Sharp teeth and rock ‘n’ roll: talking Yorkshire Rats with Don Mercy

YR_RingMaster Review

March sees the release of the Trouble City EP, another rousing and provocative slice of punk infused rock ‘n’ roll from UK band Yorkshire Rats. The successor to last year’s outstanding debut album, Sea of Souls, the new three-track release is further confirmation of a band with anthemic punk ‘n’ roll flowing through their creative veins and a hunger to push themselves and their creative adventure with every song and release. Ahead of the EP’s unveiling; we gratefully took some of band founder Don Mercy’s time to dig into the origins, history, and new phase of the Yorkshire Rats increasing impact on the British rock scene.

Hi Don and thanks for sharing your time to talk with us.

You formed the band back in 2004; what was the spark bringing Yorkshire Rats to life and was there a particular idea for the band?

No problem! Fuck! 12 years ago, I must say I didn’t think we’d be back rolling around, not after we pulled the plug in 2007, I think it was.

Originally it was me and a good friend of mine called Sean Brewin who came up with the idea for the band. We used to hang out together, go skateboarding drink cider, the usual teenage shit. I’d played in various bands before with friends from school but wanted to do something a bit different. I was massively into the punk rock thing but not many of the guys in my school were. Sean was from another school local to me and there were loads of guys who we grew up with that we’re big Fat Wreck, Green Day, Rancid fans. I think we were around 17 when we started the Rats. There was an old pub in our home town of Pontefract called the Counting House. All the local alternative folks used to go in there and they had live bands on every Tuesday night. We’d been drinking in there from the age of 14 and we ended up meeting a few other musicians who were into our idea to start a band. I’d write the songs and we’d kind of share lead vocals. We learnt a few covers and got into a practice room.

I think we wrote our first EP in about a month, recorded it and sold DIY copies to our pals. We played our first shows in the Counting House and they were always great. A lot of people really liked what the band was about, we sang about miners and the working class’ history of struggle in the area.

There wasn’t any big plan involved, we just wanted to have fun and play some music, cliché I know…

Photo by Carl ChalkmanVideo Arnfield

Photo by Carl ChalkmanVideo Arnfield

You had previously played in Abrasive Wheels and Billy No Mates; how did those experiences impact on how you wanted Yorkshire Rats to be, sound like, and differ?

I actually only did one tour with Billy No Mates, I wasn’t a permanent member, I just filled in for one of their guitarists. We had the same manager at the time and they had a European tour booked.

I was 18 and had never been to Germany or Italy. I got a call from our manager, then a call from Duncan. I had a week to get a passport and learn 18 songs; we never even had a rehearsal, we just went straight to Berlin and played a show. It was amazing! It was my first real tour and I learnt so much about how it all works. To be honest I don’t think I would have progressed any further without doing that tour, there’s only so many times you can read about it before you have to grab it by the balls and get out there. I seized that chance and will be forever grateful for that opportunity.

I’m not sure how much it influenced my band’s sound…..

I was in Abrasive wheels for a couple of years; this was before I started the rats back up. It was ok; I was playing with some really great musicians in that band so it definitely raised my standards in terms of what kind of musicians I would want to have in the new incarnation of the rats. I wouldn’t be happy with just anyone now. I’ve always been a big fan of the early 80s UK punk thing so playing with them was fun for a while. They just didn’t tour enough for me and they all had 20 plus years on me ha-ha

The members of Yorkshire Rats were all known to each other before the band was formed; before and post break?

This is a completely new line up from the original. Me and our other guitarist Matty went to school together from the very beginning, good Catholic boys, well once upon a time anyways.

We had to get a new drummer and bass player since we released Sea of Souls because the other guys couldn’t commit to serious touring. So we got Chris on drums and then Josh on bass. We found both of those guys just before German tours. I’d suggest that anyone stuck for band members, book a German tour! You’ll find whoever you need…. eventually.

It was a strong couple of years first time around seeing a well-received single and EP released and the supporting of Rancid live amongst numerous successful shows. Then the band went on a hiatus. What primarily brought that about?

I think we all had different agendas; it went from being fun to being a drug fuelled mess. We’d had various line-up changes because people couldn’t commit and it just seemed no matter what I did, we just kept going round in circles. We were young, maybe we thought that because we had management, a label, and had done some higher profile shows that things were just going to fall into place on their own. I now know that’s not how it works, getting higher profile shows means the band is moving forward and that’s precisely the time to put extra pressure on.

And the biggest spark to the return of the band?album art_RingMaster Review

Obviously Brewins isn’t here on lead vocals, but the plan was for him to be the singer again when we reformed. He’d joined the Army after the band split and I hadn’t seen him for a while, but we met up at a Bad Religion show in Manchester. It seemed just like the old days so we agreed to give it another shot with a new line up of people we could trust to help us do it right. His Army career was supposed to be winding down so we set to work on new songs and rehearsing but it turned out that it wasn’t going to work out so we agreed that I would take over all the vocal duties.

