We sat down with Leeds alternative rock band SKULL to discuss their formation, influences, gigging and their new single Lightswitch.
By Jane Howkins
Hello guys. We hear you formed from the ashes of another band – which group was that and how did that bring you all together?
Yes. SKULL is not our first venture and the previous incarnation was an equally exciting time for us musically. The months under our first name were spent cultivating the sound that you hear with SKULL. The result is now a coming together of four minds, rather than four different styles being thrown into a pot. It wasn’t a ‘falling out of love’ with the original name; however, we had moved on and felt the time was right to brand our collective sound as a band. So SKULL is what we have become. It fits us. The whole brand definitely reflects us as a group now and the new tracks we are creating feel like they belong to SKULL. We have found that the change has brought a new lease of life to us, especially with the writing of songs. When preparing for a gig, we now have a couple of dozen tracks to pick from, which is great as we can really try to tailor our set towards the specific gig that we are playing.
You’re from Leeds, which is obviously just down the road from us in York – have you ever played any gigs here and, if not, would you consider doing so in the future? Is it an area you know well?
As of yet – though not from a lack of desire – we haven’t played in York. Short answer? We’d love to. We’ve heard and seen so many good things from other bands and on social media about some of the venues you have to offer. Then there’s the gigs we’ve been to. Places like Fibbers, The Fulford Arms and The Barbican have been great when we’ve visited them as punters. Any promoters reading this? Get in touch if you like what you hear – let’s do a thing!
What is the music scene like in Leeds at the moment? From what we’ve heard, it’s so vibrant.
The live scene in Leeds is gaining notoriety through the sheer volume of what it has to offer. It’s great for us to be a part of that, both as a band and fans of music. The addition of the Leeds Arena and venues such as The Belgrave and The Key Club, to the already established and award winning Brudenell Social Club, have definitely helped; however, losing the venue Carpe Diem still leaves us reeling a little as a band. It’s important that we do our best as music fans to keep the good venues going. Promoters are a key ingredient to any music scene. Stand-outs in Leeds include Veritas Promotions, In Utero and of course (our favourite) The 360 Club. Richard Watson has done so much for unsigned bands, including SKULL, that he should always get a mention when the Leeds music scene is discussed.
What kind of stuff are you influenced by and what have you been listening to recently? Anything you recommend we check out?
Our influences vary massively, from the bands you’d probably expect us to listen to (QOTSA, Black Sabbath, Queen, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson) as well as some artists that you may not necessarily associate with our sound (Neil Young, Tom Petty, Captain Beefheart, Apollo Brown, The Prodigy, Faithless, Empire of the Sun). Sticking closely to our roots, Northern Soul is an influential genre of music that is best described as a movement and it can definitely consume you. Therefore, it’s no surprise that one artist, Frank Wilson, produced the most expensive record sold at auction (£25k!). Right now I’m listening to and obsessed with with Ty Segall, Aaron has been listening to Ghost albums, Ben is currently working his was through ZZ Top’s back catalogue and Mark has Led Zeppelin on loop! A local band (from Dewsbury) that we’ve been listening to is Adore//Repel. We had the pleasure of meeting these guys at the Lightswitch single launch too. If you haven’t already checked out their debut album – Empty Orchestra – make sure you do. It’s a great album. So that’s the snapshot. There’s so much that we do listen to (I love a bit of trance too) that it would be far too much to talk about here …
You released a new single at the end of last month called Lightswitch; what can you tell us about that and what does the title refer to?
Lightswitch is definitely one of those melancholic love songs about how we all go into love blind. How we should probably take it slower when the big L comes around, but we can’t adjust to the feelings quick enough. During the chase we imagine how great it could be, which only spurs us on even more. Then the yearning takes over. Once a connection has been made, all the time our heads are constantly fighting our hearts. We dare not take the leap for fear of giving ourselves over, so it’s about how our hearts battle the mind – telling us to risk it. Our head fears the bloodshed, tears and sickness of a broken heart. Maybe from our past experiences? Hence the blood and sick in the video. So it comes down to the flick of a switch; is it on? Or not?
