For a band known for thunderous live sets and a feverish frustration with the world, Eagulls are remarkably understated. Since the release of their 2011 debut single Council Flat Blues, they’ve been variously heralded as the harbingers of a punk revival. But talking to the band’s frontman George Mitchell, it’s clear that the Leeds-based outfit aren’t keen to over-indulge in the hype.
“I personally don’t feel part of a movement right now,” Mitchell confirms. “There are bands who sonically are writing music with similar interests to us, but I still feel as if we just don’t fit in.” It’s a outlook that pervades the band’s approach to writing and performing music – standing out from the crowd without the need to seek attention; simply not fitting in, in a good way. “Perhaps it’s down to the small town syndrome I experienced as a youth,” Mitchell muses, referencing his upbringing in Ripley, Derbyshire, a town that witnessed a steady decline after the closure of its coal mine in the late 80s.
The downbeat surroundings of Ripley proved a stifling environment to grow up in, but the frustrations this created are key to Mitchell’s sense of identity today. “The claustrophobia of small town living and the small town mentality has always been something I’ve been intrigued with from a young age. I could never seem to grasp why people wished to just follow in the mundane footsteps of their peers, and I despised the way they reacted to difference, so I naturally adopted a likening to music and with that came a different taste in fashion. I’m glad I grew up where I did… It challenged me to be individual and placed me out of the comfort zone of the norm.”
Drummer Henry Ruddel also hails from Ripley, and it was his embryonic band that Mitchell joined when the two both lived in Leeds, spawning Eagulls. “Leeds has always seemed quite individual to me in its sense of style,” Mitchell says. “There are a number of different cultural tribes all chucked together under one roof, and there doesn’t seem to be that one trend flowing through the core of city, like some cities tend to have. I really enjoy that aspect of Leeds as it doesn’t hold that one characteristic in which you could sum it up with. In ways, similar to our band.”
The diversity of Leeds’ musical heritage bolstered Mitchell’s ability to express himself lyrically, which itself bleeds into the broader outlook of the band: Mitchell is the first to acknowledge the city’s holistic impact on his life. “The changes and experiences of living here most definitely affected my mentality to write the lyrics I do, and perhaps it has subconsciously shaped the way in which I perform and dress.” There’s certainly a lot to take inspiration from, not least from Leeds’ musical golden age, a period in the late 70s and early 80s, when post-punk outfits like Gang of Four and The Mekons were lighting the city up.
But despite the ostentatious streak in his personality and stage presence, you’re unlikely to see Mitchell in deliberately outlandish clothing. Quite the opposite in fact. “Sometimes I wonder if I subconsciously dress like the characters from L S Lowry’s paintings,” he says, showing off the almost comically precise self-awareness he so often exhibits lyrically, before cutting himself down. “Or perhaps it’s just because I’m a lanky piece of piss in plain clothes. Not sure.”
Mitchell cites Bowie as a key influence on his style (“more Thin White Duke than Ziggy era!”), and it’s easy to see the connection – he might seem unassuming, but within his simple aesthetic he harbours a fierce confidence, and it’s this that’s so interesting about him: his ability to brandish individuality in plain clothes.
Photography: Steph Wilson
Words: Francis Blagburn
Styling and Direction: Charlotte James
Stylist Assistant: Caitlin Moriarty
Hair & Make Up: Terri Capon