In January 2019, three lads from North London decided to get together and form an alternative rock band. Using their energetic, intense and aggressive sound, Numbers Station is making a name for themselves in the UK indie scene. In April 2020, the lads released their debut double single ‘Quiver’ with another A-side ‘Honesty’. Chatting with Jack Heywood (JH), Mikey Teal (MT) and Jake Jones (JJ), we find out more about the single, musical influences and some other doo-dads.
OSR: How did you come up with the band name and does it have any significance to any of you?
JH: Numbers stations are shortwave radio transmissions which broadcast these encrypted messages, usually as groups of spoken numbers or musical tones. They’re thought to have been used to communicate with foreign operatives during wartime, especially during the Cold War. The recordings of numbers stations that you can find online are often a little unsettling in a way that’s hard to put your finger on, which is what really caught my attention. Most of them stopped operating after the rise of the internet, but interestingly the activity from some remaining stations has increased dramatically in the last 10 years or so. When we were coming up with a band name, I suggested Numbers Station and we all liked the sound of the name and the association with a kind of secretive, unsettling audio broadcast.
OSR: What was the writing and recording process like for Quiver/Honesty?
MT: Both songs started as instrumental ideas I’d been sketching out. ‘Honesty’ was pretty much there and I’d been messing around with the ‘Quiver’ riff for a little while. Jack and I ended up working them out into full songs about a month before Jake joined the band. Once Jake was on board, we jammed the songs out and he added some groovy basslines which helped them evolve and develop.
JH: I started work on the lyrics right after we finished writing the instrumentals. A lot of the lyrics and melody lines to ‘Quiver’ came quite naturally. I remember sitting in my room singing along to the demo track until it all came together into something Mikey and I were really vibing with. For ‘Honesty’ we had this song in two parts with a dark and heavy first part and a much lighter, jangly second half, so for that, I really wanted to dig into my mind’s darker places and personal experiences for the lyrics, but leave with a more hopeful ending. I think hope and positivity are so important and are emotions that our generation can really struggle with.
JJ: We recorded and mixed the songs separately at two different studios with great engineers. ‘Quiver’ was recorded and mixed with Jay at Audiohaus Studio in Wembley towards the end of 2019, then ‘Honesty’ was done in early 2020 with Julian at Soho Sonic Studios in Camden. Being in the studio is actually some of the most fun I’ve had making music, but we all work full-time jobs and live across London from each other. Managing the time and sorting all the back and forth was a bit more of an unwelcome task.
OSR: Which track do you prefer, ‘Quiver’ or ‘Honesty’? Why?
JH: ‘Honesty’ is my favourite; it’s got a post-hardcore emo rock feel which really goes back to my roots listening to bands like Brand New and Jimmy Eat World when I was a teenager. For me, it’s also a much more personal song about some of the struggles and negative feelings I’ve experienced in my life, bundled together with some desperate affirmations of self-worth and hopefulness. I think there’s a soul to ‘Honesty’ that a lot of people will relate to.
MT: I’m torn, I really like both. ‘Honesty’ was fun to write and I really like the development and evolution of the song as it goes on, even if it is a little self-indulgent at almost eight minutes long! ‘Quiver’ is full of energy and really fun to bop along to, and great to play live.
JJ: I actually dig ‘Quiver’ a lot. It’s catchy, but I think it’s got a surprising amount of tonal depth for a fairly straight down the line rock song. It keeps my foot tapping, man.
OSR: If you could offer some advice to new bands what would it be?
JJ: Only do it if it’s fun. Don’t sweat yourselves about trying to fill a niche or fit neatly in a box. You don’t owe anyone artistic integrity or consistency. Make the music that comes naturally to you, and if you want to make your mark be prepared to put the work in.
MT: Write songs that make you feel something and are fun or interesting to play. If you’re enjoying yourself, everything else will fall into place. Also, practice.
OSR: What is ‘Quiver’ about? Is there a particular message you were trying to portray?
MT: It’s about Jack wanting to get laid.
JH: *laughs* I mean, there’s a bit more to it than that! I suppose I had two things in my mind when I was writing the lyrics to ‘Quiver’. As Mikey says, it’s kind of a cocksure, confident song about sex, but with a focus on the anticipation and the build-up of desire between two people who both know something is going to happen between them. I also wanted to write something tonally different to the more introspective and self-doubting lyrics of ‘Honesty’. I find it fascinating how people can hold the contradictory emotional states of complete self-confidence and utter despair inside them at the same time. For me, the combination of ‘Quiver’ and ‘Honesty’ is a reflection of that: a front of outgoing confidence masking the demons hiding below the surface.
OSR: Who influences your sound both on a professional and personal level?
JH: So many influences. For me, I bring in a lot of stuff from the ’90s and noughties alternative rock – Jeff Buckley, Brand New, Smashing Pumpkins and especially The Bends/OK Computer era Radiohead. On a more personal level, I tend to be inspired by the people I’m closest to. There’s a lot of heartbreak and angst in our songs which delve into some tricky relationships, but also a resolve and hopefulness which comes from close friends and family members.
JJ: My roots are in post-hardcore and ’90s emo, but I think for this band and writing on bass I’ve been letting a lot of post-punk and slightly darker hard rock influence me. Things like Killing Joke and Midnight Oil, The Manic Street Preachers, Fugazi. I’ve also been digging some more recent stuff from Jamie Lenman, July Talk, Shame and Courtney Barnett.
MT: In terms of writing music, it’s hard to say; whatever I’m listening to at the time tends to seep in. The key influences are probably a combination of Pixies, Queens Of The Stone Age, Radiohead and Brand New. A lot of my drumming influences come from the alt/indie-rock I listened to as a teenager. Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and Muse all play an important part in how I drum.
OSR: What would you like your listeners to think when listening to Quiver/Honesty?
JJ: When can I see these guys live?
MT: I hope they enjoy listening to it and more importantly, that it makes them feel something.
JH: Music is always a personal experience. I think our goal as artists is to make you feel something and relate to the music in whatever way works for you. It’s an amazing feeling to connect with another person through music, so if we’ve managed to do that for you then I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more.
OSR: What fact did you not believe the first time you heard it?
JH: I’m always baffled by the fact that The Shawshank Redemption didn’t win any Oscars. I mean Forrest Gump is great, but come on!
OSR: What can we expect from Numbers Station for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
MT: Obviously things are a bit weird in the world at the moment, but we’ve got our re-entry show booked in for August 5th assuming we’re all allowed outside by then.
JJ: In the meantime, we’re hard at work writing socially distant music. There’s some great new material floating around that we’re really excited about, and we’re managing to get some ideas recorded despite not being able to meet up in person.
JH: If all goes well, we’re aiming to get back into the studio in the summer and have new songs ready for release by the end of the year.
OSR: Do you have any last message for fans and potential fans?
JJ: Stay the fuck home. Hope to see you at a gig on the other side of this.
JH: Thanks for checking us out and keeping unsigned music alive. You’re all awesome.