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Q&A: NARCS

by Kyle McCormick
Kyle McCormick
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on 18 May 2014 in Features

[Feature by Dave Beech.]

First brought to my attention last summer, Leeds-based four-piece NARCS are a band that have gone from strength to strength over recent months. Part of the ever-brilliant Clue Records roster and, along with current Yorkshire darlings Allusondrugs and relative newcomers Forever Cult make up West Yorkshire's trinity of '90s inspired fuzz-mongery.

NARCS own personal disposition might not be the sunniest (and having personally lived in Leeds for three years, I can't blame them) but their blend of punk, indie and straightforward rock holds enough universal appeal to appease even the pickiest of music fans in one way or another.

We caught up with lead singer Wilko to discuss new single 'Coast to Coast', the pros and cons of being a band in the perpetually grey North of England and what the future holds in store for NARCS.

Hi guys, cheers for having a chat with us. First of all, what's the story behind the name? Does it stand for anything or did it just feel right?

A jolly good evening to you, thanks for having us. The name comes from a very specific segment from a Simpsons episode in which Homer wears a Rastafarian hat and gets a cannon ball fired into his gut. I can’t remember who suggested it; we had a shortlist of about 150 names and this one just stood out. Needless to say the other ones were proper shit.

You've just released a double A-side in the form of 'Coast to Coast' and 'Souvenir'. What have the reactions been like to it?

‘Coast to Coast’ won’t go away. It’s the oldest track we have and it always seems to be the one that people remember. I don’t know if that’s a good thing though, I fucking hate songs that stick in my head but to be fair, it’s got a decent reception so far. ‘Souvenir’ is my favourite out of the two but I’ve no idea what people think of it.

Similarly, it's the last single to be taken from your debut ‘Two Birds, One Stone Later’, how was that received? Any material written for a follow-up yet or are you giving it some time before hitting the studio again?

It’s hard to tell how it was received really. It got lots of good reviews and everyone has been pretty positive about it that we’ve spoken to but we’re ready for some new songs now. We’ve got a few tracks that are almost ready to be recorded but we’ve no immediate plans to record, it’s just fun to be writing new stuff again.

'Coast to Coast' feels like an almost mellowing of sorts when compared to your previous singles. How true do you think this is?

I think that’s a very fair statement Mr Beech, we feel like we’ve changed a lot as a band since we wrote it. It’s probably the saddest subject we’ve ever written about so I guess it makes sense.

Was writing a more candid, even softer, track a conscious decision, or was it something that came about organically in the studio or practice room?

It just happened naturally really. I had the basic chords, melody and hook line but I had no idea what to write it about. Joe [guitar/backing vocals] had just lost his Grandma around the time of writing but neither of us felt like we wanted to write about that directly. Joe for obvious reasons, but for me singing it, I could never do the song justice on his behalf, but in truth that’s where the idea started.

There's an obvious narrative behind 'Coast to Coast' that's somewhat bittersweet. How personal is that narrative to you as a band? Is the idea of being outrun by technology something you've experienced or is it just a very real concept and one that will unfortunately probably happen to more people than we'd expect?

I can’t say any of us have experienced it directly. We grew up with all this mad technical shit developing around us so it’s pretty normal to us. My Grandma could never get her head round a mobile phone or an iPad though. To this day one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen is her trying to turn the alarm off on the mobile phone my Mum had bought her for Christmas. She was 91 at the time. I went to her house and she’d put a cushion over it to shut it up. It’d been going off every 10 minutes for 4 hours but she was just sat in her chair, nonchalant as you like reading teletext.

On a serious note though, it must be fucking crazy for an elderly citizen to see young people walking around with wires coming out of a little rectangle and sticking into the side of their head. I think it will have a negative impact on some people, but the majority will probably just get on with things the way they always have done.

Both sides of the single offer up a different side of you as a band; the softer, more candid side in the form of 'Coast to Coast' and the more angry, angstier side with 'Souvenir' but how indicative of NARCS as a band is this dynamic? Which track reflects you more?

We chose those two tracks for the singles because they’re our oldest and newest songs so it seemed fitting to put the album to bed with them. I think Souvenir is more like the kind of direction we’re heading in, it’s certainly more fun to play live, but at the same time, it’s nice to keep distance between songs in terms of style and substance, it keeps the songs fresher to us and doesn’t point us in any particular direction.

Previous singles such as '19' or 'Karaoke' have exhibited fairly different sounds for you as a band, what would be the best way to describe your sound to someone unfamiliar with the NARCS aesthetic?

Badly played guitars alongside well-played rhythm.

Leeds as a city seems to be developing it's own quintessential sound at the moment, with bands like Eagulls and some of your tracks exhibiting the kind of angry and frenetic post-punk that's currently dampening the knickers of the music press. Do you think there's anything about Leeds that causes bands to make the kind of music they do?

Leeds is a damp, grey, miserable Northern town - it’s fucking ace. There are loads of places that put on good gigs, and loads of top draw bands to choose from. No one is too far up their own arse (except for a few exceptions) to go watch another band, and there is an amazing DIY feel about the whole place. It feels like you’re part of a community.

I think it’s just a really good meeting point for people who like honest music and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most honest music (in my eyes) sounds a little bit pissed off. With the vast majority of TV being filled to the brim with clean-cut-half-dressed-binge-drinking-roid-heads, fame-chasing-cock-wits and Eastenders, it’s only right that in a city full of opinionated musicians, we have a little moan about it.

What does the rest of the year have in store from you? Can we expect any more releases, an EP perhaps? Or are you concentrating on gigging now the last single has been released?

Honestly, not a clue. We’ll see how these new tracks we’re writing pan out and if they do we’ll get them out in some shape or form. We’ve got Live at Leeds coming up and we’ll probably try jump on a few festival slots and spend the summer gigging. Either that or we’ll sit on our arses and fade even further in to obscurity.

Finally, any parting words or exclusive news you'd like to give our readers before we finish?

We’ve got a new guitarist and his name’s Sam. Sam is very nice and is a very good singer. His second name is Smith :)

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