Interview: Thunder On The Left

'This is a big question - we are all individuals who are stimulated by evolving and growing, but we hold fundamental beliefs of the need for equality, justice and fairness. We don’t align ourselves too much with politicians'...

Drawing comparisons with both Rage Against the Machine and Gossip dissident alt-rockers Thunder on the Left formed in early 2015 releasing their debut EP The Art of Letting Go later that year to very positive responses. I was lucky enough to see them at this years Loud Women Fest in early September where they took the day by the scruff of the neck and gave it a damn good shake! After their electrifying set I had a very excited chat with someone else who was also stood grinning at the back just because we both wanted/needed to talk about what we’d just witnessed! But that was quite a measured response compared to The Revue Magazine’s review of one of their shows which understandably commented that ‘the future of rock music may just depend on’ them!*

After their set Carla Tully (guitar/lead vocals), Adam Kingsley (bass/vocals) and Arun Dhanjal (drums/vocals) somehow discerned a request for an interview in amongst my excited approach to them and kindly answered a few questions.

They also gave us a special ‘surprise’ drop of the video for their new single ‘National Insecurity Video’ for you to enjoy, see below. They play London’s Old Blue Last tomorrow night (28th Sept).

(((o))): Could you give us an overview of Thunder on the Left? How did you meet? When did you start?

We don’t even know if we actually exist…

(((o))): The band name is the title of a book, isn’t it? Any reason for choosing it?

The book is about being disillusioned with society, need we say more.

(((o))): I would guess from listening to you and seeing you live that you’ve been in other bands before TOTL!?

We have, but none like TOTL.

(((o))): Did you have a fairly clear idea of the sound you were aiming for from the start or has it evolved?

We had a template/outline of frustration and riffs, that was coloured in by our own individual styles – that was always the formula.

(((o))): The last track you played at LW had a slightly different feel, quite Rage Against the Machine…

The track you refer to, ’The Cognitive Map,’ is the newest song we play live – we’ve been compared to Rage Against The Machine a lot, ever since we started.

(((o))): You released an EP The Art of Letting Go in 2015 what sort of subject matter do you explore in those 3 songs?

Shining a light on those who have a fundamental lack of self-awareness.

(((o))): Are your lyrics mostly based on experiences or inspired by other sources like films and books?

(Carla) – My lyrics are based on lots of different things, not just my own personal experiences – sometimes putting yourself into someone else’s position, or simply just a parable.

(((o))): How does the creative process work in TOTL? Is there one main songwriter or is it very collaborative?

Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night, circa 3am, and have a song fully fleshed out in our eardrums that we have to capture in that exact moment, so it doesn’t disappear in our short-term memory. This has happened to us all simultaneously in the past – where we hear the same song, then we simply transcribe it in the rehearsal room. That is usually the creative process.

(((o))): There is a lot of concern about venues closing, are you managing to find as many opportunities to play as you would like?

It is saddening that some venues are dropping off the face of the earth due to capitalism, building flats and gentrification etc, however, there are bigger concerns we have with the world than music venues closing – music will always exist, even if it is driven underground by the dystopia.

(((o))): Carla, a lot of female musicians seem to experience a degree of sexism, what has your experience as a musician in the DIY rock scene been like?

I have experienced sexism – yes. A certain type of man (note – not all men) is intimidated by a woman who can actually play the guitar, who is intelligent and who has something to say. I don’t let it get to me – I’d rather point it out, challenge it and move on. I have had experiences and it is always interesting how people think you won’t notice their projected sexism. The world still turns.

(((o))): You’re a band that’s feminist and political- how has your politics developed? What were the influences ? Where would you place yourselves politically or is it a continual evolving of thought?

This is a big question – we are all individuals who are stimulated by evolving and growing, but we hold fundamental beliefs of the need for equality, justice and fairness. We don’t align ourselves too much with politicians – they are largely un-trustworthy and self-serving, bar a few that are generally more marginalised by the mainstream sheep who hold a majority of the vote. The problem is the system, not being politically aligned – until the system changes, nothing will change enough through any party.

(((o))): I watched your videos on Youtube, ‘Sick’ had a unambiguous anti austerity/anti Tory message, are you encouraged by the number of young bands whose politics play a big part in their music, I’m thinking of IDLES, Sisteray and Skinny Girl Diet.

Yes, it is encouraging that more bands on the scene are putting their beliefs out there and provoking people to pay attention.

(((o))): I was very impressed by the video to ‘Pretty Little Victim’ really intelligent and sophisticated-could you unpack what you were exploring a little bit?

It’s for the viewer to interpret, and it’s all in the video/song.

(((o))): What bands and musicians have you been impressed by lately?

We’ve been listening to Chelsea Wolfe a lot on the way to our gigs.

(((o))): What are your plans for 2017 – an album on the horizon at all? Will you be out gigging a lot?

All will be revealed, so stay tuned!

Photo by Jane Moriai.

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