Written By Mark Jones
Arch Rivals have been making waves in the scene since their formation in 2014 and in my opinion are one of the best street punk bands around at the moment. They released their debut album ‘One More Round’ last year through Randale Records and quickly followed that up earlier this year with the ‘Outlaws’ single. We caught up with vocalist Mike Brands to tell us more about the band.
Sounds Of The Street. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Can you just start by introducing yourselves and how the band got together?
Mike Brands. We are a 5 piece street punk/Oi! band based in Plymouth in the UK.
We are Mike – vocals – originally from Inverness, moved to England in 1999 when he joined the army.
Murphy – lead guitar – does all the band art and prints our t-shirts, also plays for Hostile Minds.
Kev – bass – originally from the midlands, also the bass player for Vincent and the Onepotts and Hostile Minds.
Tom – rhythm guitar – used to play in ska and punk bands, self taught trombone, the brains behind new Oi! band “Hostile Minds” and bovver rockers “Hard Wax”
Alex – drums – our Bulgarian beat master, he grew up amongst their local punk and hardcore scene, playing the drums for various bands since he was 16 and he is former drummer of Plymouth hardcore band “Upsurge” which he played in with Tom and Murphy, also plays for Hard Wax.
I moved to mid-Wales for my job, I was living in the middle of nowhere on my own and was getting bored.
I posted on Facebook about wanting to form a punk band and Tom (drums) messaged me about forming an Oi! band.
Even though they were based miles away in Plymouth, Tom recruited Murphy and Kev and we wrote a few songs over email which we decided to record together.
I travelled down to Plymouth, we jammed the songs out for twenty minutes, then went in the studio in the morning and recorded 3 songs, and we released them over the next week or so on YouTube and straight away got loads of positive feedback.
This lead to us releasing a ltd edition 7” on Shout Proud Records, which in turn lead us to Randale Records with whom we released our debut album “One More Round”
SOTS. The street punk/Oi scene in the UK has always had the image of being a bunch of racists, do you think the current crop of UK bands including yourselves are helping to change the image of the UK scene?
MB. I think that’s a misconceived image, although there is definitely that side of the scene most of us are just working folk looking to vent and enjoy ourselves through music.
There are many different factions within the scene and we tend to distance ourselves from any extremes, we’re not interested in all that bollocks, there are bands who claim “we don’t do politics” but we do politics… we do working class politics… we do food on the table politics… we do down the pub with mates politics… what we don’t do is tell people what to think… everyone in the band has their own set of political ideas and we all differ, I was brought up to keep personal politics personal!
I think the best way to change the preconceived image that a lot of people have about us is by getting out and putting on our shows, meeting people and showing them who we are and what we are about…
We’re not looking to become political poster boys or social superheroes, just a voice for the average Joe…
SOTS. The band’s songs are very melodic with excellent sing-a-long choruses, was this a conscious decision and who are the band’s main influences?
MB. We all bring something different to the table as far as influences go, Tom and myself have spent many years around the skinhead scene and bring Oi! and punk influences mainly, Murphy and Alex are both more Hardcore orientated and Kev is Mr Rock N Roll.
The melodic sound was something that just sort of happened, we’d jam stuff out and just use whatever we liked, I found it a real challenge as I’d never had to write vocals you could actually sing before, but we try to mix things up a bit, for every “Always and Forever” there’s an “On Our Own” just to keep things interesting…
I think some people write us off because of the melodic stuff as if you can’t be a real Oi! band if you can sing, but I think the subject matter of our songs makes us as relevant as harder sounding bands.
As a band, I guess our major influences include The Business, Argy Bargy, Cock Sparrer, Rancid, The Clash and Agnostic Front!
SOTS. You released your debut album last year through Randale Records and quickly followed that with the ‘Outlaws’ Single earlier this year, is there plans for more releases this year? Is there plans for a second album?
We are actually doing demos for the second album as we speak, we have written about 15 songs so far and recorded half a dozen, we will be in and out of the studio over the next month or so until the demos are all done, then we’ll sit on them for a month or so, decide what we like, what we don’t like and then choose our favourite tracks for the album.
SOTS. The band aren’t overly political but ‘Politicians’ off your debut album takes a pop at the liberties that MP’s take while the rest of us struggle. With the mess that the country is currently in, can we expect similar songs in the future?
MB. Absolutely, there’s one song called “The Struggle” which although is very different sound wise to “Politicians” subject wise is almost a sister song.
Although we don’t claim any political ties, we will speak out about the injustice the working classes endure due to self-serving politicians or big business.
We have another song which laments the life of the forgotten soldier who, once he has passed his usefulness, is discarded by the country he fought to defend, a subject matter which is very close to my heart as an ex-soldier and someone who still raises money for homeless military charities.
The government promised a military covenant to protect our armed forces once they no longer serve and local councils are ignoring it, leaving record numbers of our former personnel on the streets.
Another track talks about the helplessness of those people who society has forgotten or reject, it’s not a bleeding-heart song, but it doesn’t pull any punches on how brutal life can be.
Then we have a song about being an unlucky twat (semi autobiographical), so it’s not all doom and gloom… Ha ha!
SOTS. You have been playing gigs throughout Europe this year but you’re playing at this year’s Rebellion Festival and have got a hometown gig with some brilliant bands including Grade 2, The Crash Landings and Hard Wax. Are you looking forward to these shows? For people who have not seen you live what can they expect from an Arch Rivals show?
MB. We try to give a high energy show with sing along anthems to get people moving, our gigs are more about having a good time whilst staying true to who we are.
We like our gigs to be short sharp shocks, with a bit of me gobbing off in between songs.
I think it’s fair to say we win over new fans at pretty much every show we play and the quality of the shows we get offered these days represents that (Rebellion, Cock Sparrer, Cockney Rejects, etc.)
SOTS. We are massive fans of the band at Sounds of the Street and can’t wait for some new music. All the best for the rest of the year.
MB. Thank you very much, and thank you for your support, it’s massively appreciated,
Hope to see you at a show soon…