States of Emotion have been through enough drama already. They deserve a good 2016. In the past three years, the Essex natives have endured enough label and wider industry shenanigans that would kill a lesser band. But Olly Hookings & Bonzai have spines of steel and an arsenal of shimmery guitar pop, and by God, their long shelved album “Black and White to Gold” is finally going to be released next week. Singer Olly Hookings recently had a chat with Mark Millar.
Hi Olly, how did the band get together?
There wasn’t many musicians in my year group. A good friend of mine’s cousin Luke was in the year below me and he played drums. He was the only drummer within the two year groups and he was good friends with Bonzai who is on bass and we just formed the band at school. Our first gig was at a school concert which was held annually and we stuck at it from there. The band has been together for 15 years and somewhere along the line about eight years ago we decided to write an album and self release it. Then we had a flurry of record company interest and took the plunge and signed a deal with a record company called ‘Rinse‘. It started well but then we were shelved for a few years which was just awful, it sucked.
About a year ago the drummer and lead guitarist left. We got out of our contract but they had had enough at that point. The bass player Bonzai and I got drawn back to the album that we never released and we finished what we started. We then started our own label and here we are a year later and the album is coming out.
You must be so happy that the album is eventually being released.
Yeah, it’s such a huge relief. I would have gone on and lived my life very unfulfilled having that album sat there and never seeing the light of day because it’s been such a huge labour of love for years and years. We started the band when we’re were 14-15 and I’m 28 now. It would have been such a shame to see all that hard work go to waste.
Are there only 2 members In the band now after the other guys leaving?
Yeah, obviously we have got a live band. We have got session players that helped us finish the album and are playing the upcoming shows with us, but yeah it’s just the two of us now.
From listening to the album the songs sound very anthemic and stadium like. What bands influenced you growing up?
My favourite record of all time is the Stone Roses debut album, I never tire of listening to that. I’m a big U2 fan. Obviously they are band that divide opinion quite widely but I stand by that. I think U2 are the greatest band of all time. They come from nothing and started in a garage and have become a world beating stadium rock band who conquered the world. The depth and the emotion in their lyrics is real, so for me they are the bench mark if there is one in being a rock band.
Is there a particular song on the new album that you thought “this is why we are doing this”?
Probably ‘Lena‘ which was the last song we wrote for the album. That was the song that Bonzai and I started and finished on our own. There was a point where we weren’t really sure if we going to be able to be a band anymore after being two members down and obviously our morale was completely shot to pieces. Then we wrote ‘Lena‘, and it’s quite jubilant and upbeat. Then we got a couple of guys to come down and jam with us and play in the room as a rock band again. That re-inspired us and that song gave us a new lease of life.
What is your song writing process?
Normally someone brings an idea to the table and we form a song around that initial idea. Whether it’s a riff or a chord pattern with a vocal hook then we would build a song around a decent snippet of music and go from there. We strip back and rework things, it’s just a pretty old school formula really.
The album has been quite a few years in the making
It’s been an adverse journey but it’s been an enjoyable one at the same time and I know this sounds like a cliché but we have grown up and we have learned a lot about ourselves with all the trials and tribulations that have been thrown at us. The opportunities that was there in the 90s aren’t there for bands anymore. Records don’t make the money that they used to make, people aren’t getting the advances they used to get. It’s a tough gig trying to form a full time career out if it. I’m really proud of the pair of us for sticking it out.
What would you like people to take away from listening to the album?
I’d like people to listen to it and know that it’s real, That I meant every lyric on it and it’s from real experience and we are a good honest band who have done it for the right reasons and have a passion for music because we need an emotional outlet. We’re not just a band that’s trying to tick boxes and writing songs because we think a certain record company or radio station will like them. I hope they will understand the depth behind the music.
Have the former members heard the finished record?
Yeah, they played on some of the tracks and they have heard the new stuff. We are still good friends. You can’t really break that bond. It’s a shame things went the way they did but the friendship hasn’t ended by any means. They are still supportive of what we are doing so it’s all pretty harmonious on that front.
Once the album is out are you doing some shows with the Rifles?
Yeah, we are doing an album launch show at the Camden Underworld on the 19th of February and then we are playing 3 shows with The Rifles the following week. The Rifles are one of my favourite bands. They are a great working class British indie band. They are a testament to what being a band is about in this day and age.
What have you been listening to recently?
I really like Fat White Family’s new song ‘Whitest Boy on the Beach’ that’s a really cool tune. It’s something a bit different from them and I think the video is bonkers but brilliant. There’s not really much else out there that’s grabbing my attention. There’s a great crop of bands that we are putting out on our own label. There’s a band called Electric Child House, my younger brother is the front man. We put their EP out last June. It was the first release on our label – Label White Room.
So what’s next for States of Emotion?
We are taking one day at a time. In our heads we have a target to sell a thousand albums independently. That would be a real achievement for us. We want to pack out our album launch show at the Camden Underworld and we want to concentrate on building a nice independent following for us and the label.
Upcoming States Of Emotion Dates:
Fri 19th Feb – CAMDEN Underworld *Album Launch Show
Wed 24th Feb – BRISTOL Thekla w/ The Rifles
Thu 25th Feb – PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms w/ The Rifles
Sat 27th Feb – LONDON Roundhouse w/ The Rifles
States of Emotion – Black & White To Gold is released 15/2/2016 – Pre-Order