Back when lockdown started, The Rec got down to work bringing back the punk-rock music that made them want to make music in the first place. Now, they are bringing this sound to our ears with their EP The Squeak. Dovey (vocals) and Ritchie (instrumentals) trace the melodics of their EP to their high school band and brought a new life to the sound through modern lyrics. We sat down with Ritchie to talk about the new EP, recording during lockdown, updating old music and much more!
OSR: After your first band together, The Assassins, separated, what made you come together again as The Rec?
Ritchie: We went to school together in Oswestry, Shropshire in the early ‘80s and formed our first band, the Assassins, when we were 15. Dovey eventually moved to the Los Angeles and I ended up in London and we did grown-up stuff like having proper jobs and kids, but we stayed in touch and continued to share a love of mostly ‘60s and ‘70s music. I bought a guitar to fill a creative void in my life and we started writing a few songs together when we found that the invention of the internet had enabled us to make the music we wanted to make back in the days of the Assassins.
OSR: Have you always been drawn to punk-rock or is this something that evolved over time?
Ritchie: We are now in our mid-50s. We were at primary school when punk happened in 76/77, so we were a bit too young to experience it first-hand. When we met at secondary school a few years later, while the punk scene had basically finished, most of the bands were still around and making great music. The Damned, the Undertones, the Jam, Buzzcocks etc. were regularly getting in the charts with songs that we thought had been written about us. We would see them on Top of the Pops every week and hear them on the John Peel show on Radio 1. We’d buy the singles from our local record shop, Reeds in Oswestry, with money we’d earnt from early morning paper rounds and a flourishing weekend window cleaning business. We were the biggest music geeks in our year at school and our well-curated vinyl collections were the envy of our friends. Many of the singles I bought back then are on a shelf in the room where I am sitting now.
We got to see a few of the bands live too. Oswestry didn’t have a great live music scene so the first gig me and Dovey went to together was Siouxsie and the Banshees at Hammersmith Odeon round about Christmas ‘81, we got the train down and stayed at Dovey’s nan’s in Essex. So yes, classic ‘70s British punk-rock has always been an important influence.
OSR: Is there a backstory to your latest EP The Squeak?
Ritchie: We released an EP, Alien Zones, soon after the lockdown started in April last year and we had a few tunes left over that were half-finished but didn’t really fit in with the more post-punk sound on Alien Zones. We thought they sounded good together and because we had quite a lot of time on our hands, we managed to get them finished fairly quickly.
OSR: The EP was recorded during lockdown. Did this affect the sound or theme of the tracks?
Ritchie: While all of the songs already existed before the pandemic, including the lyrics, there was more of a back-to-basics approach with this EP which I think was maybe in response to being locked down. They were mostly written on the guitar whereas the songs on Alien Zones evolved more slowly through experimenting with loops and samples, with the guitars often being added towards the end of the process. I definitely found turning the volume up and playing punky guitar riffs quite therapeutic during the lockdown.
OSR: Some of the tracks on the EP are updates to old tunes, what prompted you to combine the old and new on the EP?
Ritchie: All of the songs on the EP had been around for at least a couple of years. The song ‘The Squeak’ was one of our old Assassins songs. We do tend to look to the past for inspiration quite a lot and have gone back to some of our old Assassins tunes before. ‘College Road’ on our album Town Slang was one of the first songs we wrote together at school. ‘The Squeak’, started out as a 9-minute Velvet Underground style freeform instrumental jam in the Assassins. We recorded it in my parents’ front room on my sister’s squeaky cassette recorder which is where its title came from.
I still have a cassette of the original Assassins sessions and I chopped the song up to make a new much shorter tune and added the drums and guitars with the bass very much replicating bass lines from the Assassins version. Then Dovey added the lyrics. If you listen carefully, you can still hear some of Dovey’s guitar playing from the ‘80s sessions in the background and the squeaky noise at the end is the genuine sound of my sister’s tape recorder.
The other tunes were written more recently but also look backwards thematically as well as sonically. For example, in the late ‘70s, every small town in England probably had its own punk band. In Oswestry, it was the Used, four blokes a few years ahead of us at school. The singer’s brother was in the Assassins. ‘Song for the Used’ imagines a fictional Friday night residency at the Centre North West, a youth hang out next to the recreation area we took our name from. ‘Crap Fringe’ is a homage to the terrible haircuts everyone has when they are younger, and ‘So Long, Carry On’ is a tribute to people we formed relationships with when they entered our homes and our lives via the medium of television.
OSR: What was the biggest hurdle you overcame while making the EP?
Ritchie: The recording and mixing went quite smoothly actually and as we were locked down, we got the music done more quickly than usual as there were fewer distractions. The most challenging part was probably agreeing on the title of the EP and the cover art.
OSR: What do you feel is the biggest influence on your music?
Ritchie: For the last two EPs, definitely late ‘70s/early ‘80s punk and post-punk music. That’s one place where the Venn diagram of our music tastes intersects. That said, the music we have been making since The Squeak is heading in quite a different direction. It’s influenced more by late 60s psychedelia and pop, it’s a bit more melodic and acoustic.
Lyrically, we draw upon popular culture quite a lot. Despite or maybe because of living in LA, Dovey’s lyrics are often inspired by memories of home, friends, family, TV shows, food and fine English footwear!
OSR: If you were not making music, what would you be doing right now?
Ritchie: Well, we are both busy people with full-time jobs and families, so the music is very much a hobby. Before I got back into writing songs, I had a failed attempt at doing a part-time masters degree and then spent far too much time playing Football Manager on the computer. So, the Rec has given me something more creative to focus on.
OSR: What is the one thing you would like listeners to take away from the EP and why this?
Ritchie: Just getting people to listen to our music is a challenge in itself. Even before the pandemic, we couldn’t play live for obvious reasons and coming from the pre-internet generation we are rubbish at promoting ourselves via social media. So really, we would just like some listeners! If people enjoy it and appreciate the effort that went into making it, that’s fine by us.
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the coming year?
Ritchie: Lots of top new tunes in the pipeline and as stated previously, maybe a slight change in direction. We might even get round to putting our music on Spotify.