For anyone who, like me, grew up on the old-school emo and post-hardcore sounds of the early 2000s, we may just have found you a nostalgic new favourite band for 2019. Bath / Bristol-based four-piece Better Than Mending take that epic old-school sound and fuse it with darker sprinklings of post-rock and metal, resulting in a delicious concoction that they describe to us as “dark, honest and cathartic.”
The band initially started out with Rob and Gwion jamming for a while on guitar and drums, then with frontman James on board they swiftly set about recording demos. But the arrival of Mikey on bass in 2017 saw things pick up a notch, and they released debut EP Uprooted the same year.
The band are now set to release second EP Desire Lines on Friday (1 February), on which James tells us: “We are so excited. We recorded it back in May 2018 so have been super keen to get it ready for release, but wanted to make sure we had everything just right. This EP is a big step up for us and it’s been really frustrating to feel so proud of it and have to keep it to ourselves.
“We’ve definitely moved in a heavier direction with this EP, we’ve really leaned into the darker elements you can find in Uprooted. We spent a lot of time working on our sound on top of the song structures and stuff which gave us the opportunity to give the songs a bit more space and atmosphere. It’s one of the main reasons we recorded with Joe Clayton at Nø Studio. His work with bands like Earth Moves definitely had that raw edge we were after with this material.”
The first taster of the new EP is Provider, which brings the post-hardcore influence to the max in hard-hitting verses that give way to a more emotional, powerful chorus of “Words won’t take over, The space he left in your life, This brought us closer, In the worst way we’d ever want” with light, high-pitched guitars forming an atmospheric backdrop. Then low-tuned guitars kick in amid screaming guitar noise before a big rock-out supported by a low chugging bassline, then ending on a final blast of the engaging chorus.
While most recent single release Hiraeth kicks off with a big smash of darting guitars before dropping into an edgy opening verse with lingering guitars supporting intense screamed vocals. The pace picks up then drops into a section of spoken vocals over laid-back guitars, then funky stabbing guitars are answered by screams and give way to a more atmospheric section of guitars and vocals. A laid-back instrumental section follows, then stabbing guitars give way to a big rock-out featuring the funky opening guitar riff. Check it out in the video below:
While my favourite track may be the debut EP’s middle track Long In The Tooth, which opens up with light guitars that continue under emotionally charged opening vocals. It gradually builds in intensity towards a section of big guitars and rolling drums, which drop into huge dual screamed vocals that return with a vengeance to bring the track to an end. It’s pretty intense and very emo-ey but I love it, and you can give it a listen below.
The band’s musical influences include the likes of Touché Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth and Defeater, with more recent inspiration from doomy post-metal along the lines of Sumac, Neurosis and Jesu, and a lot of the drums influenced by dance and indie beats. So it’s a fairly eclectic mix.
And when it comes to the Better Than Mending sound, ‘cathartic’ is very much the operative word. As James explains: “Our music is all very self-reflective and personal. As I mentioned before it’s all very cathartic for us. There are elements of literature and cinema littered throughout too. The first track on the new EP is about suicide but through the lens of Dante’s Inferno. So a nice and cheery, pretentious piece of nonsense!”
But there’s more to the band than just the music you hear. They have heavy hands-on, DIY approach, including illustrator Gwion hand producing all their merch and physical media, while they mostly shoot and edit all their video content themselves. As James says: “We really want to be in control of what we create and it gives us a chance to spend time on our other passions alongside the music. We love having the opportunity to create some unique visuals to accompany and have some really fun plans.”
The band have a tour kicking off on 10 February at The Crofters Rights in Bristol, then taking in Reading, London, Leamington Spa, Kingston and Cardiff, then eventually see them head into Europe for the first time. More info on all their upcoming gigs is here.
These are exciting times for Better Than Mending and we’re excited to hear what’s coming our way on the second EP later this week.
You can follow Better Than Mending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Desire Lines is out on Friday, is available for pre-order here, and you can check out their music on Spotify, iTunes and Bandcamp.