Interview: Sonic Boom Six

SB6Not only is today the last date of Sonic Boom Six‘s Boom or Bust Tour with The Skints, but emotions are also running high as this evening sees long-time member Ben Childs play his final ever show with the band. So, Faye caught up with the Boom during this memorable night in Newcastle, as they discuss their future without Ben, their recent well-earned success opening the Main Stage of Leeds and Reading Festival, the UK’s current ska-punk scene, their label Rebel Alliance Recordings, and lots more!

Faye: Can you say your names and what you do?
Laila: I’m Laila, I sing in Sonic Boom Six.
Barney: I’m Barney and I play the bass and shout and jump into the crowd.

Faye: Tonight’s a special night, as I understand it’s Ben’s last gig, how are you feeling?
Laila: Very sad and a bit nervous, we’re not splitting up, we go on tour a week from now, every thing’s sort of going to keep ticking a long. So, yeah, nervous and sad, really. The next gig we play, Ben isn’t going to be next to us on stage, we’re going to have someone new.
Barney: But at the same time, there’s an excitement because a change is as good as the rest and I think whatever the future brings, it’s cool because we’ve gone as far as we can with the same sort of style and sound in a lot of ways, so it’ll be good to add a new dimension into the whole thing and maybe that will pick everything up a little bit, and make things interesting for us again. On one hand, there’s sadness and on the other hand, it could be cool and interesting. Ben’s not going anywhere, Ben’s still going to be there, but we’re just going to be adding something new into the band.
Laila: Ben’s still going to be very part of the next album, all of the samples stuff and everything Ben does, I’m sure there’ll be a few Baby Boom gigs coming along, like acoustic Sonic Boom Six, and Ben’s going to be involved in it. So, yeah, he’s still going to be very much part of Sonic Boom Six, just not live because he can’t be married and do it, because, unfortunately, touring means certain sacrifices and if you’re not prepared to do that then you can’t really tour.

Faye: Who are you bringing into the band?
Laila: Well, we’ve got Matt Reynolds who used to be in Howard’s Alias, he’s going to see the rest of this year through with us and then next year, that’s when we’ll actually start looking for a permanent guitarist, I think January time, get Christmas and New Year out of the way. If we have a little revolving door of guitarists for a little bit, then so be it, we’ve got another how many years in us, to achieve what we want to and be our best, and we need someone who’s going to be there with us to do that.

Faye: Random Hand got added to this show last minute, didn’t you tour Europe with them recently? And wasn’t it Random Hand’s first tour abroad, how was that?
Laila: Yeah, we took them under our wing and looked after them, we took them to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Serbia, it was great. It was nice having our mates and a great band in territories where, even when you’ve been there before, it’s still not home, so it is still quite daunting, but it was great. A couple of days ago, Random Hand were like, “Can you please put us on the guestlist? We’re going to come see Ben on his last gig.” And we were like, “Well, why don’t you just play?! If you’re coming, play!”

Faye: Tonight’s the last date of the Boom or Bust Tour with The Skints, how’s it been?
Barney: It’s been our best tour, our best headline tour, it’s awesome, The Skints are awesome – oh, an old man has just tripped over. [laughs]
Laila: It’s been amazing, yeah. Our summer ended with us playing the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds and I think that was such a peak for us, and this is our first tour in England after and from the first night to the last, you’ll see the atmosphere and the amount of people compared to times we’ve played to similar venues has been great. I know that’s the combination of having The Skints because they’re amazing and just raising our game and raising our profile a bit, by playing the Main Stage at Reading/Leeds and Rebellion Festival. Tonight, I’ve been on the merchandise and so many people have come up to be saying, “Wow, we went to Rebellion Festival for the first time this year and we saw you, and we saw you do your acoustic set, and we’ve come to the gig because we were there.” Loads of people from the north east travel down to Blackpool for Rebellion and Leeds Festival, so it all sort of adds up.

Faye: You mentioned playing on the Main Stage of Leeds and Reading Festival, did it feel like all your hard work had paid off ?
Laila: Kind of, yeah, because it was we were on the Main Stage, we were like little kids, we were so giddy backstage, we were like, “Remember our first gig?! And look where we are now!” We deserved it, I’m not saying I’m grateful we got offered to do Reading and Leeds, we deserved that, big time. It kind of felt like the hard work had paid off a bit because we have worked hard and we deserve that, but, in a way, the hard work is just beginning as well, because we’ve got to top that again and again and again. Reading and Leeds, that’s not the highest goal that we’re gonna do, that’s like the beginning of what we can do, so, yeah, next year, we need to do bigger and better than that.

