THE NIGHT CAFÉ are riding a current of success, with no signs of slowing. Their indie jams have quickly amassed a following across the country and the scale of their live shows has been steadily increasing. Having known them since their humblest days (and even been their drummer for a brief stint), I have watched these pop merchants grow up over the years. Now, we have been blessed with their latest EP, Bunkbed, which harks back to the first name of the band in their salad days, before they shared their moniker with the title of a Vincent Van Gogh painting. With crunchy guitars and lyrics that speak earnestly about subjects close to the band’s hearts, it’s delicately pieced together; the apex of years of cultivating and tilling their musical crops ready for an admirable summer harvest.
As their Liverpool O2 Academy headline performance approaches, it seems an apt time to seize upon my privileged position of intimacy as a member of their inner circle. One day I joined them at their studio after they finished rehearsing. As we reclined and chatted shit in our usual smoky haze, I turned everyone’s attention to the noble act of content production. I wanted a record of their success so far, to crystallise this moment of burgeoning youth, first in wav form and then in print.
I was at your first gig when you played to a small number in Gateacre School. What’s changed since then?
Sean: Oh yeh, that was our first one. Jesus. Nothing has changed.
You’re still shit though.
Sean: Ha ha! Music’s still the one. When we first started doing gigs we were always really pissed off when we fucked up once. Nowadays, I’m not arsed if I fuck up. But, yeh, music is still the most important.
Was it hard choosing to pursue music after school?
Josh: When everyone in our year was applying for uni, me and Sean were actually like, ‘Do we really wanna do that?’ We wanted to do the band, but we were still applying for unis and shit like that even though we didn’t want to. But that last year of sixth form, we met Bobert, our manager, in May, and then everything just kind of started snowballing from there. So, by the time it actually got to the point where we would have been going to uni we were, like, going on our first tour. So it was like everything just worked out. We knew we had enough of a foundation there, so it was worth the risk of not going to uni.
Carl: When I worked in Jaguar as well it made me realise it 20 times more that I needed to get out of this routine of working and wasting my life when I could I could do something I loved, do you know what I mean? My dad always wanted that to make sure I had money in my pocket and was financially stable, and I think that got in my head. But then we all did want to be in the band. Obviously, when that happened there were arguments happening and all sorts, which is just stupid really looking back, it’s kiddy arguments…
Josh: …Practice schedules.
Carl: It wouldn’t happen now, ’cos obviously you live and you learn, don’t you.
I noticed that phase in the band. It seems now you’re closer, especially with the year you [Carl and Josh] both had, losing your dads. Do you think that’s had an effect on your music?
Josh: Even the first song that we finished and recorded after all that happened to both of us was Turn, and although we’d written moody and emotional songs, Turn just felt like there was something different about it overall.
Carl: Yeh, it was like that for all of us, not just me and Josh – everyone was on the same energy.
Josh: That song summed up that time in our lives perfectly, it’s mad. And I don’t think we’ve felt like we had something like that before.
Carl: And since then all the songs we’ve written have been emotional. Even the new stuff we’ve been writing for the album has been like what we’ve always wanted, but were never really able to do back when we started.
The EP touches on some personal subjects, like social isolation in I’m Fine. How did you feel releasing these sorts of lyrics, Sean?
Sean: I was quite nervous for I’m Fine. I was always unsure about it because, you know, parts of that for me were quite moody and a bit dark. But I think it has a sort of happy ending to the EP – in a sense that it’s sort of like a Turn part two. I know when I say ‘It’s your turn to be happy, I mean every single word’ is me trying to put a twist on it, rather than being so negative about life. But I remember when we first did Turn, I didn’t even like saying what it was about, do you know what I mean? ’Cos it was, like, awkward.
Josh: Growing up changes the way you think about music – our older stuff sounds youthful in
What do you think the main message of Turn is?
