THE HURRIERS are the kind of band that Porky often dreams of: passionate, independently-driven – both in terms of control of their output, posters, promo, gigs et and their raison d’etre – and, almost as a bonus, a kick-ass in-your-face rock’n’roll act.
The five-piece hail from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, a working-class town with a long history of mining. So, they’ve got a wealth of knowledge and history to draw on.
Their debut From Acorns, Mighty Oaks released in May, and is a cracker which could well feature in our annual Best Albums of the Year list.
The line-up is Sam Horton and Jim Proud on guitars, Jamie Walman on bass, Zak Wright drums and Tony Wright vocals. Tony is Zak’s dad, a bit of a rarity in rock’n’roll – the only other instance of such family ties I can think of is with The Mystery Jets.
Tony Wright took some time out to answer our questions. I have to say that of all the interviews I’ve conducted over 20 years, this is undoubtedly one of my most pleasing. I came with some subconsciously negative questions, but felt inspired by the end of it.
Porky: You describe yourselves as a Socialist band, but the term seems to mean different things to different people. How do you define it, and is it still relevant – and achievable – in this capitalist system we live under?
Tony: I’ve been a Socialist since 1979 and I reckon Socialism has never been more relevant and never been more achievable. Socialism is about social justice, equality and opportunity for all, no matter what their background. It’s about nationalising key industries and the public sector and investing in the infrastructure rather than making cuts, dropping standards and stealing profits which should be going on increased wages and developing services.
On You’re Not Gagging Me you pay respect to The Clash. It seems a long time since bands had something to say and refused to conform. Are there any other bands around now that matter?
By the end of 2015 The Hurriers will have been responsible for bringing together three political compilations featuring tracks from over 70 acts, all proud to be considered as Socialist and connected to three causes: the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign http://otjc.org.uk/otjc-cd-out-now/
Hope Not Hate http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/shop/goodnight/ and the Morning Star compilation due out in a few weeks. Whilst the number of overtly left-wing mainstream acts may be few and far between, at grass roots level there is a musical movement of activism like never before.
For every mainstream act such as Billy Bragg, the Manics, Frank Turner, there are scores of jobbing acts like The Hurriers, Thee Faction, Joe Solo, Quiet Loner, Interrobang! , Louise Distras, Grace Petrie and many, many more. It’s also superb to see Sleaford Mods breaking through to a wider audience, they well and truly tell it like it is!
Is there still a place for campaigning, anti-establishment bands?
There is and there always will be! The recent We Shall Overcome Weekend http://weshallovercomeweekend.com/ proved that musicians have a vital role to play in campaigning against injustice, poverty and an establishment that thinks nothing to the rise in foodbanks and homelessness. For decades music has had a conscience and I firmly believe that as the injustice increases the level of activity and compassion from musicians will also increase.
Britain now has the most-right government since the Thatcher regime, if ever, and a party, UKIP, doing well with a programme that is nothing more than racist and bigoted. In this environment can a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party really provide an alternative?
If you look at it in real terms this government is even more right wing than Thatcher. Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory proved to everyone that people have had enough of austerity and had enough of an uncaring capitalist system. Even though the press are out to smear Corbyn at every chance they get, if you talk to the man and woman in the street he really is starting to win people over as an electable leader of a British Socialist government.
When the public have got the mass media telling them at every turn that the country is safe in Tory hands, it was always going to be a massive job convincing them that there is another way, but it’s happening, it really is.
Has his election given hope to those who need it most?
That isn’t going to happen overnight for the reasons I gave in the last answer. There are over four years to the next election so Labour have a job to do convincing voters that theirs is the best way forward. If another four years of Tory rule and austerity is the price we gave to pay to get a truly Socialist government then I’d settle for that.
One of the most refreshing things about the Corbyn victory is the way it has shown for the first time in decades that the Labour Party is NOT all about a group of MP’s gathering in London a few days a week. I was lucky enough to hear Jeremy speak three times in the lead up to the leadership election and it was invigorating to see thousands of party members and supporters turning up to hear him and, more to the point, being inspired and energised by every word he was saying.
Tell us about your connection to miners, and in particular the search for Truth and Justice?
Being a political band coming from the proud mining town of Barnsley as we do, we were always going to have a strong connection to the miners. I’ve always been proud of the fact that in one of my earlier bands Stronger Than Dirt we did gigs to raise money for striking miners and their families in the 84/85 strike. It wasn’t planned that The Hurriers came about at the same time as the 30th anniversary of the strike, but we were proud to play a big part in the 30th anniversary commemorations. As well as sorting out the acts for the Orgreave Picnic http://otjc.org.uk/orgreave-picnic-festival/ and the With Banners Held High events http://www.unityworks.co.uk/event/banners-held-high/ our song Truth and Justice does a great job of reminding people that whilst the strike may have been over 30 years ago, the fight for justice still goes on.
How important is it for you to play benefit gigs?
Since we formed in January 2013, The Hurriers have done well over 50 gigs and all but a handful have been benefit gigs for political causes we believe in. We were formed as a political band and our number one priority is spreading a political message via the kind of music people want to listen to.
Whilst it should always be remembered that musicians must be reimbursed for expenses incurred wherever possible, benefit gigs will always be the main course of the Hurriers’ gigging menu.
The band contains yourself and your son which isn’t very rock’n’roll?! Do you argue about the band van and stuff like that?
I suppose it is a bit out of the ordinary to have a Dad on lead vocals and his son on drums but I think that’s brilliant. Why should there be restrictions or norms about what the make-up of a band should be in regards to ages and family relationships? Just like every other member of The Hurriers, Zak is highly politicised and like Sam, our rhythm guitarist, he has a great knowledge of music for a teenager.
Zak certainly isn’t in the band just because he’s my son, he’s a cracking drummer and he comes up with just as many if not more new ideas than anyone. In regards to arguments, it might sound hard to believe but I honestly can’t remember there ever being any between any of us as a band. Maybe that’s because we’re a Socialist band!
How important is the cover art? The album cover has a very Smiths look about it.
Jamie, our bassist, is a self-employed graphic designer and Sam is studying photography at Leeds College of Art so artwork is definitely something that has a lot of thought going into it. It’s funny you should say the album cover reminds you of The Smiths because, in actual fact, the inspiration comes from their Rough Trade stable mates, Socialist Manchester band Easterhouse.
A photographer friend of ours Mark Tighe came across the image online and we were very, very pleased when world famous photographer Jez Coulson http://www.insight-visual.com/jez-bio.html agreed to let us use that shot on our album cover. For us it perfectly captures the message we wanted to convey, hope in the face of desperation. Though I say so myself it is a brilliant album cover and it looks especially good on the vinyl edition. (Buy it here: http://thehurriers.co.uk/ )
And what of your plans for the future?
We’ve already got some festivals booked in for summer 2016. As far as music goes, work on the second album has begun and we’ve already got two songs almost complete with two or three more in the pipeline.
The next few years are going to be highly significant in terms of politics and political music has a key role to play in that. As we have done from the start The Hurriers will be proudly singing Socialist songs and helping spread the message that if we really want to change things, we can!