EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: 5 Minutes With… And The Hangnails

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…And The Hangnails consist of guitarist Martyn Fillingham and drummer Steven Reid, though you would be forgiven for thinking there were more musicians involved in creating this duo’s blistering brand of “loud-as-fuck guitar pop”.

Recently signed to Young Thugs, the band have an appealing gritty garage rock sound, with sophisticated guitar work fleshing out the thunderous rhythms, and tightly-structured songs to harness the band’s raw power. As label manager Dave Greenbrown says, “When we first saw these raucous reprobates we couldn’t believe that they weren’t already a cult alternative sensation. We’re looking forward now to helping them become one.”

With new single “Don’t Waste My Time” due out tomorrow, we caught up with guitarist Martyn Fillingham to chat about the band’s influences, the move to Young Thugs and his idiosyncratic guitar set-up…

What albums have influenced you guys most?

Led Zeppelin, II
Kings of Leon, Aha Shake Heartbreak
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Baby 81
The Replacements, Sorry Ma, I forgot To Take Out The Trash
Black Diamond Heavies, A Touch Of Someone Else’s Class
The Beatles, White Album

Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?

Cloud Nothings are great. Attack On Memory was great, and I’m just getting my teeth into the newest album. Bull, from York, are ace. Love them! I think I’ve seen them more than any other band, and I always get something new from them.

Tell us about how your deal with Young Thugs came about. Were there any qualms about signing a deal and losing ‘independence’ as artists, anything like that?

No qualms. Young Thugs are an independent label and are on exactly the same wave length as us as artists. They totally get what we’re trying to do, and just want to help us do it! So it’s been perfect working with them so far.

Duos – especially guitar and drum duos – often have to work extra hard in terms of sound set-up and equipment to compensate for the relative lack of instrumentation on stage. Have you been inspired by bands like The White Stripes, The Kills, Royal Blood, etc.? Any others?

When I was first listening to The Black Keys’ earlier albums (I mean when they were still a duo), I just assumed that they must have wired their guitars in a similar way to how I ended up doing my own. I went about figuring out how to make my guitar sound the way I wanted it to, and now having seen rig run-downs of some other duos, it turns out they didn’t! I like to use quite complicated chords (like playing lead and rhythm at the same time), and most octave pedals can’t quite compute those harmonies, so coming up with a solution to that was quite fun to experiment with. When you’re playing single note riffs like Royal Blood, it’s not something you have to worry about, so their approach to filling out their sound doesn’t quite work for how we like to write.

And do you keep your own set-up a closely guarded secret…?

Not really! If you wanna know, I’ll tell you! I rewire, or build all my guitars in order to get a very specific sound. Basically I have two circuits running through my guitars: one normal pickup wiring, and another I designed to get an octave lower out of the bottom E and A strings. But otherwise it’s all in how we play, what we write and how we sing that is more definitive of our sound.

With bands like The Fat White Family and Idles, angry, alternative music seems to be enjoying a renaissance in Britain. Any thoughts as to why this might be the case?

I think alternative music has had a bit of a placid phase recently. Quite chilled-out guitar pop has been quite popular, and I’m a fan myself, but I think a craving for aggression and authenticity has been growing. Angry guitar music never goes away, but its mainstream popularity is kind of cyclical. It comes and goes pretty regularly.

What would you say some of the challenges artists face today in the music industry?

Making money in the beginning can be tough. Most big bands I know in the UK work full-time or at least part-time in order to make a real living. I think that can be a really healthy way to approach it, though it can mean for time restrictions. Only so many hours in a day, etc.

Where do you gather songwriting inspiration?

Everywhere. I think when you write a lot you’re just kinda telling your own story through your art. Everything you like and dislike influences you one way or another. But I’ve always liked the saying “Say what you mean, and make it rhyme.” We usually improvise guitars drums and vocals all at the same time when we’re writing and recording everything. It’s kind of like a subconscious stream of thought and feelings, so there’s not too much time to over-think what’s being said.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be?

Unhappy.

Finally, in a perfect world, where will ….And The Hangnails be at this time next year?

Preparing to release another album, happy with the last, ready to do a bigger tour than the year before, with an even stronger following.

The new …And The Hangnails single “Don’t Waste My Time” is out tomorrow. For now, check out the video for 2014 track “You And I”.