The Interview: The Darling Buds

Published on 09 September 2014

[A]ctor and musician Jamie Campbell Bower is no stranger to Hunger. Since first appearing in issue five Jamie has gone on to grace the cover of our Mighty Blighty issue and become a regular on Hunger TV and in Rankin’s projects. But never before have we featured the buoyant star with his band, The Darling Buds. Until now that is.

Sick of the status quo and the junk food culture that has developed in mainstream music, The Darling Buds, four musicians with the sole ambition of creating heartfelt, thrashing music that actually means something, look set to shake up the mainstream. Friends for years, the band are doing things their way, even if that means that success is slow burning. And fair play to them – while so many artists these days are out for a quick buck or a chart-topping crowd pleaser, and the sole ambition of a worrying percentage of teenagers is to just ‘be famous’, The Darling Buds would rather hold off on label deals and over exposure at the risk of losing what really matters to them – themselves. We sit down with the band to talk authenticity, the re-emergence of British rock and, erm, peeing at 50 miles per hour.

TELL US ABOUT HOW YOU MET, WAS IT MUSIC THAT BROUGHT YOU TOGETHER?

Tristan: Unfortunately it wasn’t, it was more proximity!

Jamie: Tristain and I went to school together, I think I met him when I was six or seven years old…wow that’s bad…

Dan: I met Jamie in about 2008 when he moved to Ealing in London and we started hanging out.

Jamie: And then we just met Roland on the side of the street (laughs).

Roland: I just walked in! No, I actually met Tristan at a party. Neither of us knew anyone and the host was like, “you do music, he does music, talk!” We did and here we are.

Jamie: I had been trying to get the band started for the while and it wasn’t really going where I wanted it to, it wasn’t going great to be honest. Dan I played together for a long time prior to the line up that you see now. We had another bassist but it didn’t really work out and then I had some time off from acting, I was basically paid to do nothing, which was initially great. The first three weeks was badass but then I started to lose my shit, and I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if now, with a bit of life experience under our belts we went back and tried something new”. Tristan and I had played a bit together and done the odd practice and then we started kicking it off again. We played a couple of acoustic shows in London; one outside the Tate and one near the OXO tower and about 300 kids turned up each night. I was like, “fuck, this is mad”, but it made us want to do this properly so we were searching for a bassist and everything sort of fell into place.

Tristan: We met Roland around then and it was like a jigsaw puzzle, everything fell in to place. It’s funny how things work out.

“I don’t think I’d really be alive without it, in all honesty.”

SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS LINE UP THAT WORKS, THAT DIDN’T BEFORE?

Jamie: We’re all really different.

Tristan: I think if you’re too similar you bounce off each others.

Dan: None of us are afraid to say what we think either, so it’s good to have a lot of different opinions.

Roland: There are a lot of different opinions but I think we just have fun together too. We went to LA recently and it was fucking mad. The memories that we have I’ll never forget.

Jamie: (laughing) I can’t remember anything!

Dan: The only problem now is that because there’s four of us band tiffs sometimes end in two two, so it’s a draw.

Jamie: We just need to remember that everyone is entitled to my opinion! (laughs) We also all have different musical tastes, and that adds a new layer, a little bit of spiciness. I’m sure Tristan won’t mind me saying this but Tristan hasn’t played in a band before, this is pretty much his first experience of live guitar performance. And that’s exciting in itself. His first show was a sold out venue in Copenhagen where 300 kids were singing the songs back at him. And that’s exciting.

“Now the time has come where we have to put the hard work into our craft. It sounds wanky but for me, that’s what I think.”

SO SPEAKING OF DIVERSE MUSICAL BACKGROUNDS, TELL ME HOW EACH OF YOU GOT INTO MUSIC?

Roland: I started playing guitar at nine, learnt drums at 10 and started playing the piano at 14. It’s really all I ever wanted to do. I’ve been in a metal band, a pop band, worked as a songwriter and now I’m just doing what I want to do. When I met Tristan and joined this band I was like, “yes, does this mean I can finally wear all black!”

Jamie: That’s pretty much the only prerequisite.

Roland: It’s all I’ve wanted to do, gigs, gigs, gigs. When J called and said we were going out to LA it was like a dream. Finally! I’ve completed my dream. Next one is main stage at Reading, but I’ll have to start pulling my finger out there.

Dan: I actually work in the music industry as well as being in the band. I’m the parent! I’ve always been into music as a kid, I started as a performer at school and it became clear that I didn’t think I was good enough to pursue that so I thought, “where can I make more money than performing? I know, from taking money from performers”, so I thought I’d be a manager and skim 20% off the top (laughs). I’ve been working in music for about six or seven years now, which is actually about the amount of time that Jamie and I have been playing together. But it’s been nice to balance music and business, I can bring in a bit of advice sometimes. Although moat of the time they do the complete opposite to what I say!

