The idea of marrying goth music with the adjective “life-affirming” may seem contradictory to many, but that’s exactly the label that’s been laid against Totnes post-punk band Council of Giants. How apt the label of goth music is, however, is up for debate.
The quartet began life when Tai Chi and Kung Fu teachers Luke Shepherd and Matt Rochford (both vocals and guitar) and Mark Delamere (drums) put into action their jokes about starting a band back in 2014. Their original bassist left to live in Spain and was eventually replaced by Steve Rogers, who had already been helping the band with their guitar sounds.
As Matt tells us: “Over the last couple of years or so, we’ve become a really tight unit – and that all comes down to the relationships between us. It’s not always easy working creatively with people, but we’re finding our way and are becoming more skilled in simultaneously not taking our own opinions too seriously whilst respecting each other 100%.”
The band have honed a sound that sits somewhere between retro post-punk and pop-rock, inspired by the likes of The Clash, The Cure, Blondie and the Psychedelic Furs, which they describe to us as “gnarly, deep and happy.” So, not very goth at all in reality.
That sound is realised in debut EP Falling Down, which opens with raw vocals and cool lyrics in the opening title track. Edgy verses with stabby guitars are countered by smooth, delicious choruses with singalong vocals supported by floaty guitars. A funky guitar solo picks the pace up, then drops down again as the track fades to an ending.
There’s an almost 70s/80s rock feel to third track Glove, with driving drums and a delicious fleeting riff opening up then continuing alongside engaging vocals followed later by a funky little guitar solo, which potentially makes this my favourite track on the record.
The debut EP oozes coolness, with funky little guitar riffs and solos in support of some really interesting vocals. So check it out for some delicious post-punk, rocky goodness.
The band have a range of musical influences, as Matt explains: “There have been two guitarists that have influenced me most. Gary Marx (The Sisters of Mercy) and Paul Wright (Fields of the Nephilim). I also love Radiohead, Godspeed, YBE and The Diamond Family Archive. In addition, I like some electronica, for example, Jon Hopkins and Solar Fields.
“Steve is a total prog-rock geek and loves Yes. But he’s really a deep appreciator of pretty much all musical styles and has an encyclopaedic knowledge to match. Luke loves The Clash, Johnny Cash and Squeeze, I just introduced him to Mark Lanegan – he loved that! Mark is a Doors and Cult fan.”
And when it comes to their lyrics, Matt tells us: “I write a lot about psychological forces, one of our newest songs is about seeing what’s going on in the basement of my mind. Luke writes about trust, contentment and other stuff that no-one understands apart from him, I think, lol. Me and Luke write the songs and then we arrange them as a band – so they normally come from quite a personal place in each of us.”
Council of Giants, whose name comes from the galactic neighbourhood we find ourselves in (obviously), are recording songs that weren’t included on their debut EP in demo form and then will be going into the studio with Matthew Board and Lucy Fawcett from Matthew and Me. They’ll be playing a live radio session for The Cult Of SuperTed this month, followed by two festival slots in June, while they were recently asked to support Guns of The Seneca from the USA which was pretty cool. 2018 is looking good for us.
Matt adds: “It’s different for all of us, but I think we love the release playing music gives us. When we’re all in sync and playing well it’s a great feeling of connection and fulfilment. We all communicate openly and working together like this, in a band, is a kind of therapy.”