Was it easier in many ways to return to a keenly waiting and expectant fan base than when starting out originally or vice versa?

I didn’t really give it much thought to be honest. I knew that I wanted to keep some key parts of the old band, anthemic songs, big guitars etc., but I also knew that I wanted to bring everything up to date and move forward. There’s always going to be people that say you’re doing things wrong but I usually don’t pay much attention to those guys.

Would you say that anything specifically changed within you for the band through that period away? In sound, the drive of personal etc.?

I think the sound of the band has definitely progressed. We pulled back on the hi gain guitars and it’s all about the rhythm section. I just try to write good songs. I think a good song will always win. I guess in terms of sound we have a classic rock n roll type sound; I don’t think we’re really that stylised. My songs always start on an acoustic guitar then we beef them up in the rehearsal room.

I never write a song with a particular sound or genre in mind. I don’t know whether that’s a curse right now. It’s almost like if you don’t sound like Nirvana no one cares. But then again when we first started unless you sounded like Arctic Monkeys no one cared ha-ha

Debut album, Sea of Souls marked your return in potent style with its acclaimed release in 2015. Fair to say it poked stronger and broader spotlights your way?

I think it made people take us seriously for sure. I’m not one for doing what everyone else is doing, maybe having a different sound made the album stand out.

It’s still a hard slog and we do as much of the work as we can on our own. Getting the CJ Ramone tour was a big deal for us, and now he’s a fan of ours which is really surreal. I’m a huge Ramones fan so to have someone like that telling us that we’re doing something right is a real boost. We’re hoping to play some more shows together in the near future but nothing is confirmed yet, we’ll have to wait and see.

Now you are poised to uncage its successor in the shape of the Trouble City EP this March. How would you say the two differ in their punk ‘n’ roll sounds and how you approached each in the writing and recording?

I guess both Sea of Souls and Trouble City had the same approach in terms of writing and recording. Sea of Souls has some old revamped songs from back in the day that never came out.

A lot of the songs for the rats seem to write themselves. I dick about with a guitar for a while and sing some nonsense and things seem to come together pretty quickly. That being said I don’t let any old shit through, if a song isn’t working I just throw it away and move on. I think the sound has become more mature since Sea of Souls. It’s the same kind of vibe but it feels and sounds like a band that’s been playing consistently together for a good few tours.

Trouble City art_RingMaster ReviewI believe the Trouble City EP was recorded in Berlin late last year whilst you were on tour in Germany? Was that always the aim to record the tracks over there or more making use of opportunities?

That’s right. It wasn’t part of the plan to start with, but we had a couple of shows that fell through on our last German run so had 4 days off in Berlin. A good friend of mine suggested a great studio; it was an old telecom building or something, every wall in the live room was filled with patch bays. You can just imagine loads of German phone operators flying round on their office chairs transferring calls backwards and forwards. A pretty cool vibe and the place sounded great, we plan to finish the second album there. We’ll just add some more studio time onto the back end of a German tour or something.

Give us some idea to the inspiration to the EP’s tracks and character.

We wanted to lay down some balls to the wall, riff driven tracks. I guess you can hear some Social D, Stiff Little Fingers, Ramones, Springsteen. Me, and our other guitarist Matty are really dynamic players so I wanted to enhance that on these recordings. We don’t have super hi gain amps, they’re relatively clean in all honesty, it sounds great but it makes you have to play better and play with a bit more thought into chord voicing etc.. Anything that makes us better is a good idea in my eyes.

What things and situations spark your lyrics more than most?

90% of my lyrics are true to life. Usually come from people I meet, or conversations I overhear. Trouble City is the start of a story about a prostitute called Amy that I met on tour once. We sat and drank some beers and talked shit for a while, you couldn’t make up most of the stuff she was telling me so that seemed like a good place to start with Trouble City.

Tell about the new video for the EP’s title track which you made with one of the UK’s best and brightest film makers, Chalkman Video.

Carl’s a great guy and he did a great job on the new vid. We didn’t have much time with it so we just got into our rehearsal space, he set up some lights and off we went.

Looks pretty cool I think. We spent 4 hours or so filming it then he had it finished 3 days later, he doesn’t mess around.

The EP is going to be the spark for another hectic year, live wise?

I hope so, we’re working on loads of UK dates throughout the year and heading back to Germany in October, there’s a couple of other things in the works that I can’t mention yet but yeah, we’re trying to keep as busy as we can.

