• Charlotte Hardman

Louder with A @ 2000 Trees Festival 2019

Photo Credit: Ben Morse (Twitter: @benmorse / Instagram @benmorse)

Photo Credit: Ben Morse (Twitter: @benmorse / Instagram @benmorse)

When a band formed several years before your birth and has been playing together (and therefore dealing with music press as a sometimes-unfortunate side effect) for decades, approaching your allotted slot to chat to them is undeniably daunting. However, assuaging any fears instantly, punk rockers A welcomed Louder’s opening gambit, and every question thereafter, with the warmth of experience, blended with razor-sharp wit and tongue-in-cheek humour that is delightfully juvenile in its nature! Our conversation with keys player and backing vocalist Giles and guitarist Mark was as far-reaching as is possible- from high school nicknames; to rumours of a fifth album (nearly 15 years after the release of their fourth); and hints of a reunion that may see me re-dyeing five different colours into my hair…

Firstly, how does it feel to be playing 2000 Trees this year? Particularly alongside some familiar faces?

Giles: It’s great! It’s obviously nerve-wracking, because we haven’t played in quite a long time

Mark: Well, Camden Rocks was the last time-

Giles: Well, aside from that- there were years in between us getting back together and playing together again, but it’s a great opportunity to play these early songs again in front of a crowd. One of the best things about it is getting to hang out with Mark

Mark: and hear me play!

Giles: well, hearing Mark play is always a pleasure! But just getting to hang out with each other, because we’re all so busy doing other stuff, we never get chance to really see each other anymore- and considering we used to live in each other’s pockets for decades, it’s great [to reconnect]. And getting to play the songs again is a bonus and playing them at a festival like this is another bonus- we’re talking bonuses on top of bonuses here!

As well as touring as A, you all have various other projects- does having other focuses aside from A alter how you approach performing together as A when you do get together?

Mark: Once we all get back together, it’s just like we’re 15 years old again! All the arguments and the stupidity!

Giles: It’s just a really good laugh- it’s just automatic isn’t it?

Mark: We try and play through the songs, if we can! But as soon as we’re back together, it’s just ‘A’ again!

Giles: We ended up playing the Shepherd’s Bush Empire again at the end of the last tour- I think the first time we played there was when we supported the Sex Pistols wasn’t it? [Then] we were in the middle of recording our first single, and to think that all these years later, having not done much musically in-between, that we can get back together and play a tour that ends up in Shepherd’s Bush Empire is amazing! And when you look into how much we actually rehearsed for that tour- I know Mark, [drummer] Adam and [bassist] Dougie [Poynter, of McFly fame] got together to kind of run through things, but I probably had… a good two hours rehearsal! People ask me ‘were you not nervous?’, and I always say no because there’s no pressure, and without that pressure we just slip back into it- it’s probably the most naturally we’ve ever played!

Mark: Years ago, when we were doing maybe 250 shows a year, it’s easy to take that for granted, because you’re so in the moment, and it’s not until it’s ended that you take a step back and think ‘bloody hell, that was amazing!’. So now that we’re sort of dipping in and out, it’s great.

Giles: It means you can just enjoy it for what it is, so you don’t put any expectations on it, and with that it just becomes so much more natural, and so much more fun!

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Rumours of a fifth album being in the works were circulating a few years ago- will we be seeing a new release from A in the future as it stands?

Mark: [somewhat tentatively] There’s a couple of new songs on the way… without pointing fingers, it relies on Jason having the time to write some lyrics for them! The music is pretty much there, and there are lyric ideas, but until he sits down and finishes them… But these songs are further along than anything has been in the last 15 years, so I think something is going to happen - it’s got to! There are some songs there, and who knows, it could spark something else, we don’t know…

Giles: [jovially] Basically we need Jason to put some effort in!

Are you working on anything else in the mean time?

Giles: Well, it’s interesting you brought that up… we’ve got a tour later this year! Starting on the 20th of November, and we’re going to attempt - and pull off! – playing ‘Monkey Kong’ in full, after the last tour we did, which was playing ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ in full-

Mark: Though not necessarily in the right order! So, we may [on this tour] play most of the songs off ‘Monkey Kong’, in some kind of order…

Giles: Playing the whole of ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ in full was amazing- some of the songs on that album I don’t think we’d ever played live before! I was listening back to Monkey Kong the other day, and there are some amazing songs on that record [too]!

Mark: Some of the backing vocals are really high!

Giles: I don’t know how we’re going to do those?

Mark: Helium balloons!

Giles: There are some songs on Monkey Kong that we’ve definitely never played live, so that will be interesting- I’ll have to dig the vocoder out! But I would urge people to come down and see it- it starts on the 20th of November in Bristol, 21st in Oxford, 22nd in Coventry, 24th in Glasgow, 25th in Manchester, 26th in Norwich, 27th in Southampton, and 29th in London at the Garage!

Mark: How did you remember all that? [glancing pointedly at the paper fluttering on the grass between them]

Giles: I just have an amazing memory for stuff like that! It’s going to be wicked, so come on down! And we’ll definitely be playing other songs in and around ‘Monkey Kong’ as well, so don’t worry, we’ll play all the hits!

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Casting a glance backwards before we focus on the future, punk as a whole was a hugely influential genre in the late 90s and early 00s- (although I was actually born in 2000!)

Giles: So, when we released ‘Monkey Kong’, you were a month old? You were a big fan, I’m sure!

Mark: I’m sure your parents would have been heavily into that album, clearly! It is a very sexual album…

Giles: From 0 to four months is the most influential time of your life, so clearly ‘Monkey Kong’ had a huge impact on you! [almost inaudibly] I can’t believe we’re that old…

Sorry! I didn’t know whether to bring that up or not…

Giles: Well Doug is an amazing bassist, but I’ve never felt so old as when he said ‘I bought ‘Hi-Fi Serious’ when I was 14!’, and some of the songs on tour, like ‘Number One’, we wrote when he was 7!

Speaking of Dougie- has having him in the band changed the dynamic of how you work on stage?

Giles: He just slotted straight in really!

Mark: With Doug, we knew it was never going to be permanent, because where he’s from, he may be going back to… [followed by a knowing chuckle from Giles] but when he came along, it was such a kick up the arse for us, because he sounded so good straight off the bat!

Giles: For him to come to one or two rehearsals and just nail it, and for us to not have to give any direction to it, it was just there, was the biggest – not surprise, because I know he’s a very talented player – but it was very comforting to know that this tour was going to be amazing!

Mark: In that first rehearsal, we probably went through about ten songs back-to-back, and we just turned and went ‘shall we try ‘Monkey Kong’ now then Doug?’, and we just went ‘bang’, straight into it, and we were all looking at each other going ‘okay, this works!’

Giles: That relationship between the drums and the bass is all-important, and in terms of being locked in with Adam, they were so tight- it’s just a shame he doesn’t look very cool, but you can’t have everything can you?

Mark: And he’s just so old!

Giles: He’s bringing the average age of our band through the roof! He’s just such a good laugh too- the thing we’ve found with bringing people into the band in the past has been that personality probably matters more than anything- being able to fit into our sense of humour [is essential], and he did right from the word ‘go’. We’ve known Doug for ages through Jason working with McFly, so having him actually in the band is awesome.

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

That juxtaposition of the then and now is an interesting point of comparison, given that punk rock at the time so closely fed from the society of the late 90s and early 00s- with everything going on in the world at the minute, do you still feel punk has that same resonance today?

Giles: I think it always will. People are always going to want to rebel-

Mark: -and find their bands to rally behind-

Giles: -and whether it’s music that raises you up, or gets you angry, or if you’re frustrated about something and the music matches your frustration, that [connection] is always going to happen. Punk rock did come along and change a lot of stuff, but people find their outlet for their frustrations in different ways, whether it’s metal or punk or pop- as long as, whatever it is, you can relate to it on some personal level, then that’s what matters. And it’s great to be from a country where all those genres are starting to merge.

Leading on from that idea of resonating with people, we have a few questions from fans that we’d like to put to you?

Joe Quigley: What’s wrong with the other 25 letters of the alphabet?

Giles: They’re all shit compared to A! Z’s pretty cool, because it’s a bit ‘out-there’

Mark: Isn’t it weird how all the letters at the end of the alphabet are scarier than the ones at the beginning? Does that answer the question? The others were too scary! Actually, my nickname at school was ‘A’, because there were two Mark Chapmans… I don’t think that’s why we called the band A though!

Giles: It was pre-internet really- when record shops existed, being called A meant you could find us pretty easily in record shops! Then the internet was invented, and as it turns out, searching for A on the internet isn’t that productive!

Mark: And one of our biggest hits was called ‘Nothing’, so if you type in ‘A Nothing’, you just get… nothing.

Giles: That’s why we’re not on solid gold yachts floating around the Mediterranean! But it looks good in a logo and on a t-shirt!

Jonathan Miller: What were the arrangements to use lyrics from Billy Joel’s ‘My Life’ on ‘Number 1’?

Giles: That came about randomly in rehearsal really when we were writing the song, and Jason just started singing [Joel’s lyrics] over the top of it, which quite often happens, and we just thought that it sounded really cool! So, our people got in touch with Billy Joel’s people-

Mark: -and he said no!

Giles: Billy Joel’s people came back with a figure for us to use that in the song, - which is fair enough because he’s a very talented artist - and we went ‘…alright then’, and we ended up being able to put it on the record. I do love that bit! And there are other instances of that too- Jason sometimes goes into ‘King of Pain’ by The Police at the end of ‘Old Folks’, which just fits so well- maybe we should have gotten in touch with The Police as well!

Charlotte Claber: Jason told a very interesting story on stage at Camden Rocks the other week about you guys playing ‘The Birdie Song’ some years ago…?

Giles: We did it in front of a German label, and that night the head of the label broke his leg falling off the stage because he was so drunk!

Mark: It’s one of those stupid things that happens when you’re in a rehearsal room, and you