Friday 4 June 2021

An Interview With BOSS KELOID Drummer Ste Arands

UK Prog/Psych Sludge Masters BOSS KELOID return today with their new album Family The Smiling Thrush and is perhaps my favourite album by them and I've heard this year.

The album continues from the Progressive and Psychedelic Grooves of their acclaimed 2018 release - Melted On The Inch. Which saw the band receive critical acclaim from fans and critics alike. There was nothing like Melted On The Inch when it was released a few years and has remained one of my favourite albums.

Now signed to Ripple Music for the release of their new album, I was given the chance to speak to Ste Arands from the band where we discuss the evolution of the band, the making of the album and their forthcoming UK Tour.

Hi Ste. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Hi! Not a problem, thank you very much for having us! I've got a mountain of a blister on my hand from some hardcore gardening this morning (that's how exciting my life gets), but other than that I'm absolutely golden thanks.

For people not in the know. Can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

Well the band first formed in 2010 when Paul (Swarbrick - Guitar) started jamming with a friend of his (and original Keloid 2nd guitarist) Paul Thomason, with Paul's son Chris Thomason on drums. Swarbrick had years upon years worth of riffs piled up which had never seen the light of day, so they had plenty of absolutely mental material to work with at the time.

Alex (Hurst - Vocals/Guitar) owns a rehearsal studio in Wigan where the trio started to rent a room and play together. As far as I know, Alex wandered into the room one day to see what the racket was and was convinced to have a go at singing over it. Liam (Pendlebury-Green - Bass) joined at around the same time, and the original line up was complete.

I only joined the band in 2011 after the recording of the first EP "Angular Beef Lesson", when Chris had to leave the band to go to University. I still find it hard to believe he was only 16 at the time of that first recording. He's still a brilliant drummer, and plays in a 2 piece now called "Rival Bones" who are definitely worth checking out. Chris' dad Paul left soon after and the band was down to the current 4 member line up we have today.

Since that point, we've had a few member changes, but we are again back to that same 4 piece line up as before and I believe it's the strongest line up to date.

We here to talk about your new and perhaps best album to date – Family The Smiling Thrush. What can people expect from this album and what’s the concept or story of the album.

For those who have followed us for a while, there will be (or so I'm told) elements of the sound of each of our albums in this one. At points the music sounds as mad as "The Calming Influence Of Teeth", while at other points sounding mellower than it ever has. I think our writing has improved since the last album too, and this record sound a lot more to the point, or streamlined if that makes any sense?! 

We just tried really hard to trim any fat from these songs before recording. Matt (Milne - Keyboards) left the band last year for personal and completely understandable reasons, so we had to spend time rearranging and rewriting a lot of material to make sure that it stood up on it's own and didn't sound like it was lacking anything. The last thing we wanted was for this album to sound like there was something obviously missing following "Melted On The Inch" having so many key parts, but to my ear at least, we've managed to achieve that.

Was this a hard album to write and record for. Especially during COVID-19 still being around us all.

When the first lock-down hit, everything came to a complete stop. There were - like for most bands - shows to reschedule, and we had to push recording back by 6 months, but the hardest thing was not having that regular meet up with the rest of the lads. It seems to have been easy for me to take that weekly outlet I'd had for the last decade for granted, and I didn't anticipate how much I'd ever miss it. I'll definitely be trying to appreciate that more from now on.

Compared to so many other people though, we've had it very easy to be honest, so I really can't complain about anything.

What influenced or inspired you when making this album.

I find it's always hard to answer questions about influences on the music - especially concerning a specific song or album - as these days we tend to just start playing together and see what happens. Between the four of us, we have quite a wide range of tastes and those will I suppose naturally filter through to the music, but I'd have a hard time picking any one specific influence. As sickeningly cheesy as this sounds, the biggest inspiration to me is the 3 other lads in the band.

Where did you come up with the excellent album title and song titles. Some of the best names I’ve heard in a long while

Thank you! Well, it's not very often that the titles of our songs or albums have any bearing on the lyrical content, or the concept. For the same reason that Alex doesn't like to reveal the personal story behind his songs - it lets the listener interpret the song in their own way - most of the titles are just arbitrary labels.

With this release, the album title and the title of the song "Smiling Thrush" are the only ones linked to reality in any way, but the rest just come from conversations that have made us laugh over the last few years. If a potential song title ever pops up in conversation and we find it funny or interesting enough, it's written down somewhere and we choose from that list at a later date. I wish I had a deeper explanation for you, but we're simple folk.

Ripple Music are releasing the album. How did you manage to sign to Ripple Music. As I never thought a million years of this happening. As Ripple Music focus on a different flavour to music that Boss Keloid are known for.

It's not something we expected either to be honest. When our relationship ended with Holy Roar last year, Todd from Ripple reached out to us to offer his condolences and support. He was very understanding and helpful at quite a stressful point for the band and basically made things a hell of a lot easier for us.

Did you have interest from other labels or was Ripple Music just the perfect fit for the band.

I feel very lucky to be able to say we did. There were a few people who were very kind and also offered support at a tough time, and to those people I'd like to extend a massive thank you. However, after weighing up our options, it quickly became clear to us that Ripple was the right home for us.