YR Promo 2_RingMaster Review

Photo by Carl ChalkmanVideo Arnfield

What has the band already got in place as 2016 evolves in other news?

We managed to nail down a show with Snuff which should be fun, I haven’t seen Duncan for a while….

We’ve also confirmed a show with The Dictators.

More releases in the pipeline?

Of course! But probably not this year. Who knows.

Once again many thanks for chatting with us Don. Any last thoughts you would like to share?

No problem, I guess if people could just keep supporting us like they did last year that would be awesome, we really appreciate it.

And finally, give us an insight into the records and artists which could be claimed to have most inspired your own life and creativity.

RamonesPleasant Dreams, Stiff Little FingersGuitar and Drum, Green DayNimrod, Drag the RiverYou Can’t Live This Way, Ryan AdamsHeartbreaker.

I love all these records; you can probably hear these influences in the rat’s songs. I guess my songs start as simple folk songs then turn into anthems when the band gets hold of ‘em.

Read our review of the Trouble City EP @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/yorkshire-rats-trouble-city-ep/

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Pete RingMaster

RingMaster Review 19/02/2016

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Karybdis – Samsara

Karybdis_RingMaster Review

It might to be fair to say that attention wise over the past couple of years or so, UK metallers Karybdis comes under the case of out of sight, out of mind. In 2012, the band sparked a blaze of acclaim and eager fixation across the underground scene into mainstream media with debut album From The Depths. A thunderous slab of extreme metal, it was an explosive introduction to a band with the potential to grow into a major tempest in national and global sonic ferocity. Since then and certainly over the past two or so years, they have unconsciously been confined to the shadows as swarms of new bands and sound stole ears and focus from their quiet presence. News of a new album though turned on thoughts and old appetites like a light bulb. We are sure we are not alone in having boxed the band away in the face of the torrent of new music, but Samsara will see that it will not happen again.

The band’s second full-length is a cauldron of melody infested death and groove metal and an encounter which simply blossoms further with every listen. It also sparks the realisation that an already powerful and potent band has grown into and stretched again their creative skin. Formed in 2009, the London hailing quintet quickly forged a potent reputation for sound and live presence though it was From The Depths which was the bait luring the strongest spotlights yet. Since then the band has continued to be one of the UK’s most formidable live propositions whilst obviously evolving and honing their sound as evidenced by Samsara. The time has also seen the amicable loss of guitarist Harsha Dasari and the addition of Matt Lowry to link up with fellow guitarist Pierre Dujardin, and Karybdis in 2014 getting in touch, in regard to working with them, with producer Mark Lewis who subsequently went on to produce, mix, and master the band’s impressive new adventure.

Samsara is a release which definitely needs time to grow and blossom in ears and thoughts, though straight away it excites and impresses. There is so much going on in its depths, in its web of textures and progressive intrigue which gets a touch smothered by the virulent assault of the surface storm around them. There are only big rewards for the time and attention given though, and the enjoyment of an instantly powerful encounter blooming into something imposingly special.

Karybdis_300dpi_RGB_RingMaster ReviewIt starts with Rorschach, an immediately dynamic netting of grooves around ears courted by the pungent bait of predatory rhythms. Vocalist Rich O’Donnell spews throat raw squalls into the intensive brew of temptation and rapacious intensity whilst Dujardin and Lowry spread grooved tendrils and hungry riffery across the increasingly energetic charge of the song. It is a bracingly stormy landscape unafraid to embrace a collusion of suggestive textures and melodic enterprise. With ease ears and imagination are enthralled, the senses provoked, and the imagination only nudged further by the skilful predation cast by bassist Jay Gladwin and drummer Mitch McGugan.

It is a great start matched by the following Forsaken, a track which initially seems bred from the same template as its predecessor, though the spirals of sonic endeavour within an emotive atmosphere soon reveal individual drama and confrontation. Both aspects are spun on the craft and invention of the guitars and driven by the rhythm’s barbarous touch as well as the throat raw vocal ferocity of O’Donnell. There is no escaping the animus of sound and intent unleashed, though the next up Constellations does allow a moment to regroup with its spatial entrance. It is soon a tempestuous trespass of the senses too, writhing grooves and sonic suggestiveness veining its ravenous assault before it twists in and out of calmer breaths and contagious devilry to offer an unpredictable trespass which has ears and appetite fired up in no time.

Across Ascendancy, with its imaginative melodic nagging amidst fiery sonic and vocal rabidity, and Mermaids where a brooding siren-esque lure beckons from within volatile seas, the album tightens its hold on body and thought; then turning the screw with its title track. Samsara is a surging thrash kilned onslaught from its first strike, rumbling rhythms inciting a sinew sculpted canter for a thrilling consumption of the senses. Its draw is further enhanced by the bestial tones of O’Donnell and the charmed tempting of acidic melodies to create another pinnacle in the lofty scenery of the album. That success is quickly followed by another in the gothic romancing of Summon the Tides. Straight away melancholic strings and bulbous beats cast an irresistible coaxing as harmonies float with celestial sighs. Of course in no time, the beast within is tearing through ears with rabid energy and stirring anthemic prowess; emerging a call to arms that punishes as it incites.

