In April 2013, months on from the release of their debut album ‘Yours Sincerely, Dr. Hardcore’, Welsh experimental rock outfit Gallops announced that they were knocking it on the head. “…as of now Gallops is dead” read the statement posted on social media, with the quartet acknowledging a monumental journey over the preceding six years, but ultimately clarifying that “Music will continue, Gallops will not.” The very first ArcTanGent Festival was amongst a number of cancellations that followed.
In April 2016, nearly three years on from their departure, Gallops announced their return and with it a follow up to their debut album. There was also the important matter of finally making it to ArcTanGent Festival.
Now in its fifth year, ArcTanGent has cemented itself as the mecca for music nerds across the country and beyond, catering to those with a taste for the alternative. Having missed out the first time round, the organisers were giddy as can be to get Gallops back on board, securing them at the festival twice on the bounce in 2016 and 2017. It’s on site at Fernhill Farm, the home of ArcTanGent every year, where I meet up with Gallops, now a three-piece following one departure and a successful recruitment.
A few hours earlier, the trio had played to a mass of people as part of the Thursday early-doors frivolities of the weekend. Apart from a few technical mishaps here and there, Gallops are in good spirits following their set, happy to have received such a positive reaction from the giant crowd.
“When we first heard that we were playing at 4 o’clock on Thursday, we were like – 4’oclock on a Thursday?” Says guitarist-cum-noise maker Brad Whyte, noting that it was the assurance of Ben Griffiths (Alpha Male Tea Party) that Thursday is in fact the day of the festival. Especially if you’re one of the artists.
“It seems like Thursday is the sort of hardcore ArcTanGent heads”. Adds Mark Huckridge, man behind the electronics, keyboards, guitar and a mountain of wires.
Last year’s set at the festival actually ended up being their second gig back following their hiatus, a daunting prospect but also a chance to dust off the cobwebs and get stuck back into it.
“That was a hell of a gig to do – right ok, we’re back on track.” Laughs Mark. “Again, it was a packed tent and really good vibes… It’s a great festival.”
Outside of ArcTanGent, this year has also seen Gallops appear at a number of festivals dotted throughout the UK and Europe. From Sheffield to France, Leicester to Belgium and everywhere in between. It was in Belgium, at Rock Herk with the likes of Dinosaur Jr and Iceage, where the trio found themselves out in amongst the people on the street, playing the aptly titled ‘Street Stage’.
“It was really cool.” Says drummer Liam Edwards, citing Belgium as a particular highlight this year. “It was at the entrance of the festival as well, so anyone that came in had to walk past you playing. People were kind of all the way round you when you were playing as well… It was quite a unique atmosphere for that – bizarre, but really cool.”
“Passing trade…We were like a service station or something.” Laughs Mark.
With important dates forever falling in the month of April, it was April 21st 2017 that marked the most important date in the calendar of Gallops this year. ‘Bronze Mystic’, the highly anticipated follow up to their debut album Yours Sincerely, Dr Hardcore, was released through Southern label Blood and Biscuits. Having announced their reformation and with the promise of their first new material in four long years, in Bronze Mystic, Gallops seemed to side-step any doubts and instead build on the strong foundations.of their debut full length, whilst pushing the envelope even further.
“It definitely feels to me that there’s two phases of Gallops now, since the hiatus.” Says Mark. “There’s still some tracks that we like playing live off that album and there’s some songs that people like and off the first EP… It just feels like a new start. Not that we wanna put all that behind us, but I don’t think we can really compare ‘em. They’re from two different places.”
“We didn’t actively go out and go – right, it needs to sound different from the last time.” Adds Brad. “I think we’ve grown up, as people, and I think that’s reflected in how the album’s turned out.”
Half a decade was the original life and times of Gallops. Back around their reformation, the band stated that they missed it too much and that “Gallops still has life in it”. When the first phase of Gallops was closed however, it was obviously a completely different story.
“Internally, it was one of those things where it just wasn’t working in the state it was in, for various sort of personal reasons.” Admits Mark. “You have to enjoy doing it in order for it to be good. It’s just reflected otherwise… People can tell when you’re doing it for the sake of it. So yeah, when we split up, hiatus or whatever, it was dead sudden as well. Some people were really shocked and surprised – there’s a lot of people that have sort of probably blown it up a bit out of proportion to be honest. We were just in a certain place in our lives and now we’re in a different place in our lives and we’re gunning for it again.”
“It’s fun again, we’re just happy to be doing it.” He continues. “It seems like a lot of people from the first phase have stuck with us as it were, hopefully that’ll continue. We wanna keep pushing it further now.”
Whilst Bronze Mystic may be bringing in the new era of Gallops, the band still seem curious as to where it sits within their lineage. Do they consider the new album their first proper full-length?
“In some ways, it feels like it is. That’s an odd one.” Admits Mark. “Not that I don’t like that last record, but I’m certainly a lot prouder of this new one. I feel like it’s a culmination of everything we’ve ever done – and then some. We’ve just got better at doing what we do, I think.”
Back in April of this year, we stated that on Bronze Mystic, their brief time away had done wonders in revitalising Gallops and pushing them to make an album “packed with emotion and energy” that “certainly set the standard for instrumental records this year.” Reception seems to have been universally positive, not just in a critical capacity, but also from the viewpoint of punters going to shows. Mark highlights that people seem to have clocked on to the sound of a band maturing and ‘getting better at doing what they do’.
“…That’s how I feel about it as well…” He comments. “It’d be very easy to do a record like that and think that you’d done something more mature and everyone’s like – yeah, it just sounds like your old stuff.”
“I think the proudest thing for me is how each review that we’ve received on it has recommended a different track off the album…” Adds Brad. “There’s something for everyone, it feels like.”
The band discuss this last point, nothing that certain tracks like ‘Professional Weapon’ and ‘Prince O’ – considered by the band as “real deep cuts” – appear to be generating a lot of good feedback, despite feeling like album tracks during its production.
“I’d like to think it’s pulled in some fans that perhaps we didn’t have in phase one Gallops.” Suggests Mark.
“I think we were a little bit worried at first, before releasing it, because it’s so sonically different from the first long player.” Adds Brad. “We were kind of like, are we gonna lose a chunk of our fan base who like our frantic, heavier sound? It’s a bit more softer I think.”
Equally, the band have noticed in feedback that a lot of people they talk to recognise its differences, but feel it’s still recognisable as a Gallops record.
“That’s all I personally wanna do with music.” Says Mark. “I wanna make music that people know it’s us that do it… All my favourite artists are like that, you can just tell who it is straight away. I think that’s a massive achievement.”
Given their monumental leap from near death and obscurity, phase two Gallops is powering on (much like the beast that is ‘Darkjewel’ from their latest record). Having changed up their sound in their time away, the trio joke that it’s back to basics for Gallops phase three, moving into the world of Skiffle (“I’d only have to bring two spoons – and that’s it!” – Liam). But if that doesn’t work out, there’s belief within the camp of the direction they might be heading.
“I can see us probably moving further towards a more electronic direction…” Says Mark. “It seems like a natural progression for us. Not ditching guitars… It feels like where we’re at at the moment, trying to do less traditional guitar music, I guess. Really trying to push the envelope in that way. We’ll see what happens. We said that about the last album, then there’s loads of Top Gun guitar solos… But yeah, definitely new record in the making.”
Read our review of Bronze Mystic here!
Like what you see? Why not stick around and check out the other articles and interviews!
Don’t forget to follow Birthday Cake For Breakfast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!