"This is us personified into a small burst of energy"
Photo: Carla Mundy
Haggard Cat are gearing up to release a brand new EP called 'Cheer Up' on September 03.
Now an independent band again and serving as a follow-up to last year's 'Common Sense Holiday', the duo are firing on all cylinders and releasing the sort of music that they have always wanted to in the way that they have always wanted to. The result is a short, sharp shot of catharsis and chaos that focuses on living life for yourself and no one else.
We jumped on the phone with Matt Reynolds and Tom Marsh to talk about the last 12 months, stepping into the studio with Adrain Bushby and nailing exactly what it is that Haggard Cat should be...
How does it feel to be right here, just the two of you releasing music the way you want to?
Matt: "It feels pretty incredible. Back in the day, when we were Heck and Baby Godzilla, we never really did the label thing. We had always decided it was a little bit too restricting for us. And we’ve now seen first-hand exactly how restricting it can be. Having the year of everything being forcibly stopped made us realise that the path we were heading down wasn’t the right one. So with everything moving forwards now, we feel like we are in a spot where we can be as honest as we want to be as a band. This is the music we want to be releasing, and there isn’t going to be any compromise in how it’s presented."
So, when did that conversation about going independent happen?
Tom: "The whole thing was very natural. This band has always been very natural in how it approaches things. We have always relied on how we feel. We thrive on instinct and letting things flow, and if we don’t like something, we will know instantly. Even though we were on a label, we never stopped feeling like an independent band. But it was hard to sit back and take a back step almost because so many things are done for you. We can’t do that, though. We were always asking if things were being done, and it was never at our pace."
Matt: "The thing is that nobody is ever going to be as diligent as the actual artist. Nobody else is going to have the same attention to detail that you do. It must feel so unnatural for everybody to finish something they are proud of and then pass it on to somebody else."
Tom: "In some ways, it’s nice to be able to give them music and then all of a sudden it’s in every HMV in the country, and you haven’t had to do a lot necessarily. But at the same time, there’s a lot of compromises that come with that. Just with our ethos and the way we work, it just didn’t work for us."
The whole point of Haggard Cat was you doing exactly what you wanted because you couldn’t sit down at the end of Heck…
Tom: "We organically started Haggard Cat a year after Heck. It was that soon. And the reason it was there was for when Heck wasn’t playing, we could play more ourselves. We just wanted to keep on playing. That’s it. We didn’t know what it was at the start, but we just went out on stage, jammed for half an hour and saw what came out."
That’s the whole thrill that comes with making music with your mates, isn’t it? And when that starts to get too complicated, that’s when you know you need to change…
Tom: "Exactly, and all of our best ideas have come from those moments. In the practice room or backstage or whatever. And then, when you have someone asking you to think of a good idea on the spot, it doesn’t work like that. When instinct is how your band functions, having someone ask you to make a good track just isn’t the way to go."
Matt: "There’s a bit of stubbornness between us with that as well, though. If someone tells us how to do something, we’re going to go in completely the other direction."
So is this upcoming new EP fuelled by the frustrations from that changeover occurring? Is it the result of you being able to let it all out once again?
Matt: "The thing is in the past when we would be angry about something, our outlet would be touring. We would be able to stand in a room full of people and let everything out. But we didn’t have that this past year. We had a practice room and each other. As we knew that we were breaking things off and doing something completely new, that’s where these songs came from.
"The vibe of the EP and the feeling of what we were doing felt so rejuvenated because we didn’t feel held back. We knew that we weren’t just creating something and then handing it over anymore. We knew that whatever happened from this point on was going to be for us and just us. It was going back to a few years ago and jamming stuff out on stage and knowing that it didn’t matter what happened. But I think what we have produced is exactly what we have always wanted this to be."
Tom: "You know, we were thinking of calling this EP ‘Haggard Cat’s Greatest Hits’, because that is exactly what it is. These are our best songs. This is us personified into a small burst of energy."
The thing as well is that when you are out there on your own, having someone else believe in you in the way that Adrian Bushby did only solidifies the reason you decided to change…
Matt: "Validation is a really good way to describe it. After a year of not having the crowd feedback in what you were creating, and then after putting out ‘Common Sense Holiday’ and not being able to play those songs live as much as we wanted, having someone like Adrian come in and say, ‘I love what you do’ really helps. His instinct as he is recording you is to make it sound as close to what is happening in that room you’re playing in as possible. That’s a huge thing. We are doing the right thing for us, and that thing excites somebody else as much as us. He was part of our team for the week that we were with him.
"We loaded in our stuff, set up and then within a few hours, we had tracked all the drums and most of the guitar. The rest of the time was adding in vocals and making it all a bit shinier. The actual body of the session was us just hammering it as much as possible and him rocking out in his chair, in the same we would if it was just us. He wanted to record music that sounded like humans had made it, and there is so little of that at the moment."
Tom: “It all stems from believing in the artist and having heart in what you do. There is a lot of music out now that sounds good, but I don’t believe you. I also don’t believe that it is also what that artist wants to do sometimes either.”
How do you feel the relationship between you as friends as bandmates has shifted throughout this time?
Tom: "I feel like this period has shown me that I am in a band with the right person. I’m in a band with the person I want to be in a band with. There have been times over the past year where we haven’t seen each other for one or two months, after seeing each other every week for past however long, but when we are together, we are straight back into it. The time doesn’t matter. The only thing it has made us do is write some sick music."
Matt: "It’s made me appreciate the time that we do get even more now. It’s made me realise just how much I feed off of it. I didn’t realise just how much it was a part of my life force before we were forced to spend time apart. With hindsight, it’s easy to look back and know everything would be fine, but it’s not a valuable thing to have when you can consider, ‘What if everything had carried on as normal?’ Because it didn’t, and now we are here. This was always the path that we would have to go down, and that time was going to take. But when you’re left to your own devices, you start to get paranoid and lost. As we began not to be able to play, my brain started going, ‘Well, that’s it. It’s done, and you’ve got no other skills. Best go and figure something out’. That thought made me so intensely unhappy that I knew that this was the thing that I am supposed to be doing when we were back. There’s no sell-by date on the human desire to create something. This is what makes me tick.
Tom: "I’m not going to lie, it’s been nice to have this time to reflect on the other parts of life. But then I would look at photos of us playing, and I would go, ‘Fucking yeah, that’s who I am. I love playing the drums’."
Matt: “When I consider what the key points of the last decade of my life and those shows have been the moments that have allowed me to get here. It’s easy to lose track of that when it’s not there.”
No matter what clarity you receive from other parts of your life, you’re always going to still inject it into the thing you love the most. That thing is the band…
Matt: “Absolutely, and when we feel like that, who the fuck is going to stop us?”