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

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

Don’t let talk of their debut EP fool you – Irked are no band of novices. In fact, in preparation for this piece I was struck – nay, horrified – by the number of previous articles where I’d lumbered them with the dreaded tag of ‘supergroup’. Perhaps I’m being harsh on myself; after all, I could have labelled them ‘scene veterans’.

It’s reassuring, at least, that vocalist Helen Walkinshaw’s own characterisation isn’t that far removed: “It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s Monster!” she offers, on a quintet whose collective CV includes Blóm, Weekend Faithful, Biscuit Mouth, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Pet Crow, Cave Suns, Tough Tits, Shy Talk and Pure Graft, among others. “We’re all bringing our insights from other bands and wanting to try different things from those projects. We were originally going for something more angular, but instead it’s ended up being pretty straight-up punk. I don’t know whether that’s simply through laziness, but it was definitely accidental!”

First established by Simon Hubbard (guitar) and Zach McDade (drums), Irked quickly expanded with the addition of long-time cohorts Helen (vocals) and Mike Hill (bass), with Sean Kenny (guitar) also recruited having relocated from Derby. “Hub and Zach had the name before the rest of us came along,” Helen reveals. “Everyone knows the assignment when they join a band called Irked – you’re huffed! – but the guys know what they’re doing and if we make mistakes we can usually iron them out. I don’t think Zach would mind me saying they play a lot better now than when we formed Tough Tits!”

a forthright yet determinedly vibrant sound has made Irked an instant hit on the region’s live circuit

Brisk, fiercely direct and stripped of all fat, a forthright yet determinedly vibrant sound has made Irked an instant hit on the region’s live circuit, bolstered by slots alongside the likes of Big Joanie, Part Chimp and Hey Colossus. Indeed, as Helen recalls, it was a show with the latter in Manchester which ultimately – if indirectly – brought about the release of this month’s eponymous EP, following the 11th hour withdrawal of original distributors Scene Report (a situation that’s likewise affected fellow North Easterners Fast Blood).

“Joe [Thompson] and Chris [Summerline] from Hey Colossus run Wrong Speed Records, and they offered to pick it up,” she reports. “The EP was only ever supposed to be demos, but we were getting to the point where we could no longer get away without having anything released! Sean and Mike recorded and mixed it all at the Off Quay Building, and Joe and Chris decided it was too good not to put out. They’re taking our album forward next year too.”

It’s not hard to hear why they reached that conclusion. Having already tackled creeps in local music scenes and the perils of navigating unwanted attention with raucous singles Backstreets and Move, the release offers further thrills in Snakes’ urgent take on sleep paralysis and the “repetitive gibberish” (and, it must be said, ravishing hooks) of Crippling Empath. Lanzarote, meanwhile, is a tongue-in-cheek document of social and political change, explored through the markers of Helen’s family holidays in the ‘90s and ‘00s (“My Dad’s since come to see us and informed me we actually went to Fuerteventura,” she admits “It’s a bit late to change now!”)

With plenty more in the tank and no shortage of topics to rile them up, there’s every chance this assemblage could prove its members’ most enduring and far-reaching pursuit to date.

Irked’s eponymous debut EP is released in May through Wrong Speed Records.

Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout