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

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East London’s Snapped Ankles’ sophomore record Stunning Luxury is a frantic, exhilarating tour de force, simultaneously playful and provocative, and which balances its daft irreverence and sociological frustrations incredibly delicately. It’s a record that the late, great Mark E Smith might have made if he’d been sired in French house music rather than the punk and post-punk of the 1970s. Like Smith, Snapped Ankles are incredibly idiosyncratic in their approach regarding all of their output. Emerging from the Brick Lane arts scene, being surrounded by creative types of all disciplines has shaped the band’s attitude and ethos.

“When we started we played at our own parties and small chaotic art events where we would be paired with filmmakers to play live to their films. We built our own instruments and took our own PA rather than amps to each show as it was too complicated to explain to a sound man!”

It’s a level of commitment that Snapped Ankles have maintained to perpetuate their bizarre and exciting mythology; they keep their identities secret, build their own musical instruments and put on an incredibly captivating live show, the ideology of which hasn’t changed a great deal since the band’s inception.

“I suppose our basic sound premise is playing long, formless groove-based tracks inspired by NDW and Fela Kuti, trying to emulate tight sequenced electronica but played by real human fumbling groups of hands, normally in very dark spaces where you can’t see your fingers.

Ah, not much has changed really! We are still using the cheapest PA as our backline as well as groping for the perfect groove in a very, very, very dark room.”

Before we had Stunning Luxury as a title we had been planning our second album to be called ‘20 Attempts At A Xmas No.1’, so that gives you an insight into our initial approach!

Stunning Luxury is wonderful achievement; considerably more thematically and sonically coherent than their (great) debut Come Play The Trees. The band explain the differences in recording processes: “The first album is a greatest hits that had a long gestation process. Songs like Jonny Guitar were written as short pop songs. Then after being played in dark rooms for a few years they evolved into something else. This meant with the first album we had a couple of versions of some tracks, which we’d mash up together (in the case of Jonny Guitar) or strip right back to the short, sharp song (in the case of Minutes Back or True Ecology).

“With Stunning Luxury the tunes are the first debut incarnations. Some are the snappy pop versions that over time may morph via our live shows into monster workouts, and others are from said workouts that may well end up live as snappy pop tunes. Before we had Stunning Luxury as a title we had been planning our second album to be called ‘20 Attempts At A Xmas No.1’, so that gives you an insight into our initial approach!”

While perhaps not emulating Slade, Wizzard or Cliff Richard, Stunning Luxury is certainly infectious in the tradition of great British psychedelic, Komische and electronic music. It recalls groups like Clinic at their very best, the sweetness of the melody counteracted by their clattering oddball sensibilities. Delivery Van speaks to the same sensibilities as bands like Josef K; the tongue in cheek Bill Hicks referencing Tailpipe has an unhinged, unpredictable energy.

Stunning Luxury is a timely record too, the band themselves have said that the modus operandi for the record and the surrounding live performances is based on the idea that they have “taken on the guise of the very agents of their community’s demise, the stockbrokers and the property developers who heat the market on the promise of Stunning Luxury. With their adopted warehouse habitat under constant threat, the woodwose have taken the sharp-suited incarnation in order to infiltrate.”

It’s a feeling that is all over the record, from the wonderfully sarcastic and silly ‘Three Steps To Development, to Pestisound, which spits and hisses its proclamations of ‘moving out’. On how gentrification has affected their capacity to create, the band muse: “We’ve seen East London change, obviously. I think East London tops the charts for urban regeneration in Europe. We’ve played lots of closing parties at art spaces and squats; there’s barely any of the exciting future that was here only a few years ago. There are still pockets of spaces and warehouses that accommodate loud music and artists but the scenes have all shrunk. The regeneration in some areas was needed but the removal of social housing is the real issue that we are only now facing in this borough.”

The band reference Architects For Social Housing – a community interest company established in 2015 to combat the social housing crisis in London – an organisation bringing together architects, urban designers, planners, filmmakers, photographers, artists campaigners and writers and offering support, advice and expertise to people who feel as though their voices are being marginalised by councils during regeneration processes. The tone the band take when addressing this reflects the tone of their art – despondent and frustrated, but also hopeful and forward thinking; an embodiment of the importance of sharpness and irreverence in the face of adversity.

Snapped Ankles release Stunning Luxury on 1st March via The Leaf Label. The band play Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle on Saturday 9th March.

 

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