Hailing from the Isle of Wight, punk rockers and childhood friends, Grade 2, bring classic punk rock screaming into the modern age with a sound that was inspired by humdrum life in a seaside town along with a good dose of humour, angst and despair. The trio recently put out their Graveyard Island: Acoustic Sessions, a reworking of their 2019, Hellcat Records disc Graveyard Island and are hoping to spend a good part of 2022 on the road.

With that in mind, V13 spoke to vocalist Sid Ryan about the album, the pros and cons of social media, and how relevant the message behind punk rock is in 2022.

Thanks for your time; how is life treating you?

Sid Ryan: “Thank you for having us! Everything is good right now, we’re just starting to get up and running again after the lockdowns etc hoping that it stays that way and we can get some momentum.”

You’re about to head out on tour for a few months. Are these your first tours back since before the pandemic?

“Yep, these are the first shows back. We had a few shows at home, one headline and two appearances at the IOW festival. Aside from that, we played the first three this past weekend, but unfortunately, we’ve already hit our first cancellation this weekend in Ramsgate. That’s just the way of the game at the moment though. We’re just grateful to take any opportunity to get back on stage. It has felt like a lifetime since we last played live so taking everything in our stride regarding the future dates.”

As part of the tour, you’re heading out to mainland Europe. How different/challenging has it been to book a tour in Mainland Europe?

“That’s right, we’re heading next May/June/July, fifty-two shows in fifty-three days, going to be an absolute beast of a tour. We’ve been looking into things recently, the short answer is yes touring Europe is completely different due to Brexit. Covid obviously has added some difficulties but nowhere near the same magnitude. We’re starting to get an idea of what to expect but definitely not in the position yet to be giving out advice on it. The one thing we will say is to cover all bases.

“Trying to book the tour throughout covid was a real challenge as well. Different countries having different levels of restrictions meant it was hard to get ahold of promoters/venues. We hit a lot of hesitation initially but we (stronger bookings) persevered and we’re getting there with the finished plans.”

What have you missed and not missed about touring over the last eighteen months?

“We’ve been touring since we finished school, it’s been non-stop. In recent years we really upped the number of dates we were playing each year but it’s all we’ve done. To have near in two years without playing was a huge change, I know everyone had their lives flipped upside down but that’s the only real way to describe it. It’s always the small things, we missed catching up with friends from around the world, meeting new people, and being fortunate enough to see so many cities. The whole touring experience was missed.

“As for things I didn’t miss, sharing a bed with two other blokes for a start!”

The tour is in support of your new album, how challenging has it been to put together an album during lockdown?

“The album is called, Graveyard Island and was released in 2019 pre-pandemic. We recently recorded and released, Graveyard Island: Acoustic Sessions. This was our lockdown project, recorded in Jack’s bedroom. We recorded it all during a brief break in lockdown restrictions, I think we banged out the recording in the space of a week. So, it wasn’t too much of a struggle in that sense. The plan for this was to record some bootleg demo-sounding acoustic tracks, to give out for free to anyone that picked up the actual album. However, one thing led to another, we really fine-tuned the record, and our good friend Leo Dyke mixed it. Hellcat and Pirates Press were into it and we all decided it deserved its own release.”

The song “Tired of It” is inspired by the modern issue of privacy. This isn’t a new issue so has a particular incident triggered this

“The message of that song is important. The motive behind the song didn’t come from a particular incident, just a collection of everything happening at the time. Since Covid, I think the issue has been overlooked as obviously there are bigger concerns right now. But all the while, a scary amount of your private and personal data is getting collected every day, and you don’t have a say in the matter. It’s not right.”

On the plus side though, for certain demographics of people, social media has helped over the last eighteen months wouldn’t you agree so it does have its benefits?

“Social media has so many pros and cons you could argue over it all day. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its benefits, rather, people need to be more protected online from the relentless collection of data that should be private to one individual.”

Related to the above question, you must have seen the plus side when trying to work together as a band?

“And yes, I could answer this question the same as the above question. We use social media every day it’s a crucial tool for us and for anyone who doesn’t live under a rock.”

Artwork for ‘Graveyard Island – Acoustic Sessions’ by Grade 2

On the downside, especially the UK media, privacy is a massive concern regardless of the medium used to invade privacy. What do you think needs to be done to address this?

“People need to keep talking about it but it’s going to come down to people higher up to make a difference. I think whistle-blowing is crucial for progress to be made on this.”

Going back to the new record, you’ve talked about parts of it “making sense if recorded in 1977”. Given the state of the UK especially, do you think punk has plenty to be inspired about in 2021 as it did in 1977?

“Yeah I mean, there’s a lot of things that are still the same. One thing in particular for people my age and a subject mentioned in the record on a track named “JSA”, is the financial struggle to get up and on your feet. Trying to leave home seems like an impossible task and even landing a decent career can feel out of reach, even if you went to the length to take your education to the point of a degree.

I do, 100%. Look at what’s happening around us. The government aren’t at all trusted, I’m reading headlines today, “One rule for them, another for us”, who isn’t going to be pissed about that. We’ve got the country in a shambles due to Brexit. It feels like the future is pretty bleak, and I’m not gonna sit and say nothing.”

Do you remember what it was that turned you on to punk?

“I was born in ‘97 but I’ll tell you everything that was written around the 70s with the angst of living and frustration at the government is pretty much exactly what everyone is feeling today.”

Okay, just to finish then, other than the tour in 2022, what are your plans for the next twelve months?

“That is mainly it. We just want to hit the road, see everyone, play everywhere that we’ve missed the last two years. We’re focusing on a new record, we’ve been writing and recording demos throughout the lockdowns, so it’s about time we got them down. Maybe we’ll get a few acoustic shows in to celebrate the new record but there are no plans set in stone yet.”

Thanks for your time and good luck with everything. Over to you to wrap this up…

“Thanks again for having us, we really appreciate it. Thanks to everyone for their continued support, we hope to see you back out on the road soon!”

Tour Dates:

01/22 – Bristol – The Louisiana
01/29 – Leeds – Boom
01/30 – Stoke-on-Trent – The Underground
02/11 – London – New Cross Inn
02/12 – Derby – The Hairy Dog
02/13 – Northwich – The Salty Dog
07/13 – Manchester – O2 Ritz

I have an unhealthy obsession with bad horror movies, the song Wanted Dead Or Alive and crap British game shows. I do this not because of the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle it affords me but more because it gives me an excuse to listen to bands that sound like hippos mating.