Faye: What’s bigger and better than that for you?
Laila: Headlining the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds. [laughs] No, God knows what it is, but we’ve got to do it and we’re going to do it.

Faye: You said more people have been coming to shows, has anything else changed since your appearance at Leeds and Reading?
Barney: Well, this is the only tour we’ve done after that and more people have definitely been coming, but I don’t know, it’s like is it because we were on the Main Stage or because we’re getting bigger? Hopefully, it goes back to the fact we released City of Thieves this year and it’s been our best album, we just got it right, in terms of the style we’ve been trying to do and mixing it up, we just went a bit darker and a bit heavy with two guitars, there’s a lot of different things. In the past, we were second guessing too much. With the first album, everyone said, “Yeah, it’s good, but it’s too mad.”, so then we were like, “We can’t be mad any more.”, so we did Arcade Perfect and it’s a bit boring, but the two songs on Arcade Perfect, For 12 Weeks, The City Is Theirs and Ya Basta!, they’re the two songs we could listen to over and think “Woah, those tunes are badass.” and those were us having fun, so we with City of Thieves, we just did 12 songs like that, that we were look to listen to. I think that’s the way you’ve got to be like in any band, you’ve got to trust your own instincts and make something you’d enjoy listening to, rather than, “What have we got to do to appeal to A, B, and C?” It worked.

Faye: I read a review of City of Thieves somewhere saying, “Welcome to the album that will define the fourth wave of ska.” How does that make you feel?
Barney: Absolutely brilliant, but at the same time, talking about it in waves, it can get a little bit nerdy at times, when people take it to that kind of level. It’s kind of wishing for something to happen before it does, but, at the same time, in the UK when we had bands like Capdown, King Prawn, that’s what we grew out of, but we came from the tail end of the explosion of that scene, we came from the aftershock of it. Us and The King Blues were the only bands for a while that sort of kept that whole thing living and now The King Blues have gone from strength to strength, and we’ve had a different kind of success, which is we’ve started our own label [Rebel Alliance Recordings], we’ve firmly established ourselves as a live band. We bridge the gap, we’re sort of old school and we associate ourselves with bands like King Prawn and Capdown, but I go out now and see all these new bands, Dirty Revolution, Gecko, A War Against Sound, Beat The Red Light, The Junk, there’s all these new bands, as well as Rebel Alliance bands that are ska-core/ska-punk, whatever you want to call it, bands that are influenced by that whole scene, but also new and not associated with Capdown and all that, and as much as we love that and associate ourselves with that, it’s maybe time to leave that in the past and be relevant to now. So, if someone is calling us fourth wave then maybe that means we’re being seen as the line drawn and the next thing, so that, to me, is great, but at the same time, we just want to get on with it. That’s why we started the label as well, to reaffirm things and start something new, rather than when every time someone talks about us, talking about bands of the past, but there’s so many good bands that have influenced us like Howard’s Alias, Adequate Seven, but it pains me inside that all those amazing bands who influenced us, they never got any wider recognition, so if we can get some wider recognition then it’d be a wonderful thing.

Faye: Yeah, I interviewed The King Blues and The Skints recently and they both said the same thing, that the UK ska-punk scene was in a slump for a few years, but is pretty much thriving now, especially with you guys playing the Main Stage at Leeds and Reading and The King Blues’ mainstream success.
Laila: You notice it as well, like Barney was saying before, you go to a gig and the local support that is playing, nine times out of ten is a great band, a band with loads of potential. In Birmingham, Resolution 242 were playing and it was a band that actually has some meaning in this scene. We went through a phase, a few years ago…
Barney: We were there for the fallow years, weren’t we? The dark stretch. [laughs]
Laila: We were, I remember every night we would get to a gig and it was like a metal or indie band playing with us, and we were just like, “Wow, is the promoter really stupid?” and you think band, and you’re like, “No, the promoter just had no other band to get to play with us.” They were dark days.
Barney: Obviously, The King Blues have got a lot of mainstream success and I think that Itch [frontman of The King Blues] is constantly struggling to kinda go, “Shit, look at Sonic Boom Six, but look at us or look at The Skints, look at Moral Dilemma” He’s trying to get that spotlight and, to be honest, Kerrang! don’t want to call The King Blues a band from our scene, they want to talk to them next to Enter Shikari, they want to forget about us. Itch and Jamie [Jazz of The King Blues], they’re trying to push the spotlight this way and go, “Yeah, but that’s where we’re from. At the grassroots level, with fanzines and webzines everywhere, everyone acknowledges that, but in the mainstream press, they’re getting stopped from talking about us, but they do it at every given opportunity and that kind of hurts, not from The King Blues point, but from the point of the magazines not acknowledging that The King Blues are part of this thing, because it’s like of like, they really are and they really were, but it is what it is. We don’t have to rely on them to do it, it’s nice that they’re still part of it, but we need to pull all ourselves up and, hopefully, that’s what we’re trying to do with the label, just really give everything 110% and pushing it further than it’s ever gone before.

