Various Cruelties are a collective coming up so fast you'd think they'd been dosed with helium and with good reason. Displaying a huge amount of initiative alongside extraordinary songwriting prowess left their self published debut sold out like the hottest of hotcakes. Latest single 'Chemicals' is perhaps one of the best indie releases of the year, fusing a psychadelic sound with an influence of northern soul. Before they blow up we caught up with singer and songwriter Liam O'Donnell for a bit of a chin wag...
Nice to meet you Liam, for those who don't already know, introduce the band!
We are Various Cruelties obviously! I'm Liam I sing and play a bit of guitar, we have Adam who is lead guitarist, Beanie who plays the bass and Dean who plays drums.
So what was it that bought all you guys together to form the band?
I myself am from Leeds originally and I'd just moved down to London where I started getting around, playing gigs and writing songs. To put it simply I just met the other guys, we became friends and they were excited about the possibility of doing something together. We had quite a lot of the songs already written so from there it was simply a matter of reworking the arrangements and putting things together.
You formed just a year ago, how would you sum up the first 12 months as a snapshot of your career?
It's been a bit of whirlwind. That's a good thing though, we wouldn't have imagined how far we've come. Funnily enough we were stood outside The Silver Bullet in Finsbury Park about a year ago just chatting about what we were going to do. If I'd said to them that just a year later we'd have the oppurtunity to go to LA to do a record and that we'd be going on Jools Holland, they would have thought I was being a bit of a dickhead!
Are excited to be playing the show alongside Lou Reed and Metallica?
It's pretty mind blowing, I mean it doesn't get much busier than that really.
Your first few records were self released, what was it that inspired you to take that route?
We were fortunate enough that we'd done some demos quite early on, that was pretty much our first work together as we collaborated on them before we were even a band. It was literally just us in a studio working on the songs for a couple of days at a time. Adam and Dean had been in a couple of bands before so they were used to working with one another - it helped a lot that everyone worked well together. From that we ended up doing one of our first gigs with The Vaccines, we'd seen what had happened with them as there rise was pretty quick as well. A little bit later, around Christmas we just thought, why not? The blogs including yours were giving us great feedback so we thought if we just do 500 copies of the single and see what happens, just try and do it by word of mouth you know? Yeah and we sold them out so...
Northern soul has been named as one of your influences, what do you feel has shaped your music?
Well, when I was in Leeds a lot of my friends used to put on northern soul nights, some of my earliest memories are being at those events. But it wasn't just like I woke up one day and decided I liked northern soul, it was just all my friends went to the nights and I just wanted to hang around with my mates. Through that I slowly got really into it. My soul influences are pretty general though, people like Etta James and Aretha Franklin. There is a big soul scene up north, so it wasn't one person that influenced me but just being around the music and the scene itself.
'Chemicals' your latest single has a vaguely psychadelic vibe to it, tell us about your original songwriting intentions.
My intentions for the song reflect the fact that I'd just moved down to London where I had that feeling you get when you move out of your comfort zone and begin to question things. I'm fine now obviously. But when you first move away from home you seem to think differently about your surroundings, probably for the first time in your life. So the song is essentially me questioning what was going on at the time in my head, but a good way of looking at it.
The album comes out in spring, is there anything you might like to let slip?
Our first single was a little bit pop orientated, so on the full record it's definetly going to be a little bit darker, there'll be a few surprises. I can't say too much, but we've only shown a little bit of what we're capable of so far - writing an album is allowing us to fully unveil what we are capable of. People should find it interesting as its been so exciting to get in the studio where we can take the time to broaden our sound.
Tony Hoffer (Beck, Goldfrapp, Foster the People) is producing your debut, what has he been like to work with?
To be honest it's been pretty fantastic! We started working with Tony in London to do three tracks, which the label were pretty happy with so they suggested we go to LA to finish it. Obviously for a band that is pretty early on, even with working with a label, the prospect of going to LA was pretty exciting. We basically spent a month in Hollywood seeing what life is like over there, it was really interesting. We played a couple of gigs went to a few bars and saw a few famous people.
Your tour is due to start in January, anywhere in particular you're looking forward to playing?
Everywhere is where we are looking forward to playing. We just want to perform for as many people as possible gain some new fans! Our last few gigs in London though have been really good which has been very exciting. I'm also really excited to be playing a gig in my hometown of Leeds.
To end on a high, tell us something truly mental that has happened along your travels.
Gosh, well we ended up at a party with Miss USA and a WWE wrestler Martin Cassius, Beanie basically got bodyslammed by the wrestler in front of Miss USA and he asked for this! It was pretty bloody epic!