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Harry from Brawlers: “We’re a fucking rock band”

With their debut album on the shelves, Brawlers’ frontman is looking to find as many new fans as he can.

Harry from Brawlers: “We’re a fucking rock band”
With their debut album on the shelves, Brawlers’ frontman is looking to find as many new fans as he can.
Words: Ali Shutler
Photos: Emma Swann

If you want to dissect every aspect of what our bands about, you’re probably not going to have a good time,” starts Harry George Johns. “It’s deceiving simple.” Later on tonight the band in question, Brawlers, will take to the stage of Camden’s Underworld for the second time in as many months. Since spring sprung, the Yorkshire four-piece have been on the road promoting their debut album ‘The Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’ and with festival season looming, they’re not looking to take a break anytime soon.

“We’ve always been about four guys on a stage, give us half an hour and lets go,” he declares. Coming together in the summer of 2013 from an eclectic musical past, Brawlers have been unrelenting since.

“We’re really hard to pigeonhole,” Harry admits. “We’re still a new band but we know exactly what we are.” Simple but powerfully effective.
“Someone called us “bubblegum Trash Talk and that makes me feel good. The band was borne out of trying to put on a really memorable live show and the songs were an after thought at first but imagine if you could mix that with some great choruses. Surely you’re onto a winning combination.”

And as Brawlers, despite being the first band on the bill, unite the crowd with fist in the air solidarity and cries of “I believe in rock and roll”, tonight certainly feels like a victory.

“There are definitely messages in our music, whether people get them or not is a different thing,” he questions. “We had a meeting with Radio One. They said ‘we really like the social commentary aspects of your songs,’ and I remember spending one evening sat on my sofa with my guitar thinking ‘maybe I’m supposed to be writing songs about Facebook.’” After a fruitless night Harry woke with the realisation, “If you start writing songs for anyone else but yourself, you’ve basically fucked it.”

“That’s why people react so well to us, touch wood,” ventures Harry tapping the table before him. “It’s because we’re honest. That’s the word that crops up everytime you read about Brawlers. If you’re going to get on stage and sing about being in a club with loads of money, drinking Courvoisier and you’re not that, people can smell that a mile off. If I ever get rich and famous from playing music, the songs will reflect that and the struggles that come with it.” While the dream is alive, Brawlers aren’t there yet.

“For the time being we cant make rent or eat but we get to play shows with our favourite bands so we’re going to write songs about what’s in our lives which is dumb stuff on the internet and having fall outs with friends. I think the next record, and I’ve only just started writing it, but it will probably be a diary of a low paid, touring band. It’s hard but it’s not so hard that we’re not going to do it.”

“There’s a struggle there every day,” he admits. “We’re playing shows that are mentally draining, physically exerting. You make friends and lose friends in a heartbeat from how you act on that particular night and I don’t know any other scenario like that. It’s like going to a job interview every day; if you fuck it they’re not going to give you the job. I can’t have a bad day.”

“We are all very up and down characters in our personal lives but we all understand the importance of giving it 115% every time we play,” he shares. “We all have anxiety, depression and all the other things that every human being in the world has. We all suffer with that in our own way but we all have an agreement that we should be on the same page for half an hour every day, that seems fair to me. If you want a job where you’re allowed off days, go work in a factory.”

“The rewards far outweigh the cons of this job,” appeals Harry. “We are, generally speaking, really nice positive human beings,” and that’s reflected in their lyrics. ‘The Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’ takes the shadows of nostalgia and finds the positives within. “All those songs are about things that have happened in the past three years. That’s literally it. Everything I’ve sung about is real, I haven’t changed any names and all those people exist. The songs are self-referential to the point of self-deprecation. If I can laugh at some of the awful things that have happened in my life, then people should seek solace in the fact I’ve gone through it. If they’re going through a shitty time and they feel like a worthless piece of shit, or they feel like they’ve missed out on the romantic errors of their youth then what’s better than to look at me. If I can sing about it, you can get over it,” he says with a laugh.

“People have said to me that it’s really nice I’m so blasé about being heartbroken because only when you’re out of being heartbroken, do you realise what a waste of time it was in the first place. I find that amazing, it’s the zeitgeist that I’m trying to capture with Brawlers. Don’t get too upset over these girls or guys, because another one’s going to come along and rescue me,” he explains, quoting his own song for the third time with a wry smile. “It’s really that simple.”

“We want to write some really great songs that people will love,” states Harry before summing up his desires for the band to inspire “excitement and memorability.”

“I think we’re the perfect support band,” he claims, carefully rolling the words around his mouth. “Not because we’re good but because we’re enthusiastic. I’m not saying we’re the best support band in the world but we’ve played with a lot of bands who are very unenthusiastic. If you’re going to waste my twenty-five minutes, you may as well try and win me over,” he challenges. “I think we’re good at winning over fans. The day you don’t want to do that is the day you might as well give up.”

After months of accumulating fans through live shows and recorded snapshots, the next step should is usually a headline tour. “The idea petrifies me. I don’t think we’re anywhere near big enough to do it,” he offers. “We’re still in the position where I’d rather people just had the opportunity to listen to us without being on that springboard of a headline tour. It sounds crass to me.“

The aspirations of Harry George Johns are simple ones. “We want to appeal to the most people we can. I didn’t write those choruses to be on an indie 7”. That’s not what we’re about,” he underlines. “I think people will really like our band if they listen to us. Some people don’t get it, ‘It’s just four chords.’ Yeah, but so was Nirvana, so was The Beatles so shut up. People are always looking for something more at the moment and we are defiantly anti-more.”

“Our music is simple and will stay that way for a long time. That’s the way we like it. People are afraid these days to be just a rock band. If you’re good enough, it shouldn’t matter,” Harry says as ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine comes on over the sound system. “Guns and Roses don’t give a fuck about that stuff, it is what it is. I want to be a band that just are what we are and we’ll continue to be that.

We’re a fucking rock band!” he states before reconsidering “Actually, if Matt didn’t throw his guitar in the air every five minutes, we’d be a pop band,” he says with a grin and it’s as simple as that. [icon type=”fa-stop” size=”icon-1x” ]

Brawler’s debut album ‘Romantic Errors of our Youth’ is out now via Alcopop! Records. Order it direct from the label here.

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