Words: Emily Ames

Images: Kate Woods

I must be honest; I kind of hoped that Tribes would be bad. Meeting them before the gig, the lead singer and often the band reeked of typical blasé rock stars claiming to have never thought of their style (despite the shaggy dirty hair, charm necklace, loose kaftan combo), never felt pressure and the hardest thing about making the album was the cheap drugs in Liverpool. Maybe I’ve met too many arrogant musicians, or too many smug ones, or maybe it was the convenient red lace panties that happened to be flying around the dressing room as I interviewed them, but something rubbed me up the wrong way. However, first impressions aside as I stood in the Brudenell pitying the teenage girls desperately waiting for the rock stars to appear, as soon as they started I had to admit I was pretty taken. Its not five years ago, when bands like the Kooks and Razorlight were riding high, yet somehow Tribes have managed to create an enthusiasm amongst a youth obviously craving a young and dirty rock band to bang their heads too.

The band, often described as the modern day Nirvana, combine elements of new Grunge and Brit Pop to create something fun and youthful while still practising musicianship. The band works together instrumentally, but also provide support vocally to their lead on many of the songs such as “Sappho” and “We were children” to produce that anthemic chorus that makes you realise what we’ve been missing with English bands. “Coming of Age” from their EP and which will appear on their new album Baby in January, was my favourite of the night whereby Johnny’s acoustic guitar allowed for us to actually hear the lyrics and vocals clearly, something often missed in live rock gigs. As nonchalant as he may be, Johnny’s vocals and presence provide something for the young girls and boys who can’t tell an acoustic from an electric to fall in love with while the band impress the indie veterans with their instrumental talent.


One cannot claim that their music is life-changing or that it necessarily exceeds others that have tried before, but something about Tribes has people excited about Rock bands again. While still unable to sell out the Brudenell Social club, the venue held those tired of awkwardly dancing at a folk gig or casually vibing a hip-hop show and want to have fun at a rock gig. And so do Tribes. At the early stages of their career, what I may have construed as arrogance is blind optimism and while the tortured rock star image didn’t work for me it obviously did for others. As I left the gig I saw a young girl ask for Johnny’s sweaty towel to take home and I realised I was missing out on the teenage dream. Keep your towel, but keep up the good work boys.

Tribes EP “We were Children” is out now on iTunes. Their album “Baby” comes out in January 2012. For updates on the band check:

 See what Tribes had to say when I interviewed them at the Brudenell before the gig:

EA: There are a lot of rock/indie bands that gain popularity within the niche radio stations and markets. What is the key to accessing a wider market or making it into the mainstream.

Johnny: The songs, the vibe of the band and what label you are on, how much you tour. People like the vaccines, they came right at the start when there was a need for a new wave of sound after all that jingle jangle stuff and that’s why they got on Radio 1, so it’s also luck.

Dan: Radio is still really hesitant to take on any bands as it’s a safer option to play electro-pop.

EA: It says in your bio that you arrived in Camden and realised you were in the supposedly indiest place on earth and there were no bands. To me there are a lot of bands but a lack of creativity setting them apart. Do you agree?

Johnny: Yeah, I think there are a lot of people that want to be in bands but don’t want to be musicians, which is just desperately fucking depressing isn’t it? And Camden is the worst. For us, the songs and the record come before what we look like. We don’t have conversations about that so I don’t know if that makes us a bit more legit? We are on a major label, but we didn’t set out to do that. Were really proud to be on island records but its not the be all and end all. We don’t go around talking about it, it is about the music. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true.

EA: Johnny has been quoted as saying that there is no point being in a band if you are not going to be one of those life changing bands. How do you aim to achieve longevity as a band?

Johnny: Misquote. That’s bullshit. Was on some NME thing and then someone wrote it on our bio. It’s just records and writing the albums. Our album is something were really proud of that will hopefully last. Everyone thinks were this garage rock band but really there is more too it on the album.

Dan: We never rushed, we took our time. We started the band at the same time as the Vaccines who went really quickly and luckily are doing really well. But there is a tendency to try and rush an album out.

EA: Do you think that’s easier to do in America where some artists say they give you more time to develop as a band instead of England where it is one shot and your out?

Johnny: I don’t know if that’s true. You say that, but the bands that break it out there have been on four labels, hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt. Were lucky to be on island because they’re not rushing us to do anything. Longevity unfortunately relies on sales and in this country that relies on Radio 1. So, if we get on Radio 1 I’m sure things will go great, but if we don’t they’re not going to drop us.

