For Hello Tomorrow round six, we’re getting to know Liverpool quartet SPQR a little better, starting with the cold, hard facts: the band is formed of Peter Harrison (vocals and guitar), Jack Sanders (bassist), Bex Denton (drums) and Connor Dickson (guitar, synth and vocals). They have already performed at renowned festivals such as Liverpool Sound City and Dot To Dot and have supported METZ and Mini Mansions, as well as touring the UK extensively. The four-piece are also about to release their third EP proper. Titled No Brain, No Pain, you can listen to it in full exclusively on Gigwise below.
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The product is a mesmerising and refreshing concoction of jagged guitars and jangly percussion. It’s art rock - but not by numbers. It strikes a healthy balance between uplifting and solemn, featuring a range of sounds which unfurl as a thrilling kaleidoscope of noise. Explaining the EP’s conception, Peter says, “Overall it's an EP written over a long time, and I think that shows! I learnt a lot from start to finish, and I think that shows too. I want to see it that way. It’s sentimental to me for that reason.” Hear No Brain, No Pain here:
Of the two previously unreleased tracks, both were recorded in record time. “These last two songs were done start to finish in the space of a week. It was nuts. And stressful. But fun. Then COVID-19 happened and rendered the rush pointless! But I’m glad we did it. ‘No Brain No Pain' is my favourite. It’s bouncy and it's really layered. I love the bassline. I love the djembe and all the percussion. I feel like it's texturally interesting, but as always it carries a very sombre message, it's a de-realisation. A lot of my songs are about this topic. I don’t really exist. I have no connection to anything around me and I float around - ‘No Brain, No Pain’. Recording was fun, Con had a big part in the production of this one. I loved working on it with him.”
Of course, as Peter touches upon, the impact of Coronavirus has been felt by every band on the planet. It’s interesting to hear how SPQR are dealing with the situation and adapting to the change in everyday life. “It may not seem like it but we’ve had a super intense couple of years with the band going absolutely non-stop, so the rest and relaxation for everyone else in the band is good. We were soldiering on but you could tell everyone was knackered,” Peter begins. “The conversations have already changed in the last few weeks from ‘surviving’ to ‘lets make something cool’. It’s also come around time to start thinking about our first album and I was terrified of how I was going to get that together with the touring schedule we had, but now I think I’ve almost got it all written and the themes and ideas are coming together. I am always very aware that unless I make a lot of money in music I may never get this kind of headspace and room for introspection ever again in my adult life. For me, it’s very hard to write a thoughtful album while you’re flying through the air with a rocket up your arse. Wouldn’t you agree?”
But even before COVID-19, the music industry has always shifted and progressed at a rapid rate, often leaving musicians behind that miss the boat. As a band that grapple with a variety of different sounds to create their own unique and refreshing sonic footprint, is the idea of genre classed as redundant in 2020? “Not at all. I think it’s never been more prevalent. It’s never been more connected with success. It’s never been a better time to be an online pop sensation, and it’s never been a worse time to be anything else. I worry that we are all being tricked by a clever marketing campaign that encourages us to be ‘unique’ but is ultimately making us all the same. I don’t know. I find it hard to put into words…”
Ending on a positive note, it’s encouraging to learn what Peter finds the best parts of being in a band. “Expression. Living outside of constraints that so many people drown in. It’s like ugly crying all the time but not feeling guilty for it. Not that you should feel guilty for ugly crying but I do because I’m fucked. Connection is wonderful. Connecting with yourself in such a primal and basic way. Experiences with friends. Touring and recording can both be very stressful things beset on all sides by difficulties and obstacles, but it’s a very quick way of making bonds and friends for life. You just go through so much together in such a small space of time that you start to love each other.”
And finally, the best piece of advice SPQR have been given to navigate the industry? “Listen. Take advice. Swallow pride and learn!”