Interview: Working Men’s Club

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Live music is back, and FestEvol‘s return is just around the corner. Organised by Evol in Liverpool, the first instalment of the FestEvol All Dayer takes place at the Invisible Wind Factory on Saturday 7th August. The opening event will be headlined by Kelly Lee Owens and Working Men’s Club, both heading into the festival off the back of two stand-out albums in 2020.

We caught up with Sydney Minskey-Sargeant from rising Yorkshire band, Working Men’s Club, ahead of the event. We discussed their debut album, new tracks ‘X’ and ‘Y’, their feelings ahead of the big headline slot at FestEvol and plenty more!

NC: Firstly, a belated congratulations on the debut album last year. What was it like releasing it in those circumstances and how was the reception?

Sydney: “Obviously now that album feels pretty old to us, we finished it around Christmas 2019. But the reception was great considering the circumstances around release. It was a strange time to put a record out and not what we’d anticipated, but the response made up for all the complications in terms of pushing the album back and not being able to tour it. I’m just happy we’ve got a record out, we’re lucky to have managed to put the album out during a pandemic.”

NC: Will it be strange touring the album, as the songs may feel old to you already yet fans haven’t seen them at a live show yet? Will there be more of a focus on newer material?

Sydney: “We’re going to play the record and maybe one new tune, keeping it fairly focused on the first album and then start playing more of the new stuff around September time. It’s nice to give that to the fans, people coming to the gigs will want to hear that album and it will be nice to see how it is received in a live environment.”

NC: You’ve released ‘X’ and ‘Y’ since the debut album release, were these lockdown creations?

Sydney: “We recorded ‘X’ before the record came out when restrictions were starting to ease a bit. With ‘Y’, that was me by myself at home and Ross mixing it later. It was nice to put these tracks out fairly quickly after the record and then focus on getting album 2 ready for next year.”

NC: There were definitely hints of progression in your sound with ‘X’, is this how you are feeling as you approach album 2?

Sydney: “Yeah I think so. It’s going to be a very different record because we’ve been left to our own devices and there’s been less stress with comings and goings around the studio. It’s a different album and I can’t wait to hear what people think of it. As with any band, the direction changes with time. I’ve been listening to lots of new music throughout the pandemic so there are new influences, and there are old songs that me and Ross have completely changed. We’ve had a lot more time to work and experiment with the music this time around.”

NC: You do bring together electronic and indie elements in your music, which side do you lean more towards personally in terms of your influences and tastes?

Sydney: “I do listen to more electronic music but there’s lots of different influences in there. It’s interesting blending the two in a more progressive way.”

NC: Now live music has returned, have you had much chance to work on your live show and, if so, what can fans expect?

Sydney: “We had a lighting rig for our livestreams but it’s a bit different for festival season. I think we are going to try and put on as much of a show as possible within our limits. It’s just weird because we were never sure if these gigs would happen, so it’s been a bit of a surprise that we can now play. We hope people will be pleased with what they see and then we can progress that into the November tour.”

NC: As you mentioned, there was a lot of uncertainty. How are you feeling now, cautious or optimistic?

Sydney: “I’m both cautious and optimistic at the same time. The uncertain feeling is quite exciting, we’ll see how this week of festivals and gigs go. It’s been so long since we’ve been in a room with an audience, so it will feel weird because it’s not normality for us anymore. There’s such a balance of emotions going through the fans and bands’ minds, it’s just a case of being respectful to one another.”

NC: You’re headlining FestEvol on 7th August, how are you feeling ahead of the gig? Have you played much in the area before?

Sydney: “We’ve played a couple of gigs in Liverpool before, one at Sound City and one at Invisible Wind Factory. It’ll be good man, we’re really looking forward to it. We’re excited to see some of the other bands on the bill and Liverpool is a great city, we enjoy playing there and have had a lot of fun there in the past. It’ll be our first festival headline slot too, which is great!”

NC: The festival has been praised for its progressive approach to addressing gender imbalance across festival lineups, which has been particularly prevalent again this summer. How does it feel to be a part of something like that and what does the industry need to do differently to address the wider issues we are seeing?

Sydney: “It’s about creating opportunities for everyone. Create more opportunities for all classes, gender and race, and this starts at school, giving people a proper education and accepting that music is a real subject that takes skill and needs to be appreciated more. Kids learn quick and if we plant the seed at an early age and allow young people to develop their passion for it, they are more likely to blossom and succeed in the industry. There appears to be a lack of respect for the arts and, for the most part, indie guitar music has a large proportion of male artists and there isn’t much diversification. That’s not to say we don’t see diversity in terms of people playing music, it’s just not all these people are being given the opportunities. It’s not always based on merit. We are starting to see change in the industry, but we need to focus on equal opportunity and a decent quality of music at the same time. I think it’s great to see FestEvol create such a balanced and fair lineup in that respect, it’s a really good selection of bands and artists.”

NC: You mention a lack of respect for the arts, which is something that the government has been accused of throughout the pandemic. How has this felt for you from a musician’s perspective?

Sydney: “They’ve completely ignored the arts and events industries, there hasn’t really been any support whatsoever. The support has come from unions and various charitable organisations instead. I think it’s shocking, especially when we’ve had to watch sports stadiums filled with people and then receive no data around how successful the music festival pilot schemes have been. It comes down to the same reasons there’s no funding for schools and music education. People are aware of how certain industries have been treated throughout the pandemic, with all the protests and people rebelling. Hopefully this isn’t just reactive and people remember this and continue to fight to feel valued for what they contribute to society until we see change.”

NC: On a final note, what have you missed most during the pandemic and looking forward to once normality resumes?

Sydney: “Just meeting new people and spontaneous things happening, like going out and not planning to. Just normal life, I guess. Having a chat to someone at a bar you’ve never met before, simple things like that I’ve missed!”

Working Men’s Club have a host of UK and European shows planned for 2021, alongside preparations for their second album due next year. There is still chance to get your hands on tickets to FestEvol 2021, so head HERE to buy your tickets for the much anticipated event. In the meantime, here is ‘X’.

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If you haven’t already, make sure you check out our Fantasy Pints Podcast, where we interview a different guest each week and ask the one common question – “if you could go for a drink with any three musicians past or present, who would you choose any why?” Latest episode below!

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