Bristol based and fresh-faced, Callum McAllister, Max Cole and Dom Mosley are Toodles & The Hectic Pity, a young and talented punk group beginning to gather momentum. Headlining a raucous lineup of Bristol talent, the boys will be smashing out a noisy set at The Exchange on 25 June.
Like any great punk band, Toodles formed out of a school friendship
Like any great punk band, Toodles formed out of a school friendship. Years down the line, the boys are a successful EP into their promising stage careers and churning out thoughtful, intelligent punk rock tunes. Nitelife caught up with the Toodles’ frontman Callum to chat about summer plans and the curious story behind the name…
Tell us about the origins of Toodles & The Hectic Pity – what brought you guys together and how did you choose your name?
The three of us were friends at secondary school. After we finished, our friend Will Robson, who organises a local music festival called Inglefest, approached us about forming a band to play in an early version of what would later become the festival. This wasn’t really the beginning of Toodles, but it was the beginning of us three playing together — originally a pretty standard set of covers, but we still play everything using the same set up: acoustic guitar, bass and drums.
we’ve kept to that weird, rushed work ethic – if we want to write new stuff, we write it then and there, and we write it quickly
It wasn’t long after that we decided to form a band and write our own music, which ended up being a rush to get together some songs to play Inglefest the next year round. Two years running we’d put a set together on a deadline and I think that we’ve kept to that weird, rushed work ethic – if we want to write new stuff, we write it then and there, and we write it quickly.
The name is a bit of a stranger story. We were pretty stuck for a name, and for a while we used to suggest totally ridiculous ideas to each other. The name is actually a direct quote from the afterword to the book The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, which is a satire about the British government’s attempts to reduce anarchist sentiment in the early 1900s, and is equally hilarious as it is tragic.
I guess that’s influenced the direction of our songwriting, which is openly emotional and deeply imbued with a hatred against injustice
In it, the British government stages a bombing against itself in order to justify loosening of human rights so it can pursue anarchists. Toodles is a character described as ‘volatile and revolutionary’ and ‘the hectic pity’ refers to the fact that he can’t keep control of his empathy for others. While Callum suggested it as a joke, it seemed pretty fitting in the end to have the name referring to a protagonist who feels for all others as though they are himself. And I guess that’s influenced the direction of our songwriting, which is openly emotional and deeply imbued with a hatred against injustice.
How has your sound developed into what it is now?
What mostly defines our sound is the technical limitations enforced on us by the set up we’ve got. Some people talk to us about moving to an electric guitar, and also suggested that we add different instruments during the recording of our last two EPs to add to the sound – but in general, we’ve tried to stick to the rule that we don’t want to record any music that we couldn’t in theory play live.
We played at Deadpunk on an acoustic stage with drums made out of pizza boxes, because we could
In the same way, the acoustic guitar sound makes the music easy to play anywhere. It gives us a more distinctive sound. We played at Deadpunk on an acoustic stage with drums made out of pizza boxes, because we could. It wasn’t anything majorly different to what we play as a full band, except in the fullness of the sound.
Using a small three-piece set up means that you can’t half-arse the songwriting
The choice of set up also makes us more creative. Using a small three-piece set up means that you can’t half-arse the songwriting. Our sound is always developing towards being fuller, more active and more vibrant as we learn different ways to achieve that with the set up we’ve got, which has sometimes involved adding melodica and banjo, and each of us taking on a few roles.
It means the songs are more scrappy and raw, and part of our sound is about using simple music to try and more clearly get across a point.
Do you have any major musical influences?
We’re hugely influenced by bands like The Front Bottoms, The Smith Street Band and The Mountain Goats, mostly for their raw and beautiful songwriting. All of those bands quite often defy usual song structures and rhythms of singing. It makes their songs longwinded and hectic, but in a way that keeps you hooked.
We take influences from a lot of diverse places, but I don’t think we always use them in obvious ways.
However, people look at us strangely when we reference these sorts of bands as influences, because we don’t sound like any of them, really. We take a lot of influence from Shit Present in the guitar and bass, and in terms of folk-punk we’ve taken a lot from AJJ, Ben Marwood, and The Tallest Man on Earth. We take influences from a lot of diverse places, but I don’t think we always use them in obvious ways.
What inspires your songwriting and who is involved in the writing process?
I usually write the bare bones of the songs and brings them to practice, at which point we adapt them into full band songs. They’re usually built out of some sort of frustration, whether political or emotional.
A lot of the Call in Sick EP comes straight from the normal frustrations that everyday life of being a 20-something brings, which is maybe not an interesting topic to write about. The title track is about how meaningless labour makes you worse at being a creative, loving person. The final track Ear to the Concrete is about letting go of your stress in order to enjoy yourself. But, also, a lot of our songs are more abstract and based a lot more on storytelling as thing in itself. They are full of references and allusions to literature and pop culture. For example, I Do Not Need A Doctor is a pretty abstract story about murder, the punk scene, witches and so on.
