English Teacher Are Worth Every Inch Of The Hype

Lily Fontaine and Lewis Whiting in conversation...

English Teacher are easily one of the most-tipped new groups in the country right now, with a string of Great Escape shows causing a whirlwind of hype on the streets of Brighton.

Although the origins of the four-piece go back to 2018, they only really became a band during the pandemic, and played their first live shows as restrictions started to ease. The quartet comprises vocalist and lyricist Lily Fontaine, guitarist Lewis Whiting, Nicholas Eden on bass, and drummer Douglas Frost.

Destined to go all the way, with quirky, often politically-charged lyrics that truly matter coupled with super-catchy melodies, English Teacher are the sort of band that make you stop and think again.

Having only just recovered after playing some explosive live sets at The Great Escape, they are already thinking ahead, planning some of their next live shows, where they get to play alongside US garage indie icons Yeah Yeah Yeahs and sets at Glastonbury Festival.

Clash got a bit closer and spoke to Lily Fontaine and Lewis Whiting.

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It is such a busy, but very exciting time for the band. A lot of things are happening, and some events are bound to feel like a bit of blur, and it would be good to hear about some of the highlights.

LF: Yes, the whole thing has just been insanely overwhelming and totally amazing, especially when we did our headliner sets, which was very cool, and we played Brudenell Social Club in Leeds.

We got there, and we thought we were playing the Community Room, which would have been good, but the main room is really iconic, and so they moved us into that, which was great. Then it got really packed out on the night, which was amazing, and I got to crowd-surf at the end, which is a goal of mine. 

Huge congratulations on releasing your debut EP ‘Polyawkward’. How do you feel about the release now? Can you also describe the ambition behind it?

LW: Yes, we feel pretty good. It was nerve wracking leading up to it. But I'm really glad that it's out now, and I’m very happy with it. It was a fair amount of work, but we got there in the end.

In terms of the ambition, we really don't want people to get bored, we don't want our songs to sound the same. We're not really trying to sound like anyone, we're just trying to make our songs sound good. We don't want to be put in a box, where expectations are ‘they sound like this, and they sound like that’. We have all got such different tastes as well, so that all plays a part in our sound.

Having formed mostly during the height of the pandemic, do you feel that it has been a suitable time for your band to get together, even if other bands were forced to stop making music?

LF: It’s weird, because the three of us were a band before the pandemic, and it was technically the same band, we just changed the name before Lewis joined. But it was only when he joined that things started to open up a bit more.

It was during the pandemic, that the band really started becoming English Teacher and we became active in terms of releasing music and getting some attention. So we were a fresh band during the pandemic, and we played gigs as English Teacher after the pandemic, but really it is a project that have its roots in 2018.

You mentioned the determination to avoid making songs sound in a certain way, and you just want to be creative. I read that you don't want to be seen as post punk, what is the problem with the category or the association?

LF: We're obviously inspired by some bands. Personally, I feel the scope of the type of music that we like coupled with the type of music that we want to make is a lot broader than post punk, and so if there is one thing that gives us the opportunity to morph into something else, then we will. – Mostly, what I listen to is just a classic early 2000s indie, and I feel like there's some of that in there with more of a focus on accessibility and catchiness rather than being entirely left-field.

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What was the time scale for recording the EP? And how did you know when a track was complete, and the work was done?

LF: I think it's impossible to ever say that for sure. There wasn't ever a deadline. You just do it for as long as you can, and it's basically just about money and time. Had it been entirely up to us, we would just spend months perfecting it, but at some point you are probably just moving things in a different direction, and you could end up just ruining it.

The lyrics are key to the music, there is a great personal touch as well, and you are not scared to tackle politics. Would you say there is an overriding EP theme, or does each song convey different smaller themes?

LF: There is a lot of things that crop up, at different multiple times, across the five songs. There's quite a few different themes that occur, but grief, the pandemic, and relationships are all covered. I think that the main thing that probably crops up in most of the songs is anxiety, as a theme, and the song ‘Polyawkward’ is about that.

‘Good Grief’ is also an important song. Is it fair to say that it takes a closer look at the pandemic?

LF: I wanted to write more, to be honest. ‘Good Grief’ was really important to me, because it got out a lot of feelings about the way that the pandemic was handled. Writing is just a bit of a vessel for me to talk about things that are important to me, and I want to do a lot more writing in the future.

Talking about the future, what plans do you have in terms of recording, is the idea to put out an album, or will there be another EP coming, relatively soon?

LF: The main focus for us to write more. Especially, when we're not away gigging and touring. We are trying to get some new songs together at the moment, we've got a fair bit of new stuff coming in the future, and potentially an album. Hopefully, we can release an album at some point in the future. To not put one out would be would be a great shame.

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'Polyawkward' EP is out now.

Words: Susan Hansen
Photo Credit: Tatiana Pozuelo

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