Ripple is a great label, with a strong history, but which importantly has as it's foundation a massive music fan. Todd only works with bands that he's personally invested in seeing do well, and that ethos has always been very important to us. He had been following Keloid, and we had been fans of Ripple and many of the bands on the label for a while, and after talking with Todd it was clear that we were going to work well together, so it was a no brainer for us really.

Who designed the fantastic artwork for the new album. And how much input did you have into he final design of it all.

Paul (Swarbrick) is behind the artwork for this new album. It uses pictures from a collection by photographer Sam Droege, and is based around the concept of the group needs trumping the needs of the individual, and the idea of community and understanding. Paul's got a great eye for detail and has designed the layout of all of the albums to date. I'm biased of course, but I do think this is the best one so far.

We’ve heard that a LIVE ALBUM of the upcoming new album is in the works like you did with your Melted On The Inch. Can you provide more details when it will be released and when did you get the idea to do full live performances of your last two albums.

Yeah, we just recently went back to Foel Studios to record a live version with Chris Fielding, and it's being edited at the moment. We're not decided yet on how or when this will be released unfortunately, but it's looking great so far and I think those who appreciated the live play through of Melted will love this one.

We've seen these types of live videos become more and more popular in recent years, and it was something we'd discussed a lot in the past. There's a certain energy to live recordings I think, and when bands I like have done them, I've often preferred them to the studio album. For that reason it's always been something I wanted to try.

Going back to Melted On The Inch, Can we say that album perhaps changed everything for the band. As it kind of exploded in a big way back in 2018.

Well we were certainly shocked by the response that Melted got. We were all pretty convinced before releasing it that Melted was going to turn everybody off and lose us any fans we'd gained by that point, but when it got the reception it did it was a nice surprise. I honestly can't say it's changed anything for us though. We still meet up every week to write weird music and talk bollocks to each other, and we're still the same 4 idiots we always have been.

Were you surprised at how everyone loved the album. I listen to it all the time. Helped me through some dark times back in 2018 and 2019. Which I thank you for.

Absolutely! It got an overwhelmingly positive response from the press and from fans, which took us back a bit to be honest. There was quite a difference in sound between Herb Your Enthusiasm and Melted On The Inch, so we thought there was a good possibility that change would be too much for a lot of people, but our fans proved us wrong. We were just blown away when people said such good things about it.

There have been a number of people who have said the album has helped them through a difficult period in their lives, which is fantastic, and I'm so happy it's been helpful for you too. Thank you for sharing that.

I can't really put into words how much it means to us all to hear that our music has had a positive impact on someones life, because it's the last thing you ever expect when you're working on it, but the absolute best result you can hope for when putting your music out.
I know I speak for the rest of the lads when I say we're all incredibly grateful to have been given the opportunity to help in the first place... so thank YOU for listening!

COVID-19 has pretty much put a stop to all life as we know it for the time being. How big of an impact has it affected the band. And how are you surviving in this stressful time.

Other than the interruptions to writing and preparing this album for release, we've been incredibly fortunate and haven't really felt any negative affects of COVID. It's definitely been frustrating, as it has for everyone, but we honestly can't complain. I know plenty of people who have struggled through this last year, physically and financially, and plenty more who have felt an impact to their mental health as routines, hobbies or relationships were affected by the lock-down and restrictions. I just feel lucky to have been comparatively unaffected, and also very lucky to have had music to keep me occupied through it all.

You have a massive UK tour planned for later this year. Are you excited or scared what that experience will bring with LIVE GIGS being fairly out of action for so long.

We're really excited to play again now. It's been so long, and we're itching to get back to it as soon as it's safe to do so. Unfortunately a lot of shows were rescheduled, then rescheduled again as this pandemic has progressed, and there have been times that we wondered whether it would ever be possible to gig again. At this point, we're all just keeping everything crossed and hoping that we can actually get back out and play for people in November.

What can people expect from the upcoming gigs. I’m planning to go to one of the gigs myself. Working on dates nearer the time.

We've put a lot of effort into improving our live show whilst we've had this extra time on our hands, and hopefully that will pay off when we get to play again. Anyone coming to watch us this year will get to hear this new album and hopefully some of the back catalogue too. Playing our old tunes has been something we've neglected unfortunately up to this point, but we hope to be able to crack some of those out too for the first time in a long while. Looking forward to seeing you there too. Make sure you say hello and join us for a beer!

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to say to your fans.

The pleasure's all mine. Thank you very much for having us! I have never said anything that would be considered remotely "wise" in my life, so that's out of the question. But... I would like to take the opportunity to extend a heartfelt thank you to anyone who has ever given up their time to listen to our music. 

We are always surprised and grateful when anybody has a kind word to say about anything we do, and it's never taken for granted. We really hope you enjoy "Family The Smiling Thrush" as much as we enjoyed making it, and we can't wait to see everyone at a gig some time in the very near future! Thanks again!

Words by Steve Howe and Ste Arands

You can watch the awesome new video for Gentle Clovis here:

Thanks to Lisa at Hold Tight PR for arranging the interview and for Ste Arands for participating. 

Family The Smiling Thrush will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Ripple Music and LinkTree from June 04th 2021.

Find out more about the band: