Leeds band Officers are about to release their new single Born in May so we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out more about their new material, their take on the Yorkshire music scene and working with Gary Numan.
By Adam Shorthouse
We’re happy to hear that a new single will be dropping on the 25th of this month titled Born in May. What can we expect from the single?
It sounds optimistic, summery and much more soaring and psychedelic than anything we’ve produced before. It tells a story and sucks you in lyrically with each listen. It’s definitely an anthem in feel, but retains some cool too. We’ve not ventured into [BBC] Radio 2 territory just yet.
Do you guys have an album in the works?
We have at least two written. But the industry has changed so much, especially for a band like ourselves, that albums in the traditional sense don’t seem to make a lot of sense these days. That’s not to say we won’t put them out as ‘albums’ at some point but a series of individual tracks released regularly seems to fit better with what we do and how we operate as a band and as people – we’ve never seemed to fit. The tracks we’re releasing form part of Jackal, which has always been the title of whatever the second long-form record looks like. Whether that’s something physical, or a Spotify users’ playlist…
Your last full length album On The Twelve Thrones was released way back in 2011. How has your sound developed in the last six years?
A lot has happened personally, culturally and musically since our last LP. We became better at what we do. Saying more with less was very much the mission statement. This makes for a much more succinct record. The layers are cleaner, arrangements more powerful and lyrics (a little) more optimistic. Production wise, it’s a monster as we learned more about what we were doing and how to work better and more effectively as a unit. We have more guitars and synths/toys to play with and collaborating with Ade Fenton and Nathan Boddey on mixing has made a huge impact on the overall vocal sound and the sonic clarity we needed in the songs. Teaming up with Dave Bascombe again who smashed the dbs [decibels] though the roof – and then some – was fantastic.
We had new musicians on the record through [live guitarist] Dan’s input, which allowed for a fresh input sonically and creatively whilst retaining the true Officers sound. This really changed the writing process and made it far simpler – in places. We are so proud of Jackal and what it stands for. True independent music with only the band, crew and Angus, our manager’s, input has allowed us to make the record we wanted to.
You hit Number 2 in the German charts with your collaboration with Gary Numan on the track Petals. How did that make you feel and did it motivate you when it came to writing Born in May?
Moderate commercial success was very satisfying as connecting with people through a record is what we strive to do as musicians. It was a very personal song, so for it to be accepted and consumed by so many was very satisfying and almost comforting. Whatever the audience’s interpretation of the lyrics, we’re proud of what we achieved with that. There were a number of special people who made the song and video a success, and that made it all the more rewarding as it was such a creative and gifted team that helped to deliver the whole thing.
In terms of inspiring Born in May, the two songs were probably written at pretty much the same time but it definitely inspired us to evaluate how we write and the noise we make whilst working on tracks. Vocally, listening to Gary’s tracks in isolation schooled us on how to deliver a lyric and was a magical experience. It really pushed us. Hearing every breath of one of our heroes was a surreal and fantastic lesson.
Accompanying Born in May we get to see some rather striking artwork. Can you tell us about the artist and how this style of art relates to your music?
The artwork is another special piece of work by acclaimed British artist Stuart Semple, who we have huge history of collaborating with. We’ve been making things together for almost ten years now, stretching back to when we helped him prepare for a huge exhibition at Truman Brewery in London. As far as the relation goes, Stuart is probably as much a misfit in his world as we are in the music world. We don’t play the traditional game, so that’s one reason why things work. As individuals, we just click and there’s total trust there. Stuart has such a great taste in music that it’s amazing that what we do inspires some of the genius that he comes up with for us. The other key thing is it’s never about business, it’s for the love and for creativity and pleasure of working together. It’s rare to have that these days. Everything is usually commercialised or industrialised. If anything is ever profited we’d share it equally of course, but it’s so rare for that to happen with the types of things we try to produce.
You’ve done plenty of work with CALM, the Campaign against Living Miserably. How did you get involved with the charity?
Originally it came about from a conversation with our friend and DJ Eddy Temple Morris. We were about to collaborate with Gary Numan for the first time, and we thought that we’d use the opportunity to use our raised profile for something worthwhile, and Eddy introduced us to CALM. We’ve both experienced mental health challenges in the past and understand clearly the stigma associated with being a man and talking about those challenges, as well as experiencing suicide amongst friends and family. It seemed such an important thing that we needed help to contribute to. We’re immensely proud of some of the campaigns and the work we’ve contributed to for the charity. We’re currently working with Brian from Placebo’s plans for something very special for CALM that we’ll do later this year. So, very excited about that. Stay tuned.
What can you tell us about the music scene here in Yorkshire? We know we’d be delighted to have you guys play here.
RSJ are still one of our favourite Yorkshire bands. They are sonically astounding and physically overpowering. So, we we’re really sad to hear they’re splitting. They share the spirit of us as a band – doing things on your own terms. On the underground Soma Crew do some fantastic things, …And The Hangnails, Boss Caine, Missing Kids, Mark Wynn and Fawn Spots are consistently exciting and doing great things in York.
I think we’ve probably got some of the best promoters to be honest too: Stubbsy, Joe Coates and Tim Hornsby are still bringing the coolest acts to the region, and you’ve got Paul Lowman giving new bands often their first gigs at The Inkwell. And again, they often make a loss for providing the area with such an inspiring and rich culture. That’s real art and love.
We can’t forget Shed Seven, can we? They’ve had a hard time in the press historically but they’re are another band who did it because they meant it, operated, and were super successful, on their own terms and without any blessings. That’s probably the real reason they had such a hard time. Their first couple of albums and associated B-sides were definitely influential on us as kids, again probably because they went against the grain so much. You definitely wouldn’t have had chart-worrying bands like Kaiser Chiefs without them, or a host of other bands from the area, whether those bands like to admit it or not. We’ve been friends with those guys for a lot of years, and we’ve collaborated together on various bits and pieces. After they split originally, we actually wrote and recorded a few things with Rick which would probably have surprised a few people, I think. It sounded like The Stooges with Exterminator-era Primal Scream. It was probably just a bit too far to go for him, to be honest, though, and he eventually formed The Dukes with Matt Lunn who became our, and then Placebo’s, drummer. Really pleased to see Rick and Paul back together writing. They just write great, catchy, no nonsense anthems together. That was definitely missing when Paul left and they carried on without him. Youth [producer] will hopefully work the best out of that writing partnership and, of course, Tom and Alan’s outstanding musicianship. They deserve some overdue respect. We actually always remember working with Johnny Greenwood and Radiohead’s right-hand man Graeme Stewart [co composer for the There Will Be Blood Soundtrack, producer on In Rainbows] on our first single. It turned out his first record to work on was A Maximum High and still raved about the bands musicianship. That kind of said a lot to us. Excited to hear what they come up with.
Who have inspired you guys recently? And who should we look out for as your influences for your latest music?
That’s such a can of worms because we do really rinse a lot of stuff in the studio. We don’t listen to stuff because it’s ‘cool’; there’s often something in everything that can be inspiring or transposed into something new. But, we were listening to a lot of Techno and Wu-Tang Clan, Death Grips, Alec Empire, Ride, MBV, Primal Scream, Madvillain, Slowdive, [Gary] Numan – classic and new – Burial, Iggy Pop, Bowie, Eno, Six By Seven, Placebo, Sabres of Paradise, Moonlandingz, alongside some more obscure stuff like Evil Blizzard, The OhSees, Ghost Wave, Videodrones, Pye Corner, Blackash, Ought, Orange Revival and a lot of stuff from Death Waltz records.
Where are we going to see Officers in the future? Should we expect any tours? Or do we have anymore fantastic collaborations in the future?
Touring is the best, when it’s right and we have met some of the most amazing people and had the best experiences in our life through Officers. We are very real, friendly people off-stage so touring allows us to connect with people at a very tribal level which we love. We email and stay in touch with people we have met through touring regularly which is great. We love the family feel. It makes for a relationship like no other. Often heightened and drowned in extremes. However, it’s really expensive to do these days, especially with the type of things we want to do, at the level we are. So, unless you have someone who really believes in what you do and can take you along as support, it’s not going to happen easily; and there’s so many iconic venues shutting down that makes it even harder. If we don’t do a full tour this year, we’ll definitely play some unique shows. We really like the look of somewhere like The Church in Leeds.
Any last words for the fans?
We’re here, and there’s fire to walk through. Just the way we like it.
Born In May by Officers is available on Thursday 25 May 2017.