El Torro

Liverpool garage punk crew look to broaden the form. Phil Newall is arrested by their raw vision…


El Torro – New Liverpool garage punk surf band

The cover artwork of the eponymous El Toro! album features pictures taken on Formby beach, a rather pleasant location a few short miles up the coast from Liverpool; Track 3 is titled ”ËœDown To The River’ ”“ Clearly the presence of water is significant to vocalist Jimmy O and the rest of the El Toro! boys.

If these clues weren’t enough then opening track ”ËœI Wanna Know’ screams out surf influence ”“ If Brian Wilson had joined The Sonics then this is perhaps how The Beach Boys would have sounded.

El Toro! ; Spanish for The Bull, formed from the ashes of now legendary Liverpool garage rockers The Straitjackets, a band who came close to prominence but somehow the fickle light of public attention was turned away from them just too soon. Clearly Jimmy O was not deterred, and equally he was not content with merely rehashing the sound of The Straitjackets; hence the addition of surf rhythms. After an upbringing on Link Wray et al they describe themselves as a ”Ëœloveless gathering of miscreants out to spread the garage disease’

That description would just about sum up El Toro!

They have successfully created a primal, howling rock ”Ëœn’ roll beast that spits its joyous carefree noise into the ether ”“ The only way this album could be improved upon was if it was given a vinyl pressing to further cement its links to the past. It’s the sound of basic garage punk, a sound that would not be out of place having been created back in 1966 but it is also the sound of now ”“ El Toro! are a reaction to all that is wrong with much of the music scene today.

LTW spoke to front-man Jimmy, primarily to discover if he can surf”¦
LTW – How would you define the kind of music you play?

“Today I’ll call it psychedelic garage surf, tomorrow maybe it’ll be surfedelic garage”¦ depends on my mood and how pretentious I wanna come across as”

LTW ”“ And at what point did you discover that playing music was what you wanted to do with your life?

“I guess when I was around 14 or so and heard bands like The Clash and The Pistols, I kind’a knew I wasn’t gonna try and live a normal life so to speak, but even at that point being in a band seemed like a pipe dream or something. Didn’t know any musicians, couldn’t go to clubs, friends weren’t into punk or any good shit so I just devoured any kind of rebellious music I could get my hands – taught myself guitar, grew some balls, lost my virginity and formed my first band The Straitjackets when I was 18”

LTW ”“ So how does El Toro! Differ from The Straitjackets?

The Straitjackets was kinda like a punk/ rockabilly hybrid, super angry and super fast! But I guess I started getting heavily into 60’s underground culture big time, and that was apparent in my transition between the two bands. El Toro having obvious influences of 60’s garage punk, psych, surf etc

LTW – So tell us about your new album; where do you guys derive your inspiration from, or what is the process or schematic of how you guys write the songs and put it all together?

“Usually it’s myself or Chris who will bring an idea in and we’ll all work it up until it becomes something we all like and then I write the lyrics. This first album’s songs span about 2 years of material really.
I was hung up on how I’d been cheated on by a fiancé and my feelings on that are expressed in those songs I guess.
A lot of anger and bitterness, it’s gone now, well mostly!
The more recent songs seem to be how I see the world, and the people around me in my life changing, and how we interact with each other”

LTW ”“ With that in mind what are your thoughts are on the current state of the UK and the over powering sense of gloom that is pervading us right now? Are El Toro! the answer?

“A lot of people are saying it feels like the 80’s – maybe that’s true. Seems to me the Tories are trying to damage the working classes chances of bettering themselves before we vote them out again.
Raising tuition fees, cutting educational maintenance allowance for kids in college, cutting benefits here there and everywhere, it goes on and on. I was surprised at how fast they acted but I guess they were itching for this for thirteen years.
But no El Toro aren’t political as a band, and we’re defiantly not the answer.
I think we may be the answer to a wild night ”¦ wait there did I word that properly there? Haha!”

LTW ”“ The album was recorded live; how did that come about?
“We went to a recording studio based on a farm in Wigan and we simply decided to record the main body of the music together live as a band to capture the right vibe. We were worried that we would lose our energy if everything was recorded separately. We added the vocals and some percussion and harmonicas latter on. I think it’s paid off; the album is defiantly a good representation of us. Might go down the other route for the next recordings and see how that works out…”

LTW ”“ It’s out on Good Guy Records which I believe is your own label”¦

“Yes it’s our own label, we just needed a vehicle to release our music and what better way than the old D.I.Y ethic! – At the moment it’s available in Liverpool at Probe Records and Curious Orange, we are online the link https://goodguyrecords.webs.com/apps/webstore should be fine; or email deathsurf@hotmail.co.uk to order a copy!!!

Better still get to one of our shows and just ask for one in person”

LTW ”“ I know Liverpool and Probe Records very well, is there much of a music scene there at the moment?

“It’s the best it’s been in my memory; there’s Zombina & The Skeletones, The Lees, Longfinger Bandits, Highschool Massacre, Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies to name just the first that spring to mind. We’ve got some really cool nights like ”ËœPsycho Motel’, ”ËœFree Rock n Roll’ and the ”ËœGo-Go Cage’”¦ there’s tons happening at the moment! Hope it lasts!!”

LTW ”“ You have secured a couple of decent supports, one recently with The UK Subs, any other gigs coming up?

“The Subs gig was great, a Christmas special in Birkenhead ”“ How can you not like the Subs? Playing live is what it’s all about”¦we’ve got a few gigs coming up, we are playing as part of The Camden Crawl; 5th May at the Purple Turtle which looks to be a good gig ”“ it’s right be Camden Lock so we can retain our inner links with the water!!

LTW ”“ ”ËœCharlie don’t surf ”“ do any of El Toro!?

“No-one surfs the Mersey!! Nah, none of us can surf – maybe we are more like The Beach Boys than we thought”¦ In fact scrap that, Chris can surf, or so he claims; he is from San Diego so I guess that’s what they do over there.

LTW – Lastly and purely for a bit of fun can you give us a Top 10 of indispensable albums?

Off the top of my head”¦

1 “The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators” – 13th Floor Elevators
2 “Specials” ”“ The Specials
3 “Psychedelic Jungle” ”“ The Cramps
4 “Funhouse” – The Stooges
5 “The B52’s” ”“ The B52’s
6 “Here are the Sonics” – The Sonics
7 “Good, Bad Not Evil” ”“ Black Lips
8 “Rum Sodomy and The Lash” ”“ The Pogues
9 “Miami”- The Gun Club

El Toro! ”“ More info from https://www.myspace.com/eltoropileup

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. El Toro! – BBC Radio Merseyside live session 1st May 2011 @ 8pm
    Available on 95.8FM and internet


  2. […] featured these Liverpool based surf punks when they put out their self titled album back in March 2011 and […]

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  4. Can you tell me more about surf/garage in the North off the UK . I like this music and r n r but its hard to find. I like live music to dance


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