Tunbridge Wells trio attempting to cause a perpetual shift within our social consciousness through the medium of brash, witty punk rock
Frenetic, unpredictable and in some cases obscene, punk's tendency to create hives of energy both on and off-stage has kept it at the very heart of our beating nation. As societal boundaries start to decay at an ever-increasing rate, punk has experienced a newfound-vitality with the likes of Slaves, IDLES and Sleaford Mods all lambasting the recklessness of politicians and society alike. Having formed a mere three years ago, there’s a new face on the scene in Tunbridge Wells-based trio Lady Bird. Stalwart advocates of increasing mental health awareness, their maelstrom of raw, visceral energy is attracting new listeners at a profound rate, as they lay the foundations for what could be a significant year.
Despite being labelled as one of the best new bands around, Lady Bird, consisting of Sam Cox (vocals, guitar, organ), Alex Deadman (guitar) and Joe Walker (drums), first met at local venue The Forum when they were growing up. ‘I was living in London at the time when I decided I wanted to move home and leave the busy, crazy competition that there is there and start something really wholesome close to home’ says the courteous and charismatic frontman. ‘I remembered Alex and Joe so vividly from watching their own gigs at the Forum with their bands when we were younger and I really went on this mission to get a band set up with them which was wonderful. As Cox went about reintegrating himself into his native hometown, both Joe and Alex left their respective bands over time and ‘became soul partners in this project,’ the singer states.
Whilst growing up on the circuit, Cox had become close friends with Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent from national favourites Slaves, who were also Tunbridge Wells residents. ‘I think the first time I met Laurie, he was 14 and I was 16 and we were doing a battle of the bands in Maidstone in Kent,’ Cox recalls. ‘We’ve all had a journey since then and I knew Isaac around that time as well.’ Following Slaves’ three critically-acclaimed records, the band set up their own record label, Girl Fight Records, and signed the developing Lady Bird immediately. Asked whether their relationship has shifted since signing to their friends’ label, Cox remains resolute. ‘It deepens our relationship in many ways, and as each one of our projects takes a new lease of life, whether that’s with releases, content or gigs, it increases the depth of respect we have for one another. There’s a profoundly real love and respect for one another, and I’m really excited for that to continue.’
Since their signing to Girl Fight Records was announced, many wondered whether the influence of Slaves would rub off on the trio, and when first single Spoons was announced, they were not disappointed. A delightfully sarcastic offering narrating the internal dialogue of a vulnerable man on a drinking session, and based on an insurgent riff and Cox’s tongue-in-cheek quick wit and sharp delivery, lyrics "your eyes remind me of a pitcher of woo-woo," manage to bring a smile out of the profoundly miserable, whilst lines "my chavvy mates would call you a sort / but they mean no harm and they appreciate art I'll have you know," conjure a modern Damon Albarn essence.
'We all have something to say, don’t we? So this is the platform to do it.'
The subsequently release of the trio’s debut EP, Social Potions, further highlighted Cox’s intelligent wordplay and charm as key selling points for the band’s sound. A rip-roaring guitar offering, Leave Me Alone is a brash, mosh-friendly single with lines "I seem to be stuck / Holding the weight of this conversation really sucks," navigating the increasing complexities of the seemingly mundane. As the track’s slow-stalking breakdown transfixes listeners to the empty void that the trio create, a final breathtaking surge of noise dispenses over the single to bring about its lofty conclusion.
Whilst Lady Bird retain the same urgent wit seen in Slaves, they maintain a strong sense of independence, with a more socially conscious outlook on the world sparking Cox’s fervent humour and sarcastic wit. ‘Human revolution tends to pop up as a theme in the way we live our lives and also within our creativity and music,’ states Cox. ‘The term human revolution was coined by a Japanese thinker called Josei Toda. What it means is the constant process of unification within one’s self and I guess that embodies what we see this as all about I suppose.’ As self-confessed ‘big-thinkers,’ the likes of Social Potions offer profound insight into the group’s psyche. A ferocious, electrically-charged thriller, the single is two minutes of pure punk rock, containing lyrics "we're getting older but none the wiser," which aim to shine light on the current “fake news” generation.