Faye: I’m currently doing my dissertation based on Lily Allen’s recent claim that, “File-sharing is not okay for British music.”, do you agree?
Barney: I agree with it, but I certainly question her validity and position to be able to say something like that.
Laila: I think she is in a position to say that, isn’t she saying there are bands and artists that she knows that are at a level, not at her level, obviously, but at a level, our kind of level, that can’t afford for people to illegally download. It’s kind of nice that someone in that position says that, to me, anyway. Her position as a millionaire artist. Lily Allen has sold thousands of records all over the world.
Barney: I agree with in what she’s saying, but I see both sides of it, I agree with the people who find it very distasteful, in the fact that she’s the one coming out with it. With specific points, I agree with, but I also agree with people that it’s a bit distasteful saying it, when there’s allegedly a lot of stuff she’s had handed to her on a plate with her father’s association, but I think she’s mega talented. Her first album was awesome and I think she’s a lovely person, I mean, she’s cool, but she shouldn’t have said that.

Faye: So, do you not think she’s in a position to represent the whole of the British music community with that claim?
Barney: No, she’s not.
Laila: She isn’t, but if she didn’t say it, then no-one would have said it, at least someone, whether it be Lily Allen or the singer from Radiohead, it doesn’t matter.
Barney: I agree with that.
Laila: At least someone’s saying it, because on that day no-one would have said, she said it. I don’t care whether it’s Sugababes that said it, at least someone is saying it, someone that has millions of pounds.

Faye: Are you against people illegally downloading your music?
Laila: No, I mean, at the level we’re at, every penny counts, we own and run a record label, every single penny counts because we’ve got to put all our money into Random Hand, Mouthwash, The Skints, all the artists on our record label, but on the other side, at the level, we’re at, if it means people are downloading our music and it enjoying it, and it means they’re coming to the gigs. When we played in America, so many people came up to me saying, “We downloaded The Ruff Guide To Genre-Terrorism, but because we downloaded it, we’re here at the gig now and now we’re going to buy a copy.” and I know that doesn’t happen all the time.
Barney: I think if it was like 15-years ago and you were saying, “Do you mind people copying your music on tape and swapping it?” No, fucking do that, because that means you care about music. What I’m particularly unnerved by is this ‘Pokémon’ view of music, these nerds sat their doing the blogs, downloading everything in every single fucking genre, every turn and every genre, just downloading it for free on these blogs, listen to it and do reviews of it, and I think that’s where music’s going to such a dark level that it’s being devalued so much. If someone takes the time to physically copy something on a cassette for someone, it takes an hour, draw them a picture on the cover of us or Laila’s face smiling, fucking go for it, I’m happy with that, but to download it off some fucking Russian blog and then go, “That’s shit.” or “That’s good.”, spewing shit on the fucking internet and I think that’s what most of it is. I don’t care if someone downloads it if they fucking like it. At the moment it’s like Pokémon, you’ve got to collect them all, it’s all, “I’ve got that and that and that.”, and you’ve got so many albums on your iTunes, it’s just a hard drive flashing with music on it and like, “I’ve heard that song, I’ve heard that song.” Yeah, but have you sat in bed with your fucking torch under your duvet and read the lyrics? Have you bought a t-shirt? Have you gone to a gig? No, you’ve heard it.
Laila: Yeah, it’s like you’ve got 80GB of music, have you actually listened to any of it?
Barney: That’s why I think downloading fosters that culture, I hate that and it’s terrible.
Laila: Of course it does, on my laptop, I’ve got so much music and I sit there and I go, “Oh, what should I listen to today?” and I’ll still put on the same thing that I burned on CD.
Barney: It’s this whole thing where I would feel bad as a punk or an alternative band going, “Everyone’s got to buy our CD.” But it’s not that, you can’t deny that if you take our music off the internet and don’t pay for it, it’s stealing our music, in a way that copying on a cassette is and you’re not necessarily bothered, but we’re making less money because people are doing that and we’re making fuck all money, anyway, so if it was 20 years ago, we may have been making a lot more money, I don’t know, but there are goods sides to it.
Laila: We don’t want to become like disposable music, we don’t want to be like you having everything by Sonic Boom Six on your laptop, but you’ve never actually listened to it. Especially with the way we do albums and stuff as well, we always do albums like it’s an album, you don’t want a track that sticks out, so you have to listen to it all and take it all in and all the lyrics. We focus so much on the artwork and everything, it’s just a shame if people haven’t got the package, because otherwise it’s cold.

