Interview: YOWL’s ‘Before the Sleep Sets In’ EP captures anxiety and drudgery in full bloom

South London group’s new release is an essential, Parquet Courts-nodding storm.

YOWL’s rough-edged, storytelling spirit has nothing to hide. We were introduced to the Peckham five-piece last month with ‘Saturday Drag’, a grim but wit-fledged portrait of life on the fringes, waking up to a 9-to-5 job and seeking an exit. Across five minutes, they contained an entire novel’s worth of material, giving nods to Parquet Courts frontman Andrew Savage in their berserk, truth-spilling delivery.

There’s more where that came from. New EP ‘Before the Sleep Sets In’ is all brutal detail and faultless frustration. No page in their book of troubles goes unturned. ‘Teeth’ documents days of loneliness, while ‘Travelling Murder Circus’ is as ominous as its title suggests, a spitting and screaming call to arms.

We’re streaming YOWL’s new EP in full below. Get to know the South Londoners in a DIY interview, while you’re at it.

Your songs tell stories. How much is a song like ‘Saturday Drag’ based on IRL events?

Thanks, it’s nice to hear that something cuts through in terms of storytelling - never sure if it’s going to be clear or not. It’s drawn from IRL situations, definitely… I think songs like that often manifest themselves as a kind of loose compartmentalising of very real sensations.

How much of your music reflects the grind (and the positives) of living in London?

‘Saturday Drag’ does, possibly, in the sense that it touches on that 9-5 anxiety which is exacerbated in a city like London, where there’s this constant sense of wired lassitude - everyone’s knackered by the sustained cycle of working and doing and yet constantly, frantically excited by it.

Lyrically, I don’t know if many of our other songs really explore the idea of life here - I’d describe most of our music as macabre and mildly caustic, but we’re not really overtly commentative songwriters. There’s definitely an element of piss-taking in regards to wider themes, especially in songs like ‘The Imminent Return’, but that isn’t necessarily focused on this city. I don’t think we’d want to be a band that defines itself by where we live, though that can be tough to avoid when it’s such an all-consuming place.

Can you remember your first practice session? How did it all play out?

As YOWL? Yeah, actually. We went to Cardiff to visit Mike when he was studying there. I can’t remember if the intention was to form a band at that point or just mess around but we’d booked a practice room in Cathays because it was actually way better value to travel to Wales and do that than it was to go down the road. Mike had this one riff that he played to us, and we reached childish levels of excitement over it.

I think we made him loop the same ten second guitar part for about three hours, and afterwards decided that this thing that we’d just made was what we were doing now. Probably similar to how a lot of bands started out really. We don’t actually play that song anymore because it wasn’t nearly as good as we thought it was, but it was definitely the basis for a part of our sound.

What’s the most intense reaction you’ve had to your music so far?

Someone gave us individual tea towels after a gig once. Big up.

Catch YOWL live at the following UK shows:

17 London, The Dublin Castle
23 London, The Shacklewell Arms
29 Brighton, Green Door Store
30 London, The Islington

10 'Custard Thruster' Fluffer Records Party

More like this

YOWL - Atrophy

YOWL - Atrophy

An EP of rare depth that firmly stands the band apart from their peers.

Biffy Clyro: Holding Out For A Change

Biffy Clyro: Holding Out For A Change

Born in reaction to conflicts both political and personal, ‘A Celebration of Endings’ may sound like it’s defined by the present day’s gloom; in fact, it’s more a guiding light towards the future.