Do you have plans for a full length release – either EP or album – this year?
We are looking to record and produce an album this summer, at Crooked Rain Studios in Leeds. We recorded both RPM and Lightswitch there with Bob Cooper who, to put it in layman’s terms, just gets us. It’s very important as a band that you can find someone who is genuinely into your groove to record with. We have had experiences on both sides of this coin and the differences in results can be huge. The bonus is that Bob, who is meticulous, is amazing at what he does. The name, direction and theme of the album is already set, it’s now about figuring out the right songs and their order before we record them this summer. Another bonus from having the concept in motion, is that the artwork is also already in our thoughts – which is good as it gives us plenty of time before the release! We could release a double album, if money and time were not an issue. However, as a self-funded band it is just not possible to do so at the moment. The album will be the first time that you will see SKULL on iTunes and other online stores and streaming services. More importantly (to us) it will be the first time that we release physical copies of our songs. We will hope to distribute these to as many local music shops as possible around the West Yorkshire area. It’s important to us that we reach out to an audience who still loves discovering new music, as we do, in stores such as Jumbo Records and Crash Records in Leeds. It’s also important to support these stores, if we still want to see them on the high street in the future. All in all, this is a very exciting time for us at SKULL, with the plans for the upcoming release now in motion.
We hear you had a single launch on 28 April at the 360 Club in Leeds; what was that like and did it differ from a normal gig?
The single launch was done with the 360 Club at the Lending Room (The Library, Leeds) and this was the second time that we have done a single release with them. These are anything but ‘normal’ gigs. The atmosphere was immense and with each release we have noticed that there are far more ‘regulars’ joining us than we had previously. It takes so much pressure off the band, to be part of such a well organised night that is in a fantastic venue. Add to that an amazing sound engineer (cheers Pete!) with a great system and you always have the recipe for a great gig. It was also great to play on the same live night as Being A Tiger again. They’re a great band so make sure you check them out. And that’s the other thing about the 360 Club – the acts that are put on are always top quality musicians. We also need to mention BBC Introducing in West Yorkshire and Alan Raw too; they have really supported us over our time in both guises. It’s a great platform to showcase your music and we’ve been fortunate enough to go in and chat live with Alan about both of our [SKULL’s] singles. It’s therefore up to us to continue producing songs that we enjoy, believe in and that relate to others …
You have a few tour dates left this month, in Sheffield, Huddersfield and the one supporting Tom Hingley of Inspiral Carpets in Leeds on the 25th. How did that one come about, and were you fans of Tom before the gig was confirmed?
The Lightswitch tour has been great for us. We have managed to play in some sweet venues, with some great bands and there are still quite a few to go. We even managed to get a support slot with Elvana at The Belgrave in Leeds. The gig was sold out and it was good for us as the crowd was definitely one that could relate to our music. We are playing The Parish (Huddersfield) supporting the Canadian band Royal Tusk alongside Damp, which will be great as the bands sound cool and the venue is one of the best around in our opinion. Then, the night after, we play the Tom Hingley gig you mention – back at The Belgrave in Leeds. As a group of slightly ‘seasoned’ musicians, we can remember listening to the Inspiral Carpets (as young children I may add!), and so this gig is going to be a great experience playing alongside Tom at such a great venue in our home town. In fact, shortly after it was announced, we had friends, family and fans messaging us about this gig. We will also be playing with The Calls that night, who are another up and coming band from Leeds and as this will be the first time we play with them too, it’ll be good to get know another band that is from the area. We’ve kept things relatively local this time around, with respect to the Lightswitch tour and, hopefully, we can add York to the list next time …
What do you think people should expect from a typical SKULL gig?
Energy. Big riffs. Loud noises. Facial hair. Good times.
And any last words for fans of SKULL?
Of course – a big thanks to everyone who has supported us by coming to a gig, for buying merchandise and music so that we can continue as a band, spreading the word to help us get out there, given us gigs at great venues, all the advice, coffee and Guinness (Ta Ricardo) and for those who have followed us from the beginning – a big thank you for seeing the transition through – we hope you continue to enjoy the music as much as we do.