It must suck being a teenager today. It sucked enough in the mid-00’s, but at least there was no Instagram then, no existential terror generated by your friends failing to like your selfies, and no potential for a nuclear winter ahead of exam season.
I envy younger millennials one thing though, and that’s having Rat Boy to soundtrack their youth. Essex scruff-bag Jordan Cardy, who was a teenager himself when he released SIGN ON back in 2015, has finally given us SCUM, a fifty-eight minute riot tuned to Teenager FM, and it’s fucking brilliant.
The full-length tears through everyday skits (“I’ve just got to nip up the Co-Op…I think they’ve got a working cash machine”) and serious political realities (“we’re not so far from World War Three”) in a thickly-accented vernacular that’s as British as the Burberry check moped featured as cover art.
With clattering drums, mangy guitar parts and a fuzzy thread of tech-inspired sound effects, Rat Boy and co. imitate the chaos of modern life, their mucky bops jumping up and down on your brain in scuffed Vans.
Cutting through all the noise comes Cardy’s Jamie T-esque vocal, which is complicit in the fucked up rituals of modern youth while simultaneously acting as its mentor.
To wit, album opener TURN ROUND M8 (whose title couldn’t be more British if it came wrapped in newspaper), advises its listeners to “turn around, walk away” from confrontation (though not by Cardy himself, as if he himself isn’t quite there yet). Despite this, the track’s opening line “the cunt stunk of skunk” makes sure we know that this LP isn’t going to be some sort of advice pamphlet your conservative aunt would approve of.
Instead, SCUM is the mate that will debate homelessness with you, before nicking three bottles of liquor out of their parent’s cupboard.
Sitting at the centre of Britain’s working and lower middle-class, this is an album held together by under-desk chewing gum and the sticky carpet in your local Wetherspoons.
It travels through apathy (MOVE), political unrest (BOILING POINT) and the disintegration of relationships (ILL BE WAITING), via skittish interludes voiced over by Grand Theft Auto voice Lloyd Floyd.
This, as well as the fact that it’s an LP charged by little nostalgia traps, like the Nokia jingle and the sound of a USB ejecting, makes SCUM a tribute to modern youth, Burberry check and all.
At their headline show at The Finsbury on Friday 26th May, I spoke to Sidonie (drums) and Henry (guitar) of The Orielles.
I want to ask you guys about politics, but let’s start off with music: can you talk me through your new single I Only Bought it for the Bottle?
Sidonie: it’s about the idea of narcissism and buying products at face value. The idea came from when we watched the film Neon Demon by Nicholas Winding Refn, which is about modelling agencies and how they produce blindsided models.
How about 8-minute blinder Sugar Tastes Like Salt? What journey did that song take?
Henry: Each part was written at different times when we were all listening to different music. It was written over the span of three years. One day we hope to do the full half an hour’s worth of every Sugar ending we’ve ever come up with.
Did you hope the song would challenge people’s shortening attention spans?
Sidonie: It was always a risk. But it was a risk that we were prepared to take.
Henry: I don’t see why you should shorten a song. You insult people’s intelligence by only giving them 3 minutes of a song.
What are your hopes for the election on June 8th?
Henry: A Labour majority. I went to see him [Jeremy Corbyn] in Hebden [Bridge] when he did his manifesto speech. The town hall got too full and there were loads of people queueing, so he went up to a balcony and did a second speech from there. Amazing guy.
How do you think you’ll feel on June 9th?
Henry: We’re going to do either three things [if Labour lose]: we’re either going to start a punk band, move to Canada, OR move to Glasgow and wait for the Scots to become independent.
And if Labour win?
Henry: Either way, I am going to have a mad’un: a celebration or a commiseration.
It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s birthday today.
Henry: Happy birthday, daddy!
What do you think he’d be like as a father figure?
Henry: He’d teach you life lessons from when you were young; he’d get you politically-active from a young age like it should be.
Should the voting age be lowered to sixteen?
Henry: Yeah. If 16 and 17 year olds could vote, it would be a completely different story. And there are people who are eighteen years-old who aren’t voting and I just can’t understand why. It stresses me out.
What is your opinion on how the press has been during the election campaigns?
Henry: – Awful. After seeing the Corbyn speech, I went to the local supermarket, and all of the newspapers had headlines like “Theresa May is for the Working Man.” The manifesto had been leaked and already Theresa May had used the press to take Labour’s strong points as her own. The fact that she’s not debating infuriates me. When I saw Corbyn do his speech, I just thought to myself, if people actually listened to what his manifesto is about, there’d be no way you’d vote Conservative. That’s why she’s not debating: she realises that Labour and their manifesto is actually something to be reckoned with, and that the majority of the UK don’t like being fucked by a government that they didn’t vote for.
Where were you when you heard about the bombing at the Manchester Arena?
Henry: I didn’t hear about it until the morning. And in the 24hr news cycle, I just heard more and more about it through the day. It was really nice to see Mancunians and people showing solidarity.
Sidonie: We saw so many promoters who said they’re going to keep the shows on because they wanted to prove that music is about love and sticking together. That’s the best thing to do in times like this; fight against it.
Henry: They want to divide us and keep us separate and scared and you just can’t let it happen can you. Music is such an effective form of escapism, and a gig is where people come together as a community. For someone to target as sacred a place as a gig really got to us on a personal level.
Let’s talk about vinyl: what does it mean to you guys?
Henry: It’s nice to fill your house or room with music played on a natural record.
Sidonie: You’re not just buying it to listen to; it’s something you can hold, and so much nicer than just a download.
Henry: Vinyl should be considered as a full piece of art; start to finish on both sides. We keep them close to our hearts. I’ll never forget the day we got test presses through for Sugar.
Do any records stand out as particularly special?
Sidonie: I always The Pastels, Slow Summits. It’s perfect for every occasion.
Henry: On tour, wherever we go, we just buy records. I came back off tour with 4 new LPs and 3 singles. Not only does it remind you of the tour, it reminds you of the town you got it in; how the gig was; what the weather was like; what beer was on the rider. It’s like getting a tattoo: a little time capsule of when you bought it.
Do you think that reissues damage sales of records by new bands?
Sidonie: I don’t think so, no. We buy both; I think true fans of music will definitely buy both.
Henry: I think that reissues are an amazing thing about modern day consumerism. For example, I bought the record by Donny & Joe Emerson, which is an album by two brothers recorded on a farm. Someone found it and reissued it for the whole world to hear. For people in our generation who have a love for music like that but can’t buy the records because they’re hundreds and hundreds of pounds, reissues are an amazing thing.
What do you think the industry can do to support young musicians, especially those in guitar bands?
Henry: Scrap pay-to-play shows completely.
Sidonie: I think that the most money nowadays is in going to gigs, so maybe make them a little bit cheaper to encourage more people to go and to buy merch. From touring, we’ve realised that we don’t make much money from the gigs: it’s all from the merchandise.
Henry: This might not be a good idea but: record live shows because a young band starting out will not have the money for studio time and to be able to put songs out there for people to actually listen to. So if you record a set and chop it up into the songs and release that, that’s a really easy way for bands to get their songs online.
Edited and shortened for clarity. A version of this interview first appeared here on Flying Vinyl.