Faye: I’ve noticed that all your albums are on Spotify, how do you feel about that programme and how does it work?
Barney: We’ve not seen a penny from it, but maybe we will. The thing is, you get on by your digital distributor, but our first two albums were put on there and we hadn’t sorted it out, but now we’ve sorted a deal with Spotify by a digital distributor now, but our other album, City of Thieves, is on there so that just means somebody uploaded, it’s just been put on. I don’t know, apparently, if someone listens to it, you get paid, but it’s like a quarter of a penny per tune or something. There’s this temptation with all this stuff, all this music-like water, like you just turn your tap on and you can listen to a tune, and some say it means we’re in the same position as U2, because any one can listen to us, but it’s not, because the magazines and TV and the media are the same as it ever was, we’re still in the same position we were and it’s the big bands on the huge labels that get all the publicity, and it’s us small bands that struggle to get a column-inch in a magazine, so all these things that are supposed to ‘level the playing field’ really haven’t at all, because an important thing, especially in terms of the UK, is the media and we accept that and we’re not whining about it, we chose to do what we’re doing, nobody’s saying, “It’s so hard.” but, at the same time, Spotify or MySpace or any of these download things aren’t making it any easier for us to carry on what we’re doing.

Faye: Do you think the format of the CD is becoming obsolete?
Barney: What it is, no-one can deny it that it is dying out, it definitely is, I don’t know if it’ll completely die. You don’t need anything smaller.
Laila: I don’t think it can die, maybe call me old-fashioned, but I want to look at the art, I don’t want to look at something on the computer. I don’t even like watching TV programmes on my laptop and stuff. Do you ever have a music day where you sit on a Sunday and you just put on album after album? How can you enjoy that when it’s a folder?
Barney: My best analogy for all of this is, is that it’s been repeated a few times in different places, but it is my best analogy for it, when we used to have the Super Nintendo at school, the games were £40 each, so you had the four best games, but there was always a kid at school who had a disk drive, that was £250 to buy, but he could copy all the games, so he had every game, if you spoke to him and said, “How far have you got on Zelda?”, he’d go, “Not very far.” because every time he got to a certain point in it and it was bad, he’d change the disk and that’s how it is with downloading. If you pay £10 for a CD, you’ve got your artwork, you stick it in, you look at the artwork, you go, “Ooh, read the liner notes” and all that, if you download it, it’s just a load of text and you’ve not paid anything for it, you’ve not made any kind of investment, and it’s the same thing, if you pay £40 for a computer game, you’ll play it to the end. If you pay £1.50 for a floppy disk, you’ll play it until it gets a little bit boring and put the next one in, and that’s definitely the difference between CD and free downloads. You listen to it once and you’ve made your opinion on it, some albums take five times to listen to and you have to look at the artwork to like them, and it’s as simple as that. Any music lover is not sat behind a computer downloading tunes for free and putting it on a blog, music lovers are buying CDs or vinyl and listening to them in the comfort of their home and stroking the dog.

Faye: As you’ve mentioned, you’ve got your own label, Rebel Alliance Recordings, has the label done anything to try to accommodate to this change of more people downloading?
Laila: We’ve got a little label sampler that people can download, they can download a song from each other bands to get a taste of the bands and then, hopefully, that’ll prompt people to go into a shop. Our label’s so DIY, I think downloading Rebel Alliance bands, it just seems slightly pointless, because we’re not charging much, especially up-and-coming bands like The Skints, they need the money more than anyone else, I hope people are morally conscious about it.

Faye: Is vinyl something Rebel Alliance is interested in doing in the future with its recent boom in popularity?
Laila: Yeah, especially in Europe, whenever we go over in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria, a lot of people are like, “Aw, y’know, we don’t like CDs, we buy vinyl.” so I think that’s definitely something for the future. It’s just so expensive to make, you have to charge so much, but if people want vinyl, then yeah. It’s something we’re looking to do in the future, anyway.

Faye: Speaking of your label, are you always on the lookout for new bands to sign?
Laila: Yeah, I mean, at the moment we’re so, so busy, we get demos all the time, amazing bands like, who we met the other day, Resolution 242, Gecko, so many amazing bands we’d like to work with, but as well as doing Sonic Boom Six full-time and running the label with four bands on the roster, it’s difficult and finding the time. I think once all The Skints stuff gets settled, then maybe, but I’m sure by then Random Hand will have something or we might have something. I think what we’ve got at the moment is a big enough roster to keep us busy, I think taking on any more, it wouldn’t be fair, we want to give 100% to each, so I think taking on any more, at this point, would be detrimental to all the other bands, really. We’re thinking of doing in the future, like a label sampler, where we have another CD, so it’d be like, Rebel Alliance and friends, a CD of all the bands we really like, that aren’t on Rebel Alliance or that we want to associate Rebel Alliance with, all the bands that we love and play with that we don’t the time to dedicate as a label.

