Flats are bringing a new take on fierce punk rock to battle and John Robb is cheering them on…
Punk rock”Â¦ at last.
I fucking love this band. Debuting on stage last summer with ten-minute live sets and a confrontational attitude, Flats make a great racket. Here’s a band that combines the ferocity of US hardcore with, well, the ferocity of UK second wave punk.
Fast and furious like a beautiful car crash between Discharge, Rudimentary Peni, the brutal end of US hardcore but with an experimental ear Flats new single, ”ËNever Again’ is co-produced by Mark Scurr- the former front man in underground U.K doom band Centurions Ghost and is the band’s third single and follows their two critically acclaimed EP releases from last year.
Out on seven inch vinyl and available to download, ”ËNever Again’ comes backed with ”ËIsolation Chamber’ and will be the first release on their own Sweat Shop Records imprint through former Flux Of Pink Indian Derek Birkett’s One Little Indian label.
What’s really cool about Flats is that they are aiming their ferocity and bile at the mainstream and the indie world, an indie world that they have poured scorn on, sneering disdainfully at the mod takeover. A mod culture that they tore into on their song ”ËRat Trap’ that spat ”ËI hate Paul Weller. I hate Roger Daltry’ and said something about Pete Townsend. Frontman Dan told Loud and Quite website.
”Ë“I fucking hate mods, there’s a club called Mouse Trap and it’s just fucking dirge. Everyone in there shops at Shelley’s on Carnaby Street. They’re all estate agents in the day and then go off and spend all their money on vintage dresses off Ebay, and you go to any of those clubs and you walk behind some girl in a dolly dress and white tights, and you think, ah, who’s this?, and they turn around and it’s some sixty-year-old battered hag with a face like a leather wallet. It’s horrible. Everyone there has the exact same records, the exact same outfits, you’ll see ten people in the exact same shoes and they all act like they’re contemporary”Â¦ argh, they’re all c*nts!”Â’
Dan Devine is the lanky frontman with a mop of curls who has been causing trouble on the media front but really knows his punk.
”ËI really want people to take notice of punk again. I don’t see why it stopped in the UK. America carried on with Rancid and NoFX after the first two waves of US hardcore and noise rock, after that I was really into 31G stuff from San Diego like Arab On Radar and The Locust- they are a genius band- Justin Pearson- that guy’s insane. I found some videos on youtube and every band I heard him play in is genius. I also love the Membranes, ”ËSpike Milligan’s Tape Recorder’, it’s a really tearing tune.’
Dan is talking, detailing his love of punk, hardcore and noise rock that is the background to his own fierce band who are making a righteous racket and trying to reconnect with the spirit of punk rock. They approach it from a different angle and are making thrilling records that seethe with disgust and anger without articulating any political targets.
It’s this undirected anger that, ironically, makes them far more potent. Not only does their music give you magnificent adrenalin rush you can feel their disgust and energised anger.
Vocalist Dan is an interesting character, his father is Alan McGee. The pair of them spent a couple of years sharing music but have since fallen out and Dan is out on his own, building his own musical trajectory without any help. Instead of taking the easy path to indie land he swerved into a different direction and articulated his own personal anger and pain with the fiercely inventive punk of the UK second wave, a collection of bands that you won’t find in those endless features on the Clash that punk has been boiled down to.
”ËThat punk spirit is still there. The angry young kids are getting it out there with Grime.
Initially I was really into 76/78 punk and I was really strict about it. I was really adamant that was the only real punk rock. One day my friend played me Discharge and it blew my fucking mind. Since then I got into hardcore and my taste got heavier and heavier.’
Dan dug deep and found groups like the amazing Rudimentary Peni- the trio released on crass records and one of the most original and fascinating groups ever produced in the UK.
”ËI fucking love them, their music is amazing and so was their artwork. I am obsessed by Nick Blincoe’s artwork. We are always listening to Rudimentary Peni and we downloaded every single picture of his artwork, I got really nerdy about it.’
Oddly all this creativity of bands like Rudimentary Peni and Discharge seems to have been removed from the ”Ëofficial punk history’. It’s thrilling that Flats discovering this music and also thrilling that they recreate it in a 21st century context.
”ËIt really annoys me that people don’t realise that bands like Crass and Discharge exist. They are far more true to the ideals of what punk was. Lydon is Lydon at the end of the day and a caricature of himself, same as Liam Gallagher- he’s a caricature of himself like every dickhead frontman and you could say that about me because I slag off Paul Weller.
