Interview: Bull

Leonie Bellini interviews rising York indie quartet, Bull.

Leonie Bellini
16th December 2020
Image credit: Chuff Media

Via the magic of Zoom, I caught up with Dan from rising York indie rockers Bull, as they gear up for their debut album.

Hiya! How’s quarantine been treating you and the band?

It’s been alright! It’s obviously disappointing not being able to play gigs, it’s been a bit boring but we’ve been able to keep meeting up to practice and write and demo so that’s kept me sane.

You’ve got a livestream gig coming up, how are you feeling about performing online?

We had a run through and it does feel weird to know that people are watching but you can’t see them, and so weird when you finish a song and it’s just dead silent. It is strange and a very different experience, I guess we could get used to it with practice.

It’s such a different platform to engage with fans.

We’ve had to really step up our social media game! That’s the only way we can interact with people at the moment.

What’s the music scene like back home in York?

It’s really good, there’s an amazing number of bands considering the size of the city, and there’s some really good venues as well. There’ve been loads over the years that’ve come and gone, but the main venue at the moment, one of our favourites is the Crescent Community Club, a working men’s club a bit like the Brudenell in Leeds. Our friend Joe Coates does a lot of the booking there and he’s a really good promoter so there’s a lot of good stuff going on. There’s also the Fulford Arms which is slightly smaller and great for bands starting out.

Yeah, I was gonna travel down to see Sorry there!

The Fulford Arms seems to get a lot of big bands considering its small size, like Happyness and The Orielles, so there’s a lot of good music coming through.

What’s next in terms of music for Bull?

We finished recording the album just before the first lockdown, it was very lucky timing. We’re releasing it sometime next year, hopefully around March, and that’ll include all the songs from the Love Goo EP.

Are there new tracks you’re particularly excited for people to hear?

Not technically new ones, most of the songs we’ve been working on for a few years, but there’s some that got lost to time and then we rehashed them in the studio. I’m really excited and happy with how they’ve turned out, and excited for them all to be properly released after so long.

How does it feel revisiting these old songs? Do you feel like you’ve learnt a lot and grown over the course of the band?

Definitely. I feel like in terms of studio recording we’ve learnt a lot; this album wasn’t recorded in a set period, it was probably six or seven trips over about two years where we recorded a few songs at a time, since we record in Amsterdam. So when we first started recording these songs, we didn’t really know if it was going to end up as an album or singles.

Over time we’ve got better at being in the studio and knowing how to effectively manage your time, cos you can get a bit lost, spending hours on a keyboard part that you end up scrapping! So hopefully for the second album we’re going to book a chunk of time and do the more traditional approach where you just lock yourself in and get it all done

Do you have a set idea of what the songs will end up sounding like when you enter the studio?

We’ve mostly worked them all out in practice and demos before we go in, but we do a fair bit of arranging and thinking of new parts in the studio. We record in IJIland with Remko Schouten, and he’s the live sound engineer for Pavement, a really cool guy with loads of great ideas. The studio itself is amazing, it’s got lots of pianos and keyboards we wouldn’t usually have access to so we end up getting carried away with percussion and other instruments while we’re there.

We just try and have as much fun as we can and not get too serious or bogged down in the detail.

How’s the group dynamic in the studio, working together as four people?

We have a bit of back-and-forth; we don’t seem to argue or fall out much, though maybe I’m remembering just the good bits! But I think we just try and have as much fun as we can and not get too serious or bogged down in the detail. We generally agree and have similar tastes, we always say: if something’s good, it’s good, and if it’s bad, it’s funny, so you can’t really lose!

Capturing the energy of a live show on a record is so important! So back to basics, why are you called Bull?

I think our friend Liam suggested the name when me and Tom started the band in 2011, we were in sixth form and high school, so we were pretty young. I don’t think we thought we’d still be doing it now or taking it seriously! I think we still try not to take anything too seriously, but Bull just seemed like a fitting name for what we wanted to do, it’s very fun. I’ve never thought of it as an abbreviation of ‘bullshit’ but that’s definitely hinted at! I think it sums up what we’re going for.

Do you have particular goals you’re aiming for as a band?

I do have personal goals, I’d like to play Glastonbury; we go every year to work, so I’d like to go one year and not have to work! We all want to see the world while touring, about two weeks after Tom and Kai joined the band we decided to go on a trip to Paris and just try and get as many gigs as we could, and busk when we couldn’t get any. Any excuse just to get away and travel is always good!

It’s so hard to recreate that spontaneous energy in lockdown!

I know, I definitely miss it. It’s kind of forced us to consider other areas, so we’ve been practicing writing a lot more. The songs now are maybe more considered, and the arrangements more grown up.

For sure! They still have that summery, youthful energy but the musicality is developed. Your most recent release, Love Goo, especially. Were there any particular love songs that inspired that?

Tom writes all the songs so I can’t know the deep influences, but I think that song was partly inspired by a film he watched, about a guy stranded on a island, and also partly inspired by feelings of love and nostalgia for family and friends. I like the message of that song, it’s wholesome and fun.

What fun are you looking forward to?

We’re extremely excited to share the album with people, some of the songs have been works in progress for over six years, so it feels like a really nice release to be getting them out into the world. And definitely looking forward to gigging again!

Follow Bull on Instagram, and be sure to check out their Spotify!

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