The fate of Liverpudlian rock bands is to be compared to The Beatles, but The Jackobins are anything but John Lennon and his lads. Reminiscent of Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath and Kasabian, The Jackobins are a new brand of alternative rock. After a two-year hiatus, the six-piece is back with their new single ‘Pour Le Merite’. We had a chance to speak with rhythm guitarist Liam Gerrard (LG) about ‘Pour Le Merite’, discovering new music and bad haircuts.
OSR: How did The Jackobins come about?
LG: I think Veso heard Dominic singing Queen once in a backstreet pub and would come again and again to see him perform over a few weeks. After some stalking, Veso reached out to Dom online and proposed putting a band together. They arranged to meet up at another rough backstreet pub, but Veso stood Dom up for reasons they still argue about and Dom went on to form a short-lived band for a few months. Eventually, when Dom’s band broke up, Veso got back in touch and they finally got together and began to form what would be The Jackobins.
OSR: What about the band name? Were there any alternatives to The Jackobins?
LG: We were struggling to come up with a name that everyone could settle on, so I remember the whole band heading out on an afternoon pub crawl up Wavertree High Street and agreeing not to stop drinking until we had a name. The rest is a bit of a blur, some terrible names came up and, thankfully, got put straight back down. Eventually, our original drummer Arthur threw the name ‘The Jackobins’ into the ring and something just clicked. It quickly got everyone’s approval.
OSR: You recently released ‘Pour Le Merite’. Can you tell us about it?
LG: ‘Pour Le Mérite’ is our first major release after a two-year hiatus and I think, of all the tracks we considered for the first new single, we all agreed that it had to be something big and grand, unashamedly so, and ‘Pour Le Merite’ is that beast.
A few years ago we had fallen into the trap of being too ‘radio aware’ with our songwriting. We were letting the radio-friendliness of the tracks influence their development. It felt like every time we’d be working on a new track there was this fucking invisible stop clock in the room dictating the track length and subsequently its whole shape and layout. Needless to say, a few of the tracks we wrote whilst in that mental place were, in my opinion, not our best work. I was determined to move away from this with our new material and let the songs just be. ‘Pour Le Merite’ is not a short in-out kind of song, but it is exactly what it’s meant to be. It’s an epic journey dealing with massive themes that just wouldn’t be properly conveyed in a three-minute track. I like the grandness of this track, I think if a track’s good it will hold peoples attention.
OSR: Does the song have any significant meaning to any of you?
LG: I’m something of a history nerd and also very big on spiritualism and concepts like reincarnation. The initial idea for ‘Pour Le Merite’ came to me after a dream I had where I was an Imperial German soldier in the First World War. It was very realistic and moved me to the put that I became convinced it was a life that I have previously lived. From that, the idea of the central character transitioning from willing patriot to reluctant soldier came to me and I began to create this story through the song. It soon became apparent to me that this song is a ‘sister song’ to a much older track of ours called ‘Prussia’ with the former being from the perspective of a German and the latter from the British experience of the same war.
With a lot of our tracks, we like to embed multiple layers of themes and whilst this track is, on the surface, a classic, anti-war track, on a deeper level it deals with the very current issue of toxic masculinity and the damage it can do to both individuals and societies.
OSR: What is your favourite lyric and why that lyric?
LG: “Tell me, father, what did you do for a king and country that could not save you”
This was actually inspired from a First World War British propaganda poster where a father figure is sat with his children who are asking what role he played in the war. It was designed to guilt-trip men into fighting by presenting them with the shame they would feel if they had to tell their children they had not served. It posits the question of whether the defence of their leaders, far away from the frontline, was worth the suffering and death they would endure in the trenches.
OSR: What about your least favourite lyric?
LG: My least favourite lyric has got to be: “Two, one-two defences are live; I need a little of your tonic.”
It’s literally just because tonic is disgusting and you should only have lemonade with your pink gin. Every time I hear the sentence in the tune I get a horrible taste of tonic in the back of my throat. When you used to knock it back as a kid thinking it’s lemonade and then you’d have to spend the next two hours with your head under a tap trying to get the taste away.
OSR: What about the official music video? What can you tell us about it?
LG: The video was directed by Dylan James Whitty in early November 2019. It took months of planning until we finally came up with the perfect synopsis for this song, which was primarily filmed in the fields and woods of Allerton Towers in Liverpool where Paul McCartney would walk through to get to John Lennon’s house to song write.
The video oscillates between scenes from the First World War and a ‘sleeping man’ walking around the empty tube stations of London with the latter meant to embody the collective PTSD of the dead soldiers. In that sense, he is almost like a ghost; the ghost of sleeping trauma brought into the modern world. Filming the period scenes in Liverpool was a lot of fun. While on-site, our photographer Billy Vitch relayed to us how he had come across an older lady walking her dog in the woods. She had asked him whether he had seen ‘the ghosts from the First World War in the woods’.
The costumes were beautiful and we had a little camp and enjoyed sharing cups of tea with curious dog walkers – someone even live-streamed us to their relative in Australia. By a strange coincidence, we later found out that the abandoned buildings that feature in the backdrop of the video were actually used as a place of convalescence for soldiers in the First World War. The filming of the London scenes was a little more challenging. A lot of people asked us how we made the tube look so empty? Answer: a five-hour overnight coach journey and starting filming at 5:30 in the morning. It worked well because there is a certain creepiness and unease in those scenes with an almost ‘sneaking’ vibe going on.
OSR: What do you want people to take from your music?
LG: I know the joy, excitement and sometimes comfort I get from listening to my favourite artists and songs. If we could elicit even a fraction of that kind of feeling through our songs then I would be very happy.
OSR: Describe your sound using one word.
OSR: What do you think is the best way to discover new music?
LG: I think you can’t beat attending independent gigs and discovering new artists the traditional way. I’ve been blown away by the huge sound coming from some of the smallest stages, but outside of that, there is always the Spotify playlists.
OSR: What non-horror movie scared you as a child?
LG: For me, its got to be Monster INC. As a child it freaked me too much, made me feel like the Big Brother eye was real and I never slept at night because of it. It was either that or Nanny McPhee. Creepy films, but not horrors – I beg to differ!
OSR: Describe the worst haircut you’ve ever received.
LG: I must’ve been about 5 years old and my dad gave me a skinhead. I looked like I belonged on This Is England ’98. I refused to show it to anyone in school so wore a cap for about two months until it grew back.
OSR: What advice do you have for new musicians, particularly in dealing with the current lockdowns?
LG: I think with the world on hold as it is at the moment, now is a perfect time to be songwriting. I think that without the usual commitments of work there is a lot of stillness in people’s minds and when the mind is quiet you begin to hear new songs.
OSR: Any messages for our readers?
LG: We would like to thank our amazing fans for their continued support and their overwhelming response to our new material. Also, a huge thanks to The Other Side Reviews for featuring us and to you, whoever you are, for reading. All our love and stay safe!