I mean I love Lydon and PIL are one of my favourite bands and ”ËNever Mind The Bollocks’ is one of the great records. But for me Discharge and Crass were really living it- the idea of doing everything yourself and sticking to your guns and pushing political beliefs are really important.
We are not a political band, we have our ideas but I never wrote political song yet, maybe I don’t have a strong enough stance to warrant it. I appreciate Discharge and Crass because they have real points to make. The Clash were trying to make a difference but were far more contrived. Crass was like a terrorist movement and I find that far more interesting.’
Dan’s own journey to the heart of punk was sparked at an early age.
”ËWhen I was about 10 I had the Tony Hawkes pro skater 3 compilation and there was a NoFX song on there and I was really into that. When I was 12 I remember seeing King Prawn and Capdown at Tunbridge Wells Forum.
I wore my dad’s leather jacket which was massively too big for me and called myself a punk.
At 13 I realised that I don’t get to pull girls by wearing a leather jacket. I got into drum and bass and wearing tracksuits which for some reason was sexy to the girls at school. I don’t know if I pulled it off that well! I always listened to all types of music. Alan (McGee) installed a lot of music when I did finally meet him in later years, he gave me lot of his record collection and I built upon that. I was always aware of punk and of its social importance but grime is like the modern equivalent of punk- a youth movement that scares the elders.’
Flats may not sing of war and punk politics but that doesn’t lessen their power. Punk is equally effective as the sound of frustration. Unlike their heroes there are no diatribes against the church or war- this doesn’t lessen the band’s power.
”ËRudimentary Peni were not directly political, when I listen to their lyrics that’s how I imagine writing lyrics. Nick Blinko has a lot of religion in there. There’s a whole album of how much he hates the catholic church, there’s lots of social things he writes about but it’s his creepy depressed world, his view bleak view of society that I really like. I’m nowhere near as depressed as Nick Blinko so I write about what makes me angry and irritated in society but Blinko is the closest influence to my writing.’
Dan understands that in punk it’s the sound that means everything.
”ËIts also about the anger that comes across. I could be singing happy birthday played at breakneck speed and if I screamed it, it would sound pretty good. I do think as we are progressing, I’m trying to give a more direct viewpoint on what I’m writing but I’m yet to find my exact niche.’
Perhaps lyrically Flats are closer to the American hardcore bands of the early eighties who were less directly concerned with the fierce politics of the UK bands who were living in the hell of the Thatcher era. The Americans may have had Reagan but they were also a bit more comfortable but that didn’t stop their music from having an edge with a more personal politic. Their music strikes a resonance with Dan.
”ËDefinitely- Minor Threat are fucking great. I’m more into Henry Rollins than Black Flag’s music though. I prefer to sit and watch Rollins interviewed than listen to Black Flag albums. I like the first wave of hardcore but what I really like is the later stuff like Cro-Mags where it gets more brutal. The late 80s brutal hardcore and most east coast stuff is genius, stuff like Agnostic Front is classic.’
Flats themselves are not part of the hardcore scene. In classic punk style they are in a league of one. They are interested in the other scenes and champion bands but are not bogged down by the strict rules of hardcore.
”ËWe are not heavy enough for that scene. The bands seem to be content to be in the scene and play their tours. It’s great that they can sustain themselves that way. And as much as I love that kind of music when I write a song I want to write a hit and as much as we make brutal hardcore music I want it to be catchy. l listen it Anti Sect and Amebix and I still listen to the Beatles.’
Flats are making a noise in different circles. They know the hardcore scene but they are operating in NME world. This makes them important. They are introducing a different set of ideas and musical influences to the indie generation. Now that post punk has been scoured to death for ideas, a whole scene of equally inventive bands is there to be examined. Flats could be a catalyst band or they could also break out themselves like Gallows did.
”ËI quite like them. I don’t feel they are pushing boundaries too far but I do think it’s good that a band that is that heavy and out of the hardcore scene can do that well. It’s a precursor to what we are trying to achieve. If we were seen as the next Gallows we would be happy because I’ve got great respect for them and the way they have brought British hardcore to the masses.’
It’s been a long time!
”ËPunk carried on in America but it became sanitised and shit. American punk is now skate punk and pop punk- it’s fucking drivel but there are still great bands over there. I stumbled across this amazing New York band called Terror- they are genius. Their video is like a hip hop video with girls in bikinis on their laps and gold chains with massive arms and tattoos and looks like a hip hop video with this insane music behind it. In the UK there is this great band called Grazes from Sheffield.’
Flats are band on a mission.
”ËI would like to see more punk bands come through writing classic punk. There has not been a classic punk scene for years in the UK.’
Let’s hope their out of control energy and bravado makes an impact.