Brighton's latest tour de force offer sonically-charged vocals amidst a maelstrom of instrumentation.
Whilst rock's reputation in recent decades has taken a number of painful blows and direction changes, the core principles of the genre remain firmly intact and ready to be manipulated by a new generation of provocative spokespeople. Rock’s tenacity for moulding into the bludgeoning weapon of choice for artists frustrated with a miscellany of issues has made it a carnal prerequisite for populations to build upon worldwide. Whether those problems were personal or more routinely shared, rock acted as a tour de force for those wanting to resist the stagnant and predictable machine of authority and power and in the current #MeToo climate, it is refreshing to see a host of female voices come to the forefront.
With a propensity for building a soaring catalogue of hook-laden choruses, Brighton-based BADLAWS. look to be following in the footsteps of fellow contemporaries YONAKA’s shoes as a destructive force for the future. Consisting of Lucy Hinton (Vocals), Daniel Bright (Guitar), Travis Powers (Bass) and Josh Caplin (Drums), the band first formed at university as Hinton explains. ‘I met Dan and Travis when I was doing my diploma. We met Josh on degree and then we just became friends.’ Bright’s desire to be in a female-fronted alt-rock band gave him the courage to talk to Hinton about music, and having drafted in Powers and Caplin, BADLAWS. begun their journey as a collective.
Despite forming at university, both Hinton and Bright had an illustrious catalogue of influences growing up, most notably from home. ‘Both of my parents were music teachers so I was just brought up around it constantly,’ Bright says. ‘When I expressed an interest in playing a guitar, they just jumped at the chance of getting me involved so I’ve always had a musical streak I guess. I decided that I wanted to do it professionally and threw myself into it, it seemed like the right thing for me.’ For Hinton, the dynamics were similar, but more performance-oriented. ‘My parents were quite musical too, same with my sister. I did quite a lot of theatre, dance and performing when I was little as well so it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. I learnt guitar and then writing songs and I explored that and then met these guys.’
As the pair started to find their feet musically early on, they offer contrasting explanations behind the spark and desire to perform. Hinton’s musical influences grew from attending gigs of all genres, watching eagerly how individuals would bound across the stage, harnessing the energy of crowds at shows and festivals, something she states as inspiring her to be a part of the scene. For Bright, it was an admiration of pop-punk growing up that channeled his desire to be on stage. In between the riffs of Bloc Party’s first two records and the winding expansion of The Stone Roses, the seeds of creativity had been firmly sown, and the smatterings of early BADLAWS. material is infused with these elements.
From the beginning, it is clear that BADLAWS. aren’t bringing an experimental rock psyche to the table. What they are bringing along, however, is a collection of scintillating indie rock anthems, and they’re doing that in spades. A clean guitar soundscape washes across debut single Circles, a straightforward indie rock projection, whilst Would You Like To? is carefree and charismatic, its blissful and bouncing guitar arpeggios blend the charming summer infused jangle of Cassia and KAWALA, with indie upstarts BLOXX.
"The new songs are more darker and emotional...it feels more personal now, it has more feeling."
Speaking of the tracks on the EP, Hinton delineates ‘Lyrically, the songs on the EP [2018’s self-titled debut EP], I wrote stories kind of from other people’s perspective. On the new songs, they’re more personal and emotional to me. We’ve changed how we write the songs now. I think it’s easier for me to write songs that are more personal to me and about my life. I think it has changed but it is an easier process for us. The production stuff is the extra element we think about. The new songs are more darker and emotional.’ Bright adds his agreement, ‘it feels more personal now, it has more feeling.’
Whilst the duo stick firmly to the belief that their debut EP is a building block for bigger things, there still remains some charismatic elements to that opening collection of work. The Time It Takes To Miss Someone is a suspense builder, taking its listener on a gripping, meandering journey, whilst I Don’t Mind sees the introduction of an eye-raising yet utterly delightful riff within the bridge, whilst the single itself is Paramore-infused rock that leans heavily on Hinton’s sharp-toothed vocal projection.
