AOTW MEAN CAESAR (The VH Interview)

After their stunning debut single ‘South London Summer’ was track of the day Mean Caesar are unsurprisingly artist of the week. These gruff London punks create honest punk rock for fans of Leather Face, Bangers, Hot Water Music and Boysetsfire and have already been anouced for Manchester Punk Festival 2019.

I caught up with Oliver Ward and Danny Lester to find out more:

Hi Mean Caesar how are you doing?
Very well, thank you.

Can you tell me about your band?
OW: We’re a bunch of guys around the 30 mark who have similar politics and music taste and we’re just making a thing together. It’s fun and hard work so we’re pretty happy to see it finally blossoming with the first shows, then the first video and the EP coming out in October. It’s a band that plays the music we want to hear.

You have some serious credentials, does your previous band experience help with song writing? 
OW: I think every time you write or play with someone you learn stuff and hopefully that stays with you. I joined Myelin and Great Cynics at about the same time that me, Stu and Lester started working on Mean Caesar, so I was definitely transposing ideas about how a band works from that. In terms of writing it’s a pretty democratic process. One of us will have an idea and we develop that as a band and then focus on our own roles. Everyone has an idea about what a good song is. For us I feel that holding on to that idea, but equally being open to trying out others idea of a good song is an important process, and as individuals it feels like we’re growing as songwriters. Practice can be pretty intense when we’re writing like that.

Lesta: personally I was just desperate to get back to making music. It had been a long time since Pure Graft called it quits so it felt really refreshing getting to throw around ideas with the guys. As Ollie says, it’s a collective process but it’s definitely helped to have so much experience and different perspectives within the group.

Is it hard to write songs that don’t sound like previous bands you’ve been in?              OW: There’s definitely stuff that does sound like previous bands we’ve been in, but in a way that is harder to achieve, because it’s a different group of people with different ideas, and hopefully, if we’re putting in the time and energy and effort into writing, it should sound like us and no one else.

Lesta: Our previous bands obviously do influence us a lot musically and helped form who we are as musicians but if I’m honest, I don’t think we struggle for our own identity. We all came from different avenues within the punk scene so when we come together any ideas we have are shaped by us all to the point that we end up at our sound.

Your debut single South London Summer is a great introduction to the band, can you tell me about it?
Lesta: It’s a song that means a lot personally to me. South London isn’t any of our hometowns, we all chose to make this our home for one reason or another but it’s this place that brings us all together and gives us our fucked up little family.
Me personally, I was in a real hole back up north, spiralling through depression with thoughts that I hope never to have again, on the dole and feeling pretty hopeless. I took a gamble to move down here and try to change my luck and see if I could make life a bit more bearable and it worked. I see this song as a tribute to the people in my life who have accepted me, the people who have helped me, the people who surround me and inspire me every day. It’s just one big thank you to all our friends.

OW: I remember me and Stu (Morrison, Drums) coming up with the main core of the song on our own because there was some mess up with practice and we were the only ones who could make it. I think our old lead guitarist Tommy Simpson turned up towards the end. I think that’s a good example of how no matter what the circumstances, if you’re doing a band there’s always something you can do, whether it’s write something new, do some emailing, design a logo or flyer, there’s always something.

The EP is out soon, what does it sound like?
OW: Well, we’re really happy with it and the response we’ve had so far is great. Again, it’s the kind of record we want to listen to. We wanted it to sound like the bands that got us excited when we were young; Leatherface, Samiam, bands that speak to us and give us that focus and spark.

Lesta: I’m really rubbish at describing our sound but I’ve been amazed and sometime confused by what people have likened us to. We’ve had Lifetime, Leatherface, Iron Chic, some shouts of Midwestern emo revival (god knows why), Boy Sets Fire etc. I guess if you like owt like that then you might like it.

What does the rest of 2018 have in store for you?
OW: The EP comes out on October 5th and we have our 26 band, 6 DJ toga party release show at The New Cross Inn on October 13th which you should totally come to. It’ll be off the hook! Then we’re just playing, so check out our facebook.

How inspiring is the current state of the country to you as political songwriter?
Lesta: Haha, I wish it was less inspiring. We’re in a pretty terrifying period in mainstream politics and the outlook is bleak to say the least but one thing I will say is that while this is happening, it’s important to look around you and see all the amazing things that are happening, driven by good people wanting to improve things for everyone and take some inspiration.

Somehow this record doesn’t tackle anything overtly political though as there was some stuff I needed to work through. Thematically, it’s very much driven through mental health, bereavement, addiction and a want to be a better person but not to worry, theres songs creeping into our set that definitely have a more political tone.

OW: I’m not writing lyrics in this band, but making music in an environment like austerity Britain, and especially London, doing anything creative that doesn’t have a direct financial outcome, whether consuming or producing, is a difficult and political thing. Sometimes it feels like every little bit of energy you have is expected to be monetized, and doing something like playing in a band doesn’t fit in that remit. It feels like exploring your creative and artistic side is a luxury and a privilege for those that can afford it; but musicality and creativity is a human thing, it’s within all of us, so even if Lester was singing about “bitches and money” we live in a time where using your time to explore that side of your humanity is a political act in itself sometimes.

How different do you sound live?
Lesta: I think we sound a bit more intense live, I feel like we get pretty immersed in the music and kinda go where it takes us to some degree but there’s no real conscious planning of this.

Is it hard to balance the recorded and live sounds? Is it even important to do this?
OW: The way Joe at Musicland Studios recorded us is pretty true to our live sound, and we play as close to the record live as well. So, for us it’s easy to sound like the record. As a more general point I think the record and the live show are two separate things and if the artist thinks he can augment or somehow change up the sound for one or the other and it’s going to make a better record or show then fuck yeah let’s go. If you’re going to a show to hear the record, then save your money and stay home and listen to the record.

What other records would you recommend to people that like your band?
Lesta: we’re lucky enough to be friends with some amazing musicians. I’m not gonna say these bands sound like us but we really like bands like Apologies I Have None, Petrol Girls, Fresh, Happy Accidents, Nekra, Small Gods, Muncie Girls, Shy Talk, Blom….I dunno, the list could go on forever.

Where can I buy some records or hear more?
You can pre order the record from little rocket records right now over at meancaesarlrr.bandcamp.com