Witty, observational lyrics, scuzzy punk hooks and tonnes of heart. Tunbridge Wells’ Lady Bird are making serious waves.
Formed by Don Bird, Alex Deadman, and Joe Walker in 2017, the trio quickly made a name for themselves with tracks like Spoons – a brilliant social commentary on the great British pastime of sinking pints in Wetherspoons and ordering a large mixed grill after one too many.
Their first EP, Social Potions, was released on pals Slaves’ Girl Fight Records label, and led them to sold out tours nationwide and praise from the likes of Clash and So Young magazine, and airplay on BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music.
Now they’ve returned with new EP BRAINWASH MACHINE SETTING – a turbo-charged four-track assault on the senses as frontman Don blitzes through verses in an almost grime-like fashion over ripping punk riffs and punishing drum beats.
Nice DLC, the EP’s final track, changes tack as their characteristic sound is stripped back to just an acoustic guitar – but the unmistakably Lady Bird lyrics still remain.
They’ve shared stages with the likes of Sports Team and Walt Disco and can look forward to their own extensive UK tour in December, which sees them grace stages like The Boileroom in Guildford, London’s Omeara and King Tut’s in Glasgow.
Daily Star Online caught up with the Don, Alex and Joe, to chat about the new EP, how they formed, their native Tunbridge Wells and what we can expect from them in the future.
Hi guys, who are Lady Bird and how and when did you get together?
“Hello hello. This is Lady Bird (the band), not the film. Funnily enough we decided on the name shortly before the film came out… Had we known however, perhaps we would have decided on a different name.
“We used to watch each others’ bands play at our local music venue, and spoke about making music together for years. We finally got started in 2017 and it has grown and blossomed and carried us from then to now.”
How has lockdown been for you? Have you been able to work on any material?
Don: “Lockdown has been the backdrop for numerous shifts in our personal lives, and strangely, it has been quite a useful scenario for us to be creative together too.
“We’ve finished writing our album together in lockdown, despite the fact that this is an enormous obstacle, and made the music video for our latest single in isolation too.
“We’ve had a few unforeseen challenges to bounce off together, including when I lost my voice for over a year following an operation on my vocal chords, the boys had to take on lead vocals during that time and it’s incredible to think that we didn’t take a break from touring and writing.”
You released the track WWW. in May. What was the writing process like?
Don: “We wrote WWW. at our friend Nina’s house in Ramsgate. She is our mutual buddha-mama and actually married my wife Tilly and I last year as well. Creme of the crop!
“She put us up in the summer to do some writing and Isaac Holman came and stayed with us as well… They’ve got the countries biggest Spoons there an’all.
“I remember going for a run with Isaac and trying to keep up with him, he would run straight into the sea like it was warm but I can tell you that it was absolutely not! He chilled with us while we wrote that record and it came out pretty easily that tune… That heavy sound came from Alex’s head!”
It’s from your forthcoming EP BRAINWASH MACHINE SETTING, set for release on June 26. What can we expect from it?
Don: “BRAINWASH MACHINE SETTING (BWMS) has four tracks which we selected from a pot of 20 or so tunes which we put aside for an album. It seemed like a good shout to do this EP because we came up with the name years ago, when all we wanted to do is EPs. The four songs are called Got Lucky, WWW., BEEP BEEP and NICE DLC and they take you on a journey through various realities and leave a bit of your mind at each stop along the way.
“The first quarter begins in a bar, and ends in a friendship, the next considers the alternative narratives that this age is spun with. The third is a word for word relay of what seemed like a near death experience and ended with two fire engines and a trip in an ambulance. And finally the last quarter is an acoustic homage to all those who have opted out of life due to unfortunate hardships… ‘Keep calm and carry on, as if it’s all hunky dory.’”
What did you learn from your first EP Social Potions going into penning your second effort?
Don: “Social Potions contains the first of the songs we’ve written as a band, and recording it quickly became our own introduction to the sound we’d been making. Fortunately it seemed to create an entry for us into the industry where we’ve learned how to nurture and experiment with it, which I think is essential for bands if they wish to grow and mature. BWMS is a manifestation of those lessons and I believe in essence it’s a case of maintaining a healthy balance within your relationships as a group in order to sustain the output as a band. And of course faith is essential! in each other and the ideas shared…”
Your lyrics are witty, observational takes of everyday life. How do you get into that mindset when writing songs?
