A solitary tower block of flats, the image that is used in this post and as Stevenage punks Bad Breeding‘s Facebook cover photo, is a superbly apt image to represent the virulent, seditious group. The image is a symbol of the isolation of the classes, serving as a reminder of how communities are at once so close together physically, and simultaneously divided in terms of community affinity. This sentiment and the band’s social and political philosophies are echoed in the titles of their singles thus far: “Age of Nothing”, “Chains”, and “Burn This Flag”. Evidently, society, community, and politics are topics that are extremely pertinent to the band, and they recently took the time to discuss these issues with Overblown.
Overblown: Beyond the alliteration, Bad Breeding is an interesting name. Who does it refer to? Who has been ‘bred badly’?
Bad Breeding: Of all the concepts at play in the band, the name itself is something we considered the least – which is quite an unusual thing for us. Most decisions are arrived at after a lot of deliberation and argument, but we didn’t think the name was really worthy of that. There are more important things to consider than names and labels. Bad Breeding was merely a term thrown around by a friend of ours who worked as a barber and had to deal with perennial shit throughout his day, we thought it rather apt.
O: The band are originally from Stevenage. Did this have an effect on the musical aesthetic of the group?
BB: That’s an interesting question, I wouldn’t necessarily say we consciously looked to represent the town, but it does have a certain dogmatic impact on your outlook; the monotony, isolation and sterile environment. Stevenage serves as a microcosm of the problems facing Britain at the moment: widening wealth gaps, deconstruction of communities and the continual aim of the Conservative party to pit classes against each other in an attempt to create a siege mentality; divide and rule, something that’s not conducive to social progress – both at local and national levels.We all still live here. Working full-time for very little means that practicing becomes your only outlet; two or three hours at the end of the day where you’re given the chance to put your focus on something positive, perhaps that maybe lends well to creating urgent and honest art.
O: “Chains” is a storming track. What does the title refer to?
BB: The theme of the song harks back to when I was studying. It’s about feeling societal pressure and the impact it can have on the body. The concept of chains referred to being bound or tied to doing things a certain way – especially as a young person growing up under an elected dictatorship.
O: You released the physical copy of “Chains” via Ebay and Alibaba, eschewing label offers to release it independently. Was this move a success?
BB: The reason behind choosing this kind of release mechanism was to experiment with what we could do by ourselves. A lot of the methods available at the moment are archaic and useless – all they do is serve to protect the interests of a limited few people in positions of perceived power. The concept of record-label kingmakers will no doubt continue to crash and burn in the coming years and rightly so, you don’t always need a record deal to communicate with people, nor do you need it to distribute your music.
At this point in time we felt that selling it ourselves and removing all the intrusive middlemen was the right thing for us to do – to simply take the band at its source and make it open to people who wanted to listen. We’ve sold out our allocation on eBay and are selling a few remainders through a friend who works at Rough Trade in West London. I’m not sure if you could determine things as either successes or failures, it was more about remaining autonomous and removing the unnecessary bureaucracy – which we managed to do.
I’m not going to say that we’ve found the seminal way to change things, but somebody’s got to give it a go and start some dialogue about how to make things more transparent and efficient – both for artists and people who are buying and listening to music.
O: Why was it important for you, as a band, to maintain independence?
BB: It’s the fairest way to remain critical of what is happening around you. Most of our experiences with people aligned with labels have been torturous: talk of ‘your product, style, appearance, being fresh’ – it’s all so tiring and out-dated. Once money becomes involved, most artists get moved to the bottom of the chain and whatever you set out to start debating or exploring as a band gets watered down by people who really have no interest in the artistic element of what you’re doing. For them it’s more about bottom-lines and talking to their mates in soulless bars about how this band are the post, post, post, post, post-punks.
O: You recently sent an image (pictured above) to fans on your mailing list decrying “the apathy of the growing, marginalised majority” and the wealth gap, house shortages, and violence on the streets. In light of this, what do you think of the current political climate? What is your opinion of Labour, the Conservatives, UKIP et al?
BB: Day-to-day I’d say our political standpoint is in a constant state of flux, fleeting between weariness and that of a positive mindset of wanting to do something about our situation. What you’ve asked would probably take numerous essays to answer, but what I would say is that I’ll be doing everything in my own power to ensure that the Tories don’t have a say next term.
All we’ve seen since they came to power is the continued break up of communities across the country, while the comfortable few have enjoyed a period of continued or increased prosperity as those of us who are struggling have become worse off. Somehow we’ve ended up suffering and are being made scapegoats for a supposed economic and societal decline: we’re the benefits cheats, the overweight scroungers and crisis-loan gobblers who are to blame; not the Tory-backed bankers who got greedy, gambled our livelihoods and futures and have now left us scrambling for the minimal scraps left.
It’s us who have to suffer when diverse communities get ripped apart because of non-domiciled billionaires who are meant to be creating a supposed ‘trickle-down effect’ but are merely lining the pockets of the one per cent. We’re the ones who are being forced into depression or even suicide when unnecessary benefits sanctions come into play. And now they want to sell off the NHS? Some working people can barely afford to feed their families at certain points in the year.
The prospect of UKIP making continued gains is sickening and their abhorrent destruction of originally, genuine questions about immigration just goes to show how poisonous they could become – especially given some of the inroads they’ve made into the working-class psyche in the past year or so.
Our generation has a duty to do something and that’s where my original point about apathy came into the mailing-list email. To me it feels like the suffering grow larger in numbers, but the noise we’re making is becoming softer and that worries me. The sooner we realise that we don’t owe shit, we can move on and do something constructive together.