Sean: I don’t even know if there is a message. It was just what I was feeling and what was running through my head at the time. It kind of made sense for what a lot of us was going through. But when we’d come to the last song it was like reflecting on that and moving forward. The last song on the EP, Forget It All, is simply saying ‘forget all the shit stuff – don’t fixate on all the problems’, ’cos that can lead you into places like the way I was feeling in Turn.
I note that a lot of the subjects are related. It’s that feeling of being inside your own head…
Sean: Yeh! That’s what it mostly was for me. All those thoughts felt like too much to even explain to myself, so explaining it to other people just sounded mad. That’s why I put it in songs. Whether people listen to it or not, I’ve said it, do you know what I mean? Carl’s mum cried when she first heard Turn. She cried when she heard Forget It All as well, to be honest. But she just loves us, that’s why. That’s what I mean though, people you know might care about it or they might not even think about it – they might just like the song – but the fact that people are listening to the song when the subjects are so close to you, the song that you wrote because they were helping you get through a tough time – it means a lot for them to even just listen.
Has the writing process changed since I was in the band? Do the songs still come out of nowhere?
Sean: It’s still the same, it’s mad. Even with this whole album we’ll go in the room and we don’t even expect something to happen, but luckily it does. That whole organic thing – I don’t understand it, it just happens. It’s cos we’ve been playing together for so long.
How much do you think about your live shows when you’re writing? Most of your songs lend themselves to an energetic crowd, with good old sing-alongs. Is this just by accident?
Sean: Luckily for us people have received it the way we wanted to. But it’s always been quite fun doing gigs. I remember we did Buyers Club, we sold one out and did another one. Even when we sold it out, the crowd weren’t havin’ it – they weren’t fully moshing and stuff like that. That didn’t happen until the first Arts Club gig two years ago. That’s when it started.
Arran: And we’re back on 5th October. Tickets are available now, buy them.
Where is the gig, and what can we expect?
Arran: It’s in the O2 Academy, which is like 1,200 people – the biggest gig we’ve done in Liverpool so far.
Sean: I don’t know how many we’ve sold, but it’s selling. We’ll probably put a single out before we go on tour.
Carl: We might play a few tracks from the new album if they’re ready to play to the public. You wanna play a good show and fill it with as many bangers as you can. There’s just one ticket left apparently so you’ll need to get your hands on it.
Sean: Good sales technique.
Arran: I’ll halve it with you if you can’t afford a full one. You can see half of it and then I’ll come in.
What merchandise and clothing items will you be selling?
Carl: We’re selling some OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, isolator polymer…
I reckon that’ll sell straight away.
Arran: We don’t have much of that as well so get there early – TNC isolator.
Carl: We’ve got an after-hours menu as well, but we won’t delve into that – depends on the mood. But if the police hear about this, we definitely don’t.
I don’t think the police read Bido Lito!.
Sean: Did I answer those questions properly?
Really well, mate. [At this point, Sean’s famously handsome dog comes bounding up to us with classical good looks to rival the band’s, and I began to wonder how this strange and noble beast may profit from the success of her master.] Can we talk about extravagant dog collars for a second? How much money would you be willing to spend on a lavish collar? Say, if your first album does well?
Sean: Soon as my bank account passes a balance of £30,000, I’ll buy a £500 one.
Will you, dear reader, be one of the ones to help these darling boys fulfil their reduced-scale, millennial rock ’n’ roll dreams? They certainly deserve it, and a whole lot more. Witnessing The Night Café’s rise to their relatively exalted musical status has been, for a close friend, a timeline fraught with break-ups, make-ups, heart-aches, family bereavement and personal battles. At the same time as that, it’s been a pretty fun ride. It’s strange trying to think of my childhood friends as stars, but I’m continually proud of them. The band come out of the struggles they face always stronger and more determined, with a more mature and appreciative head on their shoulders, and without losing that delicious Scouse sense of humour.
The Night Café headline O2 Academy on Friday 5th October.