Slowly bubbling out of South London with an early EP (2016’s ‘Before The Sleep Sets In’) that set them up as slightly-too-complicated a proposition to truly be lumped in with their angry young male peers, YOWL have spent the last 18 months playing the long game. Theirs may be a sound imbued with a strain of antagonistic aggression, but it’s also one riddled with melody and hooks and shot through with singer Gabriel Byrde’s weird, warped, stream of consciousness tales.
“I think we always tried to cautiously remove ourselves from being lumped in with [that scene],” the singer muses now, sat outside London venue The Lexington, where they’re about to play a sold-out show. “And we’re still angry, but maybe we just do it more subtly. We’ve sunk back into the armchair of bitterness instead.” “Like a dad who doesn’t enjoy Christmas anymore,” notes guitarist Mike Rudge.
Over the last year, there’s been a few changes in Yowl HQ. Mike moved down from Cardiff to fully commit to the band, while wildcard original bassist Jake Manley left to be replaced by former Vant man Billy Morris. These factors, combined with a self-confessed semi-neurotic level of attention to detail (“I guess it’s just extreme self-judgement…” Gabriel says) have meant that the band – completed by guitarist Ivor Manley and drummer Tom Flynn - have only released sporadically across 2018. Said releases, however, have also been some of the most complex, intriguing tracks to come out of London guitar world for a while - ones full of secret Easter eggs at every turn.
“The lyrics are these horror stories, but taken to the extreme example.”
Take recent single ‘John The Collector’: a wonky howler with a fizzing riff, shot through with lyrics about slicing up your mates. “[Your lyrics] are always these horror stories, but taken to the extreme example,” says Ivor to his bandmate. “So in ‘John…’, if you’re writing about men not being able to talk about their feelings, then it gets to the level where someone is slicing off another man’s face so he can talk to the inanimate object.” “Maybe that’s just a way for me to try and make it interesting for myself, by going into this Edgar Allen Poe shit,” considers Gabriel.
Now, the band are heading towards an EP, which they’re set to lay down in January. After a period of readjustment and finding their groove again, YOWL seem ready to harness all the preparation and take it to the next step. “People tell you not to eat your lunch at the desk, go for a walk, and [writing music] is like that, but extrapolated,” jokes Ivor. “We went for a long walk, people were starting to worry, my mum was calling…” “But now they’re back from their lunch break,” laughs Gabriel. “Lunch break is over!”