The New York rockers’ fast-paced 2016 debut album, ‘Never Enough’, was full of the raucous sing-alongs and jangling riffs you’d expect from a group of boys who dropped out of high school and ran away to the city. In Manhattan, they found the rock’n’roll lifestyle they’d chased, in the form of alcohol-fuelled public fights (usually with one another), and days of drug-induced hazes.
Emerging out the other side, two year’s later they’re ready to release ‘Street Safari’; an album full of zesty guitar melodies which are tighter and catchier than ever before. Undertones of new wave and disco seep through songs about “boys in leather”. It’s as fun and unruly as ever.
We caught up with guitarist and lead singer John Eartherly and bassist Max Peebles to get the lowdown on the new album, along with the all-important questions: what’s the new album like, which Simpsons character would they invite to join the band, and which actors would play them in a PATV show? Their band name is screen-themed, after all, and when we spot a pun, we’ll run with it…
Hey guys! How are you doing? How are you feeling about ‘Street Safari’?
John: Very anxious, and very antsy for it to come out! I have a very short amount of patience, so waiting for it to come out is torturing. But we're all very very happy with it.
You recorded with Patrick Wimberly, who used to be in Chairlift. What’s Patrick like to work with?
J: So good! In my experience of working with producers in the past, sometimes they really care about changing what you went in there with. But I always get particularly attached to the demo, so with Patrick, it was just about amping up the versions we already had. New ideas were there to amplify the demos, not to change the arrangement or change the structure completely. Some of the sounds on the final versions are even taken straight out of the A-track demos. I'm super happy with it, because it feels true.
What kind of themes colour the album?
J: A few of the songs retrospectively look back on our lives [in our] late teens, and the time we moved to the city. 'Lost in the Game' and 'Metrotech' are like that. 'Your God and Mine' is about how as long as you have the same morals as somebody else, you can be crazy different from each other and still get along with one another. Another theme is remaining hopeful in the midst of trying to achieve your creative dream. It sounds corny, but it's a helpful album. When I write, I don't necessarily realise exactly what it's about until I'm mid-way through writing it; it’s weird. But it always ends up feeling like a message to myself – it’s not necessarily like I'm preaching to anyone else. It's truly cathartic.
You may be musicians, but your band name relates to another type of media … did you watch much TV when you were younger?
J: I did! I was an MTV kid. Every day I got home from school and watched MTV2 and Subterranean. I watched a lot of it – sometimes until 4 o'clock in the morning! But since I moved to New York in 2017, I haven't had Cable. I have Netflix and I steal my friends' streaming log-ins.
What was your favourite show when you were a kid?
J: When I was tiny I was really into Power Rangers! Then getting a bit older I was into Dragon Ball Z, the anime show. I loved Roseanne. I really loved the VH1 classic movies, like the Temptations movie. I was really into those TV movies like Gia with young Angelina Jolie, and the James Dean movie with James Franco! Anything super cheesy, soap opera-esque, I really liked, too. I watched a lot of music videos too. I was definitely of that late-nineties MTV generation.
Which Seinfeld character would each member of the band be?
Max: John is Jerry. Jerry is the main character – and you’re the main character in Public Access TV. Pete [Star, drums] is definitely Kramer. I guess Xan [Aird, lead vocals] and I are both Elaine and George at the same time. It just makes sense.
J: I think Xan is Elaine and you're George.
M: Alright, I'm George.
J: I do see Xan as Elaine: very analytical, very sharp, very witty.
M: And things can go wrong for him! Ben, our manager, is Newman. I’m George because I have a tendency to freak out sometimes, overthink things. I think the great thing about Seinfeld is that there's a little one of them in all of us.
If you could hire one character from The Simpsons as a band member, who would you pick?
M: I wanna say Homer. But I think it would be great if we had the bartender, Mo. Mo would be good.
J: What about Burns?
M: Maybe Mr Burns. We'd want somebody with a plain-old personality, who doesn't have much of an opinion about anything.
J: Yeah, there are already a lot of opinions. We'd want the most low-key person.
M: Someone who can drive themselves to the shows. They'd have to have a car – they can't ride with us.
J: Yeah, they'd have to drive our gear.
M: It's a long list of qualifications. Would Mr Burns be down for all of that?
J: I think as long as he had a beer at the wheel, he'd be ok.
M: No, let's go for Mo. It's gotta be Mo.
You have a lot of horns on the new record! If Lisa Simpson offered to play a bonus saxophone solo on a song, which one would you choose?
M: We're in – that would be great! Maybe we'll need to feature her live too! We'd have her on 'Lost in the Game.'
J: Yeah, she'd do the outro like Bowie's sax on 'Young Americans.'
What TV genre would ‘Street Safari’ be?
M: It wouldn't be a sitcom… maybe it'd be a dark comedy?
J: Yeah, it's thrillery, but it also makes you laugh. But it could also make you cry!
M: It's the whole spectrum of emotions!
J: It’s really loveable though.
Which existing TV programme would you like to write a theme for?
J: I would like to write the next Stranger Things theme. But I'm sure that's me and everybody else in the world too.
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