I recently caught up with Group Of Man, a band that has been described as working for ‘the collective good of Rock’ – and with good reason. In light of recent dividing events in the UK and the US, they claim to offer one simple but poignant message of hope to their listeners: despite it all, everything is actually going to be okay.
It might not sound like much on paper, but it’s an arguably compelling statement and a refreshing thing to hear coming from a post-punk hardcore band right now. At a time when a lot of anger and disappointment is resonating out of the media and, indeed, the music industry, ‘everything is going to be fine’ is an uplifting idea. Whether you are a Trump or Hillary supporter, an advocate for Leave or Remain, or whatever you might currently believe in, a positive and peaceful outcome is hopefully something we’d all like to see, both in our personal lives and on a much bigger scale.
I spoke to Group Of Man vocalist Chris Barling about the motivation behind the band’s latest EP, the appropriately-named World Peace Champions, which was released last month:
“Let’s face it, punk rock and hardcore, especially in the US and UK, are going to have one recurring theme, and that’s our absolute disgust at our piece-of-shit leaders. People are saying how it’s going to be an exciting time for punk rock. I don’t know if that’s really true. There’s so much divide at the moment – left and right, leavers and remainers – I guess with World Peace Champions, we wanted to try and put a positive message across. Things are messy right now and it’s likely that they could get much worse, but keep concentrating on you, keep doing the positive and influential things that you do daily, and we’ll be fine.”
World Peace Champions also focuses on difficult topics like anxiety, procrastination and sexuality. When asked about the inspirations behind the EP’s delicate subject matter, Chris explained that he wanted his songwriting to address certain issues that he had dealt with in his personal life that a lot of people often struggle to open up about: “I guess I’d like someone to come away thinking that even though things are bleak right now, it’s going to be okay. We’ll be fine.”
Chris pointed out how the track W.P.C is reflective of this and of the band’s mindset towards mental health and today’s societal expectations. The track’s music video shows distorted black-and-white footage of astronauts and old space missions projected in the background of the band performing. Chris said, “The song is about how we are always taught to aspire to be something and that we need to do everything we can to succeed. But if all you want to do is sit about watching crappy movies and eating pizza, there’s nothing wrong with that. Wanting to lead a life of nerdom doesn’t make you any less valid, so that’s why we had the two types of images: ones with real-life astronauts doing their thing and achieving all these great and amazing things; then we had the old B-movie clips showing other amazing things, but in a different way.”
It seems as though ‘nerdom’ and movies were an important part of making World Peace Champions. I wanted to know how film had influenced Chris’s songwriting and asked what the story was behind the track 1980’s Horror Movie Soundtracks: “I guess this is a bit of a weird one and I’m not even sure what the song is entirely about. On a train journey, somewhere, I somehow managed to compare my often awkward social interactions to 1980s’ horror movies. I don’t really know how I managed to do this but here we are. In the past I’ve definitely looked to old horror movies for comfort (I get that’s weird). I really love what I’d call ‘sleepy horror movies’, slow-burners like Dawn Of The Dead and The Beyond, which is referenced in the song, and basically every John Carpenter movie from that era. I get incredibly anxious in most social settings and, at the time, it can seem so bleak and that made me think of those old horror movies.”
He added, “In the past when I played in heavier and more genre-specific bands, it was always easy to write some angry lyrics about religion, girls or some hardcore scene bullshit, but with Group Of Man I’ve tried to take this opportunity to write about topics that are new to my writing pallet. Obviously, these topics are well touched on already across the board, but I don’t think they get any easier to discuss, and I’ve tried to present my thoughts on them in a different way.”
Having been previously referred to by some as a ‘band working to develop an an intriguing body of work for the collective good of Rock’, I was intrigued to know how Chris felt about this: “I mean, I think that statement is both awesome and terrifying. I guess I hope we don’t fold under the pressure of having to create a body of work that will ultimately be for the good of rock. I suppose it makes me feel a steady combination of anxiety and excitement.”
After a successful 2016 filled with meeting new people, performing live and working with Holy Roar Records, Group Of Man are currently planning their next EP and their first European tour for 2017: “Essentially, we’ll be available for rocking!”
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Cover photo by Alex Leat