WITH Donald Trump parking his orange backside…
in the U.K. for a few days; it seems like a perfect time to speak with AKIVA about their new single, Ammunition. They talk about figures like Donald Trump and the impact they are having on the world; how the band got together and the sort of artists they are influenced by – I ask whether there will be gigs and more material before the end of the year.
AKIVA select a new act we should be looking out for; whether there is any chance to chill when not making music; which artist they’d support on tour given the chance; what advice they would offer upcoming acts – the guys each select a song to end the interview with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Pretty special. We released our new single, Ammunition, and watched England get to their first World Cup semi-final in twenty-eight years. Doesn’t get much better than that!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We’re AKIVA. There are four of us and we’re from Bedfordshire. We’re into analogue synth. loops; drum-beats with a groove; rolling basslines; Stones-y guitar sounds and big choruses. Our sound was probably originally inspired by all that Electro-Indie crossover stuff that came out of the nineties: The Charlatans, Primal Scream; UNKLE; Black Grape; Doves; Stereo MC’s etc. – and, also more recently, the likes of The Horrors, Jamie T and Beyond the Wizards Sleeve. We’re also big fans of trying to use music to get a message across - particularly in the volatile climate we currently live in.
We were recently described as ‘George Orwell-meets-The Killers’ - which is not far off.
The video for Ammunition is out. What was it like working with Wayne McCauslin on it?
This is the second track we’ve worked on with Wayne and hopefully won’t be the last. He’s a real talent. We’re huge fans of his animation style. He totally gets our music and where we’re coming from and has the ability to take the messages we’re trying to convey in our songs to a whole new level with his visuals. He’s a real pleasure to work with and we feel very lucky to have crossed paths with him.
The song is getting a lot of great feedback. How did it come together? Is there a story behind the track?
Thanks. Yeah; this is actually quite an old song. We’ve been playing it live for a few years but never record it until now. It was originally inspired by the many hasty and disastrous military interventions made by the U.K. and U.S. the last ten to fifteen years: Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya; but it’s also a more general reflection on the international military conflict in general and how it rarely results in any positive outcomes. Unfortunately, with some of the lunatics we have in power at the moment, it feels like another one is not far away.
In a weird way; do twisted leaders like Donald Trump give you plenty of inspiration?! Are you ever surprised by what is happening in the world?!
There’s certainly plenty to write about at the moment! Yeah, Donald Trump is an imbecile (I’d like to see him in a room with De Niro) but I think he’s a symptom of a wider problem rather than a cause. There’s a worrying trend towards rising populism, nationalism and mistrust of others in all countries at the moment - and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see it get stronger. As long as inequality continues to rise, which it shows every sign of doing, more people will find crazy populists with dangerous ideas appealing.
The current climate feels very much like what I imagine the period before the Second World War to be like. I often used to wonder how it was possible that someone like Adolf Hitler ever got elected to power but, having lived through the few years, I can see how it happened. It’s a worry.
How did AKIVA come together? When did you all find one another?
We all went to school together. Rob and Dave are brothers and were at junior-school with Malc. I moved down from the North and met the others at secondary-school. We started out by messing around with guitar riffs and trying to learn the odd cover that we could play to our mates in the school talent shows and stuff. In the sixth-form, we started to take it a bit more seriously and set up camp in Dave and Rob’s foam-plastered garage - much to the disappointment of their neighbours.
That’s when we formed the band properly.
Is there going to be an album or E.P. coming from the band later in the year?
Yes, there is. We have another single called Broken Ship which we’ll be releasing later this year as part of a four-track E.P. There’s a theme of conflict and political tension that runs through all the tracks on the E.P.
Which artists do you take guidance from? Who do you all count as idols?
There’s a long list! We take guidance from anything we like, which is quite a lot. We love all the classic old stuff like The Rolling Stones, The Who; The Beatles, The Kinks – they laid the blueprint for male guitar bands and you can’t help but be influenced by them.
We’re also quite into Electronic music and were influenced by a lot of early-nineties Rave and Dance music and bands that took that feel and crossed it over into the guitar space like The Stone Roses and The Charlatans - as well as the likes of The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers. More recently, we’re big fans of The Horrors, Tame Impala and Everything Everything: three amazing bands with incredible layering and sonic detail in their tracks.
