Black and white photo of the band university on stage
Credit: university


Borderline Festival in Dublin had its inaugural event in February. Two days of independent and experimental artists across two stages in The Workman’s Club. The line-up included Lambrini Girls, Fat Dog, Miso Extra, Antony Szmierek, Sam Akpro, Maruja, Enola Gay and Mount Paolmar. But one of the most intriguing bands to emerge recently, who opened the festival is university, who comprise of Zak Bowker (guitars / vocals), Ewan Barton (bass / synth), Eddie Leigh (XBox 360), and drummer Joel Smith.

Joel took time out before the gig to talk about the band.

University’s attitude on the Title Track EP is clear. You’re just doing your own thing.
You know, you couldn’t play chess and not have the rules. But you look through history and all the bands that were ground-breaking, they never played by no one’s rules. They sort of pioneered the rules. I don’t think there’s any fun in doing it by the rules because there’s a million other bands who will do it by the rules. And we never thought it ever go anywhere. So we were like, we used to play by the rules, and once we stopped ……. We’re from the middle of nowhere, no one’s really gonna pay attention, let’s just do it for us. And then it came after that. The songs on Title Track they were the first batch of songs we wrote without them rules. It’s written in chronological order so History of Iron Maiden Part 2 was last, and Egypt Tune was the first time we wrote as university. So, you know, that’s like the beginning of breaking the rules, that’s where it all started. And that’s why it has that sound as well, because when we recorded it, it was just back to back to back one take two takes. We recorded it all in 24 hours. Especially with a lot of the music that’s around nowadays, there’s a dodging around the message, no one wants to go full on.

The band sounds so raw.
People feel that really, because we’d never seen that from the gigs that we’d been to around our area. Everyone was a bit too obsessed with being cool and it looked really weird to us. Where we come from, like the musical background, it’s very heart on the sleeve. It surprised me when we didn’t see more bands like us. We thought a lot of bands would have sounded like us because we didn’t want to be the fastest band. We didn’t want to take over the storm. We were surprised when other bands weren’t like us. It’s quite interesting.

You’re from Crewe and have talked about how there’s no scene there. Did that give you a freedom almost?
There was the bad in terms of you kind of knew if you did do gigs you knew you were going be the purple elephant. And you knew the good, well because all the first shows we went to as friends we were playing in. They were the first things we did. The first gig we ever went to as friends it was like the first show we ever did. And you know, we didn’t think it was going to be any other way because that’s just what was on. We were fuelled by YouTube and the things on the internet. It wasn’t like “oh have you heard?” because we didn’t know any bands. We weren’t really focused into what was happening now besides Black Midi and Black Country New Road. They were the only bands that were coming out now that we realised “this is incredible”. And even they kind of jumped the shark too early for us where we felt Black Midi went in a direction that we didn’t really like even though we thought it was a good direction. We didn’t feel betrayed, but we were a bit like you’ve gone too London Art School for us. And with Black Country, New Road after Isaac left we thought the voice of a generation had gone because he really is. You look at the music that’s coming out now and everyone take’s his style and mixes it with what Idles did a few years ago. And I think the total lack of that being around us. We were informed on a different musical idea and different musical lingos from bands that seem to have gotten forgotten. Bands like Dilute and Whitehouse and these insanely progressive bands pushing the boundaries. I don’t feel like I’ve seen that since Black Country, New Road released their debut album. I don’t think I’ve seen the envelope be pushed since really.

And I know that you’ve talked about Nouns and their 2022 album While of Unsound Mind
The greatest recorded album by anyone ever, and I genuinely mean that.

Why do you think they’re not bigger?
I think because they’re not in a scene. They’re from Little Rock, Arkansas, which is a very ghetto area. And I did some research on the town where they grew up. It’s actually the first place in America where they unsegregated schools. There’s a lot of racial problems. When you hear the music comes out from this one guy in his bedroom. It’s the furthest I’ve ever heard music you’ve taken and when that album came out, it completely unified all of us in the band. Before that all our favourite music was very characteristically different from each other. When they released that it bridged the world of standard rock music and Avant Garde in such a way that I felt had never been done since the Velvet Underground. And the fact that some of our music that we’ve released is bigger than that music. Some of it is completely unfathomable, because it’s totally insane when you actually listen to it. When you truly wrap your head around it. I can’t believe it. I felt like if they had had the push they would have had the greatest album in the last decade. They’re the only band I’ve heard the whole discography for 10 out of 10 throughout, no mistakes, no fat.

Playing so many festivals and gigs in 2023. Do you feel less like outsiders now?
No, we still feel like that, I don’t think we ever will.

For more information on University please check out instagram.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.