Idles talk debut album ‘Brutalism’, gender roles and coming ‘Summer Pummel Tour’

Rob Hudson
May 4, 2017 · 7 min read

Wired Noise had the pleasure of speaking to front man Joe Talbot from Idles, one of punk’s most exciting new assets.

The Bristol quintet has seen a lot of attention heading there way since they released their critically acclaimed debut album, ‘Brutalism’ in March. Since the release, they commenced the ‘Brutalism Tour’ - stretching all over Britain and even played two gigs in Austin, Texas as part of the ‘SXWX’ Festival.

As the band is succeeding, gaining more and more attention and committing to yet another tour this year, Wired Noise got in touch with lead singer, Joe Talbot shortly before they set voyage on tour. We spoke a lot about the debut, the topics covered on it, and a few things in between.

Having looked into other interviews, lyrical content was a topic too often neglected for such a prominent element of Idles’ sound. Throughout this Q&A, expect to hear a lot about the thinking behind various tracks on the album, highlights of the ‘Brutalism Tour’ and information on the coming ‘Summer Pummel Tour’.

What impact has the album had on your career so far?

“A shock, in the sense that we didn’t expect anyone to like it. It was abrasive, hard to listen to, has no breaks in rhythm and is all quite fast and hard. The fact it was at all positive meant it was great for us. Compared to our earlier releases like our ‘Meat’ EP, our music now is very post-punk; you know which isn’t for everybody.”

What is Mother about? Because on the internet there are lots of different people saying lots of different things.

“The song is somewhat about my Mum, but it’s a bit also about the role of women in my life and the misconception of women and motherhood. She was an alcoholic and worked long hours and suffered the consequences. The song is just exploring these subjects in an abstract kind of way.”

Let’s talk about the last verse:

‘Sexual Violence doesn’t start and end with rape, It starts in our books and behind our school gates, Men are scared women will laugh in their face, Whereas women are scared it is their lives men will take’

“I borrowed the lyrics from Margaret Atwood [the Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic and an environmental activist], but reworked them a bit to fit the song”

“It’s just about the idea that there is a huge difference in the power of roles, in relationships, our fears and the difference in the sexes. I thought that line is a really succinct and simple way of explaining what the roles are in our relationships. You know, a woman walking down the road on their own is very different to you or me walking down the road, in most circumstances anyway. A lot of men try to control women; I did it in the past when I was younger because I was scared that I wasn’t good enough for the girl. It is being open to that vulnerability, and some men take that too far and become violent”

I found Slow Savage to really differ from other songs on the album. The whole album follows this quite strict post-punk aesthetic, whereas this song is very open and atmospheric. Is there a reason this song differs?

“It was supposed to be like a comedown for the album. Like, imagine a break-up after a night out. My relationships always broke down to alcohol and other stuff. I t was supposed to be like a comedown, the whole album is about being lost, and alcohol and drugs were a big part of our lives at that time. So it just seemed the perfect ending for the album.”

‘1049 Gotho’ seems very personal and emotional. What’s the story behind this?

“One of my best friends suffers from deep depression, and he comes home one night from a piss-up, and I was like I want to help you, man. He explained it to me and he said it’s just something you got to go through. Like a big comet coming towards you or a big black cloud lingering around you, and that inspired me to write a song about it.”

Now, I have been to Exeter, and I had a guess as to why this song was titled it, but a friend asked me what Exeter is? So why did you name a song after the small Devonshire town?

“Exeter is a very boring place, it wasn’t a violent place. Except in the sense that I and my friends were bored young men who got into a bit of trouble sometimes but it wasn’t a frightening place to live. It was just boring and we got bored so had to do something for a bit of fun you know? There’s a town like that everywhere, everywhere has an Exeter.”

Now, I don’t know why the song is titled ‘White Privilege’, but I know a few people on the internet questioned this. What was the reasoning behind this?

“‘White Privilege’ is about my first year of uni, and just taking loads of drugs and the people I was surrounded by, and just how ridiculous it all was, and what a waste of time and money it was for a lot of people. And I thought White Privilege would be a funny title as people were mostly white. We were white, and we were privileged, so I just thought I’d call it White Privilege. I know some people on the internet have been quite angry about that title, I think it is because they wanted something more to go with the shock factor of the title. But it’s not really about race; it’s about privilege in general.”

We changed the course of the conversation and begun to talk about the ‘Brutalism Tour’, Austin South by South West gigs and the future tour…

What were the highlights of the ‘Brutalism Tour’?

“Some gigs really stood out, London, Bristol, Derby, Hull, Cardiff they were magic. The reaction we received was just insane, as we have never filled a room outside London or Bristol.”

Why did you miss Manchester on the tour?

“We have had a mixed bag in Manchester in the past, but our last gig seemed a bit of a waste of time for everybody really. It was an LCD Sound System themed club night we played, not for a band and not as a headline. So it just didn’t really go down well. It’s a shame because I love Night and Day and Manchester, we will play Manchester again, just depends when.”

Where was your favourite place to play?

“The Adelphi in Hull, it felt like a co-op, not the shop but it was like a terraced house and it had a double decker bus in the front room as a bar. It was fucking magic; it was owned and ran by the same guy from the last thirty years. Everyone in Hull was great, brilliant turnout, a brilliant atmosphere and beat everything we expected.”

How did the Austin gigs go?

“It was good, it was very American, in a strange way, and definitely the most American part of America I’ve been to. Everyone in Austin was lovely. The gigs went well, I didn’t know how our music would translate to Americans, but it was really fucking cool. The festival was a bit weird, there’s like a whole free part of it then there’s a part that’s £800 a ticket so it was a bit mixed up, one side you had proper industry bits and the other some cool messy bits.”

Now that you have the Summer Pummel Tour lined-up, which will see you play festivals across Europe, including Reading and Leeds. What are you most looking forward to?

“Travelling to new places, we’ve never been to Poland before, seeing what different crowds are like. Playing in Europe is just better, there’s more money knocking about as the government subsidises music. You get better food, better pay, you play better venues. The venues are better looked after. As for the Reading and Leeds, we’ve never played a big festival before so we’re excited to see how that goes — I think everything will work better! The highlight is that we are finally doing what we’ve worked six years towards and we’re living the dream.”

Idles ‘Summer Pummel Tour’ began April 8th. You can find all the tour dates, music videos, and link to their store here.

Wired Noise

Music publication based in Manchester

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