“I think half the charm of the band is that we’re from Manchester, but the music sounds like LA”- An Interview with Josh Noble from Larkins

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Larkins are a four piece alt-pop band from Manchester, who have continued to release music throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period. As well as releasing the catchy single, ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ alongside an epic music video, the band have been connecting with fans through various social media platforms and livestreams. I got the chance to find out what Josh Noble, the band’s lead singer, has been been up to during this time.

How are you finding the easing out of lockdown?

A little strange. It was weird having spent so much time apart; we’ve been together for four years, toured together, and I live with Dom, the guitarist, so we spend every living day with each other, so for it to then just stop for 10 weeks, and to then start again, it was a bit of a mindfuck. I don’t know man, it’s weird not being able to tour, that’s the biggest thing- not being able to play live shows.

Is there a particular aspect of playing live shows that you’re mainly missing?

Well where we grew up in this little town called Glossop, half an hour outside of Manchester, there was never any sense of community or togetherness. It’s quite a conservative, right wing, little bubble of a town. So when we go on tour, and get to be in a room with people that are all there for the same common cause- to enjoy an hour of escapism, it’s the only sense of community that I’ve ever felt. Our last tour was 40 days, so it was like an injection of togetherness every night. So I’m craving that; that’s probably the biggest thing.

Was it just a UK tour that you did last year?

Yeah, we did a UK tour basically everywhere you can go; from Aberdeen to Brighton. We had just started our US tour- we played Toronto in Canada, got to New York, and then COVID-19 hit, so we came back!

It’s lucky that you managed to get back though! Was it difficult to get home?

Yeah a bit. We were in Toronto, and our label called and were like, “We really think you should come home”, but we were supposed to have 5 weeks of touring from New York, the east coast to the west coast, to LA, so I was a bit like, “Oh it’s a test to see if we can handle it, we can handle it, I’m not going home”. And then we got to New York, went out in Times Square the morning before the show, and there was like 10 people! So we were like, “Shit, maybe this is actually really serious”.

The Toronto gig was fun, but weird being that far away from home and still having people coming to see the show. There was only like maybe 50 people, but still, for that many people to come and see you in Canada, was still a mindfuck; like woah, I can’t believe people know who we are.

Was there a highlight of the UK tour for you?

God, we had so many good shows; I think this was the first tour that had sold out. Leeds is always good, I really like playing there. The Liverpool show was a riot, like a house party, it was nuts. I don’t know though, we did some big shows. The London show was amazing. It’s weird especially being a Manchester band; people are always like, “Don’t go to London, it’s not gonna work, no one in London likes Manchester bands”, so that was nice for people to come out.

So you released ‘Are We Having Any Fun Yet?’ (AWHAFY) during lockdown. Have you still been writing and producing too during this time?

Yeah, I’ve tried to get to a point where I feel like I have my version of the album done, so I’ve got 20 tracks finished and produced the way I want them, and now it’s a case of taking them to the label. People keep saying that lockdown has been terrible, and for us it has been as well, and obviously in the grand scheme of things with people dying, it’s the worst thing, but for us musically, without lockdown, I never would’ve had the time to do it. In this period of the band, with every free moment we just wanna be playing and touring, meeting people and going to the US. So for me to sit down for 10 weeks, just with a laptop, and not leave until I had an album finished, it was kind of nice to get in that headspace. And its our debut record, so its got to be right.

Have you got a scheduled release date for the album?

Well we thought we’d never be able to release a track in lockdown, but AWHAFY has been the most successful we’ve ever been, so I don’t know. I’d like to think the end of the year, but I think with everything that’s going on, I kind of want to start 2021 fresh.

So your UK tour has been postponed till December?

Right now it has been yeah, but some of those shows are pretty big, so we’ll see what happens. Safety’s first, so as long as we can do it safely.

Have you got any other touring plans for next year?

I think the plan is just to get to the US as fast as possible. That’s where I wanna be. Everyone I want to work with and who I have worked with are in LA. I think half the charm of the band is that we’re from Manchester,  but the music sounds like LA, and that’s the vibe that I want. I think that’s where the gap is, I don’t know anyone who’s doing that.

How have you found releasing music during lockdown?

Weird! Everyone’s been saying with AWHAFY, that it’s good that it makes sense in the times that we’re in, but it was always due to come out, we just moved it forward a little bit cause it felt like we needed to. We’ve just found new ways to do things. I think you have to adapt, we just needed to find new ways to get to people and to spread it. With the way that we’ve always done things through social media, like Instagram or TikTok, even when we first started, we’ve made a conscious effort to try and know as many people as we could that were coming to shows, or at least had some kind of connection.