Musically charming and lyrically resolute, Lady Bird have found their market and are set to optimise it for the remainder of the year.
Offering his opinion on society’s current status, Cox is firm yet understanding. ‘There’s a dire need for people to be really real with themselves and with each other,’ he suggests. ‘Whether that’s talking about from the standpoint of political activism or commentary, or whether that’s just about sharing one’s feelings. There’s a massive reflection of false value and how they want their voice to be heard, coming through the narrative of post-Brexit Britain, or pre-Brexit Britain or what-the-hell-is-Brexit Britain. Meanwhile, on planet Earth, it’s two minutes to twelve and the planet’s on its last legs. And we’re talking about this. Meanwhile, another person kills themselves as a result of losing their battle against mental health. There are loads of conversations really coming through the narrative of bands like IDLES and the Slaves boys and moving on through other more recent voices too. We all have something to say, don’t we? So this is the platform to do it.’
As a figure who prides himself on promoting conversation on taboo subject matters, Cox found himself suddenly voiceless as a result of a failed operation on his vocal chords, an experience which has shaped the artist he is now. ‘It’s a fascinating story really and it’s so mad, almost an old dream now thinking about it,’ he confesses. ‘Essentially, losing your voice is mad because it’s like losing a limb, it’s one of the senses. You can’t see it so you can’t observe the healing process of it and work around that to ensure a steady recovery. Something I’ve learned from that experience is that the mind and body are so connected. It’s well known that stress stores itself as tension in the muscles, and there’s research saying that memories can be stored as tension in the muscles.’
‘We all feel very much on a mission as a band, as brothers on this journey, which requires you to talk about what you’re passionate about to a certain extent.’
Without a voice, Cox was spiralling in a battle to regain control of his life, and his story is a defiant message of strength and support for those facing the struggle against mental illness. ‘It was a vicious circle whereby the tension in my jaw and larynx, as a result of being anxious, prevented me from speaking more,’ Cox states. ‘It really comes down to a sense of determination to really beat something that is completely stopping you from living your life. For me, it came from taking influence from Buddhist philosophy…which stands itself on the point where everything comes from within, the power of all of the universal energy is within us, we are it, we are made from the same stuff and we can really summon that power should we choose to. I guess when I couldn’t speak I had really put it to the fucking test, especially when it’s angled around something that uses your voice. I had to really decide and commit to getting through it, with the support of my friends and it’s mind-blowing actually now having come out of the end of such a difficult time. Mental health…we need some sort of reform as to where the money goes.’
Cox is an advocate for the voiceless millions, metaphorically or literally in his case, of people navigating the perplexing battle against mental health difficulties.
A profound and robust statement following Cox’s return to the helm, Reprisal acts as a snarling riposte to the fabrications currently embedded within society’s twisting fabric. ‘Reprisal was one of our more [socially aware tracks] calling out mental health in a narrative that’s quite mundane I suppose, but that’s the realist thing right now isn’t it, everyone has their own battle,’ suggests Cox when asked about the single. Whilst an enriching organ line effervesces beneath the track, lyrics "Internal shift creates external shift / Could be a lift in your immediate environment," offer a potential path forward for those seeking help. Yet, at its core, the single is a damning indictment of the world in which we live in today.
Alongside Reprisal’s narrations of police brutality and class struggle lies the inherent truth as to what type of songwriter Cox is. A champion of the creative; a liberator of the determined so to speak, Cox is an advocate for the voiceless millions, metaphorically or literally in his case, of people navigating the perplexing battle against mental health difficulties, a battle which by one reason or another, is being not helped, but hindered by a government unable to emancipate its minds from the fetters of political dogma and personal power struggles.
