October Drift don’t take shortcuts. With their own personal style of intense guitar-driven, emotionally charged music the Taunton, Somerset quartet of Kiran Roy, Chris Holmes, Alex Bispham and Daniel Young have toured around the country as October Drift since 2015 (but have been writing together for around 10 years). They chose to avoid social media for as long as possible, instead gathering an old school, refreshing word-of-mouth following. It seems to be working as they have gathered support from BBC Music and played at Glastonbury’s John Peel stage, Reading and Leeds as well a major European tour with Editors.
They released their debut album Forever Whatever on Physical Education Records last month and are doing a 10-day European tour to celebrate this. Their live shows are electric and need to be seen. Sandra Blemster caught up with Chris just before their Norwich gig.
Hi Chris. Where are you at the moment?
We’re actually in a Wetherspoons. It’s like our go-to and an essential diet of the tour.
How’s the tour going? You were in Glasgow on Thursday is that right?
Yes. We were in, what day is it today? We were in Glasgow Thursday, and we were in Newcastle the day before that. So we’re just over the halfway point now.
Are you enjoying it?
Yes, it’s been quite a surprise, to be honest. We’ve toured for years and years and played so many dead rooms and finally, it seems to be culminating in some really great shows. We’ve just heard that London has sold out so I think that’s four out of the 10 shows on the tour all sold out. And the rest have just been really busy so yes, we’re all a bit overwhelmed.
I saw you in Manchester on Monday at Yes. The energy you give off at gigs is great, with Kiran jumping off stage into the audience and onto the bar!
Do you know what, he climbs stuff but on this tour, we haven’t had many venues with some climbable stuff. So I think there have been a few bars and I think he was on some peoples’ shoulders at some of the shows as well.
Your debut album Forever Whatever came out in January. So you must be dead excited about that as well?
Yes, it’s had a far better response than we thought. And it sold far better than the label thought so everyone is really pleased.
And it’s obvious you have a really strong fan base. I know there’s a core group in the North-West in Manchester, where I’m based who follow you around so that’s a great compliment as well.
Yes, it’s really nice and it’s been great this album campaign and the release of the tour because all of these people who have been following us for years and seen us at so many dead shows are now kind of being rewarded with I guess like more busier shows and just things building. So it’s nice, we’ve had a really good grounding of people who have been into the band for a few years and it seems to have snowballed with the album.
I remember seeing you, I can’t remember if it was four years ago but it was Salford and I think it was a Slow Readers gig and you were the first band on?
Yes, yes. Was that in the church?
Yes the church, that’s right, St. Philips.
Yes, I remember that. That was really good. That was really our first and only time that we’ve ever played in a church. That was a fun one, I remember Kiran got told off by the vicar for climbing up on that thing, I remember that one yes. But no it was a great show.
Yes, it was. And you’ve been like The Slow Readers Club because you’ve put in a lot of hard graft over the years haven’t you? You’ve taken the long road of touring and holding off social media for as long as you could?
Yes. They say the longer it takes to build the longer it takes to disappear as well. And I think if you look at the best bands, the best careers all of them have longevity in their careers. Nine times out of 10 it’s taken them years to get there. You look at for example The Slow Readers Club or bands like Biffy Clyro or Elbow or someone like that or The National, bands like that it’s taken them so long to get anywhere they’ve got that real connection.
Your songs are very emotionally intense and brooding such as Naked and Don’t Give Me Hope to name two out of quite a few but always with a sense of hope and optimism. Have you got a specific writing process? Do you all sit down and write together or separately and bring it together at the end?
Well, we’ve built our own studio and rehearsal space a couple of years ago. So yes we’re in there quite a few times when we’re not on tour. And it’s one of those things that we all just come together with bits. Kiran writes all the lyrics and I think a lot of bands that have been very successful and have similar lyrical ideas to what we do I think it often comes from one person. And often the singer, there’s almost that connection when they’re delivering it on the record or delivering it live because it’s their experiences that they are singing about. But all of us we basically me, Dan and Alex probably deal more with the music and the melodies and the arrangements and Kiran comes with all the lyrics and melodies as well. And we kind of piece it together like a jigsaw puzzle and shout at each other until we get something that sounds half decent.
And it works. It’s got a very sort of, you’ve got your own unique take but it’s very 80s wall-of-sound, very early indie 80s, kind of thing. I saw Kiran once at the end of a gig in Night and Day and said you were like Joy Division on speed. [laughter]
Yes, I think that’s probably a fair assessment. I think bands like Joy Division, we had a college tutor when we were together at college and he was very into 80s music and he got us into bands Echo and the Bunnymen and Joy Division. So yes we like our 80s music, we’re also very into our 90s grunge as well like Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana and Soundgarden and things like that. We combine the two I guess.
You’re playing The Waterfront (Norwich). Apparently Nirvana, The Prodigy and Radiohead have played there in the past.
Yes. It doesn’t surprise me. We were walking down the stairs and there are lists of old shows and there’s literally every band name that you can think of. There’s a hell of a lot of heritage that’s come through that venue.
Does it feel surreal?
Well, it’s not. I mean it’s a nice thing to think that I guess it is such an odd one being in a band in this day and age. And being in a band as long as we have with what I guess is relatively modest success is that I suppose it’s comforting to think well all of these massive bands, all of them were at our stage at one time, all of them were struggling to sell tickets at one time and it’s slowly built. And it’s quite nice to look at all these things on the wall and think ‘Well they were at our level once if they got to where they are there’s no reason why we can’t.’
That’s true. And you’ve earnt it because you’ve really worked hard.
Yes. I think it’s a thing being in a band no matter what happens or what we do I think we’re quite resilient people because of it. It’s either that or we’re all just too stupid to give up [laughter].
How long have you been together because I know there was The Darlingtons wasn’t there before October Drift?
Yes. We’ve been writing together in one form or another for over a decade. Even before that, Dan and Alex and Kiran were in another band throughout school. It’s been coming a long, long time.
So you’re like family?
Oh god yes. We see each other more than we see our girlfriends and wives and parents and things.
What was it like recording the album, did that run smoothly?
Yes, it was great. Because for a long time we’ve just recorded it ourselves and we’ve produced it ourselves, we’ve occasionally worked with a couple of outside producers but it was really nice for the album to have an outside set of ears on that, someone who is not emotionally invested in proving themselves and someone who can have another fresh pair of ears on it. And someone like Justin who we recorded with.
Oh from Editors?
Yes (Justin Lockey set up Physical Education Recordings). And before he was in Editors he was in some kind of quite noisy bands in the early 2000s. So he’s got a wide range of influences and things and I think he sat us down and was like “Look this is how I see the record being” and we liked his ideas and we were really happy for him to take the lead on it.
You must be so proud it’s come out because you’ve worked really hard and you’ve taken the long road.
Yes, it’s not something that’s come overnight for sure.
Do you have any favourite venues or cities that you play?
Well, the city that’s been kindest to us over the years is Manchester. It is, I’m not just saying that I swear. It’s one that’s come, we’ve always had people who have liked what we have done there and it’s been very easy to find an audience there. And also people seem to be very up for going to see live music.
Yes, it’s definitely got that yes.
So Manchester is great. We love, one that we haven’t been back to for a while but I’ve loved Deaf Institute as a venue in the UK, it’s a great venue. On this tour we’ve just been to so many, The Louisiana (in Bristol) we’ve done loads of times and we’ve been back there on this tour, that’s amazing and King Tuts is nice, (Glasgow) such a good venue. But there are loads, they’re the smaller ones I would say there but the bigger ones that we’ve done in support slots we’ve done some really good ones throughout Europe and things.
How do you come down after a gig or do you just keep going because it’s such a high-energy show?
Yes. Well, I think sometimes the thing is you’ve got to, we psyche ourselves up for the show beforehand and obviously the performances are quite intense. It used to be the drive home, you’d run that adrenalin as you got home and that would carry you home, which is great. Now it’s a bit more difficult when you’re just driving back to your hotel, you’ve got to try and get to sleep. We just chill, have a couple of beers and watch some Ground Force. Late-night reruns of Ground Force.
Ground Force! Why not? After the tour what’s happening then, is there anything after? I know you’ve got a festival in is it May?
Yes, so everything’s getting confirmed at the moment. So there’s nothing that I can really announce unfortunately but there will be lots of festivals and there’s a couple of small tours that might come up and might not but we’ll definitely do it again one way or another before the festival season.
Well, that’s all my questions. Thanks so much, Chris.
Thank you so much. Thanks for the time.
FEBRUARY 2020 TOUR DATES
16th – Southampton, Heartbreakers
17th – Brighton, The Hope & Ruin
18th – London, Old Blue Last
Tickets are on sale now and available here.