Whether it is a sarcastic remark or food for thought, the British-born duo’s stage name Bad Sounds, is up to you and your drawn conclusions. It is highly encouraged to let the music speak for itself, as brothers Callum and Ewan Merrett coined some of the most progressive genre blends of hip-hop, rock, electronica, and traditional pop.
Taking notes from other state-of-the-art leaders, Gorillaz, Beck, Madonna, and A Tribe Called Quest, the Grammy-nominated and Mercury Award-winning writers and producers Bad Sounds offer own sonic time capsules of daily challenges and our generations’ hardships titled ‘Escaping From Violent Times.’
The trailblazer brother duo drops the third installment of their ‘Escaping From Violent Times’ series built on tender frequencies narrating Callum and Ewan’s recounts of what is shaping out to be a period of intense yearning and mood-altering cost of living crisis.
With the unveiling of ‘Nu Me Nu Yu‘ in October, Bad Sounds began with the third chapter of a lyrically honest soundtrack of their lives. Not long after, the pair kick-started the year with political dig ‘More Than I Can Afford,’ ‘Hard MF 2 Luv’ and Jake Isaac’s collab ‘Heart Attacks.’
Outside of the Bad Sounds wizardry, Callum and Ewan produce for other artists such as Alro Parks, Rose Gray, Miso Extra, Devon, and VC Pines.
On the third volume of the ‘Escaping From Violent Times’ conceptual series, Bad Sounds keeps producing rulebook-free, outside industry standards, paving for their own catchy alt-pop enterprise.
Is your stage name a sarcastic remark?
If you want it to be! It definitely feels like we were giving journalists an easy shot. Or maybe we were just getting in there before anyone else could. It was actually just the title of a very early demo from when we started the band. We loved the song but intended to go back and re-record everything at a later date, so we called the song Bad Sounds and later adopted it as the name of the band. The song has never been released.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s something that has been both a blessing and a curse. We take influence from lots of different genres and that makes it tough to say what we are exactly, or what playlists we belong in. I would say that there are different eras of Bad Sounds music, but the enduring influences are people like Gorillaz, Beck, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, William Orbit, Danger Mouse, De La Soul, The Flaming Lips etc.
As brothers growing up together, did you always know you wanted to make music together?
In a way yes, but I don’t know if we always knew we’d be making music together. When we were kids we would go and stay with our Dad every other weekend and one time we turned up and he’d just bought a 4 track cassette recorder and was eager for us all to write a song and try to record it together. From that point on, that’s pretty much what we did every time we stayed with our dad, and probably how we got so obsessed with the process.
How did you go around learning everything yourselves?
Wellllll I mean we do have some schooling, but ultimately we learned on the job. We were extremely lucky in that the first time we worked with a producer it was James Dring. He was so relaxed about recording, we never experienced anything close to a “rule book” when it came to working with James. If it sounded cool then it worked. I think a lot of other musicians and producers get really hung up on what is “technically correct” or “industry standard”, but that rarely if ever leads to something very good or interesting. The same can be said about songwriting too. So although we understand a lot of the technical boring bits that surround writing and recording music, we try to ignore all that as much as possible when we’re working.
Can you say what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are?
Yep. ; )
After the successful release of your debut album, you found yourself without a label, uncertain of the future, how did you overcome this setback?
Well, we did what every sensible band would do, we took our remaining cash and went and toured the states for 6 weeks with our friends BROODS. Then we got back, and started writing for the next release. It was a really tough time. We had no label, no money, but worse than that we’d really had no confidence in ourselves anymore. Then eventually we found ourselves in the position where we were able to collaborate with other people on their music, and all of those old BS pressures were gone. It really helped us gain focus on what Bad Sounds was, and led to us being able to persevere with a number of different projects and pull through to the position we’re in now.
What did you take away from this situation?
I think we got a fresh perspective. Around the time of releasing ‘Get Better’ Bad Sounds the band was the only thing we had going for us both professionally and creatively, but being able to work on other projects gave us a lot of freedom to expand and learn as people as much as musicians and producers.
How was it working and co-writing Arlo Parks’ Mercury Award-winning album ‘Collapsed Sunbeams’?
We met Arlo when she was still very much “up and coming”, she wasn’t the global superstar the world knows her as now. She even slept on the floor in Ewan’s teeny-tiny flat in Bristol the first time we worked together. She is one of the warmest, kindest people we’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and it’s been a privilege to be a part of her story. It’s been very surreal to watch her grow as an artist and go on to win the Mercury Prize, and Grammy nominations and stuff.
What artist/artists are you inspired by at the moment?
We really love all of the work that Inflo is doing. St Panther is absolutely 10/10. VC Pines and Devon are 2 artists that we’ve written and recorded with and they’re both extremely special artists. Happy to say that we’ll be playing some shows with them in June. I also play in Willie J Healey’s live band, and that guy is crrraaazzzy talented, he’s a real inspiration to me.
What significance does your album series title ‘Escaping From A Violent Time’ hold for you? What is it supposed to represent?
For us it represents finding distraction from the violent reality of real life and human nature. Taking comfort in a film, a book, a piece of music and losing yourself in it. Forgetting what things are really like.
You’ve been teasing the upcoming chapter of the ‘Escaping From A Violent Time Vol. 3,’ with single releases ‘More Than I Can Afford.’ ‘Hard MF 2 Luv’ and your newest single ‘Heart Attacks,’ what can we expect from the EP in terms of touched upon concepts and themes?
I think there’s a lot of tenderness in EFAVT Vol.III. Songs like ‘Hard MF 2 Luv’ really kind of pick up where we left off on Vol.II with ‘Angie’. It’s a very lyrically honest series.
What inspired ‘Hard MF 2 Luv’?
Ewan originally played me that chorus on acoustic guitar with the intention of giving it to another artist we’ve been working with. When he finished I thought “there’s nobody else that could sing those lyrics with as much integrity as my brother”. But what I ended up saying to him was “yeah, you’ve got to sing that because you are a hard motherfucker to love!”. It’s one of my favourite Bad Sounds songs.
Why did you decide to dedicate a song ‘More Than I Can Afford’ to the current cost of living crisis?
I think songwriters have historically tried to document the times they live in. I know every generation has its challenges but it does seem that we are living through a particularly difficult period right now and whilst we are extremely privileged to be able to make music for a living, we have never been wealthy, and are still very much struggling.
How did you and the multi-talented artist Jake Isaac initially link up?
You know we’ve never actually met in person! It’s 2023 and you can record via Zoom so that’s exactly what we did. We both heard his music and fell in love with his voice. He has this way of delivering lines and making it feel completely effortless. I like the idea that we could be performing Heart Attacks live and still not have met Jake. We’ll get a hologram version.
What was the main emotion you wanted to encapsulate in your collaboration ‘Heart Attacks’?
The song is about trying to better yourself. It’s about not settling with who you are when there are things about yourself that you dislike. It’s kind of the opposite message we see people projecting on social media all the time. Don’t get me wrong of course you need to accept yourself for who you are, but I also feel like I need to work on the parts of myself that are flawed. So we were trying to express that as best as possible, it’s both sad, and optimistic at the same time; something that runs across quite a lot of our back catalogue. If you check out the lyrics hopefully you’ll get what I mean.
What’s in the books for Bad Sounds this year?
Escaping From A Violent Time Vol.III will be released April 14th. PLUS we will be doing our first headline shows in over 3 years in June, Bristol on the 15th and London on the 17th. See you there!
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Words: Karolina Kramplova