They hail themselves as, “A singer that can't sing, a mod that can't play bass and a drummer that can't see.” But what this three-piece from Derry can do is knock out a punk record with a furiously contemporary political bite, and a sound that could have been transported straight from the hallowed arena of The Casbah.
The upcoming single ‘Sold Out’ erupts in the distorted, spittle marked anaphora that they’ve inherited from The Clash. It’s a sub-2-minute, three-fingered chord reminder that there’s still a lot to thrust a Stratocaster shaped placard at, even though you may ‘try to tell yourself that things would change.’ Or, as the band themselves would describe their music, it's “social and political commentary from three ballbags’ point of view.”
I’m on the phone with Matthew, the singer who can’t sing, and Jason, the drummer who can’t see. “The bass player isn’t here because he’s away training to be a jockey,” they inform me. Their cheekily sardonic wit is matched throughout the interview by a propensity for crude humour, the word ‘ballbag’ becoming particularly recurrent, often serving as a charming reminder that these guys are still only 16, despite the apparent anachronism of their musical influences.
But for Touts, the incendiary spirit of their Northern Irish forefathers is indeed anything but outdated; bands like The Undertones and Stiff Little Fingers not ‘One by one becoming shades,’ but their songs remaining as politically acute today as when they were written. As Touts remind me, “You take stuff by Stiff Little Fingers, which was all about the troubles in Northern Ireland, and it’ll still be relevant to certain people, I mean anybody in Palestine or Syria; it might not be happening here but it’s still relevant.”
And the band’s listening habits stretch even further back in the musical timeline than punk, with influences coming from many other artists of their native Northern Ireland and beyond. “A lot of the folk artists were just punks, like The Dubliners,” they tell me. “It has the same philosophy, it doesn’t matter what chords you’re playing because it’s more about what you’re saying. Like who wrote The Revolution Will Not Be Televised? Fuck knows. One of the best fucking songs ever, whatever the fuck his name was.”
‘Sold Out’ will be the first single Touts release since signing with independent label Hometown Records. But until now the band has been making a name for themselves with riotous gigs and support slots throughout their home country. In fact, they were signed to Hometown after Phil Taggart of Radio 1 saw them playing at a bar in Derry. For Taggart it was, they tell me, “love at first sight.”
“You can’t beat playing a fucking shitehole of a bar upstairs near our home ground,” they reflect. “We’ve supported Blossoms in some decent Irish venues like Academy in Dublin or the Limelight in Belfast, but small venues where its anything goes, that’s where we’re at our best.”
You can see Touts live for yourself as tickets are now on sale for their first headline show in London at The Camden Assembly on 26 April. The band will release their single 'Sold Out' on 4 April.