JAWS: ‘It’s Not Now Or Never’

One last hurrah for B-town or the beginning of something special?

It’s January 2013 and Birmingham youngsters JAWS are slumped on a line of sofas upstairs in London’s Old Blue Last venue. It’s their first gig of the year, playing for a DIY & Neu Presents ‘Hello 2013’ show, where bands gaining a good chunk of momentum see in the beginning of the year with an inaugural date. Connor Schofield is the most relaxed of his bandmates, fiddling with a gold chain while plugging out a demo from Superfood - another Birmingham band on the evening’s bill - on his laptop.

Chances are he’s just playing it cool. Every utterance he makes is that of someone who isn’t quite at ease with their surreal surroundings. Not in a bad sense, per se. But in stating, ‘I never in a million years expected us to be here’, he’s clearly living out some teenage pipe-dream that started several years back.

Cut to a bone-dry opening day at this year’s Reading Festival, seven months later, and the hysteria’s let loose. Connor and co are brimming with confidence. The blood’s pumping. They’ve just played a BBC Introducing set that - partly because of Bastille playing after them, partly because their stock’s risen so quickly - easily goes down as their busiest, best show as a band so far. The ‘never in a million years’ phrase is repeated, only this time Connor adds ‘billion, trillion’, nigh-on shaking with excitement.

‘For real, I was expecting 20 people’, Schofield states, minutes after coming offstage. ‘But they kept turning up… They were singing.’ He’s just about lost for words.

Nerves were clearly a factor in their early 2013 show, despite being chock-full of the timely reminders that JAWS are easily one of Birmingham’s brightest prospects, a standout name in a cluttered scene. ‘We’re not really as nervous as we should be, now,’ says bassist Jake Cooper a few months on. ‘But then [Reading] happened. It comes back to the first show you’ve ever played and all the nerves are going through your body.’

Attention’s been placed on JAWS from the very first ringing note that poured out of their amplifiers. Birmingham’s reputation went skywards at the precise moment these four took their first step as a band. Pegged in with ‘B-town’ - and for good reason - next to Swim Deep and Peace these guys existed as a younger, more loosely-defined prospect; the beginnings of a second wave. ‘It’s fantastic to always be in the same sentence as [those bands]’, says Connor, when asked if the city tag has both pros and cons. ‘It’s hard to say really - the fact that Birmingham is in the limelight at the moment definitely helped us out a lot.’

There’s doubtless some pressure being placed on JAWS. ‘It’s not now or never… ’ claims Connor. ‘It’s just… now or not now.’ Despite Superfood being recruited onto a big-deal label and a slot on Peace’s winter tour, the rest of ‘B-town’ besides JAWS and a couple other exciting names is growing somewhat stale. Or at least, it isn’t being afforded the attention it once was. Such are scenes and movements. For every innovating band at the forefront of a wave, there’s always something sitting at the bottom of the barrel.

As a result, JAWS have had to progress at a ridiculous rate. Their songs - which tend to vary from grunge-enhanced angst to arena-ready anthemia - flirt between sounding huge to downright bratty. It’s a clever balance, one mastered by Peace already. Recent single ‘Friend Like You’ is all piercing riffs and arms aloft. ‘It’s the first song I’ve written technically, like knowing exactly what I have to write,’ says Connor, almost like he’s shaking a grubby habit. Only, it could easily be the single that lands JAWS on the road to being the gigantic band they deserve to become.

Having their first taste of giant fandom seems to have spurred them on. ‘Everybody just now all went nuts’, they shout backstage, pinching themselves. ‘We’ve been doing shows where there’s more people writing reviews than there are to just be at the festival. So the crowds aren’t boring, but they’re considered.’ With the hysterical teenage fans afforded to Swim Deep finally peering round to consider B-town’s next treat, JAWS are getting their first proper glimpse of the big-time. Their set at Reading Festival could be a defining moment, only you sense plenty more are just round the corner.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.