“We’ve never gone into the studio with the intention of writing an album – we’ve always written them live on tour. It’s paramount for us that the songs work live before they work on record.” Finally returning to the somewhat lethargic current live guitar scene are rowdy post-punk dissidents The Chapman Family, for more live mayhem.
The group are on tour at the packed Surya club in Angel armed with a plethora of new material to promote – their 2012 EP Cruel Britannia, new single ADULT and a forthcoming album to be released later this year. However this merry band of raucous Northerners claim they have come far since their hurricane-force debut album laden with politically fuelled cries of despair. The new releases see frontman Kingsley Chapman demonstrating his vocal versatility, reminiscent of the croons of Paul Banks and Robert Smith, and reverb-laden shoegaze melodies that have invited more comparisons to the Smiths than they can count.
“Everything we’ve ever done is a natural progression with the way that things have happened to us”, confides guitarist Pop, and indeed this seems like an understatement: new members joining the band have brought forth new inspirations, causing the upcoming record to be more “eclectic, diversified and experimental”, boasting songs that sweep through every end of the musical spectrum.
As the Family launch into their set smartly dressed, quiffed and bearded (supported by 80s post-punkesque acts with the charming names of Terminal Gods and Ravens in Paris), fans are eased in with material from their boisterous older days in the form of the haunting A Certain Degree but followed immediately by the lesser known but striking Into the Breach. And here, one could see Pop’s list of muses in action first hand, as with the tracks that follow we are caught in a whirlwind of genres and directions from various ranges – ranges that have absolutely nothing in common with each other such as 60s pop, Nick Cave-esque ballads, and furious guitar riffs – yet each intricately woven in the web of the unmistakeable Chapman sound.
The thematic influences in the newer releases are also familiar – put simply, the boys are still as angry. The Cruel Britannia EP has lyrics almost directly related to events such as the Diamond Jubilee and Royal Wedding cropping up in the current economic climate as deliberate “shock and awe tactics”. But in case Mr Prime Minister had his hopes up, the band don’t have a direct solution for getting out of this situation either. But according to Pop, one must look to the positive facets of life even in the current state: “Instead of taking on a blame culture where we assume that immigration or our next door neighbour being on the dole is the reason we’re in this situation, we must take responsibility for what’s happened and move on”. There is evidence of a more humanistic and embracing side to the new direction in the latest tracks as well – in ADULT and the complex pedals and echo-laden fan favourite No More Tears, the audience are treated to lyrics lamenting the sorrow and suffering of the personal rather than the social. “You can use me any way you want to, but I will make mistakes all the time”, mourns Kingsley – though he still finds time to take a jab at David Cameron in the otherwise intimate Anxiety.
The infamously raw drive of the live Chapman experience has not changed however. Reducing their equipment and stage to rubble is a thing of a past now, much to the relief of the management (“there’s a credit crunch on damn it, don’t you know?” jokes Kingsley), as the band aims to move forward from its confrontational provocateur image. But as they launch into their encore of Kids – the thunderous hit that caused their initial notoriety as NME darlings – the feedback-driven thundering riffs contrasting with Kingsley’s dramatic antics of wrapping the microphone around his neck and staring solemnly but determinedly to the audience incite a more private and deeply intense connection with the fans, who in turn respond with merry shrieking, even starting a small moshpit on the cramped dancefloor.
If there was one thing to take from the dynamic night in Angel it was that these cantankerous Northerners love the south, and the south loves the cantankerous Northerners. Perhaps it’s the new musical approach, or the almost clichéd adolescent freedom and energy one feels during their live shows (or indeed the exotic Stockton accent to this ignorant European). But if witnessing fans taking their entire holiday leave out to follow the band around the country and animatedly scream at unassuming bar-goers to “buy everything this band has ever made” is anything to go by, then it’s safe to assume that the Chapman Family have still got it. Quiff or sans quiff.