Ben Lynch speaks to ALLUSONDRUGS’ guitarist and vocalist, Damo, about their DIY ethos, exhaustive touring schedule and trying to remain self-sufficient as a band.
Spotify nailed it. Tidal are struggling with it. And Apple are about to delve into it. We live in a world where music streaming, the most accessible and instantaneous form of music consumption, is rife. No matter who or where you are (assuming internet access), hours upon hours of music are available direct to your person, resulting in us being more able than ever to listen to music all day, every day, without leaving our rooms. We are well and truly in the midst of the online age, where bedroom artists, including in their ranks the likes of recent phenomenon Alex G, can thrive like never before.
While such a detached approach is becoming increasingly frequent, however, there are still those who believe in doing things the old-fashioned way. In a refreshing exhibition of exposure largely due to endless gigging and touring, leading to sets at the likes of Reading and Leeds as well as this year’s Download Festival, Castleford five-piece ALLUSONDRUGS have cut more than their fair share of baby teeth on the circuit. Boasting a tireless work ethic and sincere concern for their craft, they embody the notion that digging in and physically getting out there is still not only viable, but essential. Speaking to us while in the middle of another hectic period of touring, guitarist and backing vocalist Damo certainly has no doubts concerning the validity of such an approach: “Any band wants to play as often as possible to as many people as possible. It is important in the beginning though to just play gigs until your body crumbles up and the wheels fall off your van. It gives you the experience you need to be able to perform well in all situations.”
Such an ethic pertains to more than just playing the shows. When questioned on the potential issues of having to, until recently, balance day jobs as well as the band, Damo explains that it’s all about work ethic. “If you try hard enough you can work around your day job. If you’re saying you can’t put time into your band because of your job, then you’re admitting defeat before you’ve even started. That said, it’s not easy working around day jobs. We all had jobs and were working around them and it was difficult to figure out; we all still do things to keep everything ticking over.” The benefits of going about things in a more hands-on fashion, however, remains the fundamental point. “It’s good to have the struggle though, it makes you stronger,” Damo continues. “Some bands come from privileged backgrounds and never have to worry about funding and making ends meet, resulting in bands with no real passion or fight and a weak sense of will. That’s how you get all this nice, safe music taking over and nobody is really getting moved and inspired.”
One of the obvious benefits of this frequent touring approach is that Allusondrugs have really been able to hone their live show, overseeing its evolution into a maniacal, intense and frenzied being. It is the realness of such an experience, however, which is again at the heart of everything they do. “Playing gigs is massively important,” Damo states. “Yes it is easy to just download a band’s music, but nothing compares to actually experiencing a band doing what they do in real life at its intended volume with all the real spontaneous energy.” As far as this quintet is concerned, their shows are about far more than merely exposure: they’re an opportunity to connect, to create a unique engagement between band and audience, and to fortify the grassroots importance of physically involving oneself with the primitiveness of the music.
Such escapades still require the actual substance behind them to actually make them work, which is something Allusondrugs have abundant amounts of. Drawing on genres ranging from psychedelia to grunge, the band have often found themselves compared to acts emanating from the 90s alt. rock scene. Unfortunately, this hasn’t always proven particularly complementary to their artistic individuality, and Damo expresses clear disregard for people who fall back on such banal categorisations. “I don’t care who people think we sound like. I write the vast majority of our music, and I listened to a lot of grunge and alt. rock as a kid so there’s bound to be some of that in there. We’ve gotten a lot of stick, especially on YouTube, from people who reckon we’re ripping-off Nirvana. Most of that I imagine is just people with nothing better to do than complain about a song they don’t like. But, whatever, people have a right to say whatever they want, even if they are wrong.”
Alongside their penchant for hard work, the DIY ethic with which Allusondrugs have engaged has also found plenteous praise, a dynamic first expressed publicly in the video to their debut single, Nervous. Released back in May 2014 and premiered on Kerrang!, the track initiated the first real wave of interest in their music. In reference to that single, Damo notes that the band “do like to be as self-sufficient as possible. I think it’s good for any band to be self-sufficient; it’s all about making things as good as you can possibly make them with the tools and resources you have at your disposal.”
Such a DIY image reflects more than merely a lack of resources, or any intention of false representation. The importance of such an ethic is apparent in the way Damo discusses it, seeing it as indicative of how the band have got to where they are, and its centrality in where they intend to be heading next. “Artists that like to do things themselves generally do so because they have a strong work ethic, a strong character. These kinds of artists generally have a much stronger idea of what it is they want to achieve and how they want to achieve it. People always respond better to artists that know what they want, and say it.”
When asked whether the band have any plans to work on an album any time soon, Damo’s answer is as honest and open-ended as one could hope for. “A full-length [record] will come out when it’s time for a full-length to come out,” he decrees. Whether you see this statement as intentionally elusive or just plain honest, it’s indicative of the way in which Allusondrugs conduct their business. Far from the sort of act who base their success on yearly releases and raking in the Spotify royalties, their foundations are instead of a more personable kind: one that thrashes and spits in your face, and ultimately makes you fall in love with it. Allusondrugs are testament to the fact that there is no real alternative to getting out there and doing it yourself. They offer something which, at a time when we find more and more of our daily life drifting into the cyber abyss, is tangible and, most importantly, humane.