“How long have you been a journalist?”
Um, about five years I suppose.
“And who are your main journalistic influences?”
Well, Paxman obviously. Hunter S. Thompson, apart from the end bit…suffice to say that this interview started unlike most other interviews, simply because Captain Everything is unlike most other bands.
Born of a North-West London punk scene that specialises in producing mindblowingly-proficient skate punk bands that receive little to no recognition on the national level (My Dad Joe recently called it a day, Short Warning have been gigging around for years and are only just finding their rewards, Reason 69 released one of the best English punk albums in the last decade in ‘Prime Sinister’ via the now-defunct 20 Deck record label and then promptly vanished), Captain Everything took the hard road to get where they are now. After releasing ‘Music By Idiots’ on their own and contributing three fine tracks to ‘Make The Love Connection’, a split with Route 215, Household Name took them aboard for the release of ‘Learning To Play With’, a practically perfect collection of ska and punk songs that brought them to the attention of the UK scene at large. Relentless touring over the next couple of years, along with the release of ‘It’s Not Rocket Science’ to almost universal acclaim has taken them to the status of a true headline band. Tours of Europe, Canada and Japan are in the bag and there’s a new album on the way, recorded by Pete ‘God’ Miles, the man responsible for making Howards Alias, Drink Drivers Against Mothers, The Mercury League, Buzztone and Failsafe sound so earth-shatteringly good.
So what’s the new stuff like? “I think it’s better, definitely,” says Lew, vocalist/guitarist/leftie extraordinaire. “The songs are better. I wouldn’t say we’re trying to break any ground or anything, we’re just trying to write good songs that we like. We’re not one of those bands that changes drastically. The reason we make this music is because we like it.” And in a time when the ska and punk bubbles of the early Noughties appear to have burst thoroughly, what a boon it is to have a band writing honest music that appeals to them, rather than trying to catch up with the rapidly-departing bandwagon. Lew, bassist/co-vocalist/on a more in-depth inspection he’s hairier than Neil from Lightyear Jon and ex-Grebo/drum machine with legs/tall person Blake just want to play music as much as they can without an eye on what’s most marketable.
But what of the ‘hilarity factor’? Their shows are often as entertaining for the jokes and mishaps as they are for the music, and with three albums all adorned with self-deprecating titles isn’t there a danger that they might not be taken seriously because it looks like they’re just three mates who ended up on stage together? “We take our music really seriously, a lot of thought goes into it. As long as people listen to it and enjoy it, we’re there to entertain.” Jon fixes me with a look. “But we are extremely funny people.” Lew continues: “We take our music really seriously, a lot of thought goes into it. As long as people listen to it and enjoy it, we’re there to entertain. Also, we’re wimps.” “Yeah,” laughs Jon, “we don’t want to slip into any pretentious art-wank. Although it’s all a laugh, we do take it seriously.” The threat remains, however, that however heartfelt or serious, they could nevertheless be categorised unfairly as another pop-punk band. Lew is adamant on this subject. “The songs are all real songs, things that have actually happened to us. We’re not trying to project any image, if we were a joke band then we’d play joke songs. We just want people to have a good time at our gigs. If people pay money to see us then we’re not going to fake it. That’s what a gig is, for us to have the most fun. For us to have a good time on stage, we’re not going to stand there and talk about how damaged we are.” Blake buts in: “But make no mistake, we are extremely damaged.” Then Jon: “While being extremely funny.” Everyone laughs. Jon’s right.
For a band to make a statement like “When we’re playing a gig I [Jon] like feeling like there’s a lot of people there that if they’re not mates, they’re potential mates, so I just have a good time” and genuinely mean it is a real achievement. Before and after every C*E gig everyone knows everyone, faces become gradually more familiar as the months go on and there is none of the posturing and aloof arm-folding that taints so many of the capital’s gigs. Everyone, not to put too fine a point on the matter, goes absolutely fucking nuts, including the band. Their unique mix of pop melodies and harmonies, brutally fast thrash speeds and a sense of humour never fails to turn all in attendance into smiling, dancing sweatbeasts. What anchors them is the fact that they have made friends up and down the country much like the dearly-departed Lightyear (C*E played at Lightyear‘s final gig), who split up because they felt they had reached their zenith. Does this not bother them? A brief silence. Lew speaks up. “Since we’ve started it was always us setting ourselves small goals. Like write a song, then play a gig, do a tour…”. Blake continues. “We’re not idiots, we can see what’s happening to a lot of bands from the same scene. We’re conscious of it, and we do want to take steps to prevent it, but it’s hard to know what kind of steps to take. It’s not like we’ve got a business plan.” Jon summarises to a chorus of nodding heads: “ We’ve never been media or press savvy, or known how to push ourselves in that sense. But we take pride in playing as well and as much as we can, it’s brilliant. Like Lew said, we’ve done more than we ever thought we’d do. Everything we do is always a bonus.”
So how did the “eternal bumbling optimists, the band that goes on tour to Eastern Europe with only Euros” (Lew’s words, not mine) achieve so much? Through simple hard work and a few risks. “When we went to Russia that was totally unknown territory but it was the best thing we’ve ever done. We never turn anything down.” Even though they’re far from rich (no pun intended) Lew’s simple statement encapsulates everything that so many people love about Captain Everything. Their willingness to go out and play as much as they possibly can before falling down grey with exhaustion, the fact that they’re always willing to make new friends. Not because it might help them in the ‘industry’, but because they’re just a bunch of solid, down-to-earth, friendly guys from Watford (and now Bristol) that happen to be in a band. You know where you are with Captain Everything – having a blinder of a time.