Following a single with such weight and meaning behind it was always going to prove tricky, but on latest release LOVE, the trio have put their intellectual maturity to the test and have committed themselves to the task of pulling apart western analyses of the concept of love, tracking its evolution and the worrying implications it gives to current generations. As the singer delves into the explanation behind the track, he chooses to read a quote from Richard Causton’s The Buddha in Daily Life, before explaining how love has evolved in religious contexts and today. ‘The concept of love is fascinating really because in the English Dictionary there’s only one word for love and that is love, whilst in other languages there are several different names that cover different aspects of love like self-love, love for nature or love of family for example. It’s fascinating how the concept of love has evolved when you look at TV culture and Hollywood film culture which is more based on hierarchy and bullying, rather than as a sense of life narrative and humour. You only have to turn on Sky to get a taste of this brutal mentality that fills into our own television. You see it pop up with Love Island for example.’
'‘There’s a dire need for people to be really real with themselves and with each other.'
Cox continues by saying, ‘Furthermore, from the distortion of love through 80’s pop songs and porn magazines to the further displacement of this inherent feeling from within for everything without, phones have given a new meaning to this and I’m definitely concerned for the young men who are subjected to pornography without understanding what it means to really respect someone, especially within the bedroom, it’s such a fundamental part to growing up, yet it’s not talked about in the family home on a general basis.’
Reprisal acts as a snarling riposte to the fabrications currently embedded within society’s twisting fabric.
Throughout our conversation, Cox’s interest in the primordial facets of society is projected with an enthusiasm that is ready to engage the most passive of listeners. His profound interest in eastern mysticism seems to have rubbed off on his writing process. ‘Writing lyrics is quite fun to be honest because it’s revered to be quite a mystic entity. Miles Davis used to say that music was going on all the time through the air, in coup as Buddhist philosophy would describe it, like petals laying dormant in a flower that hasn’t bloomed yet. I guess that’s true and it’s only when you have your instrument to play that you release this creative energy from within its latent, dormant state. The beautiful thing about words is that the opening line to a lyric, the natural rhythm of those words dictates the flow of the tune and so [writing] has a different kind of magic when you do it words first.’
As a predominantly punk-based band, Lady Bird have faced a challenging battle between balancing their lyrical wit with a need to provoke conversation and raise social awareness, a challenge that Cox addresses honestly. 'You do have to maintain a balance because we all feel very much on a mission as a band, as brothers on this journey, which requires you to talk about what you’re passionate about to a certain extent, and that’s conveyed through your actions as well as your lyrics and the sentiment behind your music, whether that’s tonally or harmonically or aggressively on stage,’ he states. ‘Particularly in terms of lyrical content, naturally there’s a balance that comes with awareness maybe because you wouldn’t want to subsidise your message by it being too constant, one way or the other, so we like to make light of situations with Spoons for example.’
'It’s only when you have your instrument to play that you release this creative energy from within its latent, dormant state.’
Perhaps the best example of the trio finding the perfect balance between wit and candour is the all-frills, no-spills single Boot Fillers. Framed with a brazen bravado, the raucous tail-shaking chorus is one of the most addictive ear-worms in recent months, yet underneath this delight lies a brilliant message to spark life into your social consciousness. As a whole, the single is a perfect reflection of the band. Musically charming and lyrically resolute, Lady Bird have found their market and are set to optimise it for the remainder of the year.
Following a ten-date headline tour across the UK, the band have a steady string of festival shows before ‘gathering the energies which has already commenced between us’ in order to record a record that will hopefully be released towards the beginning of 2020. Their reputation as a live tour de force looks to have them in good stead for the coming future, whilst their warmth and open hospitality towards fans and strangers alike looks to be making them the unlikely poster boys for a new, socially conscious generation.
As a frontman, Sam Cox is a stalwart figure who has been faced with the darkest of demons, and has emerged from the other side with a rejuvenated ambition to spark life into the previously lifeless. As a band, Lady Bird are making the sounds that are set to stir a passion amongst the masses. For all the energy behind their live shows, there lies three very capable and intelligent men on a mission to strengthen our bonds with one another through the medium of ferocious punk, and if that’s not something worthy of getting behind, I don’t know what else is.