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  • Writer's pictureLeon Riccio

INTERVIEW: TOUTS on their post-pandemic and post-punk growing pains

It has been one hell of a busy year for Derry-bred punk trio TOUTS, releasing three singles, an EP, and touring the UK in the space of 11 months after almost three years of near-radio silence.

While previous hits like ‘Sold Out’ and ‘Bombscare’ have cemented their past as politically-conscious Irish punk artists (unintentionally so, the band claims), the three-piece’s return to releasing music has made clear that they are looking to build more cultivated tunes than the ones they wrote as teenagers in the pre-pandemic world.

Whilst on their November tour following the release of their latest single ‘Old Man’s Land’ earlier this month, I caught up with the band as they waited to play at bowling-alley-slash-gig-venue The Lanes in Bristol, in between rounds of bowling (something bassist Luke is surprisingly good at) and rounds of pool (something they were all good at, unsurprisingly).

How has the tour been so far?

“The tour has been really good, I've really enjoyed it. Especially considering we’ve been playing a lot of places we haven't played before, and after not being able to tour for the past three years,” 25-year-old bassist and backing vocalist Luke McLaughlin told me.

Matthew Crossan, guitars and vocals, added: “We’ve enjoyed it a lot more this time, and we’ve not taken it for granted as much this time either.”

Luke McLaughlin.

You’ve released a lot of music this year after a silence during the pandemic. Is this older stuff you’re releasing now, or have you just been going overdrive this year?

The 23-year-old frontman said: “We have been going into overdrive, but the new single was written in January 2021, and the EP we just released is from June 2019.

“It was an album we planned to release but then Covid happened so we thought fuck it, let’s sack it and start a new one.”

Luke: “It seemed a bit dated for what we had become by the time we would have put it out. It would’ve been wrong.”

Drummer Jason Feenan, now 22 years old, said: “I think because we were kids when we were first recording, we had no notion of what we were doing. Not to say we know everything at the minute like, but it was a lot more comfortable this time round.”

Jason Feenan

Matthew: “If [the album] had been released there and then, it would have been alright, but with the two years of Covid, it would have just been ridiculous so we salvaged what we could from it and got it remixed. It was mixed by the same people who mixed this album so now it’s a bit more cohesive. The preliminary title is ‘It’s Going To Happen.’”

What’s the title 'Shane Macgowan’s New Teeth' about?

Matthew: “We’d seen an article about three or four years ago. We ripped off ‘A Simple Desultory Philippic’ by Paul Simon, which was just a name-check of all pop culture shit in the 60s. If you’re reading this Paul, we really like your work. Initially we wanted to mock all our bands but it morphed into what it was.
"The lyric 'Kanye West for president' was written before he was even running for president, and I didn't like the song after he ran because I thought it was cheap.
"The article on Shane Macgowan’s new teeth was just ridiculous, how that was making headlines when there’s more important stuff to cover. But at the same time I don’t even mind because it’s a bit of a craic, and it’s a bit light hearted. But that's what happens when you write it and then it’s out two years later.”

What inspired 'Old Man’s Land'?

Matthew: “Well the press release is that it’s about the innocence stolen in the past - generally, yes, but also more directly as a result of the troubles. Especially in Derry, because there’s such a high concentration of mad bastards and that’s because of generational trauma.

Matthew Crossan.

“Maybe not physically with DNA changes but environmentally - but if your father has grown up in that and he’s all fucked up from the trauma then it’s going to pass on and trickle down to the young people - there’s such a high suicide rate in Derry.

“But there’s not much point explaining songs like this because you just want to put more lyrics on. You can’t quantify in words the meaning, because if you could you’d just write an essay, but that’s the gist of it.”

Will there be a music video?

Matthew: “Maybe, it depends on what's happening in the next few months. We were talking about getting one done but then we went on tour. If we get a spare week or two in the next few months we probably will.”

What’s next for you guys?

Matthew: “We’ll keep releasing singles and hopefully get the album out some time next year and hopefully another UK and Ireland tour and then festivals, and a couple Europe gigs."

Luke: “Aye, The usual."

Jason: “It’d be nice to get to the states, but maybe that’s a bit ambitious for the next six months Maybe in the long figure. It’s just the Visa that’s a bastard, it’s like three grand each. If you’re just going there to work it's a bit cheaper, but to go as a band it’s ridiculous.

“Even this tour has been murder with the price of everything. This is why it’s helpful to buy merch. I know it can seem ridiculous buying a t-shirt but it's about supporting small bands like us, it keeps us fed, and keeps fuel in the van.”

Matthew: “Even psychologically, it’s important for people to go out and do stuff and do gigs. Someone was saying to me last night there’s not enough spontaneity in life in general at the minute especially because covid has turned a lot of people inward."
Luke: "Imagine going from sixteen to eighteen and all of a sudden you're an adult. That age gap is for sneaking into pubs and fucking about, and they missed out on that. I feel bad for them."
Jason: “We were in our 20s before lockdown started, but take your chance now and go and see shit, we don’t come around every week so come watch us.”

Matthew: “The thing with spontaneity is that everyone has a set thing to do, and if something goes wrong people don't have the tools to deal with it so they just have a breakdown. If you see a band playing or come across a venue and you're umming and arring about it, just go for it because it's always the ones you have little or no expectations for that seem to be the best.”

Have you played in Bristol before?

Matthew: “We’ve played here once or twice. It’s a nice University town and it’s got nice art. I’ve been told it has a really good music scene."

Jason: “Anywhere you can play a gig and go bowling at the same time is decent in our books.”

What have you been listening to recently?

Matthew: “Bob Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways.’ Aldous Harding too is fucking class."

Luke: I’ve reverted back to my teenage ways and started listening to Pop Punk again! I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff, you can’t beat the classics. I have also been listening to Courtney Barnett and that sort of stuff too.”

Jason: “I’ve been listening to Ada Maria, I think they’re scandinavian and it’s fun pop songs like. Also in the van I’ve been listening to Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl on the drums, just big drums have been my thing recently.”

What’s happening in Derry these days?

Luke: “There’s some amazing musicians, but there’s just not a lot of opportunity, and there’s not many great venues - I’m not slagging anywhere off, but it’s hard to get up and out of Derry for young bands.

“Some amazing bands will play in Derry and will keep playing there instead of going to Belfast or Dublin or England. But then again there’s a lot of bands doing that so maybe it’s just a change in the times. There’s a band called Tramp who have just finished a tour recently, so it’s good to see bands getting up and going at it.”

Matthew: “It’s a small town which can sometimes create a narrow-mindedness. It’s just the nature of a small town. A radio presenter called Jerry Anderson summed it up well - he said Derry is like Monaco, it’s its own secular state but without the money.
"Belfast doesn't really care about it, and neither does Dublin, so it's sort of its own thing, politically speaking."

Back in the day you were seen as a political band, but I don’t know if you still see yourselves that way, or do you feel you’ve grown out of it?

Matthew: “I suppose we’ve grown out of it a wee bit. I think just the nature of loud fast music with distorted guitars and with our accents, people are gonna think it’s political.”

Luke: “[writing political music] was never intentional though.”

Jason: “It’s that thing too where you don’t just wanna be writing fucken love songs all the time, so if it’s either love songs or politics I’d rather be doing that to an extent. But also being where we’re from and looking around us it’s sort of inescapable to an extent. Like the boys say, we don’t sit down and go ‘what’s been in The Guardian this week?’

Luke: “We don't write songs about New York and London because we’re not always in New York or London, we write about what we see. I know some people can picture themselves somewhere else, but that doesn't really work for our sort of writing.”

Your previous sound has always been very punk-y. Have you felt stuck in the convention at all?

Matthew: “It is difficult trying to break out of it. It’s only a semi-conscious thing because you get fucked off doing it, but the most dangerous thing is sitting writing punk songs because you think it’s what people will like and expect.

“The only real difficult thing about it is trying to get it all to fit together because you can’t go from something really fast to really slow. You can only get away with that once or twice in a set. However who knows, some of the demos we’re doing are acoustic and I dont know how the fuck were going to do that. It could be nice to do an acoustic set then an electric one, but fuck knows is the short answer.”

You can listen to TOUTS’s latest single, Old Man’s Land, on Spotify and follow their Instagram @touts_band.

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