“The most important thing is that we’re all still best mates” – An interview with Our Time Down Here

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A year after the split of Southampton’s wall-of-sound that was Kerouac (RIP), Our Time Down Here have also called it a day. Massively underrated, but undeniably one of the best underground bands to come out of the city in recent years, they announced that after nearly eight years, four records and hundreds of shows, the ever approaching end had come.

After I ran into them at a show I played three years ago in Portsmouth, they have gone from strength to strength, playing Hevy Fest in 2012 after the release of their second LP Midnight Mass. This week marks their last run of shows, hitting the UK with Aberdeen negi-hardcore behemoths Grader and acoustic dude The Lion And The Wolf. I met up with vocalist Will and guitarist Ian at the skatepark a couple of weeks ago to get the story behind their breakup and find out what they had in store after the week-long funeral procession.

The most obvious question is why are you splitting up? I don’t like ‘splitting up’ because it kind of has negative connotations. Maybe ‘stopping being a band’…

Will: Yeah, it’s not like that at all. One of the guys in our band, Gary, he’s a little bit older than the rest of us, he’s older than me and Ian by quite a lot. And he’s been doing this from the very start. I joined a year into its existence and Ian joined…three years in? So Ian’s been in the band for three years now. And he basically said, “I’ve reached a point in my life now, where I love this, I don’t want to be doing anything else, but I can’t keep up at the pace my life’s going, it’s just two different things,” and we didn’t want to be one of those bands that have a million different members…

Ian: Yeah, like we were saying earlier on, you kind of lose everything because you’ve got a revolving door of members.

W: It really sucks because this year we were offered some really cool stuff, some really big stuff, the biggest stuff that we’ve ever been offered. We never thought in a million years it would come up. It was really exciting, we were like “Ah cool, we’re going to do some really crazy shit this year, it’s going to be nuts.” And he said “I should be really stoked on all this stuff, y’know, but I’m not, I just can’t do it.” And both of us said we didn’t want to replace him because he’s one of our best mates and, for me, OTDH is just a bunch of guys. If we didn’t have that bunch of guys then it would be four guys in OTDH and somebody else. I just didn’t want to do that.

I: That was one of the main reasons, wasn’t it?

W: That was the only reason really for me. That was paramount. If Gary didn’t want to leave then I would have carried on and done another record. We’d already written two songs for it. We would have done that second record that they were asking us to do. So basically the reason we’re splitting up is because we’re not one of those fucking stupid metalcore bands that just wants to make it big, that’s not our priority. We’re a hardcore band – a punk band? I don’t know what we do, we do something, we’re a band. Our integrity and our ethics are paramount.

I: And I guess everything evolved so naturally in the past couple of years, and that kind of just happened, and it would have been going against the grain to just carry on and get somebody else. It would just be wrong.

W: It wouldn’t be right. I mean we’re going to do other stuff, we’re doing a new band, we’re working on stuff at the moment. It’s not going to be ready for a little while yet, because we haven’t ‘started again’ for a long time, and we just started writing, me and Ian have been writing together. But the most important thing is that we’re all still best mates, and we’re all still tight as fuck. It’s just, OTDH can’t carry on anymore, and we’ve done four records, that’s it. Our bassist and drummer left just after we did Midnight Mass. We always knew they were going to leave, and we couldn’t tour it so we found some new dudes to play and they became part of the band. And I thought, “I don’t want to be one of those bands”, that’s lame as shit.

I: It is really hard when you get to a point as a band where you have to make the decision between putting every ounce of your energy into it, and still balancing making a living. Because it’s really hard to stay at home and work to fund it, but by the same token it’s really hard to be away on tour constantly and make a living from that. So there’s a barrier that you have to cross.

For me it’s a shame because although your first LP Live, Love, Let Go is one of my favourite records, at the same time, with Midnight Mass you can hear that almost coming together from listening to it, but it’s good to know that the reasons for stopping being a band are those reasons.

W: The weirdest thing about it is that it sucks because it’s not that we’re sick of doing OTDH…

I: …Because we’re super-stoked on carrying on with a lot of things…

W: …If things weren’t the way they were, if Gary wasn’t the age that he is and could keep up with the amount of work. We’re very lucky, the work we’ve put in over the years – we’re very privileged just to be able to be offered things quite a lot of the time, and we don’t want to say no to all those people. We don’t want to be a band, just because one guy can’t do it, that is working at half-rate. If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it at full-speed-ahead all the time, and that’s what OTDH has always done in the past. We couldn’t bear to have something get slower and slower and just fizzle out. As much as I was so excited about doing a new record, we had all these cool ideas, what we’re doing now is taking some of those ideas and moving them forward into something we’re gonna do next. I think it’s gonna be a lot moodier this new band. It’s cool to start again because no-one can have preconceptions of what you’re gonna be like or what you should do, you have complete creative control. And I think OTDH has always been about having that regardless of circumstances or the consequence. So I’m excited about doing something different.

It’s great to hear that you’ve got more stuff going on.

W: We’ve sacrificed a lot to be able to do this. I didn’t go to university – I got into university in London, I was gonna go up there and do events management, I was an art student before, and I put it off to do LLLG, and Ian dropped out of uni. We’re both very under-qualified kids that are really into art, but we’ve sacrificed an awful lot of our lives; it’s affected every single relationship I’ve ever had in my life. Me and Ian used to sofa-surf when we were going on tour, because we had nowhere to live for months and months. So to think about not doing music is the weirdest thing, because that’s all we’ve ever known. Since I was fifteen I’ve been involved in going to hardcore shows, but even before that, I went to punk shows at Joiners, going to all sorts of things, and I’ve been playing with this band for six years now, it’s just crazy.

I: It’s so long!

W: So I just don’t know anything else, this is all I know. Me and Ian are still stoked on playing together. I feel like I searched a lot of my life trying to find the right dude to write songs with – we were mates before for ages but we’d just never written together – and when we first sat down to write we were on the same wavelength and we knew what sort of music we wanted to make. And regardless of what people would say – our critics would probably say that we sound like AFI, Alkaline Trio, or a hybrid of those two bands – I would argue that we take a really outdated style, and those ideas, and we try to put a new light on them. In a world that everything’s been so stripped back in terms of hardcore, it’s all so black and white, I kind of miss some of the theatrical elements of bands like The Damned, The Misfits, those punk bands that were storytellers. Crafting those sort of punk songs that are dramatic and over-the-top, and when you first listen to them they’re in different worlds, you go to a different place entirely, they take you on a journey. And we’re still not there yet but we’re getting to a part where those ideas can be realised, and we can start to put those songs together. I don’t think we’re ever gonna stop doing this.

The band will be playing one more show at the end of summer at WTFest V in Southampton. Check them out before you miss out on the most exciting UK punk bands of the past few years. Although this is the end of Our Time Down Here, Will and Ian are working on material for a new band, so keep your ears and eyes peeled!

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