INTERVIEW: AVALANCHE PARTY | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s rare that bands are as complete as Avalanche Party. Not only do they look like bonafide stars, onstage they inhabit a collective consciousness in which they coalesce energies to create a frenetic, electrifying live show. Since their formation some five years ago, they’ve sought to deliver the best of themselves in the arena of live performance. Their surging fan base is well-acquainted with wild-eyed frontman Jordan Bell, whose onstage persona recalls the shamanistic contortions of Nick Cave and the exasperations of emotion for which Iggy Pop is best known.

Despite the formidable reputation of their raucous live numbers, Bell remains resolute in the band’s intention not to simply rehash crowd favourites on their debut album, 24 Carat Diamond Trephine (released on 22nd November). He explains: “We could have just re-recorded previous singles Solid Gold and I’m So Wet, but we just wanted to do as many different things as we could for the first album. It’s completely different to how we’ve done stuff before.”

Explaining the black humour in the album’s title, Bell surmises, “it just came out of nowhere really,” digging deeper, he reflects, “the idea itself came from trepanning – people used to cut holes in skulls to let out the bad spirits when people were acting weird or whatever, and they used to do that with a trephine, so I really liked that as a metaphor for the album.” Quick to check any trace of pretension in the use of this archaic reference point, he laughs, “then you stick ‘24 Carat Diamond’ on the front of it because it sounds fucking ridiculous and over-the-top – you gotta push these things!”

The sonic range of the album confirms the band’s pushing of boundaries: tracks range from the marauding piano murder ballad El Dorado, through to the rowdy garage rock stomp of Howl; an homage of sorts to the work of Allen Ginsberg and his beatnik coterie (as Bell points out, “On the Road is a really good book to read on the road, funnily enough”). El Dorado is surely one of band’s boldest and most beautiful tracks to date, featuring the haunting piano of guitarist Jared Thorpe, accompanied by a wailing, forlorn harmonica. Invoking Modernist poeticism and a Dylan-esque ‘stream of consciousness’, Bell’s lyrics cast an existential shadow across an impassioned refrain in which he intones: “Faster said the howling winds of change”. A visually striking video accompanies the track, which follows a lone cowpoke traversing the band’s dwelling of the wild North Yorkshire moors. “That was shot a couple of miles from where we live, it’s pretty barren.” Bell affirms.  

You get asked a lot of questions about the North/South divide in music, which I think is bollocks. Yeah, we’re from the North, but I don’t think it’s anything that defines you

It’s a video that is inspired, in part, by the band’s relationship with Scottish musician Dale Barclay, who tragically passed away last year (Barclay and his wife walked across the moors featured in the video, during a stay with the band). Barclay, best known as frontman for acclaimed bands The Amazing Snakeheads and And Yet It Moves became close friends with Avalanche Party over the past few years. “I put them on at a pub called the Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge – we played with them there and they stayed with us.” Barclay’s influence on the band would be profound. As Bell recalls: “He was an amazing character to be around, all these people from Italy and Demark came together because of Dale, he was a great guy.” Laughing, he confesses to having travelled to watch the Snakeheads in Glasgow but, having lost his return ticket after a night out, was forced to sit in the toilet on the train ride back. In tribute to the musician, the artwork for 24 Carat Diamond Trephine features a striking Manichean shot of Barclay during his And Yet It Moves period. “He just had that attitude that you can do anything, and you should go and do whatever you want – just take a chance and see what happens,” Bell explains, “he’ll always be a reminder to follow your instinct.”

Meditating on bands’ geographical origins and their sense of affinity with the North more broadly, Bell bites: “You get asked a lot of questions about the North/South divide in music, which I think is bollocks. Yeah, we’re from the North, but I don’t think it’s anything that defines you.” Indeed, with US dates that have been a regular part of the band’s touring schedule of late (with upcoming shows in New York and LA scheduled before the end of this year), the band seem to have swiftly transcended this tired line of questioning, now finding themselves amongst the burgeoning UK vanguard of garage punk bands like Idles and Fat White Family.

Reflecting on their recent jaunt to Austin for SXSW (having shared the bill with Redcar musician, and former NARC. cover star, Dylan Cartlidge), Bell beams, “That experience was great because you’re over there with all your mates and it’s fucking America! We didn’t get to do much sightseeing in New York and LA but we had a walk around Austin, which was good – I went to a gospel church which was pretty exciting but pretty intense, everyone’s up on their feet going ‘can I get an amen?!” He laughs. LA proved not to be such a reverential experience however, living up to its wild, party reputation: “We played a Mexican place and there was no stage so everyone was on the same level, and things got pretty invasive.”

Fittingly, at their KEXP performance in London earlier this year they were introduced as a band that wants to make you ‘feel’. “It’s a way of engaging people,” Bell muses. Unsurprisingly, their subsequent set shows a band at the height of their powers, tearing apart the stage to the fervent delight of their audience. It’ll ultimately be Avalanche Party’s commitment to following their instincts and staying true to their sound that will make this humble North Yorkshire band the success they deserve to be.

Avalanche Party release 24 Carat Diamond Trephine on 22nd November. They play Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough on Saturday 14th December



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