I Do Not Need A Doctor is a pretty abstract story about murder, the punk scene, witches and so on
We’ve also tried to do some more meaningless songwriting. Sometimes you can write something, which the Front Bottoms and Mountain Goats have done a lot of, where the songwriting seems explicitly meaningless, unimaginative and vapid, and can also really work. We try to do some of that, too. It stops you from overwriting songs and trying to be too clever.
You’ve got your EP launch show at Exchange on 24 June, what can we expect on the night?
A great show, we hope! We’ve already announced a few support acts, including the amazing Tim from WOAHNOWS, who actually recorded our new EP, as well as Austeros. We’re super thrilled to have them there and it’s a tremendous honour that they’re supporting us. A while back, these were some of our favourite bands and we had never dreamed of playing with them. Now, they’re good friends (and still our favourite bands).
Max’s other band Little Baby Sharks are playing one of their first shows as the support, too. They’re a band made up of Luke from Nietzsche Trigger Finger and Harri from Dogeyed. And we’re going to announce one or two more supports soon.
It’s going to be a fairly packed night, lineup-wise, but we wanted to be surrounded by our favourite bands and our friends
It’s going to be a fairly packed night, lineup-wise, but we wanted to be surrounded by our favourite bands and our friends. It takes the pressure of us – a bit – and it emphasises how much of a collective project the band has been thus far and how much we owe to the local music scene. We’ll be playing a slightly longer than usual set and playing all the new tracks from the EP. And we’ve got some new merch that we’ll be bringing too, and obviously it’s the first outing of the new record!
Are you working on any exciting projects currently?
Right now, we’re trying to demo some new songs and get them recorded ASAP. I don’t think we’re looking to do an album very soon, but that’s in our sights for the long-term trajectory of the band. Right now we’re too excited to, once we’ve written a song, record it and get it out, so maybe a few singles or a new EP coming up soon.
we’re all very busy creatively and we’re always producing more stuff, but the main thing is always the band
Meanwhile, Max is working on a lot of music with Little Baby Sharks, and Max and Dom just got back from tour with Springbreak. Dom has more bands than he can keep track of, and it’s likely that I will be doing some spin-off solo music soon, too. So we’re all very busy creatively and we’re always producing more stuff, but the main thing is always the band.
How has Bristol influenced your development as a band and as artists?
I think Bristol is a perfect melting pot of artists, and art is always about collaboration as far as we’re concerned. Without a constant source of creative people, we wouldn’t exist. We get inspiration from our friends who do our artwork, from each other, from other musicians, and the people creating new festivals, venues, events, and so on.
Bristol’s music scene is pretty much the perfect scene. You’re never at a loss for music to go to or venues to play at, and the city is a really inviting place
Without a city full of friends and creators doing this sort of thing non-stop, we wouldn’t be here creating music and sharing it at all. Bristol’s music scene is pretty much the perfect scene. You’re never at a loss for music to go to or venues to play at, and the city is a really inviting place. Even just having promoters, musicians and friends sort of just going, ‘Oh hey, that was really great, I liked X or Y about what you did there and you should listen to Z’ is really essential to our confidence in our own music, and so I think they’re the only reason we’re doing this at all!
Which venues are your favourites to play and are there any on your bucket list?
Our favourite venue is, of course, the beloved Exchange. It’s a place we’ve played so many times and we always get a really great reception. The people at Exchange are maybe the nicest people in the world. If that was the only venue we ever played for the rest of our career, I’d actually be pretty satisfied with that. It’s the one, a few years back, we never thought we’d get to play — and now they refer to us as their house band!
The people at Exchange are maybe the nicest people in the world. If that was the only venue we ever played for the rest of our career, I’d actually be pretty satisfied with that
In your opinion, who is currently making big sounds in the city?
Invisible Llama Promos are currently putting on free bar sessions in the front bar area of Exchange, which are intimate stripped backed sessions (usually with plenty of vegan white Russians being passed around) from some of the venue’s favourite punk artists.
the bands that are coming out of Breakfast Records are currently putting on some totally insane shows and they’re definitely a label to be watching
There’s one coming up soon with Kate from Springbreak and Alex from Honeypot. They’ve had Thom from Gnarwolves, Iona from Shit Present and Lande from Muncie Girls. Maybe that’s not necessarily ‘big sounds’ – more like, quiet beautiful sounds. Besides that, I think the bands that are coming out of Breakfast Records are currently putting on some totally insane shows and they’re definitely a label to be watching.