"It’s been written by us and it's written for us."
Ladies and gentlemen, may we introduce Raiders.
For those unfamiliar, Raiders is the new project from Sean Smith and James 'Bob' Davies formally of The Blackout. Fuelled on a need for performing and an unrelenting anger at the world turning to shit around them, Raiders serve as riff-laden escape from the real world. A corrosive, callous and effortlessly catchy antidote where the order of the day is simply to let off steam and have some fun.
As they release their latest single 'Vnnvcvssvry V’s' (seriously, what a title), we jumped on the phone with Sean to talk about the origins and inspirations of the band and why having an outlet such as this is so important....
So, how exactly did Raiders come to life?
"I guess it was 2018. I started talking to Bob and we were both angry and bored and really just wanted to play shows again. I asked if he had anything and of course he did because he’s a riff-making machine. Then I offered my friend Chris [Davis], who was a drummer, the gig. For about a year or so we rehearsed every now and then and we couldn’t find a bassist for absolutely ages. Apparently there’s a complete lack of bassists in South Wales. There were two people who agreed to do it, and on the day that they were supposed to come and rehearse they didn’t show up. So that was strange. Chris then asked his friend Ryan [Lewis] who had been in a couple of local bands. That’s how we all got together.
"The first gig we played was in the place that we rehearse. We did three songs and I was so tired by the end of it that I was sick. Then we went to record ‘Wasting Away’ with a producer in hopes that we would have a song ready for festival season 2019. We didn’t have the song back in time. So all we could do was put the song out when we had it and then have nothing over last summer because we missed the cut off time really.
"It’s a blessing and a curse but then we were able to do the Funeral For A Friend shows last year because of my friend Stu passing. It was those shows that reminded me what it was like to be in a band again. It was amazing. Chris and Ryan had never played rooms that big before and it was amazing to also live through them and their excitement."
What was the period between The Blackout breaking up and Raiders starting like then? What was your relationship with music like?
"At the end of The Blackout I was kind of the only one who really wanted to keep on going. I would have carried on. I wasn’t completely done with it, but after we split up I just went off music for maybe two or three years. There was nobody who excited me. As much as people would love or hate The Blackout, we would always put on a good show I like to think. There was always something going on that I didn’t see many other bands doing. From then there were just no bands that actually interested me.
"I then got invited to go and see Holding Absence play at The Globe in Cardiff. It blew my mind. It reminded me of the early days of The Blackout, Kids In Glass Houses and the South Wales scene that thrived at the time. I saw a community of kids who were screaming these songs back at the band with everything they had. It was awesome. That gave me a resurgence of love for this. Seeing that there are still people who feel like this and still have that passion made me want it again."
So was ‘Wasting Away’ the first actual piece of music you put together as a band?
"No, ‘I Still Function’ was the first song that we wrote, which is probably why there’s no singing at all in it because it was just pure anger. Then it was ‘Vnnvcvssvry V’s’. Then there were a couple of songs that we’ve played live but not actually recorded yet. ‘Wasting Away’ came not too long before we actually recorded it really. It was so fresh that we felt like we just needed to get it out."
All of this seems to stem from that same primal excitement of just being able to create something again….
"Exactly that, and it’s a case of remembering all of the actual procedures for putting out music as well. When The Blackout put out ‘The Best In Town’ we were completely out of the loop of how you actually put music online. That didn’t fall to any of us anymore because that was the record label’s job. We are now literally learning how to put things on Spotify, submit to playlists and everything else. We’re relearning it all. There was 15 months between ‘Wasting Away’ and ‘Destructobot’ because we’ve been busy but also figuring things out."
It’s a completely different world to what it used to be as well, isn’t it?
"Oh so much."
At the end of the day though, the whole point of this band is to be a release more than climbing up the ladder…
"Well some of these songs are about being against the powers that be. We had this batch of songs back a couple of weeks before we actually dropped ‘Destructobot’, and the plan was always to release a song on every Friday for the next few months. Loads of people started saying, ‘You should ship these songs over to record labels’, so I said, ‘Boys, shall we hold back on the release and ship these songs out to record labels. Democratically, I was voted down. So rather than selling these songs we’ve gone the punk-rock route and just put them out. Then we use the money earned from those songs to record even more songs and then just keep it going from there."
Ultimately, what has having Raiders in your life done for you?
"It’s literally something to look forward to. Everything has been so bleak recently, but I know that when I get to practice or to a show then it will be that release. We genuinely couldn’t give a shit if two people turned up or 10,000 people turned up. It’s just about us. We just absolutely love playing. I will spend most of our gigs looking at the others or making a tit of myself. It’s a release, but it’s also a community. Now that we’re actually gathering people who like the band together, there’s a real sense of something.
"We did a gig at Thekla, which is a venue on a boat, last December. I made the crowd to run from left to right because I wanted to see if we could come away from the mooring and just drift off into the sea, and somebody from upstairs had to come down and tell us not to do that again because it had started to rip the wiring from the dock. The thing is that it gave us a good sense that everybody was a part of this thing together trying to ruin a boat.
"The thing is that with our gigs I genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen. Nothing is planned out and nothing is practiced. It’s going to be a surprise to all of us at every show we ever play."
And that’s the way it should be...
"It’s been written by us and it's written for us. But it’s about seeing people connect with it. At those Funeral shows I heard people singing ‘Wasting Away’ back at us. That was the first time I had heard Raiders’ songs be sung like that. I was like a child again. I’m here in my element and enjoying it as much as I can."