The pair of Monster and Avarice leaves deep marks with their turn to devour the senses, the first certainly living up to its name yet tempers raw barbarity with a magnetic tapestry of grooves amidst a provocative wind of sonic drama and expression. Its successor equally shows no restraint in its invasion of ears, instead escalating the fury and animosity as grooves scythe their way through the maelstrom with infectious success.

A theatre of emotion, voice, and temperamental sound within a predatory climate of invasive intensity and howling sonic winds is the best way to describe final track Absence. It epitomises the album in power and imagination, and also in that its first play or two are nothing less than potent enjoyments but it is over time that the depths of its bold technical and imaginative craft becomes clearer and more impressive.

Samsara needs time to reveal all of its mighty qualities but the bottom-line is that Karybdis is back, better than ever and ready to drive British metal on.

The self-released Samsara is available from February 19th @ https://karybdis.bandcamp.com/album/samsara

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Pete RingMaster 19/02/2016

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Normandie – Inguz

normandie_promo_RingMaster Review

Rock ‘n’ roll is all about arousing people; igniting their spirit and emotions in tandem with their physical presence and there is no doubting that Sweden hailing Normandie do that with debut album Inguz. It might not be a release that carries total uniqueness in breath and sound but there is no escaping its anthemic might and virulent impact.

Formed in 2013, Normandie initially emerged with a rawer sound but with the departure of their heavier co-vocalist, the Örebro hailing quartet began honing in on the rousing melodic side of their invention. This has led to the stadium rock like roar and the anthemic fuel igniting within Inguz and understandable comparisons to the likes of 30 Seconds To Mars and Bring Me The Horizon.

The album opens with Fight and an instant incitement of firm beats and handclaps which just as swiftly are joined by a heavily coaxing chorus of voices surrounded by spirals of sonic tempting. The song holds back a touch as the quickly impressing tones of frontman Philip Strand emerge, waiting for the moment to erupt into fiery life around the seriously infectious chorus and drama of the song. In no time ears and appetite are gripped by its invasive roar, even more so as Håkan Almbladh’s guitar spins an incendiary web within a familiar yet robustly fresh sound.

With energy and emotions racing in tandem with those of the song, the superb opener makes way for Awakening and it’s mellower but no less catchy endeavour. Strings scythe majestically across the sky of the song, joined by another dose of potent vocals as the darker prowling presence of John Löfgren’s bass provides a provocative temper aside the thick beats of Jesper Malmberg. Riffs and keys almost duel with rapacious zeal as they further shape the explosive encounter, a potent essence equally colouring successor Collide. With a carnivorous tone to the bass as the song expels a blood pumping bellow of sound and emotion, the scent of bands like Poets Of The Fall and Allele crossing thoughts as ears become enveloped in a masterful melodic tempest.

inguz-cover_RingMaster ReviewRecent single Believe quickly hugs and pressures with its own seemingly recognisable if indefinable character and roar, emotive radiance and atmosphere angst uniting before Loop Hole shares electronic agitation and tenacious rock ‘n’ roll in its Muse meets Sick Puppies like tempest. The track just raises the album’s roof, its aggressive and volatile character as gripping as its searing blaze of melodies and vocals are fiercely seductive.

Through the darker charm of The Deep Cold, a 30 Seconds To Mars meets The Veer Union like encounter, and the wonderfully tempestuous Calling, band and album set a fuse to greedier reactions in appetite and emotions. The second of the pair is especially invigorating and inescapably galvanic, giving yet another striking peak to the landscape of the increasingly impressing release.

The pop spiced rock ‘n’ roll of Starting New leaves satisfaction full, especially with the devilish dark tone of Löfgren’s bass alongside another great vocal display from Strand and band. It was only ever going to pale a little against the might of its predecessor though, but nevertheless pleasure is kept high and reinforced by the bold melodic flames that shape The Storm and finally the reflective smoulder of Epilogue.

All three provide a richly tempting close to an album which from start to finish has the listener rigorously involved and eager to share their own emotive roar. Certainly Normandie is yet to find their truly unique sound though very few will be complaining as Inguz takes them on a ride few will surpass this year.

Inguz is available from March 4th via the band’s own Normandie Records @ http://normandie.bigcartel.com/product/normandie-inguz-album-digipak-cd

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Pete RingMaster 19/02/2016

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