‘Noise rock is probably the easiest summary of our music,’ says Spectres front man Joe Hatt. Originally hailing from North Devon, Spectres have been subverting expectations in Bristol for the past five years. After their 2015 album debut Dying, the uncategorisable, noisy four piece surprised us the following year with a full remix record. Dead invites a slew of different artists ranging from techno wizard Richard Fearless (Death in Vegas) to post rock giants Mogwai to pull Dying apart track-by-track.
Joe continues: ‘There’s more noise than anything else. But we’re not pure noise, we do write songs as well. It’s not shoegaze or psych rock, which people often tag us as. Noise is the middle ground and we build from there.’
Joining Joe along with guitarist Adrian Dutt, drummer Andy Came and bass-and-vocalist Darren Frost in Bedminster; we try to get to the bottom of what Spectres are really all about. It’s clear that a sense of anarchy runs through everything they do – shrugging off the machine and doing things their own way, whether people like it or not (as is often the case, they say).
‘We don’t sit down and think: what can we do to wind people up or get attention?’ says Joe. ‘But a lot of it is spur of the moment decisions. And if it comes off then great, if not, it doesn’t really matter.’
Whatever your view, Spectres are fully entrenched in the local scene, not just through their sonic offerings, but also through limited edition artworks and their semi-regular zine, Dark Habits.
Joe also runs Bristol-based off kilter booking agency Qu Junktions; and Joe and Adrian head up Howling Owl Records between them, which began with the pair making tapes of music they thought people needed to hear.
Joe explains: ‘Coming from North Devon, both Adrian and myself had grown up in a town where if you wanted anything to happen, you had to do it yourself. I ran a skateboarding and music magazine, and Adrian had always put on shows.
We make the music that we do because it’s like a weird counselling session for us
‘So we came to Bristol and within about six months we were playing in bands and coming across music that we thought was really good, but no one was putting it out. So we just started doing it. We put out the first few Spectres EPs as well, but always hoping that someone else would put it out for us.’
They’re now signed to Sonic Cathedral who’ve released Dying, Dead, and now Spectres’ forthcoming album Condition, which is due 10 March.
‘Condition is the logical step from the first album,’ says Joe. ‘It’s a bit more brooding – it feels less rushed.’
‘It’s an expansion on the sections from the first album that we really enjoyed playing live and bringing in those elements that happen naturally – filtering those big bits into it,’ says Adrian.
Joe adds: ‘And not worrying about things like starting the lead single with a two-and-a-half minute piece of noise that’s completely indecipherable.’
Much of the hype surrounding Spectres comes from the fallout of their live shows – an ear shattering, tell-your-friends experience, no doubt. But with their second studio album on the way, recording is clearly another important element for the band.
‘People see us live and they get completely blown apart by the volume,’ says Joe. ‘And then they listen to our album and see that there’s actual songs there. So hopefully people enjoy having those two different experiences.
It was important to get someone who knew us to record us. When we tried to record in Devon, or when we first moved to Bristol, we weren’t confident enough to say to the engineer, “No, we want to sound like this.” So they’d make it sound how they thought it should sound. When we first recorded with Dom Mitchison [Malthouse Studios] for the Hunger EP, it was in some squat bedroom in Stokes Croft with barely any equipment at all, but he just nailed it. Since then, we’ve done everything with him.’
People see us live and they get completely blown apart by the volume
Spectres gained national exposure in late 2015 with their alternative theme song for their namesake Bond movie. A duet between Joe Hatt and vocalist Ela Orleans, Spectre was released on limited edition gold vinyl 007-inch. Joe explains: ‘It was a very long, well thought out – if we do say so ourselves – prank on the music industry.’
While presented as a joke, the single was another way of conveying a sentiment they feel strongly about, and resist across all of their platforms.
‘It’s our frustration at the apathy in music at the moment,’ says Joe. ‘No one really listens to anything anymore. It’s trying to make people react to something and feel something in the music they listen to, rather than letting it pass over them. We get some hostility from some pockets of the Bristol music scene, because they think we’re just pranksters and we don’t care, or they don’t like the way we go about things.
‘But then we’re part of a really strong scene of bands that stems from Howling Owl, which for us is much more rewarding to be a part of. Not just rock bands, but electronic musicians and DJs who get where we’re coming from.’
We get some hostility from some pockets of the Bristol music scene
‘There’s always going to be some notoriety because we ended up in the semi spotlight,’ says Adrian. ‘Which makes people look at what we’re doing, and if they don’t know us, or get what we’re about, it can look a bit odd. I think we’re doing something different and there are not many bands willing to put themselves in the firing line.
‘I like to think that people can see our honesty. Certainly when people come to see us live, that’s the game changer – they’re like fucking hell, what is that? That’s ultimately what we’re trying to do. We’re in a band because we make music to have fun. We make the music that we do because it’s like a weird counselling session for us. And it’s so good when people embrace that.’
‘We are sincere in what we do musically,’ says Joe. ‘In our songs and our artwork, there’s a stupid amount of thought behind all of it. We’re just quite restless people and when something annoys us, we’ll react to it and do something that other bands may not end up doing because they don’t want to upset someone, or say something about a band who might be on a booking agency that they want to go on, or because it might cost them the chance of getting a review from a magazine in eight months time.
‘Maybe if we did just shut up every now and again, things might be different. But it wouldn’t be fun. Part of being in a band and being in the music industry is to say what we think and have views. We know that we’re never going to have a big gig at Glastonbury or sell out a 500 capacity venue, that’s just not going to happen.’
‘It makes it easier,’ says Darren. ‘As soon as you stop dreaming about being a rock star – and we learnt that a long time ago – you make honest music.’
Andy adds: ‘And then every new situation and scenario we find ourselves in is a bonus. We appreciate everything.’
As soon as you stop dreaming about being a rock star – and we learnt that a long time ago – you make honest music
‘If we get fed at a gig we’re still happy!’ Joe says.
To celebrate the release of Conditions, Spectres are transforming The Cube cinema on 4 March for a seated AV show with artist Jason Barker, who does the visuals for the brilliant Kayla Painter’s AV shows.
‘We’re a rock band, so being in a seated environment is going to be different,’says Joe.‘They’re letting us move the cinema screen to the front of the stage and we’re going to play behind it with projections on the screen and we’re going to be lit from behind – so there’s going to be a lot of weird visual trickery going on.
‘We’re going to double the sound system, so it’s going to sound massive as well. Hopefully they’ll let us close the doors so people can’t leave!’