"As a bunch of four guys, we admit we’re not the most comfortable at expressing emotions all the time. That needs to change."
Concrete Armbands are a Sheffield-based four-piece consisting of lead singer Josh, drummer Ben, bassist Ali and guitarist James. Having released their first single ‘The Brink’ in 2019, they followed it up with their debut EP ‘Anti-Therapy’. They've since released a remixed version of this EP and three singles. Earlier this week, I sat down with frontman Josh to talk about the band’s unique sound, their influences and their powerful lyrics.
FUZZY: For those that haven’t heard of you, do you think you could expand on your influences and what drives your music?
We’ve always had very central focuses on Biffy Clyro and the Foo Fighters, but nowadays we’ve looked more into the low-key indie artists; particularly IDLES, Shame and Fontaines D.C., who really talk about personal issues, attacking the wider societal problems that they can see. Frightened Rabbit was a very early influence for us especially because of the way that Scott [frontman] talked about mental health. With the tragedy of Scott killing himself, that spurred us on to be as personal as we can with our own music.
FUZZY: Your music style is forever evolving and changing. Do you think this will continue or are you just searching for that perfect style?
It’s interesting because I think Anti-Therapy was essentially thinking, "we can make music, we love making music. Here’s what we can do, take what you want from it." Looking back, we don’t regret anything we’ve done and we wouldn’t change anything but we’d certainly do things differently now. ‘The Brink’ is the closest to what we’re going for in the future with the focused hard riffs, the bops and the provocative lyrics, but Bud was one of my personal favourites.
FUZZY: How would you describe the upcoming EP?
One way to describe it is loosely post-punk and alternative rock in the real, subversive way. It’s not shooting for the stars like ‘Anti-Therapy’ was, this is much more honed in on an idea. It’s got a style and it’s hard-hitting; at the same time it’s lyrically flowing, all the songs mean something so it’s quite personal to us. I think that’s always been the drive of Concrete Armbands.
FUZZY: How has lockdown impacted you and the band? Have you been able to work through it or has there been a bit of a hiatus?
I think musically it's been quite challenging. I’ve done some writing and then we’ve managed to get some songs worked on. The remix EP was a massive boost for us because it was completely fresh, totally new. I’ve done a few additions to the EP that we’re going to be releasing soon, but it’s a lot of work to do in the confines of four walls and I think that’s the intimidating part, you’ve got nowhere else to go creatively. A lot of the things we write about are interactions we have with others and we lost that with the pandemic.
FUZZY: How difficult do you find it to open up about personal issues in the writing process, or do you find music the best way for you to express these issues?
I certainly think it’s closer to the latter. As a bunch of four guys, we admit we’re not the most comfortable at expressing emotions all the time. That needs to change. That’s why we take such inspiration from the likes of IDLES. It’s about removing the stigma, accepting that we have problems and we have to express them.
FUZZY: Are you ever worried about putting so much into your lyrics?
That’s something that’s been mentioned to me about our B-side ‘Journey’s End’, which was a ballad about lost love. I had my mum come to me afterwards and say, “look Josh, you need to find a better outlook for your anger”. At the end of the day, it’s certainly a part of us, and I’m sure lots of people will have lots to say on the structure, grip and appeal of the lyrics, but if it’s out there and it's personal to me, it means that the music has some sort of purpose for existing, some sort of integrity in that regard.
FUZZY: And finally, you are certainly on the energetic side for a frontman- Do you have set routines which you follow, or do you just go where the music takes you?
Some people will come on and will treat it as a performance, a recital almost in the sense that they’ve got every step planned, they’ve got every smirk, every turn, every leg-bop planned for the audience for the effect of it. For me, it's very different. If the crowd are there to hear songs like ‘Bud’ but all they hear are songs like ‘The Brink’ and ‘…like Russian dolls’ then it’s going to be a shit gig. But, at the same time, if you’ve got an audience that’s willing to embrace whatever will happen as we are, I think that makes for a much more engaging performance.
You can check out Concrete Armbands on all major streaming platforms.
Words by Ben Browning.
13th July 2020.