A band not quite fitting in
Even though it’s Saturday lunchtime, Tate Britain isn’t all that busy for a change. That said, I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to struggle to pick out the members of Drahla from the groups of similarly dressed art students clustered around the steps leading to the main entrance. I needn’t have worried. Turns out the Leeds-based three-piece are instinctively easy to spot. Bounding up the stairs in their leather jackets, vintage t-shirts and angular haircuts, they are three people who look like they should be in a band.
Having played Camden’s Lock Tavern the night before, they’ve decided to make a weekend out of their first visit to London, to check out the Tate’s acclaimed David Hockney exhibition. “For me and Lu, he’s been a massive inspiration, artistically,” says guitarist Rob Riggs. “He’s always trying to look at art in all these different ways and is always trying to find new ways of creating. For him to have this massive retrospective, I just knew that I had to come down and see it.”
“I find him incredible,” adds bandmate Luciel Brown as we walk through the heavy-set front doors and into the Tate’s gleaming neo-classical rotunda. “It’s amazing that he’s still coming up with these amazing new ideas. If you look at the work over his career, it’s pretty astounding – I like pretty much everything he’s done ever and the work varies quite a bit as well. I’m really excited to be able see it all in one space.”
In some ways Hockney’s work and Drahla’s music are strikingly similar. They both produce work that is deeply personal in nature and both are fiercely committed to doing things in their own way. Like Hockney, Drahla’s output also has a strange, existential darkness lurking just below the surface. With a sound that recalls Sonic Youth, The Breeders and cult Glaswegian post punks Life Without Buildings (without really sounding like any of them), they’ve perfected a broiling, bass-driven version of minimal punk that is both alluringly hook-laden yet simultaneously dangerous. As a recent review on Norman Records observed, the three-piece stand aside from most of today’s indie acts by “having their own sound and not simply coming up with a facsimile of something that has already occurred.”
New single ‘Fictional Decision’ is a case in point. Rejecting the contemporary fashion for layered, fuzz-pedal driven psychedelia, it’s an exercise in pure, stripped down menace. The trio’s first solo single after a spate of split EPs and live videos, its sparse, machine-like drums, wiry guitar squeals and spluttering talk-sung vocals take aim at dogmatic thinking and the authority figures who advocate it.