The story of English Teacher so far seems tied to the pandemic more than most. Releasing their first single in February 2020, just weeks before the first lockdown, the Leeds four-piece then spent their quarantine writing music to incite pandemonium in crowds when the world opened back up. At their first ever gig as a band, as part of DIY’s socially-distanced May Big Bank Holiday Weekender in London, the chaos they had in mind was prohibited by law, but bums were already firmly wiggling on seats.
Fast forward six months from that show and the band are speaking to us while recovering from a sweaty and chaotic gig supporting Sports Team in Leeds, the kind they could only have dreamed of this time last year. Since lockdown ended in July, they’ve hit the road hard, making up for lost time and becoming one of the standout new live acts of 2021. “It’s making us want to write faster and heavier songs,” vocalist Lily Fontaine tells us, “because we want to see the crowd move.”
English Teacher formed from the ashes of dream-pop band Frank, and fragments of their previous incarnation can still be felt on their hazy earliest material. It was on this year’s single ‘R&B’, though, that the quartet truly stepped out as a brilliant new voice in UK guitar music. “Despite appearances, I haven’t got the voice for R&B / Even though I’ve seen more Colors shows than KEXPs,” Lily spat with an already-signature sing-speak, her thick Yorkshire accent and the track’s wiry post-punk evidencing the influence of bands like Shame and Sorry to a new generation.
“The mundane can be made important, and the important can also be mundane.”
— Lily Fontaine
“The mundane can be made important, and the important can also be mundane,” Lily says of her lyrical approach, which is already turning her into a magnetic frontwoman. “Our first song was called ‘The World’s Biggest Paving Slab’, but it’s also very important to me because it’s about where I come from.”
Though singing since her early teens, Lily was always obsessed with bands and the camaraderie that surrounded them, and bided her time before the right people came along at the right time. After waiting so long, did she never consider being a solo artist? “Please don’t consider it now!” drummer Douglas Frost says incredulously to his bandmate. “I’m putting that on our Wikipedia page: ‘DIY broke English Teacher up!’”
However, in truth - and luckily for Douglas - the four-piece have the perfect gang mentality of a band who wouldn’t work on the same level with any one element removed. And, moving into 2022, English Teacher are teasing a left-turn on upcoming new material with “more singing” and “softness”. “It’s not all shouty and guitar-based,” Lily says. “We haven’t shown our full capabilities yet. The most exciting thing about next year is showing the other sides to us.”
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