Night Owls are a Leeds duo drilling a distinctive edge into the stereotypical Grunge sound. A sound that, for me, has been begging for an alternative perspective to freshen up the entire genre. I think Night Owls offer that. It’s still abrasive, it’s still gritty, it still screams Grunge. It just feels more colourful, spirited, and, most importantly, ridiculously catchy. I spoke to drummer and singer Will about grunge, their upcoming EP and the personality within the band.
How did the Night Owls duo come about?
Basically, me and Liam have been in bands since we were about fourteen and people can be very unreliable. We thought sod it, let’s start a two piece.
Because we’ve known each other for so long we just click. If I have an idea Liam will just bounce off it. If we don’t like something, because there’s only two of us – and we’re best mates – we’ll just be like: “Nah, that’s sh*t.” It’s very straightforward. Being a two-piece is probably the easiest way for writing music in my opinion. It was Royal Blood who really pushed it off. But now it’s become a thing where everyone gets compared to a two-piece if you are a two-piece. That can be a bit annoying.
What is it about grunge that makes it such a point of influence?
Nirvana are the biggest grunge band ever. The thing that attracted me to grunge from the Nirvana aspect of things is that it’s so heavy yet so catchy and melodic at the same time. It’s got things from both extremes of music. So I think that’s why fans love it so much. Say if you look at the heavy metal scene, people follow it almost like a cult. I think when you listen to heavy music you can feel the emotion from it. When you put it with the catchy stuff as well – like for me with Nirvana’s music – you can really connect to it as well.
It doesn’t matter where you are people will always like that kind of music (grunge) even if you like Foals or something.
Last weekend we played Gold Sounds Festival and we were on the bill with a load of indie bands but people were still getting into it. It doesn’t matter where you are people will always like that kind of music (grunge) even if you like Foals or something.
On your track ‘Call Me Out’ – were you going for those really nice harmonies?
No not really. When we were writing the song, it was just me singing it in the rehearsal. When we got into the studio, the chorus needed filling out. So I was like: “Liam, sing this.” Because he has a higher voice than me.
So it’s not full on grunge. It’s more sing-y, if you get me? In the second chorus of ‘Call Me Out’, Liam does that little, angelic backing vocal. So it’s more poppy than straight up grunge, but the grunge is still there. We always try and fit loads of hooks in there to make you remember it. I suppose that’s not a fully conscious decision, it’s just something that came about naturally. That’s just the way we write songs. I wouldn’t want to listen to a song where there’s nothing catchy about it.
From the rest of the EP, we don’t really have as much stuff like that (‘Call Me Out’). That’s because of the tone of the track. When I look back, I do think we could have added a bit here and there or whatever.
‘Call Me Out’ was the last song we recorded from the EP, so it might sound a bit more hooky and poppy than the rest of it. We’re writing stuff that’s coming next and it’s all very much like ‘Call Me Out’.
How do you feel about vocal comparisons to Kurt Cobain?
I think it’s great because Kurt Cobain’s got a great voice. At the same time, I do have a Yorkshire accent when I sing, so if you’re Kurt Cobain with a Yorkshire accent I suppose so. But I don’t mind that. Kurt Cobain is the bomb. It fits the style and that’s just the way I sing to be honest. It’s not me trying to copy Kurt Cobain, but if I sound like him it’s not exactly a bad thing.
I don’t want to be compared to Kurt Cobain on every YouTube video we ever do. I guess it’s bound to happen though. I watch music videos on YouTube all the time and you see everybody commenting like: “This sounds like the Bee Gees” or something or “This sounds like Nirvana.” It’s going to happen whatever. If we’re going to get compared to someone then we can’t really stop it. Probably going to get sick of it but there’s nothing we can do. That’s just how people are.
So the EP, ‘Informaldehyde’ – what does that mean?
Honestly. Sometimes I’ll just come up with random words in my head. So, a while ago in Leeds, they had the Damien Hirst exhibition and they had a sheep in formaldehyde where it’s frozen in a glass box. I was like: “In formaldehyde… I suppose it could be ‘informal’.” It was just a weird thought process.
But we’re really happy with the EP and with how much positive feedback the songs are getting. We haven’t even been a band for a full year yet and we’ve got great feedback from everyone. I think this is the foundation for what Night Owls is.
You’ve said that ‘Call Me Out’ is about a past relationship – what other routes do we go down in the EP?
I guess it’s all about relationships looking back on it. Not that it was an intentional thing. I didn’t just sit down one day and say: “Right, I’m going to write an EP about relationships.” It just sort of happened. Stuff was going on the time we were writing it.
Well, there’s one song on it called ‘She’ and that came from a story I saw in the newspaper. It’s about this guy who went to a strip club in this weird town in America and got beaten up by a stripper. So that’s that song. I promised I wasn’t going to tell anyone that, I was going to let people figure it out. But sod it, it’s a funny story.
Adele’s made millions off writing three albums about her ex-boyfriend. I don’t think it’s a bad thing and I think people can relate to it.
It’s anything that gives me inspiration to be honest. Our next single isn’t about relationships at all. But if that’s what happens and I constantly write songs about girlfriend troubles then that’s the way it’s going to be. Adele’s made millions off writing three albums about her ex-boyfriend. I don’t think it’s a bad thing and I think people can relate to it.
It’s not always going to be about that though. I’ve written this one song and we haven’t even recorded it yet. We’ve just done a demo for it on GarageBand. Basically, the song’s called ‘Boomerang’ and the chorus is: “You are my Boomerang/But you won’t come back to me.” Everyone is going to think it’s about a girl, but actually it’s literally about a boomerang.
Some bands take things really, really seriously – where does your happy attitude come from?
I don’t know. I think that’s just how me and Liam are. There’s not a moment where we’re not trying to make each other laugh or do something weird or stupid. Bands who quit because they’re not being successful enough are doing it for the wrong reasons. Music isn’t about being cool, famous and rich or whatever. It’s about having fun and enjoying yourself. Me and Liam are just a pair of weirdos who embody it through our music.
You used to call me on my landline xx pic.twitter.com/yg8QXVpHti
— NIGHT OWLS (@nightowlsbanduk) February 17, 2016
You can see that in your photoshoots where Liam has a towel on his head and you’re brushing your teeth. No doubt they were your ideas?
That photoshoot was done in my house! We were having photos done upstairs on the bed and they came out crap. I was like: “You know what, let’s go in the shower. Liam take your shirt off and put that towel on your head and I’ll start brushing my teeth or sit on the bog.”
There’s one where I’m mowing the lawn and Liam is just stood there with a pair of clippers; there’s one where we’re holding my dog and looking at it. Also, there’s one where Liam was sat playing the piano and Liam cannot play the piano so he’s just sat there looking really rigid. It was a funny day.
So would you like to be received as this weird, crazy band?
Someone posted our video on some Facebook group thing earlier yesterday and there were two people who were like: “I don’t really get it.” I think people – even if you’re not in a band – try to take listening to music too seriously and don’t take it for what it is. So I’d like to be received as the band who try to approach being in a band a little bit differently.
People definitely try and take things very seriously and instil their opinion upon you. People also follow another person’s opinion: “He said that band are crap, so I think that band are crap as well. My mates don’t like it, I don’t like it.”
I think its great people can voice their opinion freely wherever or whenever they want. But some people start to get carried away with: “Oh that’s not cool” or “oh that’s not very Tumblr.”
You know when you used to do GCSE English and it’d say: “The curtains are blue, what does that mean?” It’s not like that. You know, it’s just the curtains are blue.
When you think of grunge, you think of Kurt Cobain with his hair over his face not acknowledging anything exists – are you the polar opposite to that?
I think the grunge side of things is just the music not the attitude. I don’t really care if someone doesn’t like it in their head but I want people to have fun at a show. We don’t really want you to just stand there.
Don’t get me wrong we take the music we do very seriously and we want to do it full time. But it’s not serious in the sense that we want people to think we’re cool. We write the music we love and we don’t want to come across as: “Look we’re so cool, I’m in an indie band and wear a leather jacket.”
I want people to be able to have a laugh with us. I don’t want to be that band that nobody wants to talk to after a set because we’re stood there looking moody. I want people to just enjoy it.
My favourite band is Radiohead. But they have a thing about playing small venues despite being quite popular. Sometimes they’re quite frustrating. Again, I don’t see Night Owls like that at all…
If we were Radiohead size I don’t get why you’d want to play a small venue and restrict your audience. It seems a bit selfish. “Oh I don’t want to play a big venue because I’ve got a funny eyeball or whatever…” God I hope he doesn’t see that!
Doesn’t matter if I was b****y Dave Grohl. I wouldn’t care about someone coming up to me and saying: “Yo, I love your music.”
But why not play an arena? Get everybody in. Get everybody having a good time. You want to appreciate it. I’d want to meet everyone. Doesn’t matter if I was b****y Dave Grohl. I wouldn’t care about someone coming up to me and saying: “Yo, I love your music.” If people are paying to come and see you and enjoy your music that much I don’t get why you’d want to restrict everybody.
Would you sacrifice your fun if you were offered major label super stardom?
That’s such a difficult question. Pay the bills or have a laugh? It just depends. If someone came along and said: “Right, you’ve got to be The 1975.” I’d say no thanks. I don’t think I could do it to myself because it wouldn’t be the same band.
Now we’ve been given a record label to put stuff out on I just want to enjoy myself.
I would love to be a massive band, it’s just so difficult nowadays. Now we’ve been given a record label to put stuff out on I just want to enjoy myself. If something really big comes from it that’s awesome but you’ve just got to take things for what they are. Say Kaiser Chiefs were on a major record label and they got dropped. Things like that can happen, things can change instantly. So I’m just trying to have fun at the moment.
So do you think about fun before artistic direction?
I think the fun needs a result in the music. If I’m being 100% honest I’m a complete perfectionist. If I’m not happy with a song then it’s not going to go anywhere. We’ll just scrap it. The music always comes first. You write the song. You write a really good song. Get it done. Have a laugh while you’re doing it because then that comes through in the recording. Doesn’t mean we’re really serious when we’re writing the music but we are serious about it. We always want to write good tunes.
Night Owls are playing at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds for the release of their EP on June 9th.
Social Media: www.facebook.com/nightowlsbanduk – @NightOwlsBandUK
Listen to the full audio of the interview below: