The Update: Hookworms
Next year, Leeds-based psych band Hookworms return with their first album since 2014’s The Hum. Here vocalist, synth player and producer MJ discusses their new musical epiphany and the disaster which nearly destroyed their scene.
Your Suburban Home studio was flooded on Boxing Day 2015. What was the extent of the damage and how much of an impact did it have on the Leeds scene?
I don’t want to say how much money it was, but it was a significant five figure. Money’s not the most important thing, but a lot of my friends lost things as well. There was a practise studio that was even closer to the River Aire than I am that lost everything. There was another recording studio that’s never reopened that was beautiful, because that was underwater. The water that was behind my building was six foot high in places. I was kind of lucky that I managed to get here in time to move stuff.
How did you manage to recover from that situation?
It took six months to rebuild the studio. It took a couple of months just for it to dry out, and we ripped everything out and then a lot of stuff was condemned. And then there was that GoFundMe thing, I think I want to spend a lot of the next six months just reiterating how incredibly kind all of that was and how humbled I was by it. That was the nice thing that came out of it.
Since the studio’s been back running, what kind of bands have you recorded with?
I’ve worked constantly ever since. I’m still in an insane amount of debt from the flood, so I’m still paying it off. I’m super proud of the new Spook School album that comes out early next year, it’s amazing. I did a record with Ben [Stidworthy] from the Canadian band Ought and Mikkel [Holm Silkjær] from Yung, a Danish band. I did an album with Kagoule from Nottingham, who are great. And I’m recording a band this week called Eureka California, I like them a lot.
There seems to have been a change in musical direction with the forthcoming Hookworms album Microshift. So how did that come out?
We knew we wanted to do something different, we felt like we’d made the same record twice already and I think for us to stay together as a band, it was important that we moved forward. Matt [Benn] just had a project called XAM Duo and we’d been playing a lot of synthesisers. We wanted to try and incorporate that into ourselves more than we had already. Whereas before [synthesisers] were just kind of like an extra layer that we were putting on live, this time we wanted to go to songs that were built around them.
The vocals sound more pronounced on this new record. What experiences and emotions have inspired the lyrics?
The majority of it is a reaction to the last three years. We lost a really close friend of our band last year. And my dad has Alzheimer’s and cancer as well, and it’s moved on quite a lot recently. And then just, like, dealing with mental health stuff after the flood as well. They’re all quite traumatic life experiences. It’s supposed to be about that.
Musically, there’s a certain energetic pulse. Do you feel as though there’s a sense of optimism to the record?
I think there’s two things. After we toured the second album, we really noticed the reaction from the audience, especially at festivals, to the dance-y songs. And we really enjoyed that kind of push and pull between the audience and the band. Rather than it just being the band playing on stage and people standing and staring. I think we set out to make a record that when we played it would be euphoric, you know? And so we already knew that before a lot of this stuff happened anyway, and then I was still really drawn to it as a musician, between, you know, a great euphoric record and incredibly miserable lyrics. I think it’s cool.
Microshift is released 8 February via Domino