When I pick up the phone to talk to Canterbury, I am greeted by something that sounds akin to a demolition zone. Turns out the London four-piece are in the middle of sound check for the release show of their latest album, ‘Dark Days’, out on 13 January via Hassle Records. I speak with singer and guitarist Mike Sparks, on the day of the release. He laughs about the sold-out show, held at The Hospital Club, a gentleman’s club in London: ‘we feel kind of out of place here’. It seems however, that Canterbury are ready to take on anything; as part of a close knit group of rising UK rock bands, Mike discusses why British rock music is currently so exciting to be a part of, the great mystery of ‘Canterbury’, and why they have New Found Glory to thank for it all.
‘This is our most mature album. We’ve definitely grown up as people, musicians and songwriters, and I think that’s really obvious (on the record)’. Canterbury, (whose line up is completed by bassist/vocalist Luke Prebble, guitarist James Pipe and drummer Chris Velissarides) are on the rise to become one of the front runners in contemporary British rock. Dark Days is set apart from their previous two albums, Thank You and Heavy in the Day, Mike tells me, by the time frame it was created in. While the first two were each three or four years in the making, ‘We wrote Dark Days for six months then recorded it for the next half a year. We wanted it to sound like it was capturing a moment in our lives, more than just being a collection of songs‘. It gives the album a more present sense, compared with debut Thank You which is compilation of ‘the first eighteen years of our lives’.
The album as a whole is quite emotionally dark, a theme unified under the title. Was the moment it captures a personally difficult one? ‘It was what we were feeling in the six months that we were writing the record. Things were a bit uncertain for us’. It doesn’t have a particular concept, Mike tells me: ‘We just wrote the songs that we had in us, because we’re never going to make a song twice. You hear bands and their whole album might as well be the same song, and we’re never going to do that‘. However, Mike hopes that listeners will find catharsis in the album: ‘once you get to the end of the record, it’s actually quite an uplifting thing. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel’.
Over the past few years, a group of UK rock bands have all risen to success within the rock world; bands like Young Guns, Deaf Havana and We are the Ocean form such a group. Canterbury have recently been inducted: ‘In the UK rock scene everyone’s in the same boat – we’re not a huge country like America. We’re just a little island that’s making really good music. I think that everyone has a mutual respect for each other and everyone gets along‘. Mike cites examples such as You Me at Six, and believes it’s now British rock bands who are gaining big opportunities and making massive albums: ‘when we were growing up, all the good rock music was coming out of America, it was all pop-punk, all Blink 182 and New Found Glory, which was great, for what it was, back in the day. Now the eyes of the world are back on the UK, and it’s really cool and exciting to be making music right now’.
I’m curious about their reasons for choosing ‘Canterbury’ as a band name, since none of the members originate from the city. ‘It’s a word that was really important to us when we were starting the band, but you have to rejumble all the letters to uncover it. We don’t tell people what that word is, so they have to work it out’. I’m intrigued by this challenge, but Mike advises me ‘don’t spend too much time on it as it literally could be anything. It’s one of the secrets that we’re always going to keep to ourselves’.
Though they all grew up in the same local area, it was a coincidental moment that brought them together. ‘We all met when we were about 16. I think I actually officially met everyone at a New Found Glory concert in London‘. They so happened to be stood next to each other in the crowd and were at that time searching for band mates. ‘We just hit it off over a mutual love of American punk. So I guess we have New Found Glory to thank for that’.
I ask about their own upcoming concerts. Mike tells me that the band’s (at the time of interview unannounced) April tour will take them through ‘all the hotspots around the UK’ and I joke about York’s not too hot music scene. As it happens, Canterbury have announced they will be playing The Duchess on the 2nd. My advice would be to not miss out.
‘It’s a good day in the Canterbury camp, concludes a clearly contented Mike.By Sophie Brear