Regular readers of Birthday Cake For Breakfast will know I’m rather fond of the annual extravaganza that is ArcTanGent (and there are more, more, more interviews on the way, I promise). The three day festival catering to those with a soft spot for math-rock/post-rock and all manner of weird and crazy music is high up on my list of favourite things to do (and even indulges other pleasures, such as eating copious amounts of food and drinking all the beers…)
One of the festivals greatest assets is the atmosphere it creates, with a real sense of family created amongst those in attendance. With this festival, the likelihood of standing side by side with someone who was smashing up the main stage half an hour earlier is quite high, such is the nature of all attendees – especially those playing – getting swept up by all the joys and festivities. I mean sure, I wasn’t out there enjoying a pint with the dashing tall lad from Caspian or sharing Raclette hot dogs with the Spence siblings, but it’s not unfathomable.
It’s this sense of closeness and camaraderie between punter and band that was likely the downfall of poor Calvin Rhodes, guitarist in Body Hound. Sat at one end of a picnic table with his head in his hands, Calvin is using our interview time with the rest of the band to catch a moment of peace from the hard drinking and horrible weather. Everyone is in good spirits, but Calvin is suffering.
“Not right now,” he says when I ask if he’s alright. “But its fine. I’ve had a great festival.”
The others crease up at this.
“It was really pleasing that that many people were there at that time. The response we got was mind blowing.” Says bassist Joe Thorpe. “I don’t know if it’s because we were closer to the audience on that big stage, but when everybody cheered, especially after the last song, you felt it – it was really incredible.”
“Last year that spot was a highlight for everybody, so to get that spot for us this year meant that we had to really go for it, work really hard on the set and make sure we got everything in in time.” Chips in drummer Ryan Bright, the others nodding in agreement.
Their performance at last year’s ArcTanGent really was a turning point for Body Hound, the four-piece excelling on the main stage to a crowd of mind-blown punters. To be one of the main highlights of a festival that specialises in highlight-of-any-festival bands is no laughing matter. Though as the band point out, the first performance being as good as it was meant this year required them to go above and beyond.
“We practiced the shit out of it.” Says bassist Joe with a laugh.
“Crammed heavy for this exam, we really did…” Agrees Ryan. “But the new material went down really well. We played it pretty much flawlessly which is great, ‘cus we were worried.”
This year saw the band true to form, practically kicking off the entire festival on Thursday afternoon and smashing out a weekend-making performance, with new material making a more than welcome appearance (“I couldn’t even play it without reading it *Laughs*” – Joe T). The sheer amount of people crammed into the tent can definitely be a run-off from their previous outing, with the more than enthusiastic response from the crowd attributing to it.
“That’s what this festival is for a lot of bands I think.” Sums up Joe T. “It’s a really nice launch pad. It’s still quite a niche bunch of genres I suppose, so you get to have everything together with all the people who are enthusiastic about that music. It’s very cool.”
The baying crowd found at ArcTanGent isn’t the only signifier of a turning point for Body Hound. Highlights from the past year include yet another show-making-performance at this year’s tenth anniversary bash for Holy Roar, as well as a spot on the Meet Me In St. Louis show in Leeds over the summer, during their small run of final shows.
“It’s the best year we’ve had so far I think, in terms of amount of shows. We’ve probably done more this year than any other.” Comments Ryan.
“Yeah, that’s one thing that’s always bugged me, that we’ve not been able to do as much as I would like to.” Adds Joe T. “Everybody has lives and things, but it’s nice we’ve been able to do – if not more stuff – better gigs. That’s no disrespect to any gigs we might’ve played recently, but I just think we’ve had loads of gigs where all the bands were dead good.”
Earlier this year, Body Hound embarked on a mini-tour with Glaswegian instrumentalists VASA, culminating in a raucous performance at Strangeforms Festival in Leeds. Both bands did what they do best in front of a huge crowd, their Leeds stop-off being the cherry on top of what seemed like a wonderful tour. But it was halfway through the tour where things took a slight turn for the worse.
“I was really ill on that tour…” Moans Calvin, recalling the horrors of touring in late March when completely ill, including an on-stage bout of shivering all the way through a set. “Fucking hell. I had like a chest infection or summat, it were reyt bad. That Brighton gig were really bad.”
But illness aside, their ongoing highlight reel and show stealing performances have done well in shifting copies of their debut album Rhombus Now. At the time of writing, vinyl copies are in short supply, with distributors Holy Roar almost entirely sold out. When Ryan announces this to the group, Joe T laughs and ponders whether they’re now in debt to Alex Fitzpatrick and co. Around the time of its release, Body Hound were working with Brainwave, an all-encompassing collective of like-minded individuals down South who assisted with an initial tour and run of merch. It was then that Holy Roar got involved and they’ve not looked back since.“We’re definitely part of the family.” Says Ryan.
Driven to “a cult leader level of insanity” was how the band jokingly described their time in the studio working with producer Tom Prendergast on their debut. “Me and Calvin started it like 7 or 8 years ago, something like that – Me and him doing two-piece stuff.” Comments Ryan. “You’ll find all of ‘em floating about on Calvin’s profile, but we basically ripped apart loads of old tunes and reformed them when these two joined and that really helped spur us along and gave us a – not formula as such, but this is where we’re kinda going.“
“It was a solid base to jump off.” Agrees Joe T.
At this stage of the interview, whilst Calvin and Ryan attempt to remember initial riffs, the quartet descends into miming each other’s individual parts from their debut. “Wasn’t that Rhombus Now?” Asks Calvin, before Joe T explains, via mimed riff, that it was actually ‘Carnal Tunnel’.
“Sorry man, I’ve no idea how you’re gonna write this…” He laughs, as Ryan attempts to get things back on track.
“But yeah, the first one we banged it out and we love it, but this process for this one’s a lot more sort of…”
“Sick.” Laughs guitarist Joe Nicholson.
“I think we’ve developed our ear for our own music a lot more since then, so it’s easier to now pick out something that we could improve on.” Adds Joe T. “I always think like a fun thing, it would be interesting to re-record that to see what it was like now.”
“Yeah, we keep fucking about with it still…” Comments Joe N.
“Yeah, all those songs are played completely different now. But that’s what you do when you’re in a prog band – You never leave stuff alone, ever.” Smiles Ryan.
Constant re-working and “fucking about” has also made way for the aforementioned new material, the topic of which is one that the group are clearly excited to talk about, though still uncertain of how much they can say. Though Calvin is very media savvy when it comes to disclosure, perking up to state “We’re just working on an album. We’ve got about half of it written, maybe a third of it learned.”
Joe N smiles and shifts in his seat. “Maybe…”
“We’re yet to announce everything, but we’re gonna be recording later this year hopefully.” Says Joe T, summing up the remainder of the year. “Essentially, we just have to do lots of work and if we do the work, then we win recording an album. We’ve got a lot to get on with, but hopefully we’ll be able to release it early next year.”
“We just don’t want to push it too much so we sap the fun out of it.” Adds Ryan. “We’ll look back on what we do and it won’t be quite what we wanted.”
“That’s the thing, none of us want to settle for anything less than something we’re completely happy with. So we just wanna take our time…” Comments Joe T. “But we’re running out of time.”
Though time remains an issue, it’s the enduring PROG SPIRIT within Body Hound that likely means the songs we’ve heard as of late will be entirely different come album time. “The thing is, the new song that we played here, we’ll probably end up going back and fondling with it a bit more for quite a few weeks. We can’t leave ‘em alone…” States Ryan, as the two Joe’s exchange a glance.
“I’ve got a few fondles…” Says Joe N with a smirk.
“I’ve got itchy fingers for that…” Smiles Joe T.
“We’ll get there. There’s plenty of stuff written, we’ve just got to really pick the best bits and put it all together.” Confirms Ryan, going further to suggest that we can expect “A banging album, hopefully.”
“More prog” (Joe T) and “Longer riffs” (Calvin) are also the order of the day as the rest of the group consider the follow up to Rhombus Now.
“We’re at a point now where as a group of people, it does very much feel like we’re one mind – a hive mind. I feel like this is the honeymoon we’re in right now. It’s downhill from here.” Adds Joe T with a laugh. “No, I think as we progress together as a band, I think hopefully people can just glean a lot more enjoyment and feed off our enthusiasm. We really do love being in this band.”
“It’s one thing a lot of people have said to us a lot. I suppose we don’t really notice it in the moment, but we’re all beaming on stage. We’re all laughing at each other.” Comments Ryan, the others in agreement. “Just those little sort of nuances in playing. You look over and have a good giggle. A lot of bands do that, but a lot of bands will try and cover it up as well. We’re just like fuck it, whatever. Have a giggle.”
“Have a giggle…” Laughs Joe T. “That’s the album title, you heard it here first.”
Hilariously enough, post-festival the poor lads had the grave misfortune of breaking down on the long journey home – the handbrake of their car seizing up in terribly timed fashion. Even worse, after being towed to safety, a further trip up the road had their car “screaming like a person” resulting in the quartet not getting home until midnight. So as the quartet steer toward the follow up to Rhombus Now, here’s hoping they’re still able to have a giggle.