"With a lot of our new stuff that’s coming out soon, we’ve approached it from a production mindset I suppose, trying to make it as hard-hitting as possible and taking it to the next level."
Given Hinton’s distinctive vocals, we ask the band about the growth in female-fronted bands in recent years. ‘It’s quite a male-dominated scene I guess, recently it’s changing, but traditionally it’s male-dominated,’ says Bright. ‘I just really liked Lucy’s voice and it fitted the vision I had for BADLAWS. as a whole. I just thought it would be really cool to get her involved. I think slowly around festival time especially you start to see more female artists and female-fronted bands come into the limelight. Festivals have been under scrutiny with female participation so there’s always going to be a market for female-based artists. Certain bands especially that are breaking through, like YONAKA, they’re doing really well at the moment. There’s a drive to even out the industry to make it a more level playing field for artists as a whole. At the end of the day you want an accepting community and industry. In this day and age, slowly but surely, it’s becoming more commonly seen.’
BADLAWS. might be instantly coined as a female-fronted band, but in reality this assessment doesn’t do justice to a hard-working entity trying to gain plaudits as a band in their own right, rather than one filling a participation quota. Latest single Break is an enthralling spectacle that pushes the band’s sound to a new limit, one that would rival any group in today’s scene. A sprawling statement of intent, Hinton spits her vocals with an urgent propensity unseen in her previous productions. The resolute introduction of synths fills a void previously left in the band’s sound, bolstering their appeal at a time so reliant on artistic originality.
As a defiant call to arms, complete with insurgent synths and a barrage of drums, Break has the potential to build a vast new fan base, and the band are immensely positive when speaking of their widening sound. Addressing the track, Hinton offers ‘Dan came in for the riff, we were working on it for quite a while, we had so many different sets of lyrics for it. When we finalised it and we went in the studio and added all these crazy synths and stuff and now it’s one of our favourite songs. The lyrics changed quite a lot but the song focuses on the riff, which is what people remember.’
Bright goes on to explain how the band wanted to experiment more with their approach and production. ‘We approached it differently than the EP,’ he states. ‘Before, on the EP, it was all very static and normal. We didn’t really consider the production side to things when we were in the studio. Now we want to consider other elements that we can add to the track, like the synths and more layered backing vocals. With a lot of our new stuff that’s coming out soon, we’ve approached it from a production mindset I suppose, trying to make it as hard-hitting as possible and taking it to the next level. Our sound is constantly developing and changing. This year we’ve definitely found our feet with what our sound is now.’
BADLAWS. might belong in a category of highly-promising female-fronted new bands, but they are also representative of a wider and vastly impressive movement in Brighton. Over the course of the past eight years, Brighton has become a highly-documented city for the emergence of British rock talent. The dynamism of Royal Blood’s debut record in 2014 caused an avalanche of talent to emerge, from film-noir influenced Black Honey, indie-boppers The Magic Gang and the more ferocious smatterings of Demob Happy, YONAKA and Tusks.
Addressing their city of origin, the band surprisingly offer mixed opinions about the growth of the talent pool. ‘In terms of up and coming bands in Brighton it can be difficult became there are so many bands that share the same dream as you,’ confesses Bright. ‘It is amazing because you can get so many great gigs being put on but it’s interesting because Brighton is a little bubble and it is about trying to break out of that into the wider community.’ Hinton seems more driven with this growth, ‘The competitiveness is good though, it keeps you going. We have the drive to play as many gigs and network with as many people as we can.’
Despite the vast competition that Hinton and co. have around them, BADLAWS. look to be finding their stride at the perfect time. Their blend of snarling vocals and expansive instrumentation has hit a new height in latest release Break, and with further developments to come you wouldn’t bet against the four-piece to be Brighton’s latest big-name export.