“There’s a generation that stares down the barrel of a gun/And you’ll never find them on the cover of The sun.” This is how we meet the tenacious quartet The Lounge Society from Yorkshire. The lyrics, taken from the band’s 2020 debut track “Generation Game” – and written when they were just 17 – introduce us to their trademark disco-infused punk. There is energy, desperation and frustration in the mix. It’s striking for a first single. “It’s political, it’s aggressive, it’s long and not based on big hooks,” says guitarist Herbie May. “It’s everything a debut album shouldn’t have been and that’s why it was perfect.”
This is a first indication of the size of their ambitions, but they also have ambitious goals when it comes to their sound. At one point, May said to me, “We want to look like The Velvet [Underground] and sell as The [Rolling] Stones – comparatively, not literally!
Straddling rock, punk, disco, funk and everything in between, the band – completed by Cameron Davey (vocals, bass), Hani Paskin-Hussain (guitar) and Archie Dewis (drums) – were “stuck together like four nuclei in a cell” since he met at school. Davey and May join me on a Zoom from their respective rooms in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. They tell me how their proximity allows them to evolve harmoniously on the road. “If you can survive a few years of high school together, you can survive anything,” laughs May.
Their friendship makes their collaborative writing process natural, even instinctive. You can hear it in their music: the mood-altering rhythm changes, the smooth way they tap into the emotions of the listener. But apart from this natural flair, they are aware of commercial success. Sound structures are often chosen based on how they will be received live: “It’s jazz in ethos, but rock’n’roll in sound,” says May. “There are two parts: crazy jamming and also just trying to write ‘Love Me Do’.”
“Generation Game,” May tells me, is the perfect example of this collaboration. By combining their different lyrical styles – where the hyper-specific (“razor wires and watchtowers”) meets the metaphor (“you’re just a cog in their golden machine”) – they are able to deliver a distinct and fresh vision of the world. The song was first written about their “shock and horror” at the “persecution” of Uyghur Muslim communities in China, but later became a broader commentary on frustration with ongoing political issues. The group wanted to speak to those in power who have the ability to change things – and choose not to. “It’s almost like the world is waiting for Superman,” Davey says. At this, May steps in and plays Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For a Hero”. “That’s the punk version of that!”
‘Generation Game’ may be unconventional, but it’s the best-selling debut album ever for South London indie label Speedy Wunderground. Co-directed by producer Dan Carey, Alexis Smith and Pierre Hall, Speedy Wunderground is known for capturing the raw element of songwriting and performance. The label promises to complete recordings in short periods of time to “prevent overcooking and ‘faff'” – something the boys liked. After a chance email landed their music in Carey’s ears, the quartet was signed while still in school, just 15 years old.
Given their early success, it’s no surprise that youth politics is at the heart of The Lounge Society’s music: “I think we’d be half the band [we are] if we felt too shy to say things,” May says. The Lounge Society believes it has a responsibility to use its platform to tackle important issues affecting the world. “You don’t just love a band for the way it sounds, you love it for what it is and what it stands for,” he says, speaking from experience. “We don’t have to change the world with a song, but maybe if enough artists make meaningful music, it could have a serious impact.”
While a political agenda is nothing new for a band – especially in a punk sphere – when it comes to The Lounge Society, it feels surprisingly fresh and authentic. The group’s Nordic upbringing – which they describe as “a combination of beauty and terror” – gives them a different perspective. They explore local issues, as in 2020’s “Burn the Heather”. The song condemns a “sickening and barbaric” local ritual of burning land to lure grouse to kill. Davey felt it was an important topic to talk about: “If where you live is known for being a beautiful city, but also for killing wildlife, you don’t feel as proud to say you’re from there. .”
The group is also not shy about addressing personal issues. after all, politics is personal. “You deal with politics whenever something is wrong or right for you,” May explains. “Politics isn’t really just the decisions of the most powerful people in the world; it’s how you feel when you wake up and when you go out, when you fill up or when you’re on social media. That’s what they’re tackling on their upcoming debut album. Tired of freedom (due out August 26), which is as sonically powerful as it is lyrically.
Across all 11 tracks, bouncy bass is mixed with catchy choruses that give these heartfelt songs warmth and light. The sugar-iced “North Is Your Heart” is about the “geographically privileged and financially hard-core” of the North and tries to find a new identity in the modern world. Meanwhile, “No Driver” expresses the feeling of – pretty much – keeping one’s head above water, with creative endeavors acting as a “necessity” to escape depression. “The black dog knows you,” Davey yells with his chest. The song — recorded after tequila at 2 a.m. — is “like you’re using creativity as a way to stay ahead — and not always successfully,” May says.
But The Lounge Society doesn’t just want you to listen; they want you to dance. As we discuss their fondness for ’70s punk-funk bands such as ESG and Talking Heads, I wonder if there’s some power in combining heavier lyrical subject matter with music that holds a groove. Davey thinks so: “You pull people in with good music, then jump in with an opposite chorus that’s heavily political.” May agrees: “Important topics don’t get through if the music isn’t contagious. If you want to fuel people’s politics, then the music has to taste good. You have to put sugar on it! he’s laughing.
For The Lounge Society, however, it always comes down to talking about their generation. The re-recorded version of “Generation Game” is the last track on Tired of freedom. “We wanted it to end where it started,” Davey says, as I imagine the album tied in a big arc. Their energy is young, but their attitude is mature – so the band is also thinking about the future. “Stay young and watch our future grow old,” Davey roared on “Blood Money.” “The younger you are, the more opportunities you’ve had,” May says, explaining the inspiration behind the lyrics. “That’s not to say that this generation has been worse off. There are just decisions made that directly affect opportunities for young people – and what does a nation or civilization have if not its youth? »
The Lounge Society’s debut album “Tired of Liberty” will be released August 26 via Speedy Wunderground