Tristan: I actually started playing the drums before I played guitar and I only switched to guitar because I didn’t like my teacher.

Jamie: Such a sensitive soul!

Tristan: My dad got me into bands like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and after that I started listening to heavier, darker music and since then metal has been my thing.

Jamie: My parents were in the industry. My mum signed Sade and was influential in U2’s signing way back when and I was never going to be an accountant. And as much as I wanted to be a marine biologist the fact of the matter is that all you ever do is study flat worms in Southampton and it’s pretty fucking boring. And also I was shit at biology! I found music to be a really cathartic process. I was made to learn the violin when I was about five by a method called the Suzuki method which is where you learn by ear. It helped me because it meant that I could hear things and then play them back to myself. I don’t actually know many technical names for chords in the guitar – maybe you can hear that (everybody laughs), but for me music was a way of letting go and saying all the things that I wanted to say that I couldn’t speak verbally. If I wanted to go and hit a drum I would, or thrash out on the guitar and that was really important for me growing up. I don’t think I’d really be alive without it, in all honesty. It had to happen, and if it hadn’t I wouldn’t be here.

Tristan: I find that music is a mood stabiliser. If I’m a bit sad it makes me happy or if I’m angry it calms me down. I find it useful.

Jamie: It’s Tristan’s self medication!

Dan: But I think we have probably all made a sad playlist at one point in our lives after being heartbroken.

Jamie: Why do we do that to ourselves though? It’s so stupid. My girlfriend left to go to fashion week in New York last week and on the way back from dropping her off I put on Damien Rice. I was sitting on the train from Heathrow in tears, like an absolute wreck!

“We’re at a point where we realise that you can’t party forever. You have to find the balance.”

LAST TIME WE SPOKE JAMIE, YOU SAID THAT YOU WERE JUST FINISHING OFF THE EP, HOW HAS THE BAND PROGRESSED SINCE THEN?

Jamie: The EP is currently being mixed. We’ve finished recording it, it’s being mixed in Copenhagen and we’re cutting togeether a video. Basically our prong of attack is to target online marketing. We want to make it viral, and quick. We came off tour recently with a great Scottish band called the Xcerts, who I fucking love, and that tour really showed everyone’s work ethic. It showed how much we can survive living in each others’ pockets. You know, we’re not kids from under privileged backgrounds, we haven’t been living on the streets or anything like that – we’re nice, middle class boys and there’s no point in pretending that we’re not. So, for us to embrace that side of tour life was really important. Having had reviews from magazines such as Kerrang and several blogs it has shown us that some of the songs and some of the set list does need changing. For us as a band it’s been pretty easy so far, we’ve been lucky and now the time has come where we have to put the hard work into our craft. It sounds wanky but for me, that’s what I think.

Roland: If you think about it, we still haven’t released anything and we’re at a stage where we have fans messaging us every day asking for new material, and we want it to be the best that it can be so we don’t want to rush but it’s time to get our act together.

Jamie: It’s a job at the end of the day and one of the things that I always try to instill in both myself and the guys is that, even if it’s one person, or a thousand, that person has paid money to come and see you play and you can’t let them down. Years ago we played a gig at this place called the flower pot and I got so smashed beforehand that I couldn’t stand up, I was leaning against the pole on stage I didn’t really give a fuck but now it’s about having that respect for your audience, the people that have paid money to see you. And that’s where we’re at now.

HOW DO YOU KEEP THE BALANCE BETWEEN PARTYING AND WORK?

Roland: It’s all about finding that balance. We’re at a point where we realise that you can’t party forever. You have to find the balance. Of course it’s fun and you try and be in bands because it is fun to do, but at the end of the day it’s a job, there’s money involved and you just have to be clever about it.

Tristan: There are so many bands that if you party so much that you get sloppy, you’ll be overtaken by someone that is willing to work harder.

Jamie: I like to play, and I like to play hard but I think it’s about having a self control in the back of your mind. I like drinking, I like being with my friends and I like having a good time, but would I let that get to a point where I’m leaning up against a pole unable to play a shoe – no. If I get drunk before a show that’s my problem and I have the privilege of being fresh to this. I feel that getting it out of my system instead of repressing it is better because who knows what that could come back as later on. As a band, I’m the stupidest one for sure. When we met Roland didn’t even drink. So there is that element of normality to life with us.

Dan: I think we do know where our limits are, roughly…

Roland: We do like to push the limits.

Dan: It’s often the next day that you realise where the limit was and how much you went past it.

Jamie: Yeah, that happened to me this morning…

“People that say that guitar music is dead are talking shit!”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE BRITISH ROCK SCENE AT THE MOMENT?

