Interview for Ay Up Duck Radio

Words and Pics by Fiona Konca

Interview carried out by Fiona Konca (FK) with The Underclass frontman Jorge Wilson (JW) and bassist Aaron Smith (AS).


FK: I was gonna ask how you were feeling but that’s a bit of a naff question, so I won’t. But, off the record, how ARE you feeling?


AS: I’m alright … but … anticipating it … I don’t know about you, I mean, it’s the first gig back after over a year so it’s one of them, isn’t it?


JW: To be honest, I don’t usually feel, like, kinda nervous…


FK: Did you ever think at any point during the last 18 months that live music, in the format we know and love, would never return?


JW: I knew it’d come back, but probably not this soon, no. But I always know it’d come back bigger and better.


FK: I haven’t seen you live before; how would you describe your shows? And if you were reading a review of your show, what words would you want to see in there?


JW: Erm … the best band in town. Easily.


AS: Confidence is key.


JW: I think that perfectly describes us.


FK: Would you say that you fit into a particular genre, or would you describe yourselves as genre-less?


JW: Err … we fit into like … indie/alternative kind of music, but … we don’t kind of stick to one genre. We kind of bring elements of every other genre into our sound.


AS: So, we’ve got our own sound haven’t we.


JS: Yeah, we’ve got our own sound. We’re very guitar based, but in the recordings there’ll be like background psychedelic kind of synths and stuff like that.


AS: We’re working on it more now aren’t we. Over the years, obviously when we started, it was kind of very scrappy coz it was very early on, I think. You know when you hear the earlier [songs] it’s like “that’s an early one” but now we’ve kind of developed the sound a lot so … it takes a while to hone your shit…


JS: Tonight, when you hear our set, you’ll definitely be able to tell the difference between the new ones and the old ones. The new ones are like, a load more … they’ve got just dead more interesting and a bit like more clever in their ways, or matured, as Matt (lead guitarist) says.


FK: I saw on Facebook that you’re into MOD culture, is that right?


JW: I grew up with MOD culture. Like, back in our school, I was walking around with Paul Weller haircuts. And then, like, I err decided to shave my hair off … well … the rhythm guitarist (Dillan Ashton) shaved my hair off during a practice. And then I grew it back, and then it got on my nerves, so I shaved it off again. I still follow a lot of the MOD culture but it’s like, back in school, that was like my main look. And there’s definitely a bit of mod in our sound. Definitely a bit of Jam, Style Council, The Who, all that in it.


FK: Any present-day influences?


JW: Oh yeah. Sam Fender’s a massive influence. Blossoms. Erm, Tame Impala … probably my favourite artist at the minute. So that’s where the psychedelic part of it comes in. And then, to be honest, our music taste is so varied.


AS: Yeah, I think each band member’s is very varied but that’s not a bad thing. I think we all bring something different into it.


JS: One of our songs – this is even an early one – is inspired by The Prodigy who are completely, you know, a different genre – they’re a lot more heavy than we are but, like, we take inspiration from so many things, like, a couple of the new ones that I’ve written are from the 80s kind of sound. I listen to a lot of the 80s at the minute.


FK (to Aaron): Who are your musical influences?


AS: Erm, for me, see, being a bass player, it’s all over the place isn’t it … err … I listen to a lot of things, but … Tom Doyle from Don Broco. Really, REALLY. Coz it’s a rock band but how he’s plays bass is just … there’s just something different about it. I don’t know, it’s just great. He’s amazing. But yeah, I come from a rock background, mainly, but I listen to a lot of indie. We like our, erm, our dance, house and drum n base.


FK: What’s your bass sound then, clean or dirty?


AS: It’s a bit of both innit, depending on what type of song it is coz like we’ve got the older ones which are more gritty/scrappy but like the new ones are a bit calmer. Like, the bass line that I’ve written for What Time of Day it was kind of nice and smooth – melodic.


FK: I know you formed in 2018 as a 3-piece – who were the original members and who/what inspired you to start a band?


JW: I put the band together, and at first it was me, Dill (rhythm guitarist) and Adam (drummer) to start with, then I met Aaron at college and erm then I knew Matt (lead guitarist) from school – he got in contact with me coz me and him were in a band before for about a week. We decided to start a band because I don’t wanna be in a dead-end job really, doing what I don’t like. I wanna do what I love.


AS: I think it did just feel right as well didn’t it, and when we all practice together, I think we all kind of like…


JW: I remember when I was about 16, I’d just come back from watching Liam Gallagher and Richard Ashcroft play at Lancashire Cricket Club, and, err, Ashcroft has always been like a kind of hero for his songwriting and all that … and watching him live blew my head off. So, I like I decided to come around with a song and it actually sounded pretty good, so I was like “right, I need a band behind this”


FK: How did you manage to sell out your debut gig (at The Underground)?


JW: We’d sold all our tickets straightaway – like all the hundred were gone straightaway


AS: But we didn’t know it was gonna be that packed though, did we? We knew it was gonna be full but not as it was.


JW: We’d sold all the hundred tickets and then obviously we had none left so, there will still plenty of tickets on the door – another 200/300? But what I remember is, I had loads of people asking me for tickets and obviously I hadn’t got them, I was just saying turn up on the door … and I remember walking out after soundcheck, looking outside and looking at the queue … and the queue was going all the way back and around the other street. It was mental. Absolutely mental.


AS: Yeah, that venue will always have a special place for us, won’t it? Ace venue.


FK: You’ve played in Manchester, Birmingham, and Liverpool, as well as Stoke – where would you say draws in the best crowd?


JW: 100% Stoke.


AS: You can’t beat the Stoke crowd.


JW: There’s literally no fans like Stoke, like, they’re a bit mad, aren’t they? Like, Manchester get pretty good crowds … Birmingham was an ace crowd that time…


AS: Ohhh yeah … hounds of hell, was it? No … it was err…


JW: I think we had a good one there as well … yeah, we did


AS: Sunflower!


JW: And then Sunflower – we played there and that was a mental crowd but honestly, like, it doesn’t live up to this – they’re just a different breed, aren’t they?


AS: They’re just off their ‘ead!


FK: So, have you always lived in Stoke, and do you think you’ll stay here when you become rich and famous?


JW: I’ve always wanted to move away to like Manchester or maybe London, I’ve always wanted to be more in the centre of where everything’s happening. But I’ll always be like coming back down here to our roots. Like we’ll always stay in our roots I think


AS: 100% yeah


FK: Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future?


AS: I’m confident we’ll get those gig offers through. I think right now it is just a bit quiet – I think everyone’s seeing how things go – testing the waters, but we have got things planned haven’t we? Even on for next year, from like a follow-on gig. We’ve got some big ones coming haven’t we like Tom Clarke, so, it’s looking good. Yeah.


FK: Do you think it’s still possible for independent musicians to earn a living doing what they’re doing?


AS: 100%. You’ve just gotta look at the charts now – I mean, most of them are really, aren’t they? I mean, it’s really come from a lot of TikTok as well … I don’t wanna say it, but…


JW: I think you know, like, if you listen to some of the bands we listen to … there’s plenty of them. They’ve literally just come from where we are, not a lot of money on them, played with what they can, done plenty of gigs, erm, and all that … just from the scraps … and they’ve like… Probably a good example would be someone like Arctic Monkeys maybe, coz, you know, they’re from Sheffield… Or even like Lathums … people like that – from the backstreets of like Wigan. They’ve come from pretty much nothing and, you know, they just put all their money into getting their songs out there and then off they went. If bands like them can do it and come from nothing, anyone can really. As long as you’ve got the good songs.


AS: And dedication


JW: Yeah. Dedication, good songs and … I think … which we definitely have. You can do it.


FK: You’ve said that The One is about fulfilling the dream. What is the dream?


JW: Well, my dream is to play a headline at Stoke’s stadium


FK: You’ve already had your music played in a Stoke City video, haven’t you?


AS: Yeah, well, we’ve got more coming with Stoke. I think we’ve got a good relationship with them


FK: So, are you football fans then?


JW: Yeah, I’m a Stoke fan, you’re a Stoke fan, we’re all Stoke fans – the whole band is. If they’re not, they kicked out.


AS: It would be disgraceful if we weren’t.


FK: Changing the subject to something a little more serious, you post quite a bit on social media in support of mental health awareness – have any of you been affected by mental illness?


JW: Yeah. Well, the songs I’ve written are from my emotions – all of them. And I kind of use that – the songs – as an escape from… Like, a lot of people say that about songwriters but it’s true. You can use it to escape from reality. Sometimes you can’t have a conversation about how you’re feeling – well I can’t – I have to emphasise that through the songs. That’s how I get it out.


FK: And do you see your music connecting with and helping people who are affected by mental illness?


AS: Definitely. I hope so. I think it’s been a lot more real recently with COVID. If I’m being honest like beforehand I was kinda like “I’ve never experienced it myself – it’s whatever, isn’t it?” but then, when COVID hit, I was at uni, on my own in my flat. It kind of did dawn on me a little bit. If affected me and a lot of other people I knew, and it really did come out of nowhere. And it is one of those things where, it is important to know about it and to appreciate other people’s feelings.


FK: Do you connect directly with your fans a lot on social media, and how important do you think social media is now, in music?


JW: Err, I think you need to be on social media. I think if you get anywhere without social media, you need to be really amazing, or you know, just straight up lucky. Because I think you know, the way to get your music out there now, is through that. Like when we’ve released a new song, we advertise it all through social media, put it up everywhere so people see it – all over Instagram, Facebook, all of it. And it grabs in so many more streams.


AS: I mean, you’ve just gotta think about like… Obviously, the question itself about being in touch with the fans, I mean the fans are what make the shows and our music. Without them, we’d be nothing. And obviously with social media that’s how we’re gonna contact them. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t be able to have that interaction.


JW: Without social media, this gig would probably be half full.


FK: Was that THE Robert Carlyle who chose The One as one of his bangers on the In Your Ears show??


JW: Yeah, it was ace, like, I remember he put a tweet out or something, saying about new songs … wanting to hear new songs and either someone tagged us or … I can’t remember what they did but I remember Dill literally saying, “imagine if Begbie shouts out one of our tunes – that would be amazing” and later, he shouts it out!


AS: I thought it would stop there but recently he went on some sort of podcast or independent radio, and he flagged it up again – he was like “yeah it’s in my top tunes”.


JW: He makes a monthly playlist of all the bands he’s been listening to, and we were at the very top.


FK: And you got onto the Sunday Politics show on BBC 1? What was that like?


JW: Yeah, I was messaged by – I can’t remember her name – Sophie Calvert? I might be wrong. But she does the politics on BBC Radio Stoke and I put something on Twitter saying, “fuck the government”. When the lifting of restrictions had been put back again and they’d done nothing for the music industry, I kind of went on a rant on Twitter and I had a message off her and I rang them, and they were like yeah “do you want to come on BBC Radio Stoke?” And after that she got back to me saying she thought the interview was brilliant, and she has something to do with the Sunday Politics show and she was like “do you want to be on BBC 1?” And I was like of course I do!


AS: It was a rush though, I think it was a couple of days, wasn’t it? They were like yeah “record it on your phone” and we were like “we don’t wanna do that!”


JW: We did it in our practice room. We got a camera crew down and then we sent it over to them. But yeah, it was a laugh.


FK: What’s this new project we’re gonna hear more about later in the year (with Andy Gannon – record producer)?


JW: Andy Gannon’s the guy man. He is probably … he’s an insane producer man. He makes your songs, like … so we paid about £600, I think? For Get away? Which is our next single by the way. But like, the sound he makes with it, you’d think it’s worth about £3,000 of production. He’s from round here but he’s working in Manchester with the big independent labels like Scruff of the Neck and I think he worked on Robbie Williams’ album years ago.


AS: One thing I loved about Andy as well … total freedom, wasn’t it? Some producers we’ve been with before, it’s been kind of like leading you towards/down a track that you don’t wanna be going down, but Andy was like – “I mean, if you wanna try it out, do it, see what it sounds like.” He was never like “no, you’re not doing that”


JW: He sat us in there and he got all our inspirations and played them through the sound monitor … he just blasted out all this music and kind of brought it all together. The start of the new song’s got a bit of a mad psychedelic kind of Tame Impala feel to it.


AS: It’s more dreamy, isn’t it?


JW: Yeah, very dreamy. And then like the chorus is like pure like indie rock grit – all that – and then the ending is huge. Like, the ending is like so melodic but powerful.


AS: We’re doing that tonight. Get away, Home Town and Time and Faith.


FK: It’s a good name, Underclass


JW: My dad chose it when he was drunk one night. But, with the new project, we can’t say too much about it, but it’s looking to be in full shape and finished around later this year? Maybe early next year. But we just know it’s gonna be huge. It’s completely different to anything we’ve done before. It’s a completely new path which I think will take us quite a long way if I’m honest.


© Fiona Konca 2021
Contact fiona.konca@sky.com







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