Don: “I find it very challenging to get any words down at the best of times, even writing this is a challenge to be honest… The lyrics from our tunes come naturally as thoughts and observations on occurrences in my environment, which is a blessing really because they are phrases which are translated almost exactly as they are in my head.
“Usually as well it helps that I’ve got a lot to say anyway, and there are lots of important things to be brought into focus during this historical time. The opening lines for our current single are… “Wicked War Of The West. The dots dare I connect? Adam’s apple in your back pocket and yet, drop your weapons for The Wicked War Of The West!”
You’re from Tunbridge Wells – what’s the scene like there and how has it moulded you as a band?
Joe: “To be honest the scene can be a bit up and down in terms of how many kids there are in bands that are capable of filling The Forum. Right now it’s buzzing with punk/ post-punk bands like Smile, Bruised and Scowl coming through. This is a really big deal for us because it was buzzing when we were teenagers and then it went quiet for a bit.
“It’s amazing to see it picking up again it’s something we dreamed of happening when we started our band. The scene is always great though. JC Palmer are favourites of ours because they make music with a depth that we couldn’t dream of touching. Because of our local independent venue, The Forum, there’s always a home for the community of musicians in the area and you get all sorts come out from the openness of peoples’ receptive capacities.
“In recent years the distance musically between Slaves and Everything Everything as two big bands originating in Tunbridge Wells illustrates what I mean. As a band this has pushed us to explore who we are and develop our sound without any presets for what’s good.”
You’ve toured with the likes of Sports Team, Walt Disco and GURU, what did you take from those shows?
Joe: “We’ve crossed paths with Sports Team a lot, they’ve become good mates of ours. It’s lush seeing everything they’re up to at the moment. Walt Disco are a great bunch as well. Guru are one of my favourite bands around – they’re always growing and we did our first gig with them together to four people at Sticky Mikes in Brighton. When they came on tour with us they were the first band I’d seen cause a mosh pit for the support in a small venue.”
Who are your main influences? It can either be musically or personally.
Joe: “My favourite drummers are Chad Smith, Travis Barker and my dad. My main influences personally are Sam, Josei Toda (the founder of The Soka Gakkai in Japan, which is the school of Buddhism I practice) and my mum.
“The things which have been of greatest influence to us as a band I’d say have been Jason Doorman, who runs The Forum and has given us the space to become inspired and grow together, Leigh Lawson, a local producer who has encouraged and trained us in ways none of us could have imagined, and The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free for uniting us in our early days.”
You’ve got a packed UK tour lined up for December. How much are you looking forward to gigging again and what can audiences expect from a Lady Bird show?
Joe: “Absolutely buzzing. I’m surprised I’ve made it this far – turns out I’m stronger than I thought I was! Although, I won’t dare to get excited about those dates until we’re closer and can be sure they’re going ahead ….. who knows what the near future holds for gigs even in the venues we’ll be playing. I just hope all of them can survive that long – times are never easy for small venues so that’s especially the case right now. In terms of what to expect …. just come and see us – whether you like our records or not ours is a live show worth seeing – and come say hello after – I wanna know if I’m wrong!”
What are your plans for the year ahead and do you have an ultimate goal?
“We’re using this unpredictable time to work on ourselves and get excited about what’s to come! We’ll have an album ready by the time things get going again which for me is the achievement of a life goal – to create an album with a band I really love.
“What happens next I think will be determined by how true we are able to remain to ourselves and whether our unity is fostered naturally by this effort. We set out to create music that would inspire young people to engage more positively with themselves and want to live in a way which makes a contribution to those around them.
“Maybe it sounds naff when you say it up front like that, but it’s been interesting for us seeing this manifest and also being aware that negativity arises from all corners of our lives to steer us off course. The ultimate goal for me is just seeing this through to the best of my ability and being happy with everything step of the journey.”
Lady Bird’s BRAINWASH MACHINE SETTING is out now via Purple Stains/JägerMusik