The release of a second album is always spoken about with a looming mist of scepticism and an awareness that darkened days could be ahead.
‘Ullages’ presented a monumental time for Eagulls, even before the release back in May of this year. Appearing at The Great Escape, going on a tour that would see them play the likes of Islington Assembly Hall, and reviews that would describe the record as a turning point for the five-piece - they’re all hurdles that are exclusive to some of the biggest artists in Britain.
Sat on a wind-swept pier in Brighton, the Leicester quintuple are dressed in colours sat on the darker side of the spectrum and are taking everything in their stride as they prepare to perform a headline set in Horatio’s bar. It’s their drummer, Henry Ruddell, who offers to chat while George, the frontman, excuses himself and gives in to the lingering smell of “Brighton’s best hotdog”.
On first meeting, Ruddell appears to be introverted and unsure on how he should speak about a newly-released record and everything that came before. Despite the shyness of his character, it’s the honesty leaking out from the music that prevailed.
- - -
- - -
'Ullages' wasn’t long ago released. It’s your sophomore album so how does it feel this time around?
It feels really refreshing. Even though the last album came out two years ago, it feels about four years old. We have been playing that album for a long time now so it’s nice to have some new, fresh material to introduce to our live shows.
Anyone interested in the band have surely got to know the self-titled debut and the EPs very well now so it must be just as refreshing for them as well as you, especially, as you say, with your live shows. Was the latest tour heavily focused on your new album because of that?
We play a few older tunes, we always will do. We’re still more than proud of those ones. They are what got us to this point and are still relevant to us as a band. We, and anyone who likes us, will probably always have time for the older material, but our set at the moment is predominantly new songs.
Do you feel like it shows your sound has developed in to something that creates bigger statements to back up the lyrics in your music, or was you conscious of just continuing on from the debut?
It’s definitely developed in the way we wanted it to. The whole thing is way more dynamic and the emotion is coming through a lot more. The debut kind of feels like there is just one gear all the way through, from start to finish. On 'Ullages', things pick up a little bit and there’s more pace change and variety.
- - -
The first album was always just about becoming an adult and being independent...
- - -
Is that why those comparisons to The Smiths began to appear in a lot of reviews, do you think?
It wasn’t a conscious decision to go in that kind of direction. For a British band to say they’re not influenced by the likes of Johnny Marr, it’s almost impossible not to. He’s a great guitarist and they have a great sound, but we haven’t consciously headed that way but we are massive fans. We didn’t intend to rip them off in any way.
Obviously their music has always picked up on political topics and that’s where the comparisons began to start. When your songs are being written, are those statements based on personal experiences or it just based on things like general views on the state of the country?
The first album was always just about becoming an adult and being independent. I guess it was about trying to figure out your place in society, too. You could say the new album is more that we have discovered our place in society and things still look just as bleak. Basically George was just having a big mardy about that.
There’s definitely bigger statements pouring out of the record and that seems to crossover to your live shows. Comments were coming out of your tour in May saying that this time around it was like a band had reunited rather than someone who is, in loose terms, starting out.
Yeah that’s true. We were talking about this the other day. You play bigger shows and suddenly you want to up your game. Gone are the days we just plug our amps in and play - it just doesn’t work like that any more. We put a lot more thought in to how we create our live shows now and we want it to be more of a spectacle. The set right now is exactly how we like it and there’s a lot more effort going in to it.
- - -
We’re happy and that’s the main thing...
- - -
Do you find that now you’re at this point, you’re thinking about other things as well as the songs or is that still the focus and you let that do the talking?
That’s very important to us, it has always been about the music. We’re not a band with gimmicks and we’re more than happy to admit that. Sometimes we do feel like we’re very self critical with our performance because we’re quite static and we don’t really look like a band - we’re five individuals. Recently we have been thinking about how we can change that for when people come to see us. Basically make it a bit more of a show and make it exciting for us too.
Is having five individual people come together more important than five people who are exactly the same?Do you ever feel like the band is misunderstood?
I don’t know. That’s hard to answer. We were asked the other day what we wanted out of this band and we just want to have fun playing shows and making music. Some people do understand us more than others but we invite anyone to come and watch us to make their own mind up.
Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about how we should measure success. How would you rate yours? Would you say it’s successful or is there further movement before you reach that?
We’re happy and that’s the main thing. We have two albums that we really like and we’re playing much bigger venues than we were before. I suppose you can measure success that way but we have always said we will keep gigging until people stop wanting to come and see us. The rooms are getting bigger and that’s absolutely fine by us. I remember the first time we played outside Yorkshire and it was amazing to us and then we had our first London show which was just as exciting.
Every time you do something, you just want to do something even more. Now we want to go to America. We’re always trying to raise the bar but in terms of success, I don’t know. Right now, we’re happy.
- - -
- - -
Words: Connor Willis
Photo Credit: Benny Ellis
'Ullages' is out now. Catch Eagulls at the following shows:
10 Manchester Academy 2 (with Parquet Courts)
11 London Forum (with Parquet Courts)
23 Hull New Adelphi (with Protomartyr)
24 York The Crescent Community Venue (with Protomartyr)
25 Brighton Concorde 2 (with Protomartyr)
26 Bristol Fiddlers (with Protomartyr)
27 Nottingham Rescue Rooms (with Protomartyr)