The last 18 months have been a long, hard slog for most, particularly small businesses and those within the arts and creative industries. As we now, hopefully, come out of the other side, the music industry returns to some sense of normality and, in the heavy music scene especially, we’re now starting to hear music inspired by life over the last two years.
Bands like Last Hounds are throwing everything into their music with the end result being pissed-off, aggressive, angry outpourings. For the Brummie hardcore/punk band, their debut album, Burden, epitomizes the anger and frustration experienced by many during the lockdown. Following the release of the album, we spoke to Last Hound bassist Ben Taylor about those frustrations and how challenging the last eighteen months have been on a personal and musical level.
Thanks for your time. How is life treating you?
Ben Taylor: “Life is treating me pretty well thank you, it’s nice to see some form of normality back in our lives that’s for sure!”
So, exciting times for you, with your new album out. How challenging was it writing an album in 2021?
“We started writing this record way before 2021, we were actually planning to release it in 2020. So I would say the real challenge was sitting on an album that we were excited to put out, waiting for the right time to give it the release it deserved.”
Let’s talk about Last Hounds, first of all. How did you guys come together and what was the goal of the band?
“We are at heart just a bunch of like-minded best mates. The band originally was Mikey, Chris, and James. They formed Last Hounds from the ashes of former bands that had run their course. Tom joined the band as an additional guitarist a little later on and after a string of unsuccessful bassists, I was fortunate enough to join the band to make the lineup you see now.
“The aim of the band has always been pretty simple, we want to write music that connects with fans in a way that makes them want to go wild at a live show. We all grew up listening to punk/hardcore and the likes, so we have lived and breathed the sweaty live shows and the sense of community you get in this scene.”
Coming from the Midlands, you’ve grown up in a hugely inspirational area for punk and metal, with everything from Sabbath and Priest to Napalm Death. What was your early introduction to punk and metal?
“I’m proud of the fact I am from Birmingham. Us Brummies get a lot of stick, but you can’t deny we have given the world some great music! For me personally, my music tastes were heavily influenced by my dad who is a huge Metallica fan, I think that was probably my first exposure to the ‘heavy’ side of music. If I remember rightly, I bought Limp Bizkit’s Chocolate Starfish album when I was 8 or 9 which then progressed to the likes of Slipknot, Green Day, Blink 182, Rancid, you know, this was early 2000s so these guys were everywhere!”
Writing the album there are some pretty pissed-off themes on there. Has it been inspired by the last 18 months?
“We’ve always written pretty ‘pissed-off’ music to be fair, but the last 18 months has certainly given us a lot of things to think about, a lot of time alone, isolated, angry. We had the opportunity to add these ideas and thoughts into the album during the lockdowns which obviously wouldn’t have been in there had we released in 2020 as we planned.”
You’ve described the album as a social commentary across the planet. Could you pick out a couple of particular areas of injustice that have had the biggest impact on you and the material for the record?
“There are two main themes that are very evident in our music. We aim to give a voice to the constant struggle of the ‘average Joe‘ in society, people very much like us who don’t come from privileged backgrounds, who fight to keep our head above water and who are often the first to be overlooked by our so-called leaders. We also like to highlight the inner battles we face as people, whether that be living a life purely to fit in with social norms or expectations and also the inner demons we face in times where we have perhaps lied or made a bad decision that has impacted an innocent party.”
You’ve talked about it on a global scale but what about locally, how damaging socially and economically has the pandemic been in your area?
“We have all been hit hard by the pandemic, it would be wrong of us to say that anybody has had an easy ride. Everyone has lost a part of their life that they will never get back whether that be a loved one, a job, or simply just time. But we have certainly noticed areas in our society on a local level that have been hit the hardest. For instance, Mikey and Chris in Last Hounds both own their own small businesses (Freshly Ground Ink Tattoo and Studio 17 Music Tuition) and the uncertainty that they faced given they were deemed as unessential was terrifying for them.
“They were always at the bottom of the pile when it came to support and any guidance given by our government missed them out completely most of the time. It just goes back to our point that it is usually the little guy that gets overlooked and left behind in times of crisis and this has such a huge impact on their lives, going day by day not knowing what their future held or whether they could keep a roof over their head.
“I also think it goes without saying the music industry has taken a huge hit. When the government announced financial support for the creative industries, very little of this actually filtered down to grassroots level. Small venues that are crucial for bands like us have been forced to close or generate funds themselves just to stay open. Without these venues, what would the future hold for the music industry if there is nowhere for smaller bands to get on the touring ladder?”
As we start to come out of the other side, what do you hope we’ve learned as a human race and what do you think needs to change after the last 18 months?
“I think a key takeaway from the pandemic should be to treat each day as it could be your last. I know for me personally at the start of the pandemic, I was terrified that I would lose somebody close to me or I wouldn’t make it out the other side myself. Nobody saw this coming, nobody could have predicted the impact it had on the world and what’s to stop something like this happening again you know?
“We have a responsibility to make the most of our lives and treat the people around us with the respect they deserve regardless of race, religion, or sex. If you are not adding value to the world around you then something’s gotta give. We have seen first hand that our world leaders are out for themselves in times of crisis, so it is our responsibility to look after each other or we literally have nothing.”
Musically, we’ve talked about the Midlands being a hugely influential area for heavy music but one name that does pop up is Gallows. Do you think that is a fair comparison and are they a big influence?
“Absolutely! Gallows for me personally were, and still are a huge influence for me. Orchestra of Wolves set the bar for modern UK hardcore punk and then to follow that up with Grey Britain, a record that voiced the cracks in our society at the time and the anger and frustration that comes with that. You can see a common theme here! You can imagine my excitement when we joined Venn Records, the now home of Gallows and headed up by Lags himself!”
The original punk/hardcore sound came out of rebellion, what do punk and hardcore mean to you in 2021?
“I think that is still very much a theme for punk in 2021, but I think more importantly it is about the sense of community. Our vibrant society in 2021 means that we are surrounded by different religions, races, and social backgrounds and every individual is facing different challenges day-to-day. Punk rock in 2021 is a place where anybody, regardless of your beliefs, can forget about your problems knowing that the person next to you is having an equally rough time, and join together in a cathartic middle finger to the world around us.”
It’s been a long road to get to this point so, now the album is finally out, what are your touring plans?
“We have recently joined the Marshall Live Agency and we have put together a pretty exciting plan for touring in 2021/22. But for now, that’s all I’m going to say!”
Just wrapping things up then, looking back, how would you sum up 2021 for you and what are your plans for 2022?
“2021 for us a band was huge! We just remained focused on the things we had control over, like the record for example, and gave it our all. Had we not had this extra time and thought space we probably wouldn’t be in the position we are now going into 2022 working with Venn Records and Marshall. The sky is the limit really, the reception our debut record has had so far has given us the confidence that we can take on the world and make up for lost touring time in 2020!”
Thanks again for your time and good luck with the album. Over to you to wrap this up…
“Thank you for having us!! All I would say is if you haven’t heard the record yet, do it, you’ll love it! We have two record release shows, 26th of November in Birmingham and 30th of November in London. Come and see for yourself what we’re all about.”
Read our review of Last Hounds new album Burden, out now on Venn Records.