The riffy, intense sound of Southampton alt-rockers Minus Alive could fool you into thinking it’s feel-good, upbeat and melodic. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover the band carries a darker, yet important message around mental health issues.
Having worked together in various formats and projects over several years, the quartet of Ollie Butler (vocals and guitar), Max Bakker (bass and vocals), Robin Small (guitar) and Sam Garnett (drums) only formed on New Year’s Day of 2018, then released their second single exactly one year later. They’ve since honed a sound that Robin describes too us as “melodic, honest and atmospheric.”
The latest taste of this is the seriously catchy single Not The Only One, which was released on New Year’s Day. The track opens up with an edgy burst of guitar chords, then a verse of vocals “Are you flying high, Are you not listening, Because I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin, Anxiety plays like a small violin on my soul” answered by the wandering guitar chords. A cool section of vocals over palm-muted guitars leads into the big singalong vocals “Step back, Just once Take a look at yourself, You’re not the only one, It feels like the world ends, Crashing down around you, You’re not the only one.”
A more sinister sounding second verse gradually creeps up in intensity before bursting into the big singalong chorus. That’s followed by an edgier rendition of the chorus, which feeds into a big burst of heavier guitars then floaty vocals build towards a final blast of the chorus. Check it out below:
However, despite the upbeat sound Robin tells us there’s a slightly darker inspiration behind the song and their music generally. He told us: “People can expect this to be the start of the message we’re trying to convey as band. We’re trying to be honest in talking about things that aren’t easy to be spoken openly about. Mental health is a big part of who we are as a band, and the message of this track is that you are not the only one out there suffering.”
That track followed debut single From The Grey House, which opens up in rockier fashion with fun edgy vocals over stabbing guitars, then a winding guitar riff takes over. The riff feeds into a chorus of high-pitched catchy vocals “Did you want to throw it all away, when there was nothing left to say? Did you want to throw it all away? What changed from yesterday? So dead on the inside, The wool was pulled over my eyes, Did you want to throw it all away, or was it all for nothing?”
There’s a pause of laid-back guitars, then gradually building drums lead into a looping guitar riff that continues under the intense vocals “Is this enough? Or are you more content with heartbreak than our love? So fill me up, Drink me dry until there’s nothing left.” That feeds into another rendition of the chorus before ending on a heavier, darting guitar riff.
These two tracks promise plenty, and it sounds like things are about to take a turn for the darker with the release of the band’s debut EP on 1 March. As Robin explains: “We are very, very excited for people to hear what we’ve been working on. The release has been a long time coming and means a lot to us – we recorded these tracks over a year ago now.
“The EP actually takes a more sombre tone than the tracks released so far, we get to some really heavy subject matter with the other songs and explore some different sounds. There’s some darker stuff, but it’s all to do with a common theme; mental health.”
And digging further into the topics that inspire them to write music, Robin expands: “We’ve mentioned it a couple of times previously, but our music is very much about mental health and wellness in that respect. Inspiration comes from seeing what the people around us have gone through, as well as what we personally have experienced, and it all gets channelled into the writing. The title track from the EP, Maybe This All Just Ends, is the one that best encapsulates what we write about; feelings of isolation and confusion about the world you’re in, and asking yourself ‘where do we go from here?'”
Musically, the band draw inspiration from the likes of Marmozets and, possibly the most apt conspiration to their rocky, intense sound, Hands Like Houses. As Robins says: “Alternative Rock, with a lot of focus on melody. There’s a lot of tension and release in the music, and some songs are almost soundscape like. There’s quite a lot variation between the tracks, some are quite riffy and sound huge, others are more ambient and soulful.”
In addition to the EP launch on 1 March, Minus Alive will be out on tour beginning in Milton Keynes on 6 March before heading to Coventry, a hometown EP release show in Southampton, Leeds and then London on 10 March. More info on all their gigs is here.
Furthermore, the band has plans to branch out their sound with acoustic shows later in the year. As Robin explains: “We all love playing in a stripped back format as well as a full-band live-ensemble, and it’s a really nice change of pace to be able to play our music in a more relaxed and open way for an audience. You get to really connect with people in a different way.”
This is a band well worth keeping an eye on. Not only do they offer up engaging and, yes, pretty intense rock music, they also carry an important message that they hope will help people deal with challenges life throws at us.
As Robin summarises: “Something very important about us is that we’re not trying to pretend to be anything other than what we are. We’re just four normal dudes, being ourselves, being honest and hoping people like what they hear. Hoping as well that, with any luck, anyone listening might feel a little less alone.”