INTERVIEW

In 2012 it’s going to be impossible to ignore a band as brutal as this.

Photography by Bart Pettman

Hookworms are the latest creatures to crawl out from the rock of the north, Leeds. Under the soil their roots spread deep and twist far and wide, making them a local super group of sorts, made up of members from Spectrals, Wonderswan and previous hard-core outfit Twisted via current pop punk band Idea Shower. However, for a band with such an impressive background between them, they surreptitiously opt to only use their initials (MB, EG, MJ, SS and JW), hiding behind their ferocious wall of droned-out, doomed kraut rock.

The project initially had other ideas. “I was thinking along the lines of [Pennsylvania punk band] Pissed Jeans,” offers MJ, with MB adding, “I wanted to do something like the garage label In The Red, like reigning sound or something. Heavy garage.”

With an early Beat Happening cover doing the rounds and them “playing one song in a cellar for a year”, it took a chance encounter with a wah-wah peddle at a house party to give Hookworms their new sound. “Yeah, I bought it off someone for a tenner at a house party,” laughs MJ. “We all thought it sounded really great and that completely changed the way we approached things.”

The resulting intervention transformed the band instantly, and after a year of tinkering they had a four-song, twenty-six-minute, self-titled E.P to show for their efforts, a whirling, entrancing sonic assault that had all the power of fireworks exploding underwater – a gloriously murky and hypnotic record. It’s quite possibly the finest self-release of 2011, in fact, and the comparisons have been plenty, from Spacemen 3 to Loop to Neu! to Silver Apples.

“Most of them have been right,” nods MB, “except when people say early Verve!” They all nod in confused unison.

“Yeah that’s not something we had in mind,” says SS. “We’ve had some sketchy ones, yeah, someone said after a show we sounded like Happy Mondays.”

“I mean, I fell asleep listening to Spacemen 3 every night for two or three months,” says MB, “so they were a big part of it.”

MJ: “When I write a song I can clearly hear and say ‘I ripped this off here’,” admits MJ, “and to everyone else it sounds like a coherent manifestation. But I can hear everything we’re ripping off all the time!” he laughs.

Influences aside, something in Hookworms’ music is lodging deep into the psyche of many a listener and their popularity is rising fast.

“It’s bizarre,” says MB. “We got a really nice write up from Julian Cope and I showed my dad who is the biggest Teardrop Explodes fan and he lost it!”

“Seeing people in the street wearing our t-shirts, knowing that they didn’t buy it directly from us is so weird too,” MJ enthuses. “They’ve actually gone out and bought it online! I’m not used to my bands being universally popular,” he quietly adds.

The band then go on to trade stories in an attempt to determine the peak of their success so far, arriving at MJ’s note of, “when some people from The Bill and Emmerdale came to see us my Mum lost her shit, she was so happy.”

The band have already received a fair amount of interest from record labels too, eager to release the first Hookworms album. The truth is, they’re in a unique position regarding making records, and it’s a position they appreciate. “I own and run my own recording studio,” says MJ, “so the one thing that bands need money from a record label to do [record] we don’t need. We’re really lucky in that respect.”

“We’ll probably hope to have something out by the autumn,” says MB, “but whatever form that takes, we have no idea yet.”

Hookworms’ sense of humour and modesty is firmly intact, but their music is accelerating at breakneck speed. I catch them wrapping up what will “probably be the last show we do of us doing these songs” just before Christmas, as they start demoing material for the upcoming album. The performance is astounding. As the tyre screeching guitars and grumbling bass lines of ‘Medicine Cabinet’ open the performance, the intensity and density of the sounds is bowel-loosening and for a very brief second I genuinely start to question what I’ll do if I shit myself. They manage to simultaneously play through and around the audience, producing a dizzying whirlwind of sound that dips and weaves its way through the venue, leaving one feeling utterly immersed in their creations.

What makes them different from the typical bands generally tagged as ‘psych’ is the vocals – the intensity and delivery of a former hardcore frontman placed through a vocal distortion box creates a cloudy conveyance that sits gloriously in line with the hazy, murmuring music yet possesses the energy and concentration to still lead the songs. At the band’s most manic moments, such as during the sublime ‘Teen Dreams’, the vocals and amalgamating sonic assaults almost evoke James Murphy and LCD Soundsytem in full swing. And with the rather dour looking BBC Sound of 2012 poll and the grim realisation that someone like Spector could be the biggest band of 2012, there is an overwhelming sense of relief and reassurance knowing that Hookworms exist and will no doubt endeavour to be the loudest and quite possibly the best band of 2012.

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