So to then have that foundation of people behind us, even if it’s like 1000 people that you know are with you, it’s been nice to have them on board, and to say, “Look we’re in the shit a bit because of this situation, we need some help”. And it’s been the best we’ve ever released, and I think first and foremost it’s been the best song I’ve ever written. I think it’s the best song we’ve got so far, which helps. We made a real conscious effort to make sure that the aesthetic was perfect; I wanted to make it look right with the video.

What was the original message behind AWHAFY that you had in mind before it was released?

I finished it London, so I had gotten the train down and spent a couple of days at the Church studio, the Paul Epworth studio, and someone from our label said I should go and meet this guy called Dan Nigro from LA, who’s working with Conan Gray. So we sat in this tiny little writing room together, and rather than spending a day, we ended up booking out a whole week cause we just got on so well. It was the time of the Brexit vote, and one morning I’d gotten on the underground at Finsbury park, and this couple opposite me were arguing, shouting really aggressively, and you know how sometimes on the underground you get that horrible screeching noise? Well they couldn’t hear each other anymore cause of this noise, so they had to just sit there and wait. I remember taking my headphones off and waiting for them to start again.

I got into the studio and Dan asked what had happened that morning, and I was like “The weirdest thing just happened on the tube, she was just waiting for the sound of the train to stop”, and then that became the first line of the song. After that, we finished the first verse, and I had the hook of ‘Are we having any fun yet’. Dan suggested to just go and walk around London to finish writing it, and then it was done within two weeks.

Ah I love that! The music video is also amazing, where did the idea for that come from?

With our head of creative, Stella Foster, who I work really closely with daily, we’d sent out the idea and lyrics to a few different people, and then people came back with their ideas. This one idea came back from these two directors called Grandmas. I had said I wanted to wonder around London in the evening, it should be dark and narrative, so I’d sent them a few references and really cinematic stuff; I’d been shooting loads of stuff on a 35mm camera, cause I loved the look of it. They came back and were like “We want to do it at night, we want to shoot it on film, we want it to be really cinematic, we want you to get hit by this car”, and and I was just sold, like that’s exactly what I was thinking! It was fucking nuts; the stunt man was like the bravest man I’ve ever met.

How would you say that this single compares to your earlier work, like Hit and Run? Would you say the song writing process has changed?

I think I’ve definitely been more reflective and personal, and see myself as a songwriter rather than a musician. I think when you’re growing up, you just want to be this big band that all your mates want to come and watch, and we tried to do that with Hit and Run. Me and Dom especially grew up listening to Foals, as well as Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats; that was all we listened to in school. And then I think I got more influenced by bands like Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and then Haim came along, and then Bon Iver, who is my biggest influence ever. So I think with Hit and Run, it still felt like young boys trying to be an indie rock band. We met a guy called Chris Zane, who works with Friendly Fires, and he was like, “You could try these synths”, and for the first time, with AWHAFY, it’s how we wanna sound, that Manchester/LA thing. So I think it is slightly different; I’m more of a songwriter now. It feels a bit bolder, like we’re less bothered about what everyone thinks. For a single, it’s quite slow and dark with swearing, and usually people would be like, “That’s not a single”, but for the first time we’ve known this is what we want to do.

Have the responses from fans been what you hoped?

I hope so. We played a demo version on tour a year ago when we first had the idea, and I remember people being like, “What the fuck, this is so cool!”. So I think from that point I knew it would work, and I’m glad it did. I felt like I had to seriously convince people that it was the one to release, so it was a big relief, cause if it didn’t work, it was on me.

How would you describe the genre of Larkins to someone who had never listened to you?

I would always say alt-pop I guess. I like the idea of us being a pop band now. If you had asked me when I was 14, I would’ve been like, “Oh my god no!”, but now I’m into it. I like the idea of us being alt-pop and dark and cynical. We’ve tried to breach out to different things, like our fashion brand, or the way that we tour, or the way that we try and spread a message of something. I don’t know man, I don’t know how to describe us.

It’s weird isn’t it, how it’s quite a common thing for bands to not want to be associated with the pop genre label? I feel like it is embraced a lot more now though.

All the bands that do that as well, are always like, “Yeah I’m really not into pop, I just like David Bowie”, and I’m like, he’s like the biggest pop icon ever; it’s so frustrating.

Finally, for readers who have never listened to Larkins, what would you want the first song of yours to be that they hear?

I’d say AWHAFY.

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Psychology student who spends all of their maintenance loan on gig tickets:)

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