Ahead of their show at Headrow House, Leeds, in an eerily empty (but soon to be packed) hall, I sat down with JAWS to discuss their new album Simplicity, touring, and why on earth they were playing Hull, of all places, as part of their largely sold-out tour.
At the time of the interview, the album had been released for less than a month. Front-man Connor Schofield described the reception as “mad ting” (his very own words), which is unsurprising really. The album is a wonderful progression from their debut effort – both a concise and heavier concoction, and an altogether cohesive set of tracks. The differences between the albums are clearly noticeable; as they described it, they “just added a distortion pedal”. However, there’s more to it than that. Schofield’s song-writing is insightful and reflective, touching on themes of youth and reality, and combines with the band’s trademark raucous sound for a rollercoaster of an album, from belters like ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’ to the climactic and brooding ’17’.
JAWS are relentless in their touring, fitting in shows around their day jobs. Drummer Eddy Geach regaled stories of his “normal” life as a barman. As they said themselves, they do it for the love of music, and the passion the three band members have for what they do was clear. Although looking slightly bleary-eyed and worn out, when it got round to the subject of the impending show, their eyes lit up and excitement rose in their voices (or maybe they were just excited after we got onto the subject of food; more specifically Nandos). It was so refreshing to hear a band talk about how, when they get on stage, all the waiting around and long drives become worth it. They live for the live shows and the connection they have with their adoring crowds. Having played Leeds many times before tonight, they were excited to be back, albeit in a different venue than they were used to – having previously playing the majority of their gigs at Belgrave Music Hall, a venue they described as feeling slightly empty even when it was sold out. They certainly wouldn’t have this problem at Headrow House, a quirky little venue in the centre of Leeds, packing in just the right amount of people for a lively and frenzied show.
Having just completed the first two dates of their tour in Bristol and London, JAWS still had a few towns left to play, culminating in a return to their own turf in the cultural epicentre of the black country, Birmingham. Visibly excited by the thought of returning home, even if it was just so they could “roll in to bed” at the end of the final show. The subject of the “B-Town” tag that has constantly followed them came up – it was something they didn’t want to touch on, and rightly so. JAWS have firmly established their own sound, and aren’t content with being pushed into this bracket with the likes of Brummy bands Peace and Swim Deep amongst others. The JAWS boys deserve more than that, having amassed a cult-like following of dedicated fans who sing along every word with them whenever they hit the stage. This was more than evident from the very beginning of the evening’s show, from the moment they kicked off with the lead single from Simplicity, ‘Just a Boy’, right through to the end. They finished with a triumphant encore of ‘Gold’, after returning to the stage to a rowdy, rapturous applause.
Touring for JAWS, by their own admission, is their favourite part of the musical journey, and as such after the show they were more than happy to hang around, chat to their fans and sign their large catalogue of merch at the end of the show. This was being sold by their tour manager Paul – incidentally also Schofield’s dad, something I happily brought up whilst chatting to the band and met by chuckles. Conor jokingly told me how it’s “like he has three sons”, sparking a burst of laughter from the rest of the room.
Ahead of the main event, support act Cosmo Pyke took to the stage as the crowd began to filter in, prompting Pyke to tell the waiting audience to come forward to the front as they stood awkwardly in a semi-circle a good 10 feet from the stage. Pyke was a wonderful and unexpected addition to the show, a young man who oozed effortless musicality with his jazzy and modern take on blues, creating a wonderful sound with just him, his soulful voice, and a stand-alone drummer. Pre-show, JAWS told me “you’ll like him, trust me” – and they were more than correct. Cosmo has now gone on to release his first track commercially, ‘Social Sites’, which is a lovely teaser of much more to come from him.
The show was a fantastic collection of all the best tracks from Simplicity and all of the band’s classic tunes. The infectious disco grooves of songs like ‘Toucan Surf’ and ‘Work It Out’ were wonderfully juxtaposed with the heavier, moodier sound of numbers including ‘Right in From of Me’ and ‘Cast’. Energy pulsed throughout the entire show, fuelled by the band’s contagious enthusiasm. As they left the stage, the audience was left feeling sated after a belter of a show. JAWS told me that they hope their journey continues, with more gigs and more tunes to come from a band yet in their infancy. Though you wouldn’t think it, they look at home on the stage, and with huge, well written tracks along-side them, I for one am excited for their future – and you should be too.By Fred Stiddard