Northampton ska-rap-rockers extraordinaire, Karl Phillips and The Rejects are one of the most entertaining and unique live bands around. With new music flowing again online New Boots had a virtual tinnie with Karl about the whole kit and kaboodle.
What were your formative experiences that made you go: I want to rap and play guitar?
I was about 19 at college and a bunch of the black lads on my sports science course all used to rap to each other on our breaks. I was like, “I can do better than that”. They were like “Go on then”. So that night I went home and wrote my first 16 bars. I came back the next day and did it. No one was overly hyped. But I knew the fact that none of them tried to rip me meant I was kinda alright. And I still rap those bars to this day…
I got a guitar when I was about the same age. Because my dad had just got one. And I wanted to show him I could do better [see the pattern emerging here].
How did you develop your vocal/lyrical style?
I learnt three chords and started writing songs. I never knew anyone that played instruments or sang or anything. So it was a new world to me. I just wanted to have a laugh. Write funny songs and make my mates laugh really. That’s pretty much why I still do it.
The Sicknotes, The Midnight Ramblers, now the Rejects. What does this band of brothers bring to the table?
The Sicknotes were literally my best mates, none of whom had ever played instruments [apart from one lad, Duncan]. We just made it up as we were going along. The Ramblers were incredibly talented musicians, but had their own lives they needed to prioritise. The Rejects? They’re my guys. There’s loads of them. Most of them have been in 100 bands before this band. Doesn’t matter if theyre 18 or 50. If they got the vibes? I want them around mr. They’re all my best mates. And massively talented I’m lucky. Proper lucky to have them.
There’s been a bit of a break [three years, cough] since the last single. Just fate, or did you actively need a break to recharge the batteries?
Didn’t actively break from releasing, nah. Just always loved gigging more than putting stuff out. Been more busy on that side that ever. Nearly 100 gigs last year. Obviously this year…not so much. But the virus has made me up my game, and got loads of stuff ready to come out soon.
Tell us about this new funky beast ‘Back From The Dead Again’.
Honest truth about the new single? I recorded that nine years ago.. Just before I had a mental breakdown. And when I got better I hated the song because it reminded me of that shit. But nine years later, and a lockdown with no way of going studio to finish my latest songs, I thought “I quite like it now. And you lot can have that!” But nah, I hope people like it. It’s funky punk rap. And not really what The Rejects are about. You’ll have to wait three months for the next single for that…
What are your live shows like? Karl Phillips & The Rejects are known as a festival favourite…but what’s your favourite festival to play?
We just bring the party, man. We get on that stage and just have fun. Don’t take ourselves seriously at all. Obviously we keep the music tight. But it feels like even we never know what might happen next, and I think people like that unpredictable element. Boomtown has always up there for favourite festival. This would’ve been fifth or sixth year in a row for me, so gutted about that. But things are hopefully coming back to normal soon. And we’re ready to explode
How has lockdown been for you? Does it give you time to create, or stifle it?
Lockdown has given me no choice but to create. I’m used to gigging every week. But with that taken away I needed something to give me some purpose, and routine. So I’ve been smashing it that way for the first time in years. So yeah; actually grateful in a weird way.
Outside the band you’ve been doing sterling work as part of The Lab music venue. How has that been?
I took over events management at the Lab late last year. And was just getting into my stride, bringing in some greats acts from all around the country. Obviously the virus put that to a stop. But I’m optimistic I can get back to that soon. Kirsty, who plays sax in my band, also plays a role a lot bigger than me in running the place. And there’s a committee of so many wicked people pulling together and doing some of the dirtier work to keep the place going, and hopefully thriving soon enough. I just do the easy stuff.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Ed Solo on Spotify. What a don.
What plans do you have?
No real plans as such. Think I’m ready to finally take it a bit more serious and release songs more regular though. So yeah, just do that. Get back to gigging and see what happens.
‘Back From The Dead Again’ by Karl Phillips & The Rejects is out now via the usual digital platforms