“I did have a bit of a sadistic laugh to myself the other day,” comments Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs frontman Matt Baty, on the other end of a Skype call in between stifled, disbelieving laughs. “I said to my partner, ‘We’re putting out an album at - literally, no exaggeration - the worst time in my entire life to have ever put an album out.’ It’s like, ‘How have we managed this?!’”
His statement, to be fair to him, is on the money. As the Newcastle quintet were nearing the release of third album ‘Viscerals’ this month, the recent Coronavirus outbreak drastically began to escalate. First, their trip to the US – which included a slot on one of DIY’s SXSW stages – was cancelled, before the entire UK went into lockdown. Since then, venues and record stores have been closed and their upcoming UK tour has been pulled, but the band’s newest is still set for release, right bang in the middle of the biggest disruption to day-to-day life in modern history.
It isn’t, however, something that’s getting them down. “We’ve got so much to be grateful for,” he confirms, “and that’s what’s keeping us afloat.” Having spent the first part of their career wedged firmly in the underground, the quintet’s recent successes might come as something of a surprise, but they’re also rightly spurring them on.
“We’re putting out an album at the worst time in my entire life to have ever put an album out.”
— Matt Baty
From their tongue-twister of a name – apparently nabbed from a friend's 'terrible band name' – to their theatrical but brutal live performances, Pigs x 7 (as they're more informally known) are a band who’ve never worried too much about convention. Yet lately they’ve become radio highlights on BBC 6Music, with their forthcoming November tour including two shows at London's 1,500-capacity Electric Ballroom.
“I mean, it’s obviously exciting, but sometimes it’s a little bit surreal; you’ll find yourself in situations when you’ll pause for breath and be like, ‘What on earth is going on? How has this happened?’,” laughs the singer. “A lot of things kinda clicked into place for us that I actually didn’t think were all that possible for a band like us, I suppose. We’re enthusiastic and ambitious and driven, but we’ve experienced a lot of things that have far exceeded our expectations.”
It was just three years ago, after all, that the band released their first album proper, 'Feed The Rats' - its bludgeoning riffs and dense haze running to 40 minutes over just three tracks. Follow-up 'Kings of Cowards' was an arguably looser record with just as much of a punishing sonic energy, however its potency and subconscious lyrical themes (after completing the record, Matt realised how much of it dealt with “sin and guilt”) soon opened them up to a whole new audience. “The radio play and the wider exposure, that's not something we set our sights on,” he caveats. “The reason we started the band in the first place was just to do some really good live shows and meet people.”
Yet now, with 'Viscerals', things are set to move up another notch. Recorded once again in Newcastle's Blank Studios – run by the band's guitarist Sam Grant – there's an urgency to the charged guitars and the singer’s booming vocals that feels thrilling. “Because so much had happened since the release of ‘King of Cowards’, we were only very infrequently getting together with the purpose to write new music,” he explains of their off-the-cuff way of working, this time around. “We had to use that time, so, while a lot of the album was part written and rehearsed, there were big swathes that we needed to work out. But we have a very good sense of what we do well as a band, and we know what our DNA is.”
Along with its decidedly more intuitive musical nature, the lyrics on this record follow a similar pattern. Tying neatly with the album's title, Matt was keen to avoid any particular themes and work more subconsciously. “I certainly didn't wanna force anything,” he nods. “I thought that would be quite a crass thing to do. I was just letting my voice go in the practice room, trying to keep up with the volume, and just push things out, I guess. Coming up to recording, I was getting really stressed out, the words weren't coming, but it was just a case of doing a bit more experimentation and opening up my voice.”
It’s a method that’s yielded undoubtedly strong results - ones that could make Pigs x 7’s star rise even further. But with a few notable visuals coming to the fore over the record, don’t worry that the band are making any concessions just yet. “I mean, I reference blood a lot...” he laughs wryly, nodding to the not one, but two songs (‘Blood and Butter’ and ‘Crazy in Blood’) with the word in their titles. “That wasn't something that I was set on when I started writing…”
'Viscerals' is out now Rocket Recordings.
As featured in the April 2020 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.
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