Beware of casual music chat with Ex-People, because – in the best possible way – this is one band that knows their music. With a moniker taken directly from a song by noise rock two piece Bygones – featuring Nick Reinhart on guitar and Zach Hill (from Hella & Death Grips) on drums – that should be clear. Following a gig at Camden’s Black Heart in October, TGA catch up with the sludge metal quartet as they put the finishing touches to new music video Without, discuss certified “beautiful boy” Wayne Adam, being able to cook without killing anyone and the impact of riot grrrl.
“riot grrrl had a massive impact on my life, both musically and politically. It completely shaped what I believed I could do,” says Vicki resolutely. “The local music scene where I grew up was pretty sexist and male-dominated, and riot grrrl made me realise I didn’t need to put up with that.”
Vicki’s enthusiasm is something that is immediately picked up by vocalist Laura. “I think about this a lot. Like, if I hadn’t stumbled across riot grrrl somehow when I was seventeen, would I have even tried to be in a band? Scary thought.”
Riot grrl may not be the immediate music genre you would associate with Ex People; whose sound showcases a gauntlet of subtle evolutions while the essential Earth-meets-Thought Forms seed remains untouched. Previously released songs like Pilot display the sort of funeral countenance that makes for winter night listening, while Jersey Devil, indicates a slow, smoke-fogged nod towards Black Math Horseman as oppose to Sleater-Kinney. But without Vicki and Laura’s mutual respect for riot grrrl, the two would never have met a decade ago and formed their first band Sad Shields.
“We’ve been friends ever since and played together in other bands too,” explains Laura. “In fact, I think our first meeting was in a rehearsal room. Vicki and Ed met in school and I met Calum when our old bands played together. We decided to form Ex People a couple of years ago to scratch the itch we all had to make some heavy music.”
The members also feature in Ghum and Left Leg and have been involved in interesting projects like “playing in an all-female drone ensemble at the ICI” – in Vicki’s case. But these days, the band grapple with the trad-doom of SubRosa and Lucifer while allowing full Troy Sanders bass demigod mode. Combining such songcraft and impeccable riffmanship within the dark esoteric the genre dictates, makes it impossible to see how Ex People could disappoint and, put simply, they don’t.
“As the lyricist, I channel the anger I have about life situations into the lyrics and melodies of our songs,” says Laura. “My lyrics are mostly about standing up for yourself and I often take inspiration from books I’m reading. I love apocalyptic and dystopian fiction so in my head when I’m singing I’m leading an army charging at an enemy!”
The lyrics certainly turn sludge and slurry into an aggressive metal force to be reckoned with – and nowhere is this more notable than on latest single Without. Produced by “beautiful boy” (in Ed’s opinion) Wayne Adams, (Vodun, USA Nails), Ed surmises his trademark signature with a laugh. “He knows that volume is 99% of music, and that turned out great on Without.”
Like most bands the idea of music as a full-time career is as uncertain than ever. In Ex People’s case, the band are all in their 30s, and this inevitably means balancing the band with full time jobs. Still, this year has seen the band play a slew of live performances including gigs with Palehorse, Casual Nun, Torpor and Bruxa Maria. The gig with Palehorse resulting in a live set of songs available in EP format titled Live at the Unicorn.
Ex People are one of many bands that have grown out of a rowdy, close-knit musical community and DIY venues like the Brixton Windmill, Luminaire in Kilburn, Power Lunches, Ryan’s Bar and dozens of other great grassroots watering holes have helped shape their performances over the years. But as Ed says sadly, “It feels like good small venues for bands just starting out are steadily disappearing.”
Despite this, music fans are anything but complacent and as venues close down, others spring up in their place. Sludge metal may be the starkest contrast imaginable to novelty pop, but these are the bands that harvest the mercurial devotion of fans to the point of mania. While Ex People are just at the start of their musical journey, one which will see the release of their debut album in Spring of next year, you’re going to want to get listening to this band early, because it’s only a matter of time before a label like Invada Records, Season Of Mist or even Sergeant House snaps them up. And you know, you were there first.
If you like the sound of Ex People, check out our TGA Presents Doom playlist here