2020 has emphasised the importance of many things that we often overlook and take for granted in everyday life. Whether that be food or freedom, live shows or entertainment, social lives or toilet paper, to say that the year has had us blindsided would be an understatement. Regardless of the fact that you may be a seasoned introvert or a struggling extrovert, the brightest spotlight has been shining on the importance of family in these trying times. One band that takes family values to a whole other level though, is Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, oozing with a sense of community and camaraderie with their ‘all for one, one for all’ attitudes. Whilst 2015 saw the gut-wrenching passing of Lemmy Kilmister, Motörhead’s guitarist Phil Campbell assumed the role of the phoenix and from the ashes pieced together his band of literal bastard sons; a crew of hungry heathens and rogue rascals, with their combined talents that makes their unwavering thirst to reach the top unquenchable.
In their short four years as a full-time hard rock outfit, the band have gone from strength to strength with their foot on the pedal and with the brake lines severed, just to prove that rock n’ roll is an unholy contract signed in blood where the expiration date is only revealed as it’s being carved onto your tombstone. After their first LP release of The Age of Absurdity in 2018, the Welsh quintet’s progress was not stunted by the perpetual dilemmas that the world’s current climate is offering, and are soon returning with a follow-up album aptly titled We’re the Bastards.
The record itself is a call to arms, and the opening title track embodies all that rock n’ roll stands for. Musing over the opening lyric ‘music is medicine, music is therapy,’ bastard son and bassist Tyla Campbell admits: “that was actually one of the last songs we wrote but ended up being the title track. By that point we knew that all our touring was going to be cancelled for the rest of the year and that the fans weren’t going to get the chance to see any new songs at the live shows. So when Neil did the lyrics for that song he went all out for it, so ‘music is medicine’ was a very prolific line.”
With the bulk of the new material written in January and February of this year, it’s needless to say that the recording process was one that exacerbated an alien aura as the band treaded foreign territory in a socially distant and isolated manner. As April loomed with imminent booked studio time sowing the seeds of doubt in their minds, the band grabbed the unfamiliar challenge by the horns anyway.
“It was weird only having two people in the studio at a time, and we had a bit of trouble trying to figure out the internet connection," continues Campbell. "There wasn’t a lot of wasted time, where you’d usually chat about random things or go off on tangents; we were all there to do a job. One of the cons was not having the other three band members around to bounce new ideas off whilst you’re recording your parts, but I guess that’s Todd’s job as a producer anyway. If we had to do another album in a similar environment I’m sure we could.”
Motörhead overtones were to be expected with the bands first album, damned if they did and damned if they didn’t weave the sound of metal’s foundations through the inauguration of a new chapter. After testing the waters however, with We’re the Bastards the band have discovered and settled into their own sound that’ll put their own stamp on music. Experimenting with southern rock vibes on tracks ‘Desert Song’ and ‘Born to Roam,’ vocalist and lyricist Neil Starr also branched out a hand into the world of mental health and depression, with closing track ‘Waves’ embracing a more mature and weighty subject matter.
"Fans don’t always necessarily think about it but deciding the track order the album goes in is a very important thing."
“Originally it was a double time rock song,” explains Tyla on the evolution of the hauntingly intimate track. “When sound checking in December it was Dane’s idea to give it a half-time beat, Todd came up with the chords for the chorus and all of a sudden we had this rock ballad. The music was written separately to Neil’s vocals which I first heard when Todd sent us the rough demos. I was blown away by the lyrics and the melody, it’s some of his best work and a lot of people are going to relate to that. We experimented a bit but I don’t think anything is too out of place on the album.”
“We had a few debates. Todd wanted ‘Born to Roam’ to be track three and ‘Promises are Poison’ to be track four, not the other way around. After some brotherly debates, I won that battle, and I rarely win. Having a few mid-tempo tracks means you’ve got to put them a few songs apart. Fans don’t always necessarily think about it but deciding the track order the album goes in is a very important thing. We knew ‘Son of a Gun’ and ‘We’re the Bastards’ were going to be at the top, and knew we wanted ‘Waves' to be the closing song, which left the rest as a free-for-all.”
Unsurprisingly thriving better whilst feeding off of a live environment, the tracks have been written to accommodate an audience of ravenous metalheads, the anthemic choruses hitting that succulent sweet spot that recorded music can never quite satisfy. As an audience member, singing along to songs is the one thing you can participate in to feel not only part of the performance, but to also combine the energy as a whole unit; one hungry, harmonious, breathing beast.
“We’re the type of band that belong on tour," assures Campbell. "Next year everyone will know the materiel a bit better and this will give the fans time to digest the new music. They’ve got enough time to learn all the words. We’ve recorded something in the studio which we’ve filmed and will be broadcasting next week. Similar to Sepultura’s quarantine sessions which Phil guested on, we’ve recorded four songs for that.”
The visuals of Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons go hand-in-hand alongside the audio too, with a rebellious and unruly image to uphold. The Age of Absurdity flaunted a circus themed aesthetic that adorned the album artwork, mirroring the band of anarchic scoundrels through the lens of artist Matt Riste. Hired again to illustrate We’re the Bastards, this concept is centred around a lawless medieval merry crew:
“We had the same Welsh artist for this one who hand draws everything. Vinyl’s getting popular again now which is great, as it means so much more when someone buys a physical copy and you can tell someone’s put a lot of effort into the artwork. [Matt] came up with the idea of the portrait of us all in the bar and as we all love Monty Python and Black Adder we went along with it.”
"You’ve got to love a good pop song, I can be partial to a bit of Katy Perry, every song Girls Aloud have released have been bangers."
Being a significant characteristic and fundamental staple to any rock or metal fans wardrobe, the visuals that a band choose to embellish their merchandise with is a decision that’ll impact their marketability and immortalisation. Iron Maiden’s Eddie is a prime example and, of course, Motörhead’s ‘Snaggletooth.’ Reminiscing over childhood tees, Tyla’s choices of musical apparel might not be entirely what you’d expect from a rockers upbringing.
“The Motörhead t-shirt is so iconic and speaks for itself. I used to have a Metallica St Anger t-shirt and I’m a sucker for a tour shirt when I go to gigs. I’ve had an interesting upbringing, as at one point, my favourite band shirt was an Eminem tee. Big into Eminem back in the day. I’ve had quite a bad addiction, I like to buy a t-shirt at every gig I go to. As I’ve gotten older, there’s just too many t-shirts in my wardrobe. Hopefully I’ll be able to fit back into my mediums if I keep running in the next year or two, no promises there though. To be fair I tend to listen to a more chilled out, folky type of rock music. When we’re writing and touring and listening to heavy music all the time, when I’m not in that environment I like to wind down. My favourite bands are Counting Crows, Sigur Rós, Bruce Springsteen, and more indie bands like Editors and The Airborne Toxic Event. I did run to an old Alice Cooper album the other day that I used to listen to when I was younger called The Eyes of Alice Cooper, one of my favourite albums."
"It’s good to have an open mind and listen to different genres. One of Lemmy’s favourite bands was ABBA. You’ve got to love a good pop song, I can be partial to a bit of Katy Perry, every song Girls Aloud have released have been bangers. Last week I got into the YouTube spiral of listening to Miley Cyrus after she did a cover of a Blondie song, and turns out she’s been covering Pink Floyd stuff too. If she does the rumoured Metallica covers album that’d be interesting, she’s got an amazing voice that would suit it. Just like when Lady Gaga performed with Metallica too. If Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga did a heavy metal covers album, I would definitely purchase that.”
We're The Bastards is released November 13th via Nuclear Blast.