Flats: Kick It ‘Til It Breaks

With two blistering EPs and their eardrum shredding new single ‘Never Again’ behind them, Flats have established the most credible punk sound for donkey’s years. On the eve of their eleven night UK tour, I caught up with frontman Dan Devine to find out more about what could well be The Only Group That Matters (2011 Edition):

Dick: I understand that you got the band together with Luke when you were sharing a flat – what made you want to start a band in the first place?

Dan: The same reason that every young kid gets into music, probably idolization if anything, from when you’re a young kid watching bands on TV – you wanna be on the screen. From a child, that’s what I wanted and I’m pretty sure that’s what 90% of people in bands wanted.

Our Sponsors

Dick: Was getting Flats together a continuation of what you’d been doing?

Dan: Vaguely – I was in one band before, but it wasn’t really a band. We played one gig. At the time, I was listening to a lot of ATV and DAF, so it was a bit more noisy and post punky. I was into that, but I was definitely leaning towards just punk – I was listening to a lot of really abrasive American stuff, I started to get into a lot of Three One G bands like the Locust, Arab On Radar, and a lot of the Justin Pearson stuff – pretty much every band he’s worked with I was amazed by. We played our one gig and it was atrocious, so we fucked that off. Then it took me about a year or a year-and-a-half to really do anything else, but I’d always been adamant that I wanted to do a punk band – I’d be at parties, pissed up, going on about how there hasn’t been an important punk band in the British music scene for years and I’m gonna be the first one doing it.

Dick: You are one of the very few contemporary groups that actually convince as a punk band, and I pointed out the ATV influence in the review of your last EP, when I said that you sounded a bit like Mark Perry.

Dan: That’s fantastic – I’ve actually got [the cover of] Mark Perry’s solo record tattooed on my wrist. I’m a massive, massive Perry fan.

Dick: Did you get into the Good Missionaries?

Dan: Yeah, I love ‘em, Fire From Heaven is amazing – and ‘Fellow Sufferer (In Dub)’ – there was an ATV version of ‘Fellow Sufferer’, which is really good, but the Good Missionaries version is amazing – so creepy and so dark. I’m actually really into Snappy Turns.

Dick: That got dismissed by a lot of critics as their ‘pop’ album…

Dan: It’s not – It’s got that one pop song that sounds like Patrik Fitzgerald, but the rest of the album’s really dark and intense. It’s actually spurred me along, when the label gave me some equipment budget, I bought some equipment and I’m building a studio in my living room. About two years ago, I went through a stage where I collected every ATV seven-inch, then I left my record box on the bus one night, and I’ve spent the past two years trying to rebuild it – I’ve managed to get most of it, but I haven’t got any Good Missionaries stuff, so I’m still collecting.

Dick:  In a way, ATV fed back into the anarcho scene – the cover of the Mob’s Let The Tribe Increase was based on the Vibing Up The Senile Man sleeve, and a lot of their songs have the same vibe as something like ‘Lost In Room’.

Dan: Without a doubt – I was always in two minds about the Mob, ‘cos they’ve got a couple of really amazing, really great, creepy songs, but they’ve got a bit of tripe, as well. ‘Witch Hunt’ – That’s a fantastic song. The Bullshit Detector albums are probably one of the most important volumes of music for our band. I bought the record, there’s a shop in Camden that had a whole section dedicated to all the Crass releases and I found the first Bullshit Detector compilation. I got it home and it sent me nuts, and I went and accumulated all of them. We actually had a review written about us the other week and it said that we sounded like we’d come straight off a Bullshit Detector compilation – that’s probably the highest accolade we’ve got so far. I like all of them, there’s a lot of weird stuff on there that they obviously just put on there because they knew no one in their right mind would ever release these songs. It’s almost like they were doing a public service by helping these young kids and saying ‘fuck you’ to the industry.

Dick: Penny Rimbaud often said that Crass were an ‘information service’…

Dan: Yeah, Lydon also ripped off that same quote three years later!

Dick: So when you started out, you were basically a group of mates – do you go along with Joe Strummer’s assertion that a band should be like a gang?

Dan: To an extent – I enjoy the fact that we’re all really good pals and we all hang out constantly, and that’s an important factor. If you are that type of band and you have a gang mentality, then it comes across in the music and you can really feel – almost in a sappy, sentimental way – you can feel the love in the room. Even with bands that make very angry, antagonistic music, you can tell that they’re all working as a unit; nine times out of ten it’ll be better. And the music’ll be better. But then again, I also don’t agree with the whole Libertines/Clash vibe of ‘Yeah, we’re like brothers in arms, and we’re getting into mischief and getting into scrapes – the Jack the lad type thing. I’m not into that idea of the gang/band, I personally would take the idea of the band being a gang in how we all work together and the how we all appreciate each other’s abilities, rather than thinking ‘Right, we’re gonna get lashed up and go on the pull’ and pretend that we’re some little gang. I think there are a couple of bands who take the idea of a gang mentality and they develop it into trying to make themselves little scallies and that’s not really what we’re about.

Dick: Where did the name ‘Flats’ come from?

Dan: Our friend called Sam from a band called SCUM, he was into Japanese noise rock and there’s a Japanese noise rock band called High Rise and we were all sitting around with him and he was saying how he wanted to start a band called Flats as like an English take on High Rise. We stole the name off him! To be honest, once someone puts an idea out there like that, as long as we’re all friends and it’s appreciated and put to good use, it’s open for grabs. If I came up with an idea that he then used, I’d be happy from him to do it, as long as he done a good job with it.

Dick: We’ve spoken a bit about the punk influence on the band’s music – what does punk mean to you?

Dan: I suppose it’s a cliché to say so, but it’s like rebel music for when you’re a kid. Through my entire life listening to music, I’ve always wanted to listen to the anti-hero music – the voice of the unimpressed type thing. Just whatever upsets the parents, or upsets the establishment, all of which are massively clichéd things, but at the end of the day, the reason they’re clichés is because they’re true. That’s why 15 year old kids are obsessed with nu-metal and Slipknot is because their parents find them scary – If you turn up at your nan’s house with your hair all grown out and piercings and a band t-shirt with skulls on it, you’re gonna get funny looks and when you’re a kid you want funny looks. I think most people in bands never grow up. I mean, I’ve never grown up and none of the rest of the band have and we never intend to. We’re just gonna keep that mentality of always being on the wind-up, whether it’s winding up someone by wearing a t-shirt that they find offensive, or winding up someone by saying something offensive. It’s all a matter of just doing it for the laugh, always appreciating that it’s all a bit of fun.

Dick: It’s entirely healthy for people to be offended…

Dan: Yeah, especially in Britain, since the sixties, the most successful bands have been the bands that irritate people, because that’s what makes them exciting and therefore means that the media writes about them because they’re causing a stir.

Dick: Most bands influenced by punk draw upon the initial art-school wave of 1976, whereas you appear to be orientated toward the sound of the early 1980s bands.

Dan: Definitely, that first wave of British hardcore bands to me is the most exciting era of music I’ve ever come across, because it took the ideals of the art school punk, but it took away the art school and the art school is tacky pomposity. It’s still happening today – the whole of London’s surrounded by art school bands. I’m not saying that we aren’t artistic – After all, we are a very artistic band in the way that we’re very creative, we take complete control over every step this band has taken, we’ve done every bit of artwork, we designed the video. The only time we ever had to back down for anything was when we were on Loog and they made us change a lyric because their lawyers had the last say. I feel that a lot of these art school bands base the whole idea of their band around trying to impress their peers, trying to impress the other people they’re at art school with and I don’t think we’ve really had to deal with that because I definitely knew that with this music, because their wasn’t another band around that was listening to the sounds that we were listening to, there really isn’t another band that sounds like us. I know it’s very arrogant for someone to say that at this stage in their career, but I don’t think there are any other bands in London at the moment that sound like us.

