“The response has been pretty overwhelming, to be honest,” reveals Ash Wilson – guitarist of Blackpool punks BOSTON MANOR. At the time of interview, the band are mid-tour and have just played to a sold-out Bristol and Birmingham and drawn in over 1,000 Londoners on a Friday night. Boston Manor‘s latest record, Welcome to the Neighbourhood, was a step-up from the more angst-laden Be Nothing and Ash explains “it is quite scary putting something out that’s a little bit further afield than people expected.”
However, resonating what frontman Henry Cox told us way back in 2016, Wilson believes “bands should not put out the same record twice, I think it is fun to mix it up a little bit more.” This is massively true when comparing Be Nothing to its sophomore counterpart – whilst Be Nothing was an onslaught of tracks that sound (and have sounded) great on the tiny, DIY circuit, WTTN is home to the more atmospheric and off-piste sound of Boston Manor. Using interim single Drowned in Gold to connect the LPs, Ash is quick to reveal “for a while we contemplated putting that [Drowned in Gold] on the record, but we thought it was a little too Be Nothing-y to go on this new vibe we were going for.”
Comparing this decision to when Arctic Monkeys threw R U Mine? onto the AM tracklist – we get onto the topic of the Sheffield rockers with Wilson saying “I love that AM record. It is one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys records. The new one, I’ve given it a few listens, but for me it is not as dark and moody enough. There wasn’t a single. It sounds a little bit like the music you hear in elevators, but in a sick way.”
Similar to Boston Manor‘s own development no one was expecting an album like that from Arctic Monkeys, but the fans have given them the opportunity to explore a different soundscape – and although Arctic Monkeys were always going to hit number 1 and sell out an arena tour regardless of whether Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was just Turner and Helders recording themselves playing ping-pong or an eclectic mix of space-jazz, Boston Manor had to convince fans that this is merely a development and they were never going to release Be Nothing part 2. Reassuringly, there are people like Ben Barnes (and others) that invest their time, money and effort into the band by buying every variant of Welcome to the Neighbourhood – Ash met Ben at the start of the tour and spoke highly, saying “I actually met him in Bristol and he showed me a picture of everything. We had a release show in Sheffield on the 7th and we did a /30 cardboard sleeve with the balaclava. He ended up paying way over the price, just so he could finish his collection. I think the guy selling was like you’re a collector so I don’t mind so much. Mad respect.”
The variants mentioned go afar as America – a country where Boston Manor have been welcomed to time and time again since their maiden voyage in 2016. Comparing shows across the pond to shows on home soil, Wilson cannot split them – “it is a weird one really, because at this time we’ve spent probably more time doing shows in America than the UK. At the minute it is pretty level. We get a good response there and every time we play it goes off.” Much like the UK, the Blackpool outfit have supported an array of acts to further the name Boston Manor – in the UK for example, “we’ve done a few random tours here and there like the Lower Than Atlantis and that was cool and a different market. It was nice to go out and play to people who had no idea who we were – it was weird because we didn’t think we’d make many fans on that tour, but we’ve met people on this tour like ‘yo I saw you with Lower Than Atlantis!’ When you’re doing those tours it is pretty scary!”
Flying their own flag on the first run of headline shows since the release of Welcome to the Neighbourhood could have been difficult, but Boston Manor have taken it in their stride and surprised even themselves. Discussing a packed out Electric Ballroom and the fact “there were 1,000 kids there,” the prospect of larger shows was of course daunting – “we were pretty anxious about that show because the last time we played London as a headline we played Boston Music room, which is about 300 capacity. I walked on and was like ‘oh! This is a lot of people to play in front of.’ It was a lot of fun and a lot of our friends were there – a couple people shed a tear because they were super proud. I still can’t quite get over it. I never really thought we’d get to this point this quickly. We haven’t really been a band for that long – maybe about five years.”
Impressively, the record and tour were announced at the same time, which is always a massive gamble. This was not ignored by the band, and as Wilson points out, “when we announced it we didn’t know it’d do. We get these regular emails that say ‘this is how many tickets you’ve sold this week.’ I didn’t want to know so I didn’t look at them because I get way too anxious over that kind of stuff. It was nice to sort of appear on the day and see that many people or see a sold out sign.”
The addition of Wallflower – a band that “are one of the only UK bands we really fucking enjoy,” Microwave and Drug Church transformed what was “initially going to be a three band bill” into one of the most impressive four-band-bills you’ll see this year. The morale between the four is superb behind the scenes, perhaps because “we know Microwave anyway through Warped Tour last year” and Drug Church are a band “we are really into. We’ve been hanging out loads!” Although all four differ in sounds, it has not hindered ticket sales or dampened spirits for those coming out early to support the support.
“I think with a lot of tours these days, when people go to pick supports they ask ‘what do the kids want?’ In our scene it has usually been four bands that are pop-punk and ended up being effectively the same band four times over.” Boston Manor did not want to replicate this mindset, and announcing the support acts before tickets were on sale gave fans the opportunity to be familiar with all four before heading down to a show. Wilson insists “kids need to hear bands that are a bit different and a bit out of their comfort zone. That’s how you know if you like something. For example, people that are into us might not be into Drug Church or Microwave before the show, but then you see them and find that they’re glad they came down for it. It all works on the night.”
This is true on a personal level, as New Jersey rockers Can’t Swim were an unknown entity before their tour in 2016 and are now nestled safely in both my Spotify and record collection. Wilson and I are on the same wavelength when he says “I get bored of it. I want to listen to something that is a bit out there, so why not have four completely different bands if it works?”
Carrying on the promotion of Welcome to the Neighbourhood after the UK run, Ash talks us through the plans for the rest of 2018; “We’re busy boys. We have a lot of things penciled in at the moment. It is going to be fun. People will see a lot more of us.” Kicking off with another trip stateside, “we’re out with Real Friends after this, which is a long ass tour. We’re doing some shows two dates in a row – for example, in California we’re doing Chain Reaction in Anaheim twice. We played there for the first time with Knuckle Puck and it was sick. I’m a big fan of the States. There’s a place in Salt Lake City called Kilby Court and you can’t find it or know it is there. It is down this tiny side alley and it is literally a shed made of corrugated metal and it is 80 cap. Every show has people climbing on the roof. You walk in and the mixing desk is next to the stage, there’s one speaker and no monitors.”
Unlike America, “the UK is so small, so you can only do so many shows before people start saying ‘well I saw you last month,’” so each tour has to be perfectly curated to keep people interested. On the theme of keeping people interested, they recently returned to Banquet Records, which was “really sick! I didn’t really expect so many people to show up!” Banquet have always championed Boston Manor and their loyalty has been repaid with an in-store. Wilson reminisces, saying “We’ve grown up as a band playing DIY punk shows, so it is nice to drop the album and play a nod to old us. They’ve been so helpful to us and whenever we’ve put something out they’ve pushed it!”
Although we have only just been welcomed into Boston Manor‘s neighbourhood, a larger scope of what we can expect to find there has been hinted at in the past month or so. This record will no doubt take them even further and in the not-too-distant future their Electric Ballroom headliner will seem intimate.
Order ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ here.