Dan: I think there are always the people that will say it’s the end of guitar music for ever, and that dance is on top – we’re seeing that with Clean Bandit who are a band that wouldn’t have worked a couple of years ago…

Jaime: What a shocking name! It’s the worst name for a band ever, it reminds me of clean bandage!

Dan: But there’s glimpses of rock coming back. The new Royal Blood album is doing amazingly well, the new Marmozets album is coming out as is the Xcerts. As Jamie was saying earlier, we all have very diverse tastes, I listen to more electronic stuff, Tristan listens to music that people sacrifice lambs to, and there’s one aspect that brings us all together and that’s guitar music.

Jamie: People that say that guitar music is dead are talking shit!

Dan: Well they’re the ones that have invested loads of money into no-guitar bands!

Jamie: But we can’t ignore the fact that popular music like Radio 1 has just reinstated the Rock Show in the afternoon, that’s fucking brilliant. Bands like Lower Than Atlantis are still on the Radio 1 A list and that’s great. They’re a prime example of a band that smash it and work hard, they really are. They go harder apparently than anyone else but they work so hard that it pays off. I remember seeing them on a tour with the Xcerts a few years ago and they looked tired but they looked like they were having fun. Mike (Duce) was grabbing his guitar up but having a great time.

Dan: I presume you guys have seen their latest video, for “Kids in America”? I watched it and I was like, “wow, this is just like what we did when we were there. You can relate to that. They’re from where I’m from, hometown boys.

Jamie: As are The Hell.

Dan: Wonder where they got that name!

Jamie: I think there is a lot of crap in music though. And that’s not to say that we aren’t part of that crap (laughing), but there is a lot of fucking bullshit, and lyrics that don’t mean anything. I’m really bored of listening to lyrics that don’t mean anything. No story, no lyrics.

Roland: There’s no emotion. The reason that I got into music was to express myself through music but a lot of what you hear today is music that has been written for a band, they’re not singing it and are just doing a dance routine – job done. It might be a good song and whatever name may have written it but to me that’s not what music is. To me it’s about getting onstage and screaming your lungs out because you’ve got to get a message out. There are some bands that are getting up there and singing their hearts out and that’s what we want to do.

Dan: I was about to slag someone off…

Jamie: No fuck it, I know who you were going to say, 5 Seconds of Summer.

Dan: That’s a prime example that if guitar music is coming back then manufactured bands are being given instruments.

BUT THEN ON THE FLIP SIDE YOU COULD ARGUE THAT THEY’RE GETTING PEOPLE INTERESTED IN GUITARS AGAIN?

Jamie: 5 Seconds of Summer recently had with Rocksound what One Direction had with GQ, a cover each. And look, I like they’re bad boy next door image, it’s cool and I get it – I’d sell that but they’re like Metro Station, who released “Shake Shake” a few years ago, they were popular for a split second.

Tristan: Can I just say, I have no idea who you’re talking about!

Dan: They’re capitalising on people’s hard work I suppose, but it’s making them money. Cool, they’re on Rocksound and if that makes a kid pick up Rocksound and read about Lower Than Atlantis, or even better, pick up a guitar then great. You know what though, I’m excited to see the first act that incorporates guitars and twerking. Jamie…?

SO WHEN CAN WE EXPECT AN ALBUM?

Jamie: Really good question! We’re asking ourselves the same thing! For us, we’re going full steam ahead. We’re going to drop the EP definitely before the end of the year and with regards to the album, it depends how much money we make from the EP. Basically, we want to do this our way and that needs to be the best way that we can do it. We’re very much a by product of the fact that the music industry is fucked. I honestly would say that we’re at the frontier of that pioneering, do it yourself movement. Before people kind of did it, but there was always people pulling strings behind the scenes. this is completely us and we’re able to be able to self release because of the fan base that we have. We’re playing great shows, so the album is really up to the fans. If you want it, come and get it.

Roland: I was looking at studio prices yesterday and I actually cried when I got the quotes back. We need to make some money off the EP, sell some t-shirts and then put that back into the album.

Jamie: The album is ready, the songs are there and we have enough life experience to do it now. It will be a first record, it’ll be hard and fast and maybe a bit sloppy in places because that’s where we’re at now, we’re still growing but the record is ready to go. Now we need to make sure that when we do do it, it’s done properly. For us, it’s about doing live shows. I’d be happy not to release a record if it meant that I could just tour around the world for the rest of my life.

Dan: Just pissing out windows.

WELL ISN’T THAT WHAT TOURING IS ALL ABOUT?

Jamie: It is! I weed out of Dan’s car window the other day, it was hilarious.

Dan: On the M1, at about 50 miles per hour, on the way back from York. Most people know when it’s coming, they’ve got at least a five mile holding period.

Tristan: If it was in a 50 zone that meas there’s cameras.

Jamie: I just can’t believe that I left the back window open…