Somerset indie rockers October Drift have built a reputation for intense live shows and some excellent singles. As they break their Northants live duck this week Peter Dennis went in search of some background.
New Boots: Can you give a brief history of the band?
October Drift: We first became friends at school through skateboarding and then music. There’s really no music scene or venues where we’re from, so from very early on we travelled the UK to play gigs. We released several EPs and singles in the first few years of October Drift, as well as touring relentlessly. We landed a slot at Glastonbury’s John Peel Stage, and later Reading and Leeds, and a European tour support with Editors. It was off the back of this tour that Justin Lockey of Editors wanted to record our debut album, and it was released on his part-owned label, Physical Education Records. Forever Whatever was released in January 2020 – we toured it in February, and then went into lockdown. Since then, we have put out a stripped back EP called Naked as well as writing and self-recording our second album I Don’t Belong Anywhere, which is set for release on September 23rd. We’ve just released the second single from the new album, it’s called ‘Insects’. We’ve got a strong DIY ethos: managing ourselves, recording ourselves, making our own videos and artwork. We’ve built in a very organic way, through word of mouth and playing live.
What are your musical influences? Is there one musical collective or artist that unites you all and informs your sound?
There’s a big list of influences, I couldn’t say there’s one, but some stand out. Both Nirvana and Radiohead have always been of huge importance to us. You can probably hear the Nirvana / Pixies influence on the new single. When we were in college, we used to hang out at the local record shop Blackcat Records (RIP), and the owner Phil would introduce us to old stuff we didn’t know and the best new releases at the time. The National’s High Violet was one of those records and instantly had a big impact on us. It’s still one of my favourite albums, and The National have had a huge influence on our band. Someone once described us as The National with fuzz pedals, and I was quite happy with that.
October Drift have been praised in mainstream media along with more specialist publications such as Kerrang! To what do you attribute your crossover appeal?
We’ve built an audience in a very DIY way, through touring and touring and touring. We’ve had the occasional praise, but I couldn’t say we’ve been supported by mainstream media. I don’t want to sound bitter, but that’s the truth. We’re lucky to live in a time when the mainstream media isn’t the only route to success. I think we have a wide appeal – not really being part of any scene is a two-sided coin. We sit outside of the rock crowd and the indie crowd, which is perhaps where a crossover appeal lies.
Your debut album was released at the height of the first lockdown. How was it promoting the record in such circumstances? Did you consider delaying its release, or were you determined to push ahead?
Our debut album was released just before the pandemic hit, so we had no idea what was about to happen when we released the record. We consider ourselves lucky to have at least got the one tour in the February before we went into lockdown in March. Obviously, the pandemic had a big impact on our album campaign, but overall we faired OK during the pandemic. We had our health and our families were OK. In 2018 we set up our own studio here in Somerset. We were lucky to still be able to meet up and write and record there when we were allowed. Trying to plan the second album was more difficult with the pandemic. We recorded it ourselves out of the circumstances. That was a big learning curve, but I think we’ve pulled it off. We didn’t want to release an album that we couldn’t tour, so planning the release was tricky. A lot of the industry was on pause during the pandemic too, so it’s great to have everything in motion now.
How do you feel about the album now it has been out in the world? Anything you’d like to go back and change?
There’s nothing I’d change. It was recorded in just a week, and all its imperfections and live qualities only add to the energy and character of the album. I’m not one to look backwards. I’m not saying it’s the perfect album, but I’m very proud of it and there’s nothing I’d change.
As a musician how did you survive lockdown? It must have been hard not playing live.
To tell the truth, at first it was nice. I’d been so busy juggling working and everything with the band for years. It was good for my health: for the first time ever, I cooked regular homemade meals and was running every day. I dedicated a couple hours each day to songwriting, and came up with quite a lot. After some time though the novelty wore off, and I found it really hard to write. I think my subconscious was so uninspired by not seeing people and doing things. I did a whole bunch of live streams, which did feel like they filled a hole for a while. It was something in my week that gave some purpose, and I could practise songs for it, etc. When we were able to we did a seated, socially-distanced tour. It was nice to be playing to real people again, but was kind of weird. Then during first proper tour we did back in October I caught COVID myself, so we had to pull the tour and reschedule the dates. Anyway, we survived, it wasn’t always great but in the grand scheme of things we were lucky to have ours and our family’s health and not be hit too hard financially.
Your upcoming tour looks pretty full on with only a couple of days rest. How will you approach it?
We’ve done similar tours, but this might be biggest UK one we’ve done. We quickly learned that staying up all night drinking whisky early in the tour can make it hard work. You gotta pick your battles! On the plus side the drives aren’t too long, especially compared to European tours. This tour does start with six back-to-back gigs though, so that might be a bit of a shock to the system. Our live show is quite a full on physical, energetic thing. I’ve got faith that the adrenaline and buzz will carry us!
What’s your feeling about playing Northampton?
There are not many towns we’ve not played in the UK, so it’s good to finally tick Northampton off the list. It’s always nice to visit new places and meet new people; we’re looking forward to it. It’s also Jamie from the labels’ birthday that night, so will be a bit of a party.
Aside from the tour what are your future plans?
We’ve got a few festivals we’re looking forward to playing over the summer, including Bearded Theory and Vestrock in Holland. The second album is out in September, and we’ll be dropping singles between now and then with more videos and tours! And we’re always writing and demoing – we will start thinking about recording the third album sometime too!