usually put on The Killers. And for George, it’s usually Joy Division or Nirvana.

How do you think your different tastes in music help to shape the sound for We Are Parka?
J: It’s nice because we can draw influences from all the genres that we listen to as individuals, which makes our writing a lot more eclectic.
O: Matt loves his rap, but he also loves his super melodic Oasis-y stuff. It’s the groove really, that’s what all the music that we listen to has in common. We can write entire songs around how good a groove is.

Do you have a favourite song to play live?
J: It changes. I think at the moment it’s probably either ‘Penny Drop’ or ‘Why’s It Not Me’.
O: That’s exactly the same for me. It’s probably ‘Penny Drop’. Which is, plug plug, the new single, which will be coming out very soon.

Finally, what can we be expecting to see from We Are Parkas in the up and coming months?
O: Well, we’ve just finished recording ‘Penny Drop’, so hopefully that’ll be out early November-time. Then the video for that should be produced this side of Christmas and hopefully released, as soon as possible, afterwards.
J: We have a few shows as well. We’ve got a little run of dates at the end of September in London, Swindon, Bath and Cardiff, from the 27th to the 30th. And then, in October we’re playing ‘This Feeling’ in Bristol.
O: That’s October 6th, we’re playing with False Heads. And then we’re playing The Nest on October 10th with some of our friends, so that should be a good gig, too.
J: Lots of exciting stuff coming up!

Another band whose name is quickly becoming a household name on the Bath music scene, is the scruffy yet charming three-piece, JOY. Their alternative sound could be compared to Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age and Sonic Youth. And, after a recent change of image, JOY have blown up online and gained fans all over the country.

JOY | Image by ©Amy Stirling

Frontman Toby Ijbema, drummer Ben Roe and bassist Ale Invernizzi chat about what’s to come.

For people who haven’t come across JOY yet, can you describe your sound in three words?
Toby: Loud, quiet, then loud again.

I can tell that you’re all really close friends – was this connection formed before JOY was created or did the band bring you closer together?
Ale: The band has definitely brought us together.
Ben: When JOY formed I didn’t know these guys. Toby and Ale knew each other and I got picked up along the way.
A: It’s a funny story actually, I heard Ben drumming in one of the rehearsal rooms, I peeked through the window and I was like ‘yep’.

I know that you guys have recently changed the name of the band to JOY. What was the reason behind this change?
T: Well, we lost our previous guitarist and we had a chance to shoot this video, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to change the name at that point.

Has being a member down affected your sound in any way?
A: It’s kind of calmed down.
B: Yeah, it’s definitely gone from being just as loud as we can possibly play to slightly more controlled. We’ve been trying out some new guitarists as well, and they’ve brought in different ideas.
A: It kind of made us think more about what we’re actually playing, and become more tight as a band.
B: We’re just trying to hone the sound and create an image that’s a bit less frantic.
T: Now there’s only three instruments it’s easier to focus on each part and work out what each person is doing.

Why did you feel now was the right time to reinvent yourselves as a band?
B: The moment came when Toby ran into Youtube family, The Michalaks, in town.
T: Yeah, Steph saw me busking and said that he was going to put a video up on his channel, which has a lot of subscribers. We realised that this was going to be the first time a lot of people were going to hear our music, so we thought it would be good to go into that with a fresh face.
A: We just had to start having a think about what we really wanted the band to be.

What has receiving all this online attention done for you as a band? Has anything changed?
A: It’s definitely put us in overdrive.
T: We know that if we do something now, people are actually going to hear it, so it’s given us more motivation.
B: It’s nice to hear that people actually like our stuff. It’s been a confidence boost for sure. Before we’d only get a few people listening to our music and coming to our gigs, and we’d get kind words about our sound but never to the extent that we do now. It’s made us want to be the best that we can possibly be.

Your debut single, ‘Tree’, came out on the 28th July. What’s the idea behind the song and the artwork?
T: The first verse is about losing the inhibition that comes along with alienation, and then the second verse is just about the inhibition. It’s kind of like, different takes on that feeling and, to some extent, a revelation to it, I hope.
B: The artwork literally reflects that. I just told Toby to draw what he was imagining, and when he did I had the exact same idea in my head, so we ran with that and tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Finally, what can we be expecting to see from JOY in the up and coming months?
T: Like, so much stuff. We’re going to bring an EP out, which will be debuted at Moles on November 17th.
B: We’re really excited for that. The next few months we’re just going to be working hard on making that show the best that it can be, and making the music the best that it can be.
A: We’re also making a music video, so that should be quite cool, too.

Be sure to catch We Are Parkas and JOY play together at The Nest on October 10th. To find out more about both bands check them out on Facebook, Spotify and iTunes.

Follow We Are Parkas on Facebook, Spotify and YouTube.
Follow JOY on Facebook and Spotify.

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