EA: Who do you think is the most offensive artist in the UK music scene at the moment?

Miguel: Simon Cowell

Danny: For starting that fucking TV show.

EA: That was actually my next question, would the world be a better place without X Factor?

Johnny: Its false hope. It’s degrading.

Dan: These contestants, even the people who win, are so naïve to the mechanics of the music industry that when they finally get there they can be exploited to no end. You have to go through the toilet; tour clubs, bullshit managers…

Miguel: Play to two people…

Dan: To create a transparency so that you can see what is going on.

Johnny: There’s nothing creative. They are not writing songs, they are not even talking about it. It’s a fucking karaoke show that has got out of hand. More people vote for X-Factor than the common elections. No wonder there’s a riot.

EA: How did your band come about?

Danny: there seemed to be a lack of music that we wanted to make. Too much jingle jangle indie stuff, folk, cerebral prog. We just wanted to create something really simple, rock that’s easy to play, and to access that.

EA: You worked with producer Mike Crossley who worked with acts like Razorlight, Arctic Monkeys, Kooks. Are you happy to be grouped with those sort of bands?

Johnny: I don’t think we even knew that he had at the beginning. We met Mike and loved the guy and he really got the music. I don’t think anyone is really grouping us with them.

Dan: Mikes not one of those producers that likes to make his stamp on production he is just very good at getting the record out of us.

EA: You supported the Pixies very early on. Were you ready for that sort of pressure?

Johnny: It was anti- pressure because we weren’t signed, we didn’t have a manager, we just had a demo, it was our sixth gig. We had a great time, we can’t remember any pressure. We still don’t really feel pressure, we put pressure on ourselves sometimes. Obviously the tours coming up, there is pressure there but we are all mates, we all get along.

EA: Do you think the hardest thing about being in a band is staying together?

Dan: Nahh, we’re like four wives.

Miguel: When we have time off were all still together partying.

EA: How was the Pixies tour and supporting the Mystery Jets different from your own tour?

Johnny: We just went out and had a good time because we weren’t selling a single. We love our own tours though. We’d rather play our own gig with 200 people here than down the road at the academy with Arctic Monkeys.

Danny: We’ve never really felt pressure at all ever. It’s more deciding who to work with and the endurance of being on tour.

EA: Do you think you will start to feel the pressure on the second album?

Dan: We don’t even know how the first one will go yet.

Johnny: Obviously it will be much more intense as you have the threat of the label dropping you. The thing is with bands is that every year the quality has to go up by at least 2% which is really hard and daunting to think about.

EA: What has been the most difficult challenge you have had to face in making your album?

Johnny: Staying sober. The cheap drugs in Liverpool.

Miguel: Your recording the album with Crossley and afterwards you want to go out and party.

Johnny: And then you end up staying awake Friday, Saturday, Sunday and back to work on Monday.

Jim: Your thinking, why am I playing so shit??

EA: Where did the majority of the inspiration come from? Was it meant to be more literal and lighthearted? 

Johnny: It’s just experiences of friends and ourselves. It’s got a real sense of nostalgia. It’s just about growing up and being in your early twenties. The whole record is pretty much written in 2 months in 2010. Just had a really good 2 months, and Danny and Jim brought some massive songs as well.

EA: Do you think you’ll ever start writing political tunes? Stuff that makes you angry?

JL: That sort of stuff has to come naturally. It’s not good to force it. It also becomes less and less relevant to you, if you’re a famous rock band, who is in government. When you hear Muses’ stuff it’s fucking cringing. I think if we were going to do it we would have done it by now. We are political people but you have to keep something to yourself. Those are our private thoughts.

EA: You performed at summer sonic festival in Japan. How was that different to European festivals?

Dan: It is a totally different culture of music consumption. It was like an XL centre arms fair. It’s really bizarre, your playing a show and everyone just sits listens to the songs and then claps.

Miguel: Your playing to 10,000 people and you can hear a pin drop.

Johnny: All these little girls with signs saying Tribes Band.

Dan: They all rock out in unison.

Johnny: We got to meet the chilli Peppers after which was cool.

Jim: I didn’t. And Dan met them in Groucho club the other day, so I am now the only member of the band who hasn’t met them. Great.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: