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'Hate Is A Really Rich Well To Draw From': Lice Talk 'It All Worked Out Great'

Friday, 06 April 2018 Written by Laura Johnson

“Support us? We’re gonna be supporting you, mate. You come to this city you’re gonna learn the meaning of support.”

That’s what Joe Talbot told Alastair Shuttleworth when they first met in Bristol three years ago. Shuttleworth, an English student moonlighting as a music writer, had interviewed the Idles frontman earlier in the evening and now, with a few beers in his belly at an afterparty, was asking whether his band, Lice, could open one of their shows.

At that point, Shuttleworth, guitarist Silas Dilkes, bassist Gareth Johnson and drummer Bruce Bardsley had played two gigs in total, one of them in a friend’s kitchen. Wind the tape on to the present day, and Talbot’s Balley Records is about to put out Lice’s early days collection ‘It All Worked Out Great’; the first release by the label besides Idles' own 'Brutalism' LP.

“It’s all the control of a self release but with all the professionalism,” Shuttleworth says. “Us signing to Balley is the culmination of two years of friendship with Joe and Mark [Bent - manager of both Lice and Idles] and being brought under Idles’ wing. The way that they have supported us is emblematic of the support that we’ve gotten from the Bristol community in a wider sense.”

‘It All Worked Out Great’ will stack up as two EPs and an LP, featuring tracks dating back to their 2016 ‘Nutmilk’ demos that have been gathering dust while the band finished their respective degrees. That dust has been well and truly blown away by Velcro Hooks guitarist Dom Mitchison, who has returned as producer to re-record the songs after also helming things the first time around. “When it came to getting a live punk band on record he was just a seasoned pro because, basically, that was what he’d been doing with Velcro Hooks for four years,” Shuttleworth says. “He knew exactly what to do.”

Mitchison also had a few unconventional tricks up his sleeve, including creating a lightless fort for Shuttleworth to record his vocals in and designing a vocal contraption from a guitar pick up and soup can. On another occasion, he got Johnson to slap Shuttleworth moments before a take of Gentlemen’s Magazine to prevent him from overthinking it. It worked.

The re-recording process also caused Lice to reflect and think about how they are going to progress. When they started out, they took direction from Dilkes, who lured them away from generic indie and metal and towards experimental art rock and punk. They were introduced to bands like Country Teasers, the Birthday Party and the Fall, but over time Shuttleworth has developed his own tastes. He mentions the “batshit” Bristol band the Naturals more than once, while Sheffield’s Blood Sport also get a namecheck.

Another major influence, not surprisingly, is his English degree. It has played an important role in his songwriting process. “I end up working out how I want the songs to go rhythmically with what I’m doing and so mark it down, dots and dashes,” he explains. “I did a course in poetry at uni in second year and they showed you how to mark out syllables in meter. So I do that. ‘I want that to have seven syllables’ or ‘I want that to have five syllables’. It’s crazy how much that frees you up.”

There are other elements, too. Stammering Bill, which tells three tragic tales of neuroses, takes inspiration from Flann O’Brien’s book At Swim-Two-Birds. Human Parasite and The Pervert Endeavour, meanwhile, are both essays, and Gentlemen’s Magazine is a dramatic monologue followed by a letter. “I wanted to have really compressed short stories,” Shuttleworth says. “Just have no flab, direct A to B linear narratives. That is something I think lyrics now and historically have always been very sadly deficient in.”

Shuttleworth also admits that his fascination with hate is something that shapes the subject matter of his songs. “The lyrical ideas come from my interest in hatred and the avenues that opens up for humour and satire characters,” he says. “The way that I do them stems from my interest and valuing of certain forms of prose writing and my disdain for the way most lyrics are done in poetic and abstract ways.”

‘It All Worked Out Great’ is a melting pot of influences, and the frontman is also keen to divulge how the band reconciled that with its artwork. Finding it difficult to marry the competing elements, they opted to give a familiar outside voice (almost) free rein. Continuing to keep things Bristol-focused, they called on Howling Owl Records co-founder and Spectres guitarist Adrian Dutt, who had previously created artwork for Lice, and entrusted everything to him, with just some small directions: no blood, dicks, or any “Fluffer Pit Party stuff”.

The cover of the ‘Volume 2’ EP shows the horse from the ‘Volume 1’ sleeve dead on floor of Malthouse Studio, where the tracks were re-recorded. Dutt’s work is “destroyed and dismantled” alongside photographs from Simon Holliday. Shuttleworth explains that this is what their new release is all about, namely “finishing off and moving on from these old tunes”. On this occasion, it appears art imitates life.

‘It All Worked Out Great’ Vol. 1 is out now. Lice open for Idles on their UK tour.

Idles Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun April 08 2018 - BATH Komedia
Mon April 09 2018 - PLYMOUTH Hub
Wed April 11 2018 - SOUTHEND Chinnerys
Thu April 12 2018 - RAMSGATE Music Hall
Fri April 13 2018 - MILTON KEYNES Craufurd Arms
Sat April 14 2018 - COVENTRY Central Library
Sun April 15 2018 - BLACKPOOL Bootleg Social
Tue April 17 2018 - GLASGOW G2
Wed April 18 2018 - MANCHESTER Manchester Gorilla
Thu April 19 2018 - LONDON Heaven
Wed June 13 2018 - ABERDEEN Tunnels

Click here to compare & buy Idles Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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