What do you hope to achieve before the end of 2018?
Hopefully, to just get more people to hear our music and see our videos. We’re pretty proud of what we’ve created and we want as many people to hear it as possible.
Have you all got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
We’ve been together as a four for a long time and we’re really tight mates. Some of my favourite memories are from the adventures we had when we were first starting out. I’ll never forget a time we hired a van for a gig in Greenwich and Rob, our bass player, was driving us all down (bass players always drive the van!).
He crashed it into a massive concrete bollard as he tried to reverse-park into a tight space outside the gig venue. He then proceeded to grind the side panel backwards and forwards on the bollard whilst trying unsuccessfully to get it out. It just got worse and worse and we were pissing ourselves laughing.
For some reason, that one always sticks out in my mind. It just reminds me of a time feeling very free when nothing seemed to matter. That’s what I love about being involved with music – when it allows you to feel like that.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I think it would have to be The Stone Roses. Us supporting them on a stage in Manchester and then joining them at the end of their set for I Am the Resurrection. I think I’ve had that dream about fifty times.
The rider would be sixty-eight lemons and eighty-nine tins of red, white; blue, black and gold paint. Maybe we’d throw it all over ourselves and the crowd in the encore for a great big, united; Jackson Pollock, paint-splattered psychedelic groove-out.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be prepared to graft: put some serious hours in and just keep going. There’ll be times when it feels like nobody’s listening but don’t let it set you back, just keep on. Never stop trying to learn from the music you love and trying to refine and improve your art. The ultimate pleasure in it all comes from realising you’ve created something you didn’t think you were capable of.
Where can we see you play? Do you have any gigs approaching?
Yeah. We’re playing at Pennfest on Friday, 20th July. We’re on the main stage at 2:45 P.M. It’s a pretty big gig for us. We’re on before The Bluetones - which is pretty special for us as we’ve always been big fans. I think we played a cover of Slight Return in our first-ever gig. We’re also playing The Finsbury in London on Saturday, 8th September.
IN THIS PHOTO: Hookworms
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
One of my favourite bands at the moment is a band called Hookworms from Leeds. They’re incredible: full of sonic layers, bleeping analogue synths; Krautrock beats and howling vocals. Right up our street. I’ve not been able to see them live yet. They don’t tour much as they all also have full-time jobs (something we can identify with!). Their latest album, Microshift, is brilliant. Go and check it out.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Not really. We don’t tend to do much unwinding. In the age where all music is free, there’s not much money in it for smaller independent band like us (and Hookworms!); so you need another job to pay the bills. When we’re not working, we tend to work on the band, whether it’s rehearsing, writing; recording or working with visual artists on the graphics and videos. There’s never enough time.
I remember watching that Ian Curtis film, Control, and thinking how knackered he must have been in the scenes when he’s working full-time in a Macclesfield office before jumping in the car and driving down to play in London…then back up to Macclesfield for work again the next day. It can feel like that sometimes but it’s all good. Wouldn’t want it any other way.
Music’s a pretty addictive thing and I tend to spend most of my time thinking about it when I’m not doing it. Whenever you do get a break, it doesn’t take long before you want to dive straight back in.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
With pleasure. I’ll go for Can’t Do by Everything Everything. I absolutely love this band. Their music is so clever, layered and intricate but still has loads of catchy Pop hooks in it. You can love their tunes after one listen but still find something new each time you go back to it. They recorded this in the same studio we recorded Ammunition and Luke - one of our engineers worked on it. That was quite inspirational for me.
Malc (Guitar): The Horrors are right up there for me. Top band and their last album, V, has some of their best work in my opinion. The track I love most is Press Enter to Exit which has sounded ever-better cracked loud in the summer sun. I challenge anyone to hear that awesome grooving bass and not nod their head or shuffle their feet. Add to that the huge distorted drum break and grinding machine guitars and you have a dream track for me....oh, yeah, and it has a doorbell in it. Cool, hey!
Dave Merc (Drums): My choice is Electric Man by Rival Sons. Love that guitar riff and solid drum beat
Rob (Bass). I’ll go for an old track – Dying Days by Screaming Trees. '60s Psych vibes with soulful vocals. My favourite to listen to in the car on long, hot drives on my own