Dick: One of the things that is unique is the way that you sound like you would have fitted on the bill of something like the Apocalypse Now Tour in ’81.

Dan: Yeah, I think that because I knew that, the people that get it are the people from that world who understand why the whole art school way of being in bands is a bit trivial, and the people that don’t get it are the people that I don’t give a shit about, so I don’t really care what their opinion is. Because we went into this band with that sort of stance and said ‘Right, we’re just gonna write this music because we love this music’, rather than trying to slot into the current [thing of being] a little bit gothic, a bit of leather, a bit of winkle-pickers, maybe a pair of Doc Martens here and there – all polished up, it’s all a little bit samey. Because that just wasn’t what we were into, I think we come across naturally and I think that’s why people are getting on it.

Dick: Do you think that Flats stand alone as a band, or are there any other current groups that you feel a connection with?

Dan: There’s definitely a lot of bands around at the moment that we’re friends with, that I rate, but I think musically, I don’t really think that there’s any other bands that sound like us. As far as the British hardcore scene – I’m really into a lot of those bands, like a lot of the Rucktion bands, or the Holy Roar bands, but they are heavier than us in the sense that their songs are based around the brutality of the song, whereas I definitely write a song with the intent of writing a classic song. I listen to hardcore and I listen to metal, but I also like the Kinks, who are one of my favourite bands. I still want to be seen as someone who can write a great song, I’m not necessarily saying that I write a song with the intention of getting on the radio, but I definitely write a song thinking that in 20 years I want someone to look back and to hear these songs and think ‘what a great, well-crafted song’. Unfortunately with all the hardcore bands, that’s not really a factor – what they’re doing is more about fitting into the hardcore scene and being ‘who’s the heaviest? Who’s got the heaviest ideas?’ It’s quite a weird scenario to be in because we also don’t fit in with the whole indie crowd because we’re too heavy for the indie crowd. We’re too heavy for them, but we’re too light for the hardcore crowd. We do stand alone in that respect.

Dick: Something that I like about your sound is that you’ve got a hardcore vibe, but you’ve distilled all the metal out from it.

Dan: To be honest, the album is going to have metal influences, but they’re not metal in the way that people think of metal, like they think of metal and they think of either Slayer, or Metallica, or Slipknot. The metal we’re playing is really slow, sludgy stuff – classic doom stuff like Pentagram and Sabbath and verging toward more stoner-y sludgy stuff – We’re big Sleep fans, and I’m a massive Eyehategod fan. The other metal that I’m into is the very original wave of black metal. What black metal turned into – I think the story of it is very entertaining and interesting – but the actual music is just like sped-up goth with a lot of really heavily chorused bass and really distorted everything else. But that first wave of Venom and Hellhammer and stuff, that was genius. When I actually listened to Hellhammer, it sounded like Discharge to me – it sounds far closer to Discharge than any metal that was around at that time and what everyone takes as black metal nowadays – they’d cite bands like Hellhammer as their main influence, but when I listen to the two, I just think that the old stuff is far superior because it’s more accessible. I think that what we’ve managed to pull off, because we are a very heavy band, but we’ve managed to have a degree of accessibility.

Dick: Discharge did go thrash metal in the end…

Dan: Yeah, I actually really like their thrash stuff, I know a lot of people panned it, but I think it’s great. It’s really interesting. It’s obviously not as good as a lot of the thrash that was coming out at the time because they were a punk band that ended up drafting in a metal guitarist and Cal had left so they had to get a new vocalist. I don’t think they pulled it off as well as they could have, but they definitely had some good tunes – Shooting Up The World, I think that must have been their first or second proper thrash album – I think that’s great, it’s got some amazing riffs and it’s still a really good album. I’m massively into d-beat. We’re actually releasing two EPs – after the album we go straight in – we’ve come up with two concept EPs. We’re going to do two polar opposites released as a double gatefold EP; the first one’s going to be a homage to all our favourite d-beat bands and the other side’s going to be doom psyched-out stoner metal take on great electronic songs. We’re going to pick a DAF song, a Silver Apples song. we’re thinking of doing ‘Warm Leatherette’ and then either a really classic Cluster tune, or Human League. We’re going to make them really slow and sludgy, but still really rhythmic, to keep that repetitiveness that electronic music has. The d-beat one is what I’m really excited by, ‘cos I’m massively into d-beat – the Varukers, Disorder, and obviously Discharge who’re the main hitters, but I’m really into a lot of the Finnish and Swedish stuff that came out after that – there’s a band called Klimax who’re great and there’s this band called Riisteyt, and they’re the most insane thing I’ve ever heard – it’s just mental. We’re going to do pure, insane d-beat – superfast – we’ve just invested in a double-kick pedal for our drummer, so we can do 180bpm insanity, like gabba-punk.

Dick: It’s unusual to hear anyone referencing Silver Apples.

Dan: I discovered Silver Apples when I was about 18, they completely blew me away. Unfortunately he [Simeon Coxe] played on my birthday about a year later, but I couldn’t make it ‘cos I had plans with my parents and stuff. I was really upset that I missed it. Apparently, he’s coming back to England this year, so I’m gonna definitely going to go to see him. We’re deliberating over what track to do, but I’m hoping to do ‘Water’, ‘cos it’s got that really great two note riff. We’re thinking that of blasting that out with really heavily distorted guitars – we might even just keep the beat as it is and have everything beefed up and just so sludgy and crazy, and we’ll have the feedback going so that hopefully it’ll self-oscillate. It’ll be a really interesting piece of music, because we really want both EPs to really stand alone from what we’ve done previously, the album, and then what we’re going to follow up the album with. For the follow up album, we want to take what we’ve done with this album and take it a step further and push the extremes of the album further. We want these two EPs to essentially be concept records, so that they don’t actually fit in with anything we’ve done before or afterwards. I just really want them to stand alone and be completely their own entities. I think it’s going to be quite a tricky one to pull off.

Dick: It sounds like you’ve got a lot of material lined up?

Dan: Yeah, relatively – we’ve got a lot of tracks on the album, and we had ten songs out on the first two EPs and more for the album – we’ve got about eight finished and we’ve got another 17 demos – we’ll hopefully get all 17 songs out, and then we’re going to write these two EPs. When we come back off tour we’ve got three weeks in the studio to finish the album, then two weeks to record and demo up these two EPs, then a week to dust them off and finish them. We’ve got about six weeks to finish the album and two EPs – so, a lot of work to be done.

Dick: You’re now on One Little Indian, which – in a way – makes you part of a lineage that can be traced back through Flux of Pink Indians to Crass – was this something that you were aware of?

Dan: It was definitely a very important factor to us with signing. The way we met him [Derek Birkett] was because we were looking for someone to mix our second EP. We went to him and asked him to mix it and he listened to the record and said ‘Look, I won’t be able to do anything with it – I can’t make it any better, but I do want to put it out because I think it’s amazing,’ and we sort of took off since then. Me and Craig, the bass player, Flux of Pink Indians are one of our favourite bands of all time. It must be quite weird for him to look us up on MySpace and see me wearing an Epileptics t-shirt, which was the original band, and Craig wearing a Flux t-shirt. It’s quite good, there’s definitely a degree of mutual respect between him and us. We have a lot of respect for him and I think the reason why he’s taken such a shot with us is because he believes in it, which is what we want. That’s why we went with him, because though there was other labels floating about, he was the one that we really trusted and we felt like he really understood where we were coming from and what we were trying to do. I think that’s the most important factor with a band like us trying to sign a deal. If there’s any other bands coming through that have the same mentality, then go with what’s best for you in a social way – would you rather be dealing with a friend or with a business?

Dick: What are your thoughts about the anarcho bands that were under the Crass umbrella?

Dan: I like them – there’s some really great stuff. Rudimentary Peni are one of my favourites, Nick Blinko…

Dick: He’s a strange guy…

Dan: Yeah, insane! He got sectioned, didn’t he? I’m really mesmerised by his artwork and everything, and the way that with his albums, each one gives such an insight into his mind at the time, and you actually see how fucked up and depressed he was, just by listening to this record. You can see how depressed and how much further he went into insanity throughout his career. Pope Adrian 37th – That’s an insane record, there’s that song ‘Pills, Popes and Potions’, which is all about the medicines that they were forcing him to take. He was writing down how he was feeling when he was taking the medicine and writing about how he started to feel his brain warp. Lyrically, if I could ever get to the standard of being able to depict my mental state in that way, I’d be completely happy. That’s my main goal as far as being a lyricist would be.

Dick: It’s as if he mapped his own psychology.

Dan: Precisely. It’s also a very brave; as much as he was obviously mentally ill, he must have actually been very comfortable with himself and secure in his own mind. As much as he was losing his mind, he must have been very confident in what he thought was right, to lay himself out so honestly and so frankly on a record when people know that he’s depicting his emotions to such an extent. That’s why everyone views Ian Curtis as such a great musician, because everyone knows that he was writing about the hard times in his life at the time. I think that’s why people are enticed by him and that’s the same reason why I’m so enticed by Nick Blinko.

Dick: ‘Never Again’ does seem to draw inspiration from ‘Rotten To The Core’ off of Death Church.

Dan: Yeah, it’s definitely a big favourite of mine. To be honest, we were listening to that song so much that we played it and then didn’t really clock what we were playing until we wrote the song. The riff just sort off pops into your head. I’m completely happy with it – I hope he takes it as a homage – If in 20 years time someone listens to my songs and uses a bassline, I’d be ecstatic.

Dick: Obviously, Crass, Flux and (to a lesser degree) Discharge, were all political bands – would you say that Flats have a political aspect?

Dan: We get asked this quite a lot. I think because of the music we’re making and because of our influences, I think people generally expect us to be political. Personally, I definitely have my views on politics. Samir, our drummer, he’s very into politics – again, he’s got his definite views about what he believes in and what he stands for, but it never comes into the band really. I think it immediately dates your band and it immediately puts you in with a certain period of time and a certain attitude to what’s going on at that point in time. I think it would pigeon hole us if we did any of those things. When you listen to Crass, I find it very intriguing because obviously Thatcher’s Britain was so fucked at the time. I mean, we’re not living in that much of a shithole – The British Government has fucked up massively at the moment, but there isn’t five million jobless and there isn’t forced miners strikes, so we don’t have to worry – if anyone’s stuck they can sign on.

Dick: You can draw parallels, but Cameron’s a very watered-down version of Thatcher.

Dan: Definitely – I can see it getting worse before it gets better, but I hope, and I’m pretty sure that it won’t get taken to the same extent that it did in the 80s, just simply because the people that it affected in the 80s are still around and they’ve still got enough of a voice to re-iterate why we should never allow it to get back to the state that it was.

Dick: With your lyrics, it seems to me that you’re more concerned with personal politics.

Dan: Right – Lyrically, I definitely write about what makes me angry. Whether that comes down to a fight with my girlfriend, or someone I see in the pub that I don’t like, or a TV advert. I’ve wrote songs about complete bullshit, but so long as I’ve got the anger there, then I’ve got something to write about.

Dick: Lyrically, it has more in common with the kind of areas that Mark Perry used to get into.

Dan: That’s what I was saying earlier – He’s a definite influence on my lyrics and ever since I started wanting to start a band it was mainly because of The Image Has Cracked. It’s such an amazing record, lyrically. It completely shows his attitude to the world – for a debut album from someone who was the same age as me at the time, to really portray his attitudes and do it so honestly – it was very uncontrived – it must have been a very hard thing to do. He managed to do it, and it doesn’t sound like he forced it and it just sounds like he’s writing about what he thinks and what he believes in. That’s what I hope I come across as, but I think I might have a bit of a way to go before I’m up there with Perry    

Dick: You were saying that you’ve been considering taking the band’s sound in a slower, sludgier, heavy direction – would ‘Never Again’’s b-side ‘Isolation Chamber’ be an indication of where you’re heading?

Dan: I wouldn’t say that we’re going strictly in that direction, I think – if anything – we’re pulling in three different directions, hopefully three opposite directions put into one. When you hear the album, you’ll get it. It pans from simple straight punk; snotty, spittin’, growling, rarararaarrgh, and then it bridges into this slower, sludgy proto metal – almost psychedelic in places, and then it also pans into a sort of thrash/d-beat crossover; brutal, pounding drums, a wall of feedback, with me screaming over the top. The whole album is just us trying to encompass all those ideas, but still make it still sound like it fits fluidly together. Once we’ve done these two EPs, we’re going to start writing the second album and start pushing it further, to see how far we can push all of those elements until it goes beyond breaking point. I think we are going have to work at pushing those elements and make sure that we don’t over-exasperate any one of them too much. I think that’s the key to making three directions turn into one – by doing them all equally and utilising them all when they need to be utilised.

Dick: It’ll be interesting to hear the Silver Apples material projected through the Flats filter.

Dan: We only actually came up with that idea over the past week, and ever since then we’ve been so excited about it, but we’re still doing the album, so we’re trying to hold back a bit and still concentrate on finishing off the last tracks on the album and not swamp our brains with a whole new bunch of ideas. We really want to keep the two separate, so it sounds like separate sessions and separate recordings. That’s one thing we’ve done with the album – ‘cos we’ve done two weeks in the rehearsal rooms before and then we’ve done a month straight on the album – I think we’ve had four days off in the past month. We’ve been in every day hammering it. When we get back off tour, we’re going to go straight back in so that we keep that work rate up with the same mindset and that way it’ll give the sense that the whole album was done in the same session.

Dick: You’ve got the tour starting in Glasgow tonight – what are you looking forward to from that?

Dan: I’m really looking forward to playing the new songs and seeing people’s reactions. When we done the last tour, it was the first time I’d ever been on tour and the first time we’d ever played out of London and – I think it was at the first gig, in Birmingham – it was really great playing to people who’d never listened to your music and never given a shit about your music, and then suddenly watching people starting to dig it and getting halfway through the song and seeing people starting to nod their heads a bit – that’s a great feeling, to realise that we’re not just playing dodgy little punk numbers, we’re playing something that people are actually getting into. I’m looking forward to tonight, to seeing people’s reactions – especially considering people have got this view that we’re just playing stripped-down anarcho punk, for us to then come out with some brutal sludge number and then panning into a sort of flashy number, and then back to the straight four-to-the-floor punk. I think it’s gonna be quite interesting to see people’s reactions.

Dick: Is your voice going to be alright for the tour? You’re sounding a bit croaky.

Dan: It never is! I mean, you can hear already that I’ve been in the studio for a month. Last time we done a tour of 13 dates, by the ninth day I could barely speak and I was trying to save my voice by barely talking during the day. By the 13th it could be a nightmare, but I’ll have to go for it until it breaks, and then when it breaks I’ll just apologise on stage and I’ll have to keep shouting.

With that, I left Dan to nurse his defenestrated larynx with Guinness and milk. As their tour nears its end, I understand that his voice did hold out, although he’ll probably never yodel again.

Flats on MySpace: www.myspace.com/flatsofcourse

Flats on Facebook: www.facebook.com/index.php?lh=1920eef8f6a5423cf3c3fd401285839f&#!/flatsofcourse

Flats’ ‘Never Again’: www.onelittleshop.com/product_info.php?products_id=899


Originally posted 2011-04-08 10:55:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Show More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker