Politely Taking Over The World: Gender Roles Talk Debut Album 'Prang' And Living For Live Shows

Laura Johnson 29 August 2019

Most bands don’t set out with a grand plan in mind, and Brighton’s Gender Roles were no different. “We’ve never had a mission,” guitarist and vocalist Tom Bennett says. “We just wanted to start playing music, and we really wanted to play shows because all our mates were doing it. 

“We realised that we were really good at doing it together, and we just thought, ‘Oh, we’ll just keep doing this!’ We do keep planning a little bit further ahead, and the plan a little bit further ahead is on a steady increase, but I don’t think we’ve got a mission. I think we’re just going to take over the world politely.”

Completed by drummer Jordan Lilford and bassist Jared Tomkins, Gender Roles first met in 2015, during a Pride party at Lilford’s house. They bonded over shared nostalgia for the music they’d grown up with. “Classic 2000s Kerrang! on a Saturday morning,” Bennett explains. Four years on and the trio are poised to release their debut album, ‘Prang’, a full-blown indie-punk triumph rife with infectious hooks.

Following the release of their second EP ‘Lazer Rush’ in 2018, the band started cracking down and set about writing for their first full-length. The process was sparked by Always, a track about losing someone important that led to the band exploring themes of growing up and different aspects of adulthood.

“That was the next proper song we’d had since the second EP,” Bennett says. “That was the start of the writing process. A lot of the time when I write a song what it’s going to be, a narrative or a story behind it, is not necessarily already there. I have to listen to it for a little while and find out what it is. That song seemed perfect for that idea that I’d had and then that sparked off all the other tunes.

“We wanted it [‘Prang’] to be more for everyone. It’s not just all about us. We wanted it to be a bit like a paint by numbers, fill your own gaps in sort of thing. Using the house as a metaphor, and going through different ages and stages, it doesn’t really matter who and what you’re up to, you’re probably going to think about something like this at some point.”

Though they had the bare bones of the album, Bennett admits that a lot of it wasn’t finished when it came time to record, despite them having numerous demos in hand. They needed the isolation the studio offered in order to focus. “We needed to be plugged in with no time limit, no sound restraint, no housemates, no neighbours, no work. We just needed to be shut off for that amount of time just to do it.”

They holed up at Emeline Studios in Whitstable with producer Ian Sadler, who recorded all of their previous releases. Bennett describes him as “an absolute genius” and says “he just got it”. For a fleeting moment they considered going somewhere else, but by the time they’d worked through the list of possibilities they always came back to him. 

Sadler is intuitive and understands their needs, even when they’re not the most adept at vocalising them. “If there’s a moment of silence and no one knows what to do he’ll chuck anything out there just to get someone else going,” Bennett says. “He’s really good at getting the best out of you.”

Together with Sadler the band tracked all the songs for the record separately due to time restraints and striving for as close to perfection as their sound allows. “We’re not that polished sound and we’re not that polished band,” Bennett admits. Though he muses on the possibility of recording live in the future, if time allows, he acknowledges that for Gender Roles recording and performing should be considered different challenges.

“I always wanted to record music that we could do live,” he says. “I never wanted to do something that you can’t do. So many times I’ve listened to an album for however long, got so used to that sound, really got excited to go see it and then there’s parts missing because they can’t replicate it live, or there’s not enough people there, that sort of thing. 

“So, I’ve always been along the lines of it should be as close to it as it can be. But, having said that, we do sound different live. It is a completely different beast, just because we get so into playing live and so excited that it inevitably becomes a bit more rowdy, a bit louder, a bit heavier in some places. We get excited to see people getting excited. That just escalates to the point where some of the soft bits aren’t so soft anymore, some of the heavy bits have gone a bit mad, that sort of thing.”

For Gender Roles, playing live is where it all began and what it’s all about. All the other stuff⁠—recording, rehearsing, real life—is just a means to an end. “We just really love playing live and if we could just do that we would,” Bennett continues. “But you’ve got to at some point stop, record something, make a video. You’ve got to go to work, you’ve got to practice. If we could, we’d just carry on consistently I think.”

They’ve taken every opportunity to hit the road, too, even if it’s with acts some may not consider to be in their wheelhouse, including support slots with Jamie Lenman, Pup, Milk Teeth, Indoor Pets, and Touché Amoré. “We really love the fact that we can bounce around. We’re probably the odd one out in a lot of places, that’s probably the easiest way I can put it,” Bennett says. “We’re down to hang with either side, up for meeting new people and I think we gel well with most bands. We’re cool to go anywhere really. Whoever asks we’ll go, that’s fine with us.” 

There’s no need to wait for an invitation at the moment, as they’ve got their own headline UK shows in the diary for October. Bennett’s amiable attitude towards touring extends to their recent dalliance with mainstream radio, having garnered support from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Annie Mac, who’ve both spun ‘Prang’ single Hey With Two Whys.  Though he makes it clear that Gender Roles have no chart aspirations, he’s refreshingly candid about what this sort of support means to an up-and-coming band.

“Yeah, it’s weird innit. I was buzzing,” he admits. “I rang my mum and told her. It’s odd. The type of music that we make, although we’ve got choruses, and I don’t mind saying we’ve got some catchy bits, you just don’t expect it to be on such an established, mainstream radio station. It’s just mad. It’s cool though, I like it. I hope it carries on.”

'Prang' is out on August 30 through Big Scary Monsters

Gender Roles Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Wed October 02 2019 - NORWICH Open
Thu October 03 2019 - LONDON Boston Music Room, Tufnell Park
Fri October 04 2019 - SOUTHAMPTON Heartbreakers
Sat October 05 2019 - BRISTOL Rough Trade
Sun October 06 2019 - NOTTINGHAM Rough Trade
Mon October 07 2019 - GLASGOW Attic
Tue October 08 2019 - SHEFFIELD Record Junkee
Wed October 09 2019 - LIVERPOOL Kazimier
Thu October 10 2019 - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
Fri October 11 2019 - PORTSMOUTH Wave Maiden
Sat October 12 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Victoria
Mon October 14 2019 - GUILDFORD Boileroom
Fri November 29 2019 - BRIGHTON Patterns

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