Audio Bullys perform their smash hits ‘Real Life & ‘Snake’ at the Dancestar Electronic Music Awards
What the f***?! Audio Bullys in the area: the sound of two young West Londoners that have grown up raving to the basslines hardcore, garage and house. At 22 and 24 they acknowledge the influence of The Specials, the Kinks and the Beatles as readily as they do Todd Edwards and Masters At Work.
Simon Franks and Tom Dinsdale’s eponymous debut album is the fuse lit to set this summer on fire: taking in everything from ska to UK garage, this is house music with the easy laddish charm of Squeeze or Madness, sub-bass beats that tell ask you to do more than just raise your hands. The raucous energy and streetwise swagger of tracks like ‘We Don’t Care’ and ‘Ego War’ shows a young band that blends the amphetamine dynamism of The Who with the wry social comment of The Kinks, but still wraps it up in the ribcage-bending thump of UK club culture.
First single ‘Real Life’ sums up the same breathless explosion of urban pop energy of the Happy Mondays ‘Wrote For Luck’ or the Specials ‘Too Much Too Young’. But wrapped up in basslines born out of lives misspent coming up in house and garage raves and coming down listening pirates.
‘Hit The Ceiling’ heads straight from the bar to the dancefloor, a mixture of funk bassline and punk attitude, like Armand van Helden facing off with Jimmy Pursey. ‘Intro’ brings back the straight up funk, marrying a shuffling boogie groove to pharting basslines straight from some early 90s Raindance rave. ‘The Tyson Shuffle’ punches like Lennox, with a off-kilter quasi-ragga riddim announcing a tragi-comic ambulance chase through deserted city streets. Clash fans take note: this is Armageddon Time for 2002. In dub.
So why Audio Bullys? Tom and Simon had both been making music for a couple of years, straight up house, garage, and a few bootlegs they’d prefer to take the fifth on. “We just decided to spend time working together,” they explain, in a give-it-a-go kind of way. The results of the experiment were anything but disappointing. ‘I Go To Your House’ and ‘We Don’t Care’ were both made very early on and there was definitely a sound there that fitted the Audio Bullys name so it all rolled from there.”
Audio Bullys compel you to rake over the coals of new wave, ska and punk for reference points: it seems odd for a band who were both barely born in 1980. But name checking The Specials, Bob Dylan and the Beatles alongside Biggie Smalls and Method Man, Blondie and the Police next to early hardcore and jungle tunes, songwriter Simon has no prejudices about when and where music’s come from. “I’ve always been different to my mates in that they don’t really listen to old music,” says Simon. “But its too good innit? You get people who say they only like one type of music, but I reckon you can’t love music that much if you’re like that. The Specials were something I started listening to when I started to make music and was thinking about how someone like me could put across stuff in his songs that was relevant to me and young men and women.”
Simon’s lyrics tell small scale tales of young urban life: micro sagas of street corners and party politics. “We write songs about everyday life,” explains Simon, “just what you get up to. Try to tell a little story, about what you see around you.”
“We just write songs about the things that have happened to us at the time,” explains Tom. “‘We Don’t Care’ is influenced by our friend who died, but others come from somewhere when we’re in a good mood, jokes, just let it happen. There’s no agenda for any one track – we’re not trying to make a deep house tune just something that goes with the mood.” Hence a track like the searing ‘The Snow’ can sum up the kind of Suburban coke nightmare that’s already an everyday occurrence in most British cities, but that most artists prefer to sweep under the carpet. While ‘I Go To Your House’ and ‘Hit The Ceiling’ might be the nearest they come to a love song, but they both deal with suburban dating politics and romance with a refreshingly real straight from the shoulder honesty.”
Simon grew up in a musical household, with a guitar-paying, song-writing father encouraging him to play piano and drums from an early age. “It was my drumming teacher who showed me how easy it was to put together a track out of samples,” he says. Fuelled by jungle, house and garage pirates and raves he was set on a mission to make beats.
The DJ half of the Bullys, Tom had his decks at 16 and was a resident at London club Milk N’ 2 Sugars when he was 17. “I went from house into hardcore and back into house again,” recalls Tom. Tom has more recently been spotted devastated the dancefloor at the City Rockers club night, mixing the Kinks over Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’. “I play a lot of my own stuff now,” explains the shy superstar DJ in waiting. “A bootleg of something here or there, house, hip hop. I’m not too worried about clinical production as long as it works.”
It’s the same shouldn’t-work-but-does dot-joining exercise that informs their songwriting. The desire to marry the meaningless nonsense of George Clinton’s early 80s electronic funk sagas or a Suburban Base record to the wider concerns of a band. Dance music made without recourse to the rulebook, reflecting both an ear for a classic hook and an eye for the dilemmas of life as a young man growing up in London.
The Audio Bullys are no London music industry lab rats: like 1977′s Bromley Contingent or the swaggering Berkshire and Essex crews that fuelled both rave’s first flush of youth and drum & bass’ explosion, Audio Bullys are the proof that the capital’s suburbs have no need of 0207 area code trend obsession: this is music born of bored youth’s enthusiasm. Doing for West London’s less glamorous suburb’s what Paul Weller did for Woking and lobbing the same grenades the Damned chucked at Croydon. Sometimes the suburbs just say it right with no help from those inside.
When all around are proclaiming the death of the music industry, Audio Bullys are two kids still refreshingly hooked on both buying and making records. On taking a short lifetime’s worth of music and recycling it into the freshest sound we’ll get this year. Audio Bullys are the ghost of Ian Dury getting down at Twice As Nice, the sound of The Sex Pistols if they played the Ministry rather than the 100 Club. It’s the sound of this summer in at least this city. It’s Real Life. We love it and we think you will too.