|Hull-istically punk L-R Mick Sanders, Loz Etheridge, Mez Sanders-Green and Stewart Baxter photograph: PR|
Punk is not dead. It is alive and Hull’s finest four-piece LIFE are giving punk fresh connotations.
They will soon shake any pre-conceived ideas of political apathy, indecision or inaction. LIFE are totally at ease with being political; they embrace social commentary as they do everyday life, as sharp observers and active participants.
Not only does their ease with being political come at a perfect time when too few artists or bands articulate such views, it makes for really fascinating songwriting too.
LIFE’s political views and one hundred percent authentic DIY approach give consistency and focus to the band’s writing. There is meaning, messages and actual substance and it does not end here; they are hugely dedicated to poetry and arts too.
Frontman and singer Mez Sanders-Green and his brother, guitarist Mick Sanders, bassist Loz Etheridge and drummer Stewart Baxter are trying to fully comprehend the scale of their triumphs in 2017. It has definitely been their best year so far.
Having just completed a full UK tour with The Idles, the tour reached a climax when the band played a sold-out show at Village Underground in London, the four members are now reflecting on what has been a hugely successful and eventful year.
Mez: It has been a wild year non-stop really, so it is great to finish in style. In the last year we toured with Slaves across Europe, the UK, toured all over America. We did all the festivals this summer too. It has been a fantastic experience.
The band also received BBC Radio 1 and Radio 6 Music airplay, with Steve Lamacq being particularly enthusiastic and supportive. The group also featured as part of a special Radio 6 Music invite-only line-up at London’s 100 Club on the same day as their gig at Village Underground (in Nov).
But there is even more to LIFE’s amazing 2017 list of achievements. This also became the year when they self-released their debut album Popular Music to widespread and consistent critical acclaim.
Popular Music is a fresh take on punk and DIY seen through the sharp perspective of the four northern working class lads, and there is definitely an anti-establishment thematic thread running through the album with the band commenting on political themes such as Donald Trump and Brexit. Their song Euromillions is about Trump.
You get an acute sense that the band members have always been engaged in politics, one way or another.
Mez: The world is such a scary place at the moment in terms of the dark politics that is going on and for us it is hard not to kick against that. We would never sit on the fence or be ‘beige’. I think it was always going to come out in our songwriting because we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves.
But the band would not necessarily encourage every artist to make political statements for the sake of it. That does not seem right either, it has to be genuine.
Mez: Trying to write a political song if you are not a political person does not seem right to me because it is always possible to tell if it is not coming from a true place. Some artists do happen to be political but may not feel they can comment on political matters, and therefore, end up shying away from it. They may worry about how taking a side might impact on their success as an artist. So for example, if an artist takes a very particular left-wing stance that same person could essentially put off half of his or her audience.
It is entirely natural, LIFE’s band members do not coordinate or plan, how political they want to be when they write a new song.
Mick: Since we recorded the album we have reflected on it and realised how political it is. We have always just written about general things, things that affect our lives but when we look back at our work we totally realise it is something that is infiltrated because we are political in our lives.
Being politically active is, of course, great in itself, but engaging and making a difference to the lives of young people in Hull, clearly is also, extremely important to LIFE.
Mez and Stewart both work at a Youth Centre in Hull. The centre provides services to under 25-year-olds and specialises in free counselling, sexual health education, arts and even has a free of charge record label where young people can put out their music. Working there and investing a significant amount of their time over a longer period means that the two band members have seen a lot and wanted to share some of their experiences. Unsurprisingly, some of LIFE’s songs take inspiration from the youth centre.
The song In Your Hands sends out a strong empowering message to each and every young person about the need to be strong and remember that life is ‘in your hands’, even if the government or other parts of the establishment are trying to make them think otherwise.
That does seem very positive. But, LIFE’s themes also have darker and heavier overtones but that is probably what makes them entirely unique. There is a real need for more artists out there to take a stance, engage and create debate.
This will continue on their next album, which they have recently begun writing. Understandably, they are very excited about it.
This momentum comes from not only the positive response from audiences so far, but also their history together. Being good friends, the four members live really close to each other in Hull and have known each other for a long time.
Mick: It is so hard to do it if we were not really close. Once things start to kick off you just spend so much time together, it can be up to four months together or more, so you might be with the same people day in day out and spend time travelling. You have got to know those people really well to be able be so close to them. So if there is no connection or friendship, it is less likely to work out longer term.
Keeping things real, being quite down to earth and having a connection to real life seems to be what LIFE are all about and it shines through when they talk about their ambitions for the future.
Mick: If we can just afford to keep going the way we have been. Having another year like the year we have just had then that is what we want to achieve. That would be good enough for us. As long as we get to play live to great people, to packed rooms, making music that we really enjoy and get out there to great responses, then I consider myself happy with things.
There has been some record label enquiries and interest so it will be exciting to see what the future brings.
Mez: Getting interest from some labels is really nice, it shows that we are doing something right. We are just not going to rush into anything. It is important to wait and see, make sure it is the right move for us and then the record will come naturally and it will be good.
That LIFE are doing something right is beyond doubt. Hopefully, 2018 will be another good year for the band. In their hands, punk is definitely safe because they are reinventing it, making it exciting and relevant again.