By Camilla Whitfield
Photography: Michael Harrison @harneyjr
A five-piece band from Bury forming in 2017 with their chosen genre of Punk is bound to create some expectations. The current line up consists of Ethan Cooney on vocals, Jack McDougall on lead guitar, Tom Palmer on rhythm guitar, drummer James Highland and bassist Will McGuinness. Inspired by classic punk bands such as the Sex Pistols to new contenders The Blinders, their influences can be easily pinned down from their raw and raucous tracks.
Their newest release ‘Social Media Scum’ could be perceived as an almost demonic battle cry. It is calling out everything damaging we associate with the modern age. Clever and cutting lyrics take centre stage, as The Monsoons wreak their vengeance on all supposed and literal scourge of social media. From the moody and haunting introduction, you are forewarned that this track will take a dark turn. Vocals match the atmospheric instrumentals created. The drums crash to launch into Cooney declaring ‘You’re a bully, you’re a hypocrite, you’re scum’.
The Monsoons know how to string a sentence together with their clever and witty lyrics such as ‘Eat your dinner, not the light, artificial photosynthesis’. We are reminded how ingrained social media is in our lives, as it now seems to have reached the same level of importance as food in our lives, we need it to survive. The end of the track leaves Cooney reaching a crescendo as he repeats ‘You’re scum’ in unison with the crashing riffs and drums, which continue until the last second before quickly drawing back. Overall, it’s an eclectic mix, holding up a mirror to our dependance and the cruelty some face on social media. It highlights the biggest paradox of our generation.
Social media has made us more downcast and isolated than ever before, despite having an emphasis on ‘social’. With Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson recently unfolding her life-threatening experiences, it’s a current issue and a thought-provoking focus from the fledgeling band. It must be noted that obvious comparisons can be drawn from one of The 1975’s latest offerings ‘People’, but it is more than a warmed up soup version of other bands releases. A courageous choice for their debut track, and we can only imagine what subject matter their next release will tackle. It’s sure to be worth the wait.
From the outset of the interview, The Monsoon’s unpredictability on stage mirrors them as people. Their chosen attire was a mixture of black fingernails, dark eye makeup and chains.
Sitting in the upstairs of The Castle, a cosy and traditional venue in Manchester with the 5 members, there was a special guest. Affectionately known as ‘Rosa’ the band’s mascot, a decapitated mannequin head complete with a mohawk and tattoos scrawled over certainly made for an interesting spectacle. It was something straight out of a series of unexpected events, and fitted the otherworldly ambience from Manchester’s freshest and fastest-growing punk band.
Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did your band form?
James: “We met in school somehow. We were jamming and you [Will] came along.”
Jack: “James asked if I wanted to play the guitar for a band, and I was like ‘hmmm’ and he said he’d buy me a sandwich.”
James: “I did not say that at all, you specifically asked for a cheese sandwich.”
Jack: “Not cheese. Any sandwich is better than cheese.”
Tom: “We didn’t have a singer for around a year and 3 months.”
Ethan: “Yeah I just appeared. I’ll tell you my perspective around how I just appeared. We have a mutual friend who’s into gigs, who’s my best mate called Holly. I was drunk one day at Karaoke, and she was like ‘you’re decent do you want to join a band?’ I was like ‘yeah’, and I showed up to practice with them and we had a new tune straight away. We got on straight away, and they said I could be their new lead singer. I had never sung in front of anyone before. The first gig we did was the first time we sound checked, and was the first time I’d sung.”
Will: “We bonded over really weird shirts and nail polish over Instagram before, such as ‘that’s a funky shirt’.”
Ethan: “Also Industrial Punk music.”
In regards to the nail polish and makeup- is that something you’ve taken as inspiration from past or modern bands?
Ethan: “I just like doing it.
Will: “It just kind of happened.”
Ethan: “Personally, my inspiration was Saytr Play’s, Fred Farrell. I’ve known him for a while and he always used to do it. I always thought it looked pretty cool but I’m not confident enough to do it. He told me to just do it, and I did it. I pretty much just ripped him off.”
Jack: “I just nick my mums.”
Will: “Mine just kind of happened, it’s really mad because I come from a feminine family, so it just clicked.”
Ethan: “I lived with two girls.”
Will: “Like nail polish, eyeliner and long hair it’s just soaked in.”
How did you settle on your brand name ‘The Monsoons’?
Will: “This is so long. We had an old band name called ‘What?’. We were in band practice at school…”
Jack: “I said can we change the name as this is getting boring now. People would ask what your band was called and you would say ‘what?’ and then they’d repeat their question.”
Will: “It was funny.”
Ethan: “It was hilarious.”
Jack: “No it wasn’t.”
Will: “It just kind of happened, we picked a bunch of names and ‘Monsoons’ just stuck.”
Ethan: “I watch David Attenborough with my mates around my house while drinking, and one goes, ‘it’s Monsoon Season!'”
Camilla: “So you got your name from David Attenborough?”
Ethan: “You could say that.”
Will: “It just kind of appeared like Ethan.”
Jack: “It’s better than everyone just saying ‘What?’ in a sentence.”
You have a new single called ‘Social Media Scum’ coming out- what was the writing and production process like behind it?
Will: “I think it was in a business studies lesson I got bored as I have a weak attention span, and I thought of the whole riff in my head. A really weird jangly riff and a month or two before I played it and everyone ignored it. I played it as a warm-up for months and then Ethan said he had lyrics for it. “
Ethan: “It’s kind of ironic.”
Will: “It’s a message to yourself.”
Ethan: “It’s a message to the current generation as you see it everywhere on Twitter. The track itself was supposed to come out yesterday but we kind of messed it up.”
Will: “It was a processing thing.”
Ethan: “It’s a testament to how new we are.”
James: “It kind of reflects us as a band, if it’s going to get there it might take some time but it’ll get there.”
Ethan: “It’s like we’re notoriously famous for breaking an amp at every gig.”
Have you ever had any gig malfunctions?
Ethan: “It’s funny you say that because it’s every single gig.”
Jack: “Every single gig you’ve been to.”
Will: “Let the master of breaking things take over I’ve got a tendency for everything I touch to break or did break until I realised how to use my head and set things up properly. I went through a couple of amps, my bass- my bass at the last gig kind of just gave up.”
Who are your influences?
James: “I’m very influenced by Post Punk, kind of new wave Joy Division and new bands such as Idles and Slaves. I love the pounding drums, how it’s a bit mental, falling apart but comes together at the end.”
Jack: “I don’t know.”
Will: “You [Jack] like that indie stuff.”
Jack: “I don’t know. Just noise.”
Ethan: “I like Nine Inch Nails like Will. If you’ve ever heard Nick Cave in The Bad Seeds, he was in a band called The Birthday Party. They were one of the most notorious punk bands. The lyrics are very twisted and sick- he makes throwing up noises down the mic and I don’t know why I just like it. We’re influenced by Idles too, and The Blinders too. They’re one of my favourite bands like at The Ritz. The Courteeners too and Saytr Play too. It was mad growing with them and my mum was from that, and living basically round the corner from Middleton, and where they are now they’re still getting bigger.”
Will: “Mine is kind of a mix from Blinders to Nine Inch Nails mainly, the guy is a genius. Then The Cure, punk bit of Nick Cave. Then a band from Essex called The Wytches.”
Ethan: “They’re at Neighbourhood Festival this year.”
Will: “The Wytches are awesome. I’ve got to mention Idles and Sex Pistols.”
Tom: “We used to have a thing where we’d play a Sex Pistol cover at every gig but that got old very quick.
Who is the main writer of your material?
Jack: “We all write our parts.”
Will: “Normally it goes bass riff, Ethan, talky Ethan time, bass riff and everything else.”
Ethan: “We have a little storytime. If I’ve got lyrics I like we all sit in circle time. I have a mic and I just speak the lyrics.”
Jack: “You know what our lyrics are like, so it’s just weird sitting in a happy circle.”
Ethan: “Nah, I think we’ve got a really interesting songwriting process and I don’t know if anyone else does it- as I don’t know how they write songs. We’ll just be in a room and I’ll do some lyrics and Will will do a riff. We’ll just all make it up, and just think this works let’s remember it.”
Jack: “A lot of time we’ll wing it and it’ll sound sick, we’ll try and do it again and it’ll sound worse than it did. Once Will has written his riff he’ll try and match it with Ethan’s lyrics, and then we’ll do our part.”
What is your favourite song to perform live?
Will: “Social Media Scum.”
James: “Either that or Firefly.”
Jack: “The energy behind Social Media Scum though, it’s just going mad.”
Ethan: “I like ‘Hang the Farmer’ because I get to cry at the end.”
Jack: “It’s so boring to play.”
Ethan: Yeah but when I’m going ‘ he’s dead’ for like an hour!”
James: “You’ll hear them all tonight such as SMS, Firefly, and an exclusive cover.”
Ethan: “Well we never do the same cover twice.”
Will: “I don’t like covers in general. I think it takes away from our songs.”
Ethan: “We’re doing ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ by Idles. As long as we do covers justice it’s alright.”
Will: “I don’t think it’s right to rely on other peoples stuff.”
Ethan: “I love covers though as they’re so fun, you get to make them your own.”
Jack: “We’ve been put off covers from when we butchered them, while we were a week old.
Will: “In our toddler times.”
Jack: It’s just put me off covers.”
Such as when performing you’re crying and trying to convey your emotion to the audience – Is that how you put your stamp on a song?
Ethan: “I just do weird stuff. Like the at AATMA gig it got us the little boost of attention, I was so drunk I cut my head on a cymbal and split my mouth open on a mic, and I was just screaming. I loved that, it was such a good gig.”
How you stand out from other Manchester bands? By being yourself but to the biggest extreme?
Ethan: “That’s what I think.”
Will: “It comes when performing live. It’s just us, but more of us. 250% of us.”
Ethan: “I don’t want to throw any names out there but Blossoms are boring.”
Will: “There’s no need to name other people.”
Ethan: “They make amazing music, I love their music so much but I’ve seen them live 5 times and I want to fall asleep. They just stand there, it’d look better if they ran around with a guitar, got the audience involved jumping up and down, jumped off the stage, came into the crowd…
James: “A gig is as much a visual experience.”
Ethan: “The 1975, I love them and their visuals are next level compared to any other band which I’ve seen.”
Will: “It’s the whole thing it isn’t just a single sense. You’re there is a place, you may as well have everything.”
Ethan: “Like at Band On The Wall, when I had Holly on my shoulders to finish the song.”
Will: “And when you headbutted the cymbal.”
Ethan: “You’ve got to get people involved, so they’ll remember it.”
James: “I’ll give you a drumstick tonight.”
Ethan: “No, because when I hit my head it looks cooler.
Will: No it doesn’t!”
Jack: “It gives you brain damage.”
Will: “It gives you a headache.”
Who is your dream collaboration dead or alive?
Will: “I have two- Trent Reznor and Kurt Cobain.”
Ethan: “Yes, Trent Reznor.”
Who’s your favourite band you’ve performed with or supported?
Ethan: “Supporting Kastella as they’re nice guys and an opposite style of music. It’s Brit poppy and they’re lovely to play with.”
Will: “Go down the local and have a few beers with them, it’s that kind of general vibe.”
What is your favourite performance you’ve done so far?
Jack: “Band On The Wall. No, Star & Garter.”
Ethan: “Think it’s Star and Garter for all of us.”
Jack: “It was the biggest we’ve played.”
Will: “In terms of nothing breaking it’s Garter, but in terms of music it’s Band On The Wall or AATMA. We were very tight.”
Ethan: “It was sick. We don’t talk about The Factory gig.”
Camilla: “Why what happened?”
Will: “It was our first gig in Manchester. We had no room, it was like trying to perform in a shoebox. It just didn’t work.”
James: “We did support Filth though, who are very good.”
Do you have any more gigs in the pipeline?
Will: “26th of October.”
James: “Its an all-day Punk one with Deco Records at Retro.”
Ethan: “Shout out to Saults and Swine, really love Saults.”
Do you have any new singles or a timescale of when we can expect a release?
Will: “In business terms, it’ll probably be at the end of the first quarter.”
Ethan: “The song which we’re releasing as a little sneak peek, I hate it, it’s not relevant to our music. However, everyone wants it so…”
Will: “I think it fits the whole thing as it’s massively different. SMS our new one is massively heavy, but this comes along a lot more chill. We’re trying to baffle people as after this it’ll be back to the usual.”
Camilla: “Just trying something new.”
Ethan: “Yeah. I just like really heavy music.”
This band is just getting started, and are more than just a collective embodying the weird and wonderful. Any band with a clear aim to share their voice through their music, undoubtedly on their terms deserves acclaim. Especially in a world focused on algorithms and popularity. If punk means doing what you love, being true to yourself and not giving a flying fig what anybody else thinks- then we’ve just found the newest and truest punk band in Greater Manchester. Be sure to stream ‘Social Media Scum’ available on all major streaming services now. Furthermore, experience them live at the all-day Halloween special run by Deco Records at Retro, Manchester on the 26th of October.
Make sure to keep up with The Monsoons: