“Friends may often come to you with IDLES gossip / and this time, IDLES gossip…will be true“.
Yes, that’s a rather bastardised version of the lyrics to a Perry Como hit, I know, but it sums things up quite nicely, I feel, for it’s quite been quite a year for the Bristol five piece, who have been astounding, amusing (and maybe even sometimes terrorising) their audiences in the most spectacular style, which made them the most essential act on the live circuit. Their first full length record, the brilliant Brutalism, was released to much critical acclaim back in March and was voted as God Is In The TV’s Album Of The Year for 2017 just a couple of weeks ago. But does that mean anything to them?
Joe Talbot: Oh of COURSE it fucking does, man! That was mental. We were just talking about it yesterday in fact. Thank you so much, and your whole site for voting us at number one and for promoting so much great new music in general. When we were making Brutalism, we just tried not to worry too much about who was going to like it and thought as long as we show respect and love, and are proud of it ourselves, then we are happy. So it’s great to find that other people do love it too.
Obviously, despite containing a lot of humour, it’s a very ‘angry’ album, which is why so many of us, given recent events in the UK and elsewhere, have found it so easy to relate to. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?
Joe: Oh yeah, there’s ALWAYS light at the end of the tunnel. If you thought otherwise, you’d just give up altogether. You have a choice to either give up or keep going, trying to implement positive change by trying to communicate with people in an attempt to make them understand things more clearly so they can maybe change their ideology. Like the people who voted for Brexit…
Don’t get me started on that! Like many people, I found the whole EU referendum and the resultant Brexit vote terribly depressing and actually the most stressful period of my entire life! I honestly feel like it’s taken about 5 years off my life. Does writing songs help with things like that?
Joe: Yeah definitely. Pretty much everything I put into songs is therapy for me. You know, at the point I started making music, I’d kind of given up, but once I’d started doing it, I kind of enjoyed ‘being myself’. Before that, when I was learning the craft, I was taking things from great poets, but then I realised “These people, these poets, THEY weren’t taking things from other people’s work, it was just them, creating something new and unique to themselves” so that was a big moment of realisation for me.
I read an interview where you said Kanye West was a huge inspiration to you, which may come as a big surprise to many folk. What is it that about his work that chimed so much with IDLES?
Joe: His bravery, and doing whatever the fuck he wants. You know, that album, Yeezus, came out of nowhere and it’s just one of the best records ever made; it’s really weird, great and infectious.
‘Slow Savage‘ was an amazing way to end Brutalism and perhaps where I personally could see that influence the most, due to its rhythmic phrasing. Do you think your next album might follow a more minimalistic approach, as that one hinted?
Joe: No, I don’t think so. I think we’re more likely to go from where we left off. EVen though ‘Slow Savage‘ was the last song on it, the last track we recorded for it was ‘Well Done‘. We’ve been enjoying the guitar more and more, and we’ll have more time and money for it, so it’s going to be an interesting and very different experience. I think we’re going to explore the ‘album as an album’ idea more this time around too. But there will still be a lot of energy and we’ll still be recording everything in three takes!
What was your immediate reaction upon hearing that Foo Fighters wanted you to support them?
Joe: I don’t there really WAS a reaction at the time. We were just aware that we were on a shortlist with some other bands and we thought “Right, let’s fucking GET that spot“, so we sent them this puzzle we’d made that said ‘Pick IDLES‘ with a picture of Adam in just his pants on it and then the words “If you build it, they will come“, and they chose us.
Your live show is extremely exciting and perhaps even somewhat intimidating at times. I can’t help but wonder how a certain section of people, who go to see a Foo Fighters gig as one of their two shows a year (without meaning any disrespect to them or the group themselves), would react to a band like yourselves…
Joe: Ah, but if you think about it, our message and theirs are very much the same thing. It’s just different expressions of the same message. As a fan, obviously theirs is more of a standard rock thing and their music is more approachable, whereas ours is designed to intimidate the fat fingered fucks upstairs.
So, is that the highlight of your career so far?
Joe: We don’t really like to sit around and quantify things in that way, otherwise you’re always looking to match things. It’s always better just to be looking ahead, so we’re going to start recording the NEXT album in January and take it from there.
And THAT, my friends, is the kind of IDLES gossip that we all wanted to get, and I’m already excited to hear said long player. We discussed several other things during the course of this conversation, such as the sheer determination of their Hull friends and counterparts, LIFE, who somehow managed to win the crowd round at Leicester’s Handmade festival earlier this year, immediately after IDLES had blown everyone else away (“he’s a better frontman than me“, claims Joe) and pontificating on the lack of hunger from what passes for most chart stars these days (“too many rich kids and poseurs who just want to be famous for the sake of it, and have it put on a plate for them. I mean, I’m not trying to fool anyone – I’m from a middle class area myself – but we work our arses off all the time“).
And that’s perhaps the best thing about IDLES – they’re not idle. Not by a long stretch.