Faye: It seems like a pretty close-knit and family-like label.
Laila: Yeah, it is, like Random Hand coming up for Ben’s last gigs and we speak to Mouthwash all the time, and The Babylon Whackers, Jon who’s such a great mate, he does Suicide Bid and stuff. It’s amazing. I think that’s why it works, we’re all such good friends, anyone one of us can just pick up the phone and talk to each other. This weekend, we’re going to meet Random Hand to go for a curry and stuff. Say we were in Manchester and they were in Manchester, without a doubt, we’d be doing something, going out to somewhere to eat or something, but, yeah, it’s amazing, it’s really good.

Faye: You mentioned Suicide Bid just before, I know there’s a new album in the works, have you been involved with that much?
Laila: Yeah, I spent the whole of Wednesday night demoing and putting some vocals down for it, but yeah, that’s in the pipeline. Unfortunately, it’s just finding the time to do it, but we’re always busy and we always find time, even if it’s on a day off and hassling a mate, because we know so many people now, we can find the time it.

Faye: Have you been writing or recording for any new Sonic Boom Six material? Or are you just concentrating on touring at the moment?
Laila: No, we haven’t, with Ben leaving and stuff, we’re just going to concentrate on getting this year done. We’ve all got stuff that we’re busy with, I’ve got this little 80s side-project thing going, this pop thing, so I spend a night doing that and Barney’s really busy with doing all the stuff on the internet like the website, and Neil’s like the Facebook king. So, yeah, we’re all busy doing our stuff and other stuff as well, and just catching up with our mates and families, because once we leave next Wednesday, we’re not back until the end of December, we’re not even going to be in the UK, we’re going to be in different countries. We’ve got a week of dates in the UK at the end of November, but everything else is in Germany, Belgium, America. It’s going to be hardcore, but I think it’s nice way to end the year internationally.

Faye: Could you tell us more about your little side-project? Does it have a name?
Laila: We haven’t got a name for it yet, it’s just me and friend, we’ve only got like four songs and it’s kind of in the vein of Kylie Minogue. [laughs] It’s so not like Sonic Boom Six, it’s really, really kitsch and camp, like disco-bally, but we haven’t got a name for it yet, we just want to get the songs done, but we’ll think of something equally camp and kitsch.

Faye: Does Sonic Boom Six have any plans for the New Year? I hear you’re supporting Reel Big Fish.
Laila: It’s still in the pipeline, it’s definitely not confirmed, because we have an idea for a Rebel Alliance Tour. It would be nice for the bands on Rebel Alliance to do the tour, anyway, without us, because we run the label, so if we don’t do it, it’s not the end of the world, but at the same time, we need to make the decision. Reel Big Fish would be amazing and so much fun, but I think we’ve just got to look at the bigger picture, I’ve just been changing my mind every day. One minute I’m like, “Aw, we’ve got to do Reel Big Fish.” but then on another day, I’m like, “Well, we have done Reel Big Fish before.” I mean, the European dates would be amazing, but it’s kind of like we have done them before and it is great and it’d be amazing, but at the same time we’re like, do we want to start the year off like, “Look, this is Rebel Alliance – check us out.” It’s so difficult and it’s still up in the air, we’re 50/50 doing it.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Laila: Resolution 242 are amazing and Gecko, I really, really like Gecko, a Bristol band, I think they’re going on tour in November, actually. They’re really good, like The King Blues and Bedouin Soundclash with a little bit of Jamie-T. The guy, Will, who’s band it is, he’s really, really good, he’s super talented and Mike Davies has been playing one of their tunes. The Junk, they’ve got something there, their CD is really good, I think they did it with the guy who did Capdown and it sounds amazing, it’s like one of those albums, you put it on and you don’t know what to expect, then it blows you away, it’s so rock and so heavy, The Junk’s definitely a band we’ve been listening to in the van.

Faye: I think that’s about it, is there anything else you want to say?
Laila: Just support Rebel Alliance and support your local DIY punk scene, come out to gigs and have a good time.

- Faye Turnbull.

For more information on Sonic Boom Six and their record label, Rebel Alliance Recordings, check out the following links below:

Official website
Official MySpace
Official Facebook
Rebel Alliance Recordings

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