“My life revolves around working, eating beans on toast, playing music and sleeping”: an interview with The Hyena Kill

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The Hyena Kill are a noisy rock duo from Manchester. Formed on the alternative DIY scene in the city, Steven Dobb (guitar, vocals) and Lorna Blundell (percussion) released their debut album Atomised in late May of 2016 to critical praise across the board. They have since played several support dates across Europe, opened the Jagermeister Stage at Bloodstock Open Air on Friday 12th August and, most recently, received a KKKK review in Kerrang! magazine. In October last year, ahead of their show at the now-closed Notes Cafe, Dobb and Blundell sat down for a talk about their roots and the shape of their music.

Hello! Well firstly, how did you guys meet and start playing music together?

Steven: We were both in different bands on the local Manchester music scene, we’d been hanging out and chatting and we both had the same type of music taste. We weren’t very happy with our bands at the time, were we?

Lorna: No, we had a jam at that house party, didn’t we?

S: Yeah we had a jam at a house party and thought “this is really cool”. Soon after we sorted a rehearsal space out and just started jamming, and eventually we ended up leaving both the bands that we were in at the time and pursued this one, it’s just been that way ever since.

What would you say your influences are, musically and non-musically?

S: Musically, it’s definitely the more edgier side, a lot of heavy rock like Deftones, Tool, Nirvana, and some punk. But it also ranges from pop music as well. As long as it’s good and it’s not complete Simon-Cowell-bullshit. As long as it’s got a good hook and you can tell it’s been well crafted, that’s the kind of pop music I like.

L: Yeah pretty much the same to be honest, I probably like pop a bit more than I like rock sometimes.

S: In terms of non-musical influences, I don’t really know because all sorts of things can influence you.

L: Life in general. I don’t know, someone’s asked us that before…

S: Yeah when I’m not doing music I watch a lot of films and read.

L: I’d say films, I took a film degree and just fucking hated them after that.

S: I don’t know if we’ve got any non-musical influences because there’s probably thousands but we just don’t know what they are.

You released your album in May, what was the reception of that like?

S: Well we self-released it after a pledge campaign and put it on our own label, Proud Cow Records. Buy it. And it was really good, really positive. There were a few tracks on there that we didn’t know if people who liked our music would respond to because they were a bit softer. But it’s gone down really well, we’ve had some really good reviews across the board and the fans really liked it. It’s spurred us on to keep touring.

L: The pledge campaign showed us that anyway, because we were really taken aback by it. We didn’t know many people that had done that pledge campaign, we didn’t know how much to ask for or if getting it was realistic. So the fan reaction to that was really eye opening. Plus it got reviews in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer.

S: It shows that you can self-release an album, you might not be able to get the distribution but you can certainly release it with that financial backing.

Are you going on to record anything else, or is that too soon to start thinking about?

S: We’re actually going to demo some brand new material in December. There should be plans to put out a track in the New Year, and we’re definitely taking steps towards a new album next year.

Do you have a preferred technique for writing and recording or do you just wing it?

S: It’s a bit of winging and jamming, because we spend a lot of time in the rehearsal space. We just go in and bust out a few ideas. Unless I’ve come up with something that I’m really happy with, it’ll usually get carved up anyway, it usually just comes from us playing together. Even if I come up with a riff Lorna will probably take it to pieces until there’s nothing left of that song.

L: Because some of his riffs are shit.

I’ve seen and heard people commenting about it being difficult to put you into a genre, do you think that matters?

S: People have said that a lot about us.

L: I think it’s a good thing.

S: We don’t bounce around, it’s not like one minute it’s Oasis and the next minute it’s Slayer. I think it’s just because it doesn’t have that fixed sound that people like. It doesn’t bother me.

L: Yeah it means we’re versatile about who we can play with and for.

S: It’s not a conscious thing, we don’t try to. You can definitely pick genres out from different riffs. It depends who we’re listening to at the time.

L: It does yeah. If we binge listen to Tool we get a bit experimental. But you can hear the pop influence as well in some of the songs.

S: I think it comes from all different angles, because of the amount of time we’ve been playing together. Plus I’d get bored, if we said “we’re doing this” then I’d be too conscious that I have to write in that style. I’d feel limited. So the next record is going to sound like Taylor Swift.

L: Yes!

What’s been your best experience with a fan?

S: We were playing in Poland supporting a Polish band that were a really big deal. And their fans were crazy, we didn’t think they’d really like us but they just went nuts even though they’d never heard us.

L: There was a whole lot of love when we went into the crowd. There was a queue for the merch stand and I thought “this is mad, I’ve got work in a coffee shop on Monday morning.”

S: One of my favourites with the pledge campaign was we gave a prize which was to have a drum lesson with Lorna, and these two people came…

L: Gill and Andy.

S: Yeah, Gill and Andy came up from London.

When you’re not recording or playing live shows what sort of stuff do you get up to?

L: We don’t have lives. I’ve just joined the gym, that’s my new thing.

S: I work in a cinema, so I watch films. I don’t really get up to much because my life revolves around working, eating beans on toast, playing music, and sleeping.

L: I give drum lessons every now and again, because I fucking hate my job.

S: We just threw ourselves into this band. Any spare time we have we tend to get quite drunk.

L: Yeah it has peaks, we’ll get pissed out of our face and then think “right this needs to stop”. Being in a band is a twenty four hour job so there’s always stuff to be doing and people to be pestering because we’re still very much DIY. If I’m sat on my arse doing nothing I feel guilty. Whether it’s doing my rudiments or emailing someone, you can’t just be idle.

S: It’s about managing the load.

L: Yeah. We got exhausted at one point. I felt like I was answering more emails than I was playing the drums, I thought “I’m not in a band to do this”. But it is part and parcel so you just have to accept it.

Have you noticed the experience of playing live shows changing as you’ve garnered more attention?

L: It has, they’re always busy. It’s just nice not to play to an empty room.

S: With some of them it’s nice because in the smaller venues you’re not miked up, you just turn up and make some noise in a tiny room. It reminds me of when we started out.

What would be your ideal venue and line-up, no limits at all?

S: We always say somewhere in the middle of Tool and Deftones. At Nottingham Rock City.

L: I’d be like, Taylor Swift opening, us in the middle and Beyonce headlining.

S: What venue?

L: Umm… the Notes Cafe.

S: With that calibre of line-up you’d have to have somewhere dead small.

L: Deaf Institute. Or the Castle? A 70 capacity venue in Manchester.

S: But Taylor Swift and Beyonce have got to perform with no production.

L: No that’d be awful. I take it back.

S: Forget what I said I want to see that happen, Taylor Swift and Beyonce in a tiny venue in Manchester.

Cool, well that’s it. Thanks very much!

Both: Thanks!

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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