Fast rising Brighton based ska punkers The Bar Stool Preachers are just about to embark on their biggest UK headline tour to date, whilst tickets for the legendary Cock Sparrer’s 2020 Not The Albert Hall UK club tour are one of the hottest on the scene right now.
RPM caught up with Preachers’ vocalist T.J McFaull and bassist Bungle along with Colin McFaull lead singer with Cock Sparrer just a few weeks ago at Rebellion Festival to talk all about…well, just about anything really.
What follows is RPM interview gold as father and son (plus Bungle) ‘Take ‘Em All’ on ‘One By One’ whilst ‘Looking Lost’ in the interview seat is one Johnny H.
The last time I was sat in this very bar I was interviewing you Colin and I asked you this very question, so here it is with a very subtle twist. See if you can spot it.
I was stood watching you last night when it suddenly dawned on me that when The Bar Stool Preachers do the 20th Anniversary ‘Gracie Governo’ tour I’ll be 72 years old, so T.J. and Bungle tell me what’s it like to be young? (laughing)
T.J.: (laughing) Well we’ve never been busier; we’ve never been more successful and we’ve never been more broke. So, it’s brilliant being young. Although the years seem to be flying at the moment and suddenly, we do have to stop and think “have we really played this place six or is it seven times now”, and you kind of have to forget you are young and just crack on.
Bungle: The one thing people forget though is that being in a band doubles your age rate. (laughing)
TJ: Yeah it’s that and its also as a band you’re only as young or old sorry as your youngest member
Bungle; Why did you look at Col when you said that?
T.J.: Well Daryl is keeping ‘em tempered, to the ground (laughing) and we’ve got Whibs in the band our drummer (Alex Whibley-Conway) and he’s only 23 years old. So we really are a very young band (looking to Colin – and then follows loads of laughter)
T.J.: Yeah we met him when he was 19. That’s how long we’d struggled on with our old drummer, and we kind of groomed him into it more than anything. The first couple of tours we let him do anything, let him run wild. Then it was next couple of tours smack the shit out of him if he did anything wrong and the subsequent 7 or 8 tours, he’s been nothing short of amazing.
He was a jazz drummer first and the way he plays music is just so intuitive and as such this next album is going to be so heavily drums lead. That’s its just really fucking fun to listen to.
Colin: Well this year will be our sixth time of playing it going right back to the days when the stage was on the other side of the room, and I’ll be honest it’s a difficult room, largely because the sound is not always great in there due to the acoustics, but the crowd are always fantastic.
I think we still hold the record, yeah we had 6,500 in there back in 2008, and for health and safety reasons they now have a cap on it so you never get more than 3 to 3,500 in there.
T.J.: As we found out yesterday (referring to the fact that people were turned away when The Bar Stool Preachers were on stage due to the venue capacity having been reached)
Colin: It’s just a really great venue
So what was it like for you guys? (pointing at T.J. and Bungle)
T.J.: Bungle (laughing)
Bungle: Yeah, it was crazy. Words cannot do it justice; it was just mental. As we set up we could see the crowd as far back as the sound desk, then we came on lights went up and more people seemed to be in, then 2 or 3 songs in the lights went up and I stopped and turned to Tom and went “what’s going on? Have you seen this?” (laughing)
TJ: The response yesterday was phenomenal. Opening with ‘One Fool Down’ and first time in the big boy room, it could have all fallen flat on its face with about 100 people singing but less than 30 seconds into that first song it really did feel like there was 2,000 people shouting those words back as us.
Colin: What was really interesting from my point of view was having been to a few shows, as you can probably imagine. It’s gone from a couple of rows of people knowing the words to where I was stood last night (around 14 rows back) everyone around me knew every word.
You guys did genuinely seem moved by the reaction.
Bungle: I welled up I must admit.
TJ: I nearly cried during ‘One Fool Down’ when it got to the “Never Look Down” bit when that went off the first time, that stopped me taking that next breath and I looked around at Bungle and he was like the Blackpool Beach caricature of a dog with the biggest bone he’s ever seen (growling and laughing) and smiling from ear to ear.
Bungle: I wasn’t crying it was sweat in my eye okay? (laughing)
Do you still get that same buzz Col when you are headlining the Empress?
I was only saying to Tom earlier, people always ask us how long are you going to continue doing Cock Sparrer and I say as long as people pack out venues and sing the songs and enjoy themselves that’s good enough for us. When they stop, we’ll stop and it’s as simple as that.
TJ: You know the reason Rebellion is so special is that it is the one event a year where the various sections of the UK punk scene do come together with like one purpose, to have a great time. When we played at 5 pm yesterday it felt to me like the crowd all felt like they had part ownership in the band as they were all responsible for making it such a great event. Same when Cock Sparrer plays, everyone in there feels a part of that band, and their support really means something. That right there is amazing and it’s only at Rebellion here in the UK that you really get that.
At this point, I’d like to take you back to 2014 and a rainy night outside the Melkweg in Amsterdam. That night Tom you gave me and Nev (at the time we were both there covering that European Rebellion event for Uber Rock) your vision for this new ska-punk band you were forming. Five years on are you now anywhere near where you hoped you would be back then?
TJ: I’m there. I’m there (laughing) Yeah of course. We’re touring America 3 times in that the next 6 months. Plus, we’re putting out an album that people are potentially going to hear without us having to do 150 to 200 shows just to get it heard. We will still play that number of shows because we fucking love doing it, but it will get heard regardless now. So, 5 years down the line from that conversation I couldn’t be prouder of the boys in the band, how hard everyone’s worked, how much everyone’s sacrificed and just how good we all got at writing music. It’s been nothing but humbling every step of the way.
Bungle: I remember when I first met Tom down on Brighton Beach which was a long time ago on a beautiful Summer’s evening and I said to him “this will be my last time for putting absolutely everything into doing a band” and he was like “cool okay” and now 5 years later I’m like “why did I say that?” (everyone explodes in laughter). What the hell have I let myself in for? Seriously though I don’t regret it for one second. It’s like all the bucket list things I’m getting to do, playing the Empress, touring with Bouncing Souls and The Bronx, playing with Street Dogs. The list just goes on now.
T.J: (who at this point turns to Colin) Well you’re taking a completely different band out with you next year so you won’t be on that list (again everyone falls about laughing)
Colin: To be fair you guys have put everything into it. You’ve not held back and as you said (pointing to Tom) being dedicated to it has been the only way of doing it.
Bungle: You get out what you put into it don’t you.
T.J: You know you sell somebody something and you say “it’s gonna be this” but you’re never 100% sure that’s what I did when I hoodwinked you and Nev in that bar in Amsterdam. I was all about telling you it was going to be like The Clash with this real puck rock ethic understanding the ska, reggae and roots origins of where that sound all comes from. I couldn’t believe that it actually turned into just that. (laughing)
Or that the bassist I told you about that night could become the bassist he is right at this moment. I tell you there is no other bass player writing stuff like Bungle.
Colin: And what you didn’t do was compromise. You’ve stuck to that ethic when it probably would have been easier to get gigs if you’d changed your sound a little to suit what was in at the time. You stuck to what you wanted to do from the beginning and persevered with that original dream.
Bungle: It’s one of those things like when we first started and had the foundation of what we wanted to be we could start to do our own thing and let it grow naturally and let it be what it’s going to be. If people like it then that’s wicked!
T.J: When we started this though every interview or article always seemed to have somewhere in it… and features the son of Cock Sparrer singer Colin McFaull, and when that stopped or seemed to stop was when those people actually came out and saw The Bar Stool Preachers. Largely because we went out and did 150-200 shows a year to show everyone what we did, and that allowed us to be us.
T.J: Yeah from time to time, and yeah you guys didn’t and Dad and I were both like “Thank You for not mentioning it” but if you’re gonna sell tickets or clicks or whatever we understand. We all live in this same fucking rat race where you have to try and get yourself heard however you can, but you guys have always written about US first and that meant when you asked us for a chat we, of course, said “yes”.
Colin: We joked a few minutes ago about the UK run of shows Cock Sparrer are doing next year and us having another support band on with us. The simple truth is they have to distance themselves. They have to do their own thing. As I said to Tom if you’re in a situation a year from now where you’re looking to support Cock Sparrer in Wakefield then you’ve wasted a year somewhere. You should be bigger than that by then.
T.J: (shaking his head in disagreement) I get it, but you’re holding us back. If you think we’d go into that tour asking you to help us out and give us a gig then you are wrong. By doing it together we get to choose to do those shows.
Colin: What worries me, and this is the truth, is you commit to those dates now and it’s a year away and then say Rancid came and asked you to go on a world tour with them.
T.J: We would blow you out in heartbeat (this comment is followed by much laughter)
Colin: It’s a little commitment that could come back to bite you on the arse, that’s all I’m saying.
Bungle: It’s like when we go back to the really small venues like the Ilkeston thing and people say “you’re too big to play there”. We’re like “who gives a shit?” if we want to play a pub in the middle of nowhere to however many people, then we’ll do it.
T.J: And the Ilkeston thing (Ed: it’s changed now to later in the year and has been replaced this time around) has proved that point right because this time it’s the only all-ages show on the tour and people have bought tickets from four hours drive away. Just so they can bring their kids.
Okay so with things getting a little heated around the table here, here’s a real loaded gun question for you, and of course bearing in mind who is sat next to you (pointing at Tom). What’s been the real highlights of the first 4 or 5 years of The Bar Stool Preachers existence then?
T.J: That’s a great question, and its one we’ve not been asked before.
Bungle: There are multiple ones for a multitude of different reasons. I think The Slackers tour was our first big one and they really taught us a lot about being on the road
T.J: They communicate with each other as musicians on a level that I have not seen since. It’s like they communicate out of the corner of their eyes to a bandmate 10 foot away and suddenly its 1-2-3 and they are off, and as still relatively new musicians that is unbelievable to watch. So suddenly we’re going like “if they can do that, we can do that.”
Bungle: Perhaps what ties all this together is that whoever it is we are playing with when we learn something and take something away regarding how to do it better that is a highlight. So, going on tour with Sparrer I learned how to play my bass lower thanks to (Steve) Burgess (laughing), but whoever the band is we are always picking things up be it as musicians, or even something as silly as learning on how to get from A to B quicker.
T.J: You should try being normal size and not Bungle size and try sound checking his fucking bass and its touching your ankles (laughing)
Colin: The learning though never ends, that never stops and whatever band you play with you should be watching and learning about how to do things better.
T.J: So, cast your mind back to Mighty Sounds in the Czech Republic in 2017 (then follows a long silence as you can see Colin thinking) and Cock Sparrer have never done a call and response live before. Yeah, Bungle you can laugh it up as you were there for it, and I’m glad you were as this is proof. You had never done one before at the end of the set, and you saw it being done by another band and you said to me “I’m gonna do that.”
Colin: (laughing) And how was it?
T.J: (shouting) Much bigger than any of ours!!! (laughing) But at the end of the set, he did this mighty long note, looked over at me and Bungle and raised an eyebrow and I thought “I love that cunt”. (much laughter follows this comment)
Colin: Oh yeah that was the same gig that we put the backdrop up upside down. Intro kicks in big build-up crowd is going bonkers and backdrop falls to reveal the Forever logo upside down. (laughing). I was standing next to Will (Murray, Sparrer’s long-time road manager and sixth member) and said “Will the backdrop’s upside-down”, and he goes “yeah you’re right”, and I’m like “you’re not supposed to just agree with me you’re supposed to be like fuck yeah I’ll sort it now”. Brilliant!
T.J: To go back to the original question another highlight has been some of the incredible bills we’ve shared, Street Dogs taught us a lot, The Slackers, The Interrupters taught us a lot and Sparrer of course taught us a lot in the long run, and most definitely not how to put backdrops up. But to be good at something you learn in whatever you do in life, an apprentice chippie on a building site will watch how the others do things and take little things away to make life easier and that’s just what we do.
The next 2 years are going to be bigger and more exciting for us in terms of support slots than anything we’ve done so far, and that’s no disrespect to anyone I’ve mentioned so far, but we’re going back to play with Die Toten Hosen once again for an all-new run in front of 15 to 40,000 people, Bouncing Souls and The Bronx you know these are bands that we listened to growing up
T.J: There’s a real disparity between reality and what people feel comfortable to say and experience in the real world. It’s really very, very hard to live without feeling like a hypocrite about feeling guilty with people going on about; you travel it’s your carbon footprint, you eat a steak you’re killing the environment. There’s nothing you can do that there isn’t some smart bugger going, “this is slightly wrong.”
For us, in terms of the message we put out for the first album we were almost talking in clichés, for the second album we were trying to tell stories. For album number 3 a lot of what we’ve got to say is about genuine questions we have to ask right now. That’s because right now is a very explosive time to come of age and it’s a great time to write about. I mean what happened at Grenfell? What happened to the Panama Papers? Why are British bombs destroying Yemen? Like where are these questions in our day to day life? If they are not there, then people, maybe like us, but we’re still a relatively small band, there are a hell of a lot bigger bands who could be saying a hell of a lot more, but why aren’t people saying it? Trouble is there aren’t that many flagship points that people can rally behind at the moment that’s not already propagated in fear and its really hard as a band to not talk about all this. In our opinion.
There are a lot of bands who write songs about summer and love and surfboards and all that and are playing the same fucking 3 chords over and over..and
Colin: (chipping in) What’s that about ironing boards? (everyone falls about laughing at this point)
So, can music really change the world?
T.J: You never understand the real themes and energies of life until you experience them for yourself. Your deaths your marriages your births whatever they may be and they don’t always happen as big things sometimes they are microcosms. Me I just feel the whole system needs a reboot.
Colin: Sorry I’d nodded off there for a minute. (Laughing) The US is one of the biggest markets out there but you have to come to play it to come to terms with it, you have to be clever about it and do it in a specific kind of way, you certainly can’t scattergun it. So as the guys tell me the more they go back, the more friends they make and the more records they sell so it’s all healthy.
With Sparrer the first time we went to the US was 2000, well we did go in 1978. We were coming out of the record deal we’d sold all our stuff to go, the idea being to take demo tapes and tout it around the record companies to see if there was any interest and we flew on Freddie Laker for £40 to New York we spent 3 days there and no one was interested. There was a guy who used to work at Decca had moved to the west coast so we thought we’d go and see him, so we drove across the Sates in an Oldsmobile with no air conditioning and then spent a couple of weeks in Los Angeles trying to get some interest.
T.J: You should have done some shows.
Colin: Yes, we should have, we just didn’t have the opportunity to do any. So, the first time we played there was 2000 and we did New York CBGB before we went up to Boston before flying to Los Angeles which was a riot and then ended up in San Francisco.
T.J: (laughing) Def fucking Leppard…. Yeah alright. As for Pirate’s Press, like any good parents, they just let us do our own thing only do it more. For us its been more about redistribution of our efforts. Like we’re only doing this one headline UK tour this year in September (dates below) and that’s of course because we’re spending nearly 3 months in the US. We have this amazing fanbase in California and we don’t know where it started or where it came from and we are playing all the way through October with Badcop/Badcop who are fucking amazing.
As for the UK punk scene, I don’t think that’s there at the minute to be broken.
Do you not think that is kind of restricting your appeal though by simply labeling yourselves as punk?
TJ: Hmm that’s an interesting point because we do have the biggest demographic of non punk fans and I suppose that’s on top of us pulling 3000 people in the Empress at 5 pm on a Thursday afternoon.
Bungle: Yeah I’ll take that. (laughing)
Colin: (laughing) I can just sense a new tattoo coming on here.
T.J: I suppose it’s how you look at punk. I think there are loads of new up and coming punk bands who aren’t going to be looking at it the same way as The Bar Stool Preachers do. Because for us punk is not a genre, it’s an ethos. Look I understand I’m really privileged to have grown up with this all around me and I can remember a lot of it right from the age of 6, so why wouldn’t I want to be in a punk band? Everything I knew that was cool before I knew what cool was was punk hands down. So, if the mainstream world isn’t into punk right now then maybe they fucking need to be. As an ethos.
We’ve never played as a punk band though, and we’ve never billed ourselves on a Cock Sparrer/Oi! ticket and that’s because we make the music we want to make and it’s about inclusion and community that is much bigger than punk.
With both of your bands planning extensive UK tours I just wanted to say how refreshing it is to see you doing this, and not playing just the odd one or two shows in London and Manchester like most other bands seem to do these days.
T.J: And which you did for many years (looking to Colin)
Colin: For Sparrer there are two reasons really. 1.) is that Sparrer have always preferred It up close and personal and 2.) it’s the reaction we get when people see we are playing places like Wakefield. Now we’ve always been very privileged in that our fans our friends have been willing to travel to come and see us live so perhaps its now our turn to give something back and just like we’ve always done it to try and play places we’ve never done before and tick that box.
T.J: But you have a duty to your fans as leaders of the scene to give venues like the Robin 2 a little bit of time a little bit of daylight
Colin: And whilst I agree regarding this, it’s really more about making it easier for people to come and see us and not have to pay £400 to see us at a one-off in Amsterdam and instead they can pay £25 to see us in Newcastle or wherever. Of course, the real reason we’re doing it is because we had so much fun the last time we did it. I mean we played Cardiff and got out alive, that’s good enough for me (laughing)
Although Col one of the bands sat here is playing Cardiff on their upcoming tour and the other isn’t
(A cheer goes up from T.J and Bungle as I’m of course referring to their show in Clwb Ifor Bach on 21st September.)
T.J: Yes and I believe it’s only £10 a ticket for one of our shows too (laughing)
T.J: Loads more touring and of course album number 3
Bungle: To keep on writing better music and better songs really
T.J: For album number 3 the benefit is we now know what we’re doing, we’ve defined our sound, we know what our bits are. For us we found that some of our favourite recordings for the songs on ‘Gracie Governo’ were on our phones as voice notes and you know maybe we potentially overproduced those songs on the record. So, what we’re going to do on this next album is. We’ve got 35 songs we’re going to pick 20 and then over 8 days we’re going to record all of those songs live then we’re going to put them out there to get the opinions of people we love and respect – like mum. (cue much laughter) Then we’ll get 11 or 12 tunes that we can go in and record properly
Is there a temptation to drop more in the set?
TJ: That’s another great question. We think album number 1 is better than album number 2 because album number 1 was written with live audience feedback. When we played ‘Eye For An Eye’ last night second half I had no idea what was going on I was making it up as we went along. For album number 2 if we’d toured those for 12 months I think it would have been a much bigger album.
I’m not being critical of the last album I’m incredibly proud of Gracie Governo it’s just that the whole process was another of those learning points we’ll take into album number 3.
‘Late Night Transmission’ is another new one we played and that’s likely to be the lead track on the new album it’s our ‘Police And Thieves’. It’s a direct lift anyway, but don’t tell anyone. (laughing)
Colin: Mick Jones don’t exactly need the money. (laughing)
Colin: As I said to you all those years ago, we never say never. We’re in the fortunate position that as ‘Forever’ was funded by us we had control over everything, and that’s the only way we’d do another album. We’re certainly open to doing it and we’re writing new songs but as with ‘Forever’ if the content wasn’t going to be good enough, we certainly wouldn’t have released it. ‘Forever’ though we’re very proud of, and we love that album and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do another one.
Well with that awesome prospect in mind is there anything you wanted to add just to finish off?
T.J: Just that with everyone seemingly wanting our band to succeed right now is extremely humbling and we’ve got some really great people pulling for us right now so I’d just like to say “Thank You” to all of those people, and I hope to see some you on the road over the next few months.
Colin: What’s been most refreshing for me this weekend has been how seeing how diverse the Preachers fanbase is, the lads mentioned before the interview about the older lady on the barrier and in front of me were two young children on their parents shoulders, and that’s what its always been about for me and Cock Sparrer. You can come and see us whatever your age, colour, religion or sexual orientation, if you want to come and hear the songs, we’re happy to have you there and its brilliant to see it’s the same with the Preachers.
T.J: And that’s because it’s about family and not business.
If you are looking to be a part of the family for either of the bands upcoming UK tours then you can catch them at the following venues;
The Bar Stool Preachers (all dates are 2019)
Sept 13th Kingston – The Fighting Cocks
Sept 14th Derby – Hairy Dog
Sept 15th Manchester – Star ‘N’ Garter
Sept 16th Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
Sept 17th Newcastle – Trillians
Sept 18th Glasgow – Stereo Cafe
Sept 19th Carlisle – The Brickyard
Sept 20th Blackpool – The Waterloo Bar
Sept 21st Cardiff – Clwb Ifor Bach
Sept 22nd Bedford – Esquires
Cock Sparrer (all dates are for 2020)
27th Mar – The Robin 2, Wolverhampton
28th Mar – Waterfront, Norwich
4th Sep – Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
5th Sep – Concorde 2, Brighton
25th Sep – Manchester Academy 2, Manchester
26th Sep – Warehouse 23, Wakefield
9th Oct – Roadmender, Northampton
10th Oct- The Fleece, Bristol
23rd Oct – O2 Academy Newcastle, Newcastle
24th Oct – The Garage, Glasgow
Cock Sparrer @ Rebellion pic courtesy of Dod Morrison Photography