“Screamo has a bad reputation.” It hadn’t taken long for Simon Barr, lead singer of Liverpool’s WE CAME OUT LIKE TIGERS, to vocalise exactly what I’d been thinking approaching this interview. It’s true, music which aims to capture the aggressive side of one’s spectrum of emotion can often be too easily dismissed or misunderstood, all the brutal dissonance and esoteric lyrical content may leave listeners feeling cold upon a fleeting engagement with the genre. But it appears that this is exactly where we’ve been getting it wrong. Screamo isn’t meant for that brief undertaking; it’s a movement, an investment to be made. Over a couple of beers in a city bar, the boys try and explain to me why it’s an investment worth making.
We Came Out Like Tigers were formed two years ago as Simon, upon graduating, made a last ditch attempt at fulfilling his ambition to unearth a musical kindred spirit. Fabian Devlin, the group’s guitarist, spotted his online advertisement (which basically consisted of a list of frighteningly peripheral bands Simon had been listening to recently) and quickly got in touch to form the basis of what would be WCOLT.
Shortly after their formation the boys found they had a shared passion for DIY aspects, something inexorably tied to hardcore for many years now. Simon explains where his motivation came from: “I got given a load of hardcore zines in a record shop called Listen Up which used to be in Grand Central. They were just these German magazines so thick and every single centimetre was covered in this tiny font with just interview after interviews with bands. It was like there’s this huge scene out there and by just reading this, you were part of it. I was just so inspired by that.” Thus began Brickface Press, a bi-monthly (or “once every other 6 monthly”) homiletic publication for all that is hardcore. Its brilliantly candid interviews and the refreshing depth of its commentary on the composition of groups’ music meant Brickface quickly became synonymous with a now thriving scene.
So by this point, with a band gaining popularity and an increasingly accepted ‘zine established, the lads had laid the foundations of the hardcore setting they had long craved in Liverpool. However, they still found themselves unhappy at the dearth of hardcore gigs actually being put on in the city. Inevitably, they set about correcting that as well. Despite admitting that putting on gigs is not something they particularly enjoy, the results of initial gigs were clearly positive. Simon: “No Screamo bands ever played Liverpool, nobody considered coming up here. But now we’ve put on bands who’ve said it’s been the best show of their tour.” Nowadays, it appears Screamo bands have no such qualms with visiting the ‘Pool, as evidenced by the recent visit of Maths whom WCOLT supported at de-facto hardcore gig venue, Wolstenholme Creative Space.
You may be forgiven for thinking that so far this is just the unremarkable tale of a band’s past which is only slightly unusual in their ventures in starting up a magazine and putting on a few gigs. However, as soon as the conversation turns to the aforementioned ‘creative space’, and gig venues in general, the real beauty of the story begins to shine. Fabian is more than eager to wax lyrical about the site itself: “It’s an incredible venue. Best venue in the country I reckon. Its ethics are impeccable, the way the people conduct themselves is incredible,” and it’s his use of the phrase ‘ethics’ which I find particularly interesting. I’m quickly discovering it’s what sets this scene apart. Wolstenholme it seems, just like WCOLT and Brickface Press, tend to go about their business in a unique manner. As Simon describes, “it’s always free and they only put something on if it fits into their ethic. Also, they won’t take money off people ‘cause they know how difficult it is to put on shows.” The polar opposite of pay-to-play shows then it seems.
It’s the disgusting exploitation of pay-to-play venues which represent everything the band and their cohorts are vehemently against. Fabian: “There are a lot of people in this city pushing pay to play shows and all those people are doing is stealing from bands, stealing from the scene. They’re dressing it up as they need to cover their costs but, if you need to cover costs, cut them. You don’t need an incredible P.A system for a small show. Scale it down.” A better argument against the whole ethos of pay to play gigs you will not find elsewhere.
After adding their heartfelt thanks that Barfly (number one perpetrators of these ticketed gigs) have finally pulled out of Liverpool, we move on to another area in which WCOLT have an uncompromisingly DIY attitude; adverts and sponsorship. Brickface’s refusal to run advertisements other than those they specifically choose to promote themselves is explained to me by Fabian: “as soon as you start selling advert space you’ve got to guarantee you’re delivering something.” It’s this belief that means they also don’t want to share a stage with bands who “have a sponsorship deal with Nokia or something.” Fabian adds: “You can easily recognise bands who aren’t doing things for the right reasons, aren’t doing things the right way. They’re the bands that nobody wants to play with ‘cause it makes it quite awkward if you’re pushing a really strong DIY ethic and you’re with a band who are willing to do things in a very different way.” At this point I start to believe that a phrase used earlier in passing by Simon is in fact a more apt description of his own band’s principles than anything else, WCOLT are undoubtedly “DIY to a fault.”
As we start to wrap up the interview I ask the group for a preview of what the future holds for Brickface Press. Simon informs me that “there are rumours of us putting on a new age rave,” (I’m pretty positive he’s just trying to start those rumours in print here but I’m feeling charitable) and that they just wish to “carry on putting on shows and putting out ‘zines”. As for WCOLT, I think Screamo bands are realistic in their admission that a massive deal from a major label is not around the corner and the best thing about it is; they don’t care. However, I’d find it difficult to be quite as succinct as Fabian on the matter: “People who are in screamo bands acknowledge that they’re going to be poor. So they do it because they love it” he tells me, as my admiration for the whole DIY philosophy grows further.
So then, about that investment. Consider me sold.