Bristol’s Home Counties are not afraid to get stuck into the topics that matter.
The emerging five-piece give brilliantly scathing satirical takes on social issues – ranging from gentrification to class divides.
Consisting of Will Harrison, Conor Kearney, Barn Peiser Pepin, Sam Woodroffe and Dan Hearn, the Alcopop! Records signees drew major praise with their debut track Redevelopment – a 3-minute power pop stomper that tackles the downside of removing history for bland, identikit developments.
New single Dad Bod, released today digitally and on cassette, is equally contagious as it delves into modern middle-class masculinity – in particular the “progressive” metropolitan man – with a Devo-esque tinge.
The track, which will feature on their forthcoming Theo Verney-produced Redevelopment EP, is set to catapult them to further attention.
They’ve already enjoyed airplay on Radio 1 thanks to Huw Stephens, Tom Robinson on BBC 6 Music, and Matt Wilkinson’s Beats 1 show, and have supported indie powerhouses Shame and Sports Team.
And lockdown rules permitting, they are set for live dates in Bristol, Brighton, Paris and Rotterdam this October.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Will and Conor to talk about how they formed, lockdown life, their love of Talking Heads, and what we can expect from the Redevelopment EP.
Hi guys. Tell me more about Home Counties. How did you form?
Conor Kearney: “We were originally Haze and we formed when we were at school together. Now we’ve moved on from that and changed our sound quite a lot. We reformed again with new members to become Home Counties.”
Will Harrison: “At the tail end of last year we started writing some new songs. They were a bit dancier, more synth-heavy. We thought we would start afresh with a new project. We were called Haze for so many years that it felt a bit stale. We were running out of creative steam. We thought get some new people on board.”
Is the sound that you have now with Home Counties what you wanted when you first started?
Conor: “We’ve been haze since we were 14. Our music taste changed quite a lot.
“Now we’re into Talking Heads and I really like Confidence Man. We use those influences more in those music. Less so Parquet Courts, Haze was very much a Parquet Courts-based project!”
You have an angular, post-punk, jagged sound, which is evident in your new track Dad Bod. How did you write it and was it inspired by anything?
Will: “Since we’ve been living together we’ve been writing so much collectively. Demos every day.”
Conor: “I run in the morning with a coffee like ‘Will! I have this new bassline!’ and we’ll start writing a song.”
Will: “I can’t remember writing Dad Bod. We started playing it live towards the end of last year. The lyrics came quite a bit after the initial riff. Lyrically I wanted something a bit funny, a bit tongue in cheek.”
Conor: “That’s another beautiful thing about living together. These songs go through several evolutions before they are the final version.”
Have you always been interested in the social commentary, observational side of writing lyrics?
Will: “Through Haze it was very much social commentary, although it was more blatantly political and more serious.
“Now it’s moved towards more every day things, like Redevelopment. Haze felt a bit more serious than the people we are. We’re a bit more jokey.”
Conor: “We don’t take ourselves very seriously. That’s why we enjoy it so much. It’s fun for us.”
Do you think that’s a natural progression? Obviously the UK and the world has been through a lot in these past few years. Did you you think you were ready to go down that more tongue in cheek route?
Will: “Especially after Brexit and Trump, it just feels like a very different era now. Just writing about a classic social commentary felt maybe a bit exhausting.
“I felt it might be more interesting to look at things in everyone’s lives, that are more universal.”
The track itself you recorded it at Brighton Electric, with Theo Verney, who’s worked with the likes of Egyptian Blue and Lazarus Kane, very much in the ilk of rising acts like yourselves. What did he bring?
Conor: “He’s an electrifying person with so much energy. We reflect in him with his production. He can get the best performance out of you.
“There were times when we would come to him with songs in the studio and he would be able to tell us exactly where we were slightly wrong. He’s like insane in that.”
Will: “We’ve recorded a bit with him. One of them was with Haze and we had quite a ramshackle approach to things.
“We were very much recording everything live, even the vocals. I think working with Theo and the way he’s so picky has made us write songs differently. The way we think about the impact of every tiny thing before we commit it to track now.
“We meticulously made sure every single note of the guitar riff was perfect.”
Conor: “We played it through 2bpm for like a day.”
Will you take approach looking ahead when you when you write new material?
Conor: “We have, that’s how we write. We make sure now everything is weaving and working perfectly. Exactly how we like it.”
Will: “We’ve definitely thought it out a lot more now. We’re not just clashing, it’s not just raw energy. It’s more considered and measured, the way we think about instruments and the way songs are structured and Theo’s played quite a big part in that.”
You mentioned you live in the same house. Have you had time to work on material during lockdown?
Conor: “We’ve written an album and a half worth’s of material. The first round of it.”
Will: “It’s been quite liberating not having to work. I’ve been wanting to write anyway. In one way it’s held us back not having to practise as a band. We’ve had hours and hours to jam through ideas.”
You’re releasing a limited run of cassettes for the single, which will have remixes on from each of you. Are they a snapshot of lockdown life for each one?
Will: “It’s reflecting on all the music everyone has been working on in lockdown. Barn has been working on a drum ’n’ bass thing – he’s got really into drum and bass suddenly, which he never was before lockdown.”
Conor: “Out of nowhere Barn was really good at making drum ’n’ bass.”
Will: “Sam’s made a techno version. I’ve been making a lot of 80s style New Order stuff. Dan’s done a Johnny Cash impersonation basically. It came out really well, actually.”
Conor: “I do sound at Uni. Mine is all made up of different sound effects using different objects around the house. Like deodorant cans crashing together, or ripping paper and stuff like that.”
Will: “We’ve probably got too much time on our hands.”
Redevelopment came out earlier this year and it got a lot of support from the likes of new music champions Huw Stephens and Matt Wilkinson. How pleased are you as an emerging band to have that support behind you?
Conor: “I think it’s amazing. I never thought we’d ever get played on radio. It’s very shocking and flattering that they consider it good enough to put it on there.”
Will: “We always wanted to be on Radio 6. That was such a big one for us. We’ve always listened to it. It was quite surreal, sitting around the radio in our front room thinking ‘how is this happening?’”
Conor: “My girlfriend’s mum was listening to the Tom Robinson show and we came on she was like ‘what! I didn’t know you guys were on this’. It was surreal.”
Will: “It’s lovely to know the change of direction has worked so well.”
Who’s the primary songwriter? Or is it a collective effort?
Will: “I used to write most things but that’s another thing with a new project. Everything has become more connected. Especially living together. It has changed the way we write so much. We can write all the time.
“Conor’s had so much more input now. Barnaby sings now, he writes songs and lyrics. It definitely feels a lot more connected.”
Conor: “It’s a creative project anyway. We’re not blocking out people’s creative freedoms. If we give Dan a drum part, it’s almost expected he would change it to how he thinks would work better.”
Are you doing Zoom sessions with each other?
Conor: “It never works that well with all the latency. It’s just playing along to the demos we share.”
Will: “I think most people haven’t been able to do proper live sessions.”
Conor: “Unless they live together. Feet did a great live video.”
Will: “I will look forward to playing as a band again but I think that’s going to be quite a while yet.”
You must be itching to start playing again?
Will: “We really want to play a gig.”
Conor: “We were going to tour the EP launch but now that’s all been put on hold, which is really gutting. There was going to be a European stint and around the UK, it would have been great.”
Will: “We have so many songs we want to road test! We might have written loads of material that sounds awful when we play it together.”
What can we expect from the EP when it comes out?
Will: “Two of the songs are from a bit earlier on, at the tail end of playing as Haze. The third track, Chugging, is a bit more abrasive but it’s quite all over the place. It’s quite ramshackle but has the clockwork ticking, it’s more mechanical.”
Conor: “It’s cleverly written in a weird time signature.”
Will: “Raoul is quite upbeat but lyrically quite dark. That’s a fun song that’s always been fun to play live. The final track is one we all sing together and we recorded that sat around in a room. It was really fun. The EP is feel-good. It’s upbeat. It’s coming out on Alcopop! records which is really nice. “
Conor: “It’s a surreal thing, people wanting to get involved in that respect.”
How supportive are Alcopop! as a label?
Will: “They’re really lovely and so positive. They’re so free. They back you whatever you do. They’re very excited to come up with cool idea for releases and plan out long term in the future, which is nice to think. There’s a sense of growing.”
Conor: “They’ve been welcoming, and that’s important. There’s a long term plan, rather than ‘we’re going to play a few gigs here’.”
Who are your main influences as a band?
Conor: “There’s a diverse music taste in the band. Generally it’s Talking Heads, we really like them.”
Will: “Sam is into a lot of world music. Devo. We really like Parquet Courts, Television, Pavement. XTC. British new wave. Barn’s into a lot of rap, Dan’s into lots of country and jazz. It’s quite diverse.”
You’re part of this great new charge of UK acts coming out, are there any ones that you’re into and are maybe close to? I know you’ve toured with a few.
Will: “We’re really close to Egyptian Blue. We’ve been playing with them at small London pubs for years and day festivals. Now they’re popping off and doing so well.”
Conor: “They’re really good, lovely guys.”
Will: “We’re really into Lazarus Kane. They originated in Bristol. We’ve known them a while.”
Conor: “Then there’s Theo’s band, Public Body. They’re really, really good.”
Will: “I quite like Courting’s new stuff. We sort of met over Instagram messages. They invited us to join their Minecraft server! They are really nice guys. I really like their new single David Byrne’s Bad Side.”
What’s the Bristol scene like?
Conor: “It’s really supportive. You can play in a random pub you’ve never heard of and it will be completely rammed. Lots of people there to see bands they’ve never heard of before. It’s open minded.”
Will: “There’s a good community between bands as well. I came here for uni and as soon as I got here I met the guys from Lice. There was a whole thing happening. It was the basis for me learning more about Bristol music.
“There’s no rules for the Bristol scene. Everyone is doing something so different. Bands of completely different genres playing together. There’s no set parameters.”
You’ve supported Shame and Sports Team, what have you taken from supporting them?
Will: “Those bands are so supportive, Sports Team and Shame. They let us support them based on a friendship, doing you a favour, which is so nice. Their live shows are insane. You learn quite a lot from that.”
What are your plans for the rest of the year and do you have an ultimate goal with Home Counties?
Will: “Looking ahead we will get the EP out. We’ve got loads of new material ready to go. We’ve got a second EP written and demoed. We will go back into the studio and get that out.
“It will be another departure of sound of what the current EP will sound like. It will be more dancy.”
Conor: “It’s bringing in the Confidence Man a little bit. Not going down that route completely but you can hear it in there.”
Will: “It’s an intense, Remain in Light era of dance. We will continue making music and if we can get something recorded and out next year. Hopefully this will blow over soon and we can get out gigging.”
Conor: “I will really like to do an album. It’s going to be exciting when it opens up again. I’m sure we’re not the only band with loads more material.”
Home Counties’ Redevelopment EP is out on September 4 via Alcopop! Records. New single Dad Bod is out now.