If you believed everything you saw on Instagram, you’d probably think that when DIY punk bands aren’t touring the world relentlessly, they’re at home living off mum and dad, perfecting their kick-flips on time-lapse and eating pizza in their pants. For Gnarwolves frontman Thom Weeks, his Brighton-based reality couldn’t be further from the lo-fi filter.
“I’ve got a really good job,” he explains en route to Buckingham Palace. “I’m a mental health support worker.” When he’s done detailing his band’s plans for another phenomenal year ahead, he plans to head off for a day of sightseeing around London, with stops at Westminster and Camden Lock.
“Really bad time management is how I get through it all,” the 27-year-old admits, adding that his employer of five and a half years may only be lenient of his punk-rock double life for so long. “I guess there will be a day when they tell me I’m not allowed to come back to work, because I take too much time off, but I really hope not.”
If ever there was a time when Thom’s nine to five could well feel the weight of Gnarwolves’ success, it’s now. Having just shared a bill with Slipknot at Download Festival, Thom and his bandmates, Charlie Piper (vocals/bass) and Max Weeks (drums), are gearing up for some of their biggest bucket list moments to date. After a string of UK shows with The Movielife this week, there’s the small matter of supporting Lagwagon, Alkaline Trio and NOFX later this month.
“I’m still feeling really blessed that we’ve been tagged on the end and no one’s said we shouldn’t be on that bill,” Thom says, thrilled to be joining his teenage heroes on the road. “We get to crash someone’s party really; that’s the nature of supporting a band.”
It would probably take a tidal wave to stop this trio in their tracks this side of Christmas, as they pen plans to tour at the end of the year, prepare to record a new album with their most trusted producer, Lewis Johns at The Ranch and, somehow, find time to launch various side-projects. “I don’t think much internally has changed within the band, or the people that we have around us; it’s been the same since we started.”
“The only difference is that the audience has grown,” he adds, having noticed more fresh, young faces at their shows. “I think that’s my favourite thing about our band, that it’s stayed fairly grassroots the whole time. We’re lucky.”
After all, Gnarwolves have only been a band for four years, in which time they’ve released three EPs, a full-length record and toured the world.
“You don’t get many opportunities to go around the world for free, do you?” the well-humoured frontman points out, recalling the moment Gnarwolves realised their ‘cru’ could take them to places unknown.
Remembering the band’s first trip abroad with particular fondness, Thom explains the real challenge of learning the ropes of life on the road. “It was brutal,” he thinks back on how three bands were crammed into one van. “We’d all have panic attacks in the bus because we’d be doing 14 hour drives in the dark. It was crazy but it was the beginning of us thinking we could go on tour for a month and it still be fun.”
It’s this balance of anxiety and adrenaline that appears to have fuelled Gnarwolves thus far. Having distanced themselves from many of the music industry’s defining dramas – something Thom tells us was a conscious decision early on – live shows still form the beating heart of the band.
“I don’t feel disillusioned,” he comments, explaining the priority to play shows over gaining the right kind of media coverage. “I think being a musician in the UK is fantastic, and across the world it’s fantastic, and it’s a unifying thing during dark times.”
The dark times he’s referring to are hinged somewhere between industry politics and those moments when the real world comes a’knocking – usually with a rent bill in hand.
“It’s really fun but also excruciatingly tiring. It’s like living inside of a little dream world, where you get to live your teenage fantasy,” he insists passionately, still strolling down The Mall to the Queen’s house. “Then at the same time, you realise you’re skipping a lot of important information; like how you’re going to be skint all the time.”
“People think that life is a lot simpler than it is,” he says more bluntly than before. “To get home for tour and realise I have to pay my rent when I’ve been away for six weeks… By the time you’ve caught back up again, you’re back on tour.”
“There’s only a certain amount of ways you can live your life and I’m glad I chose this one.”
Without the need for glittering album campaigns, big social media stunts or label-manufactured tours, Gnarwolves are treading the muddy waters of the music industry on their own terms.
“The UK punk scene has been killing it for years,” Thom responds when asked about the legacy he and his band could be instilling. “We’re just another pawn on the chess board.
“The last UK band I can think of that left a proper mark was Capdown, and that was a long time ago,” he adds. “I don’t know if there’s a band at the moment, but I think there are a lot with potential.
“Bangers are still the best band ever and I don’t think they’ve put out a record that will give them a legacy yet, but they’ve certainly changed my life,” the frontman declares before repeating, “They’re the best band ever.”
It’s this passion for music that prevails when attempting to get under the skin of Gnarwolves. “I guess every now and then you forget, but we all got into music because it’s the thing that made sense to us all and it’s the thing we love most,” he puts aptly.
“We’re going to be doing it all the time until someone tells us to shut up.”