Tribes are very much locked into a time and a place.
Hailing from Camden, their music seems to speak to the contagiously disobedient adolescent in us all. Releasing their debut album ‘Baby’ earlier this year, Tribes quickly became one of the most discussed bands in the country – whether you were for ‘em or against ‘em, you were sure to have formed an opinion.
Recently completing a series of Stateside dates, Tribes flew back to the UK last week to play a one off show in their heartland. Striding onstage at the Camden Barfly, the band shared a bill with Splashh at a special date arranged by Dr. Marten's, as part of their First And Forever Festival which will see further events in Birmingham and Manchester with Kids In Glass House and Ash as respective headliners.
“I can’t really say I was a skinhead type or anything but they were always floating around” explains Jim Cratchley. “Their connections with Camden are always something to be proud of, we’re all Camden boys”.
Settling down to answer a few questions, bass player Jim Cratchley opened up about the band’s breakthrough year – and their upcoming second album...
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This has very much been a breakthrough year for you.
We know how much work we’ve got to do. Just because we’ve had a fairly good year... we wanted to get this second record out pretty quick after the first one. We didn’t want to be one of those bands that sits round and tours the same record for pretty much 5 years and then disappears for 2 trying to write another one. We’re lucky enough to have very prolific writers in the band, I think Johnny’s written something like 175 different songs since we started the band. We’re just really excited about the new stuff, it’s not a complete departure from what we put down on ‘Baby’ but it is an exciting progression for us.
Are you able to write on the road?
Lots of this second record was written on the road, in dressing rooms and stuff. We did a 5 week American tour where a lot of these things were written and it made us even more excited about the prospect of going back to America to record it because it was written with those kind of feelings and emotions in mind. Johnny doesn’t even hide he just goes for it, which can be a bit frustrating when you’re listening to the same thing over and over again.
Was touring the States a long held ambition for the band?
Yeah it was a massive thing for us. We’ve always looked at America as being one of the places we’d like to be able to go and smash and go back and back and keep playing and stuff. To get to do it for the first time was really special and we’re going to be going back pretty soon as well. Recording the album over there as well was really good. We were in Van Nuys, which is just north of LA, in Sound City Studios, which is the iconic place they did Nevermind and Rumours; a lot of Tom Petty was done there. On the first tour we did over there we had a meeting with this guy Kevin who ended up producing the record. We were really on the same page, we were talking amongst ourselves about how we thought the second album should go and we went and sat down with Kevin and listened to music and talked about what he had in mind from the demo we’d sent him. It was practically what we had said so we were really on the same page. The studio is incredible, you walk in and it’s a really unimposing place, it’s hard to believe that so much amazing music was made there. It seems quite natural, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re in somewhere where you’ve got to try and perform. All the gear in there is incredible, we used Johnny Cash’s grand piano, the mixing desk was Bob Dylan’s from Highway 61. It was so simple, it’s not all about the after effects, it’s about having good microphones and good equipment and getting the maximum sounds out of everything.
Does the weight of history inspire you?
It makes it easier, you’re surrounded by all this incredible stuff, we’re just very lucky to have got to go over there and be appreciated by the people we ended up working with. He’s called Kevin Augunas, he’s a bass session player who did a lot of work with Alanis Morissette and he’s been doing a lot of writing since he’s been at Sound City. Gotye is signed to his label Fairfax Records and he’s been working with The Lumineers and their songs are on every advert I’ve seen.
What stage is the album at?
It’s mixed and we’re just waiting for it to be mastered on Thursday. It’s being mastered over in New York and they’ve obviously had a bit of trouble recently so things have slowed down a little bit. We’ve had one draft of the mastering through already and we’re all really happy with it. The guys who’s mixed it is an absolute legend, he’s called Cliff Norrell and he’s amazing. There was very little to-ing and fro-ing when it came to mixing, he knew exactly what needed to be done. It was mixed at Sound City and then at Cliff’s house, which was just down the road in Malibu. It’s being mastered by Bob Ludwig, I don’t know where he works out of but it’s another big name on the back of the record.
Was it nice to get back in the studio after such a frenetic year on the road?
Yeah it was. Like I was saying, with the writing on the road and everything we were all as excited as each about getting in together and writing about new stuff and working on something new and different. I think we are more of a touring band anyway, we do love being in the studio but we’ve been touring the last couple of days and you feel the excitement coming back and we’ve started playing new stuff which has been going down really well.
Did you almost relish the pressure of going in and getting the album done?
I think we thought we had enough. There was never really any respite, when we finished the first one the writing continued and we were constantly in rehearsals trying out new things, so I think we took the pressure off ourselves a little bit. It is good when you send demos over to the label and they’re saying they want this and this and this and you say “No, it’s going to be this” – that’s good fun.
How are you finishing up the year? Have you got more tour dates planned?
We’ve got a little trip to Dubai in a couple of weeks, but no not a lot, we’re sort of winding down now but we’re going back into rehearsals and we’ve got a pianist joining us for our live shows. We used a lot of piano and organ on the record, so we’re just going to work on that really and get him comfortable and then I think we’ll be touring in the new year. We’re just doing a couple of dates in Dubai, I’m not even too sure what it is. I’ve never been, I’m looking forward to that. We’re staying in this beach resort and it looks insane. Then the carnage will probably continue because we’ll be back in Camden.
Then you’re back out on the road early next year?
I think so yes, we’re still in the planning stages of everything now but we should know in the next couple of days where we’ll be going. I reckon there’ll be a bit of Europe and a bit of America and a couple of UK stints. That’s something to look forward to and then the festivals as well.
Kids In Glass Houses play Birmingham Institute on November 23rd; Ash play Manchester Ritz on November 26th
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Dr. Marten's are hosting an in-store event at their new Carnaby Street store tonight (November 20th) featuring featuring The Supernova’s, one of Strummerville - the Joe Strummer Foundation For New Music - success stories, and a young band that has benefited from the expertise the charity offers young musicians.
The Supernova’s will be performing at the opening, with key pieces from the recent Strummer School exhibition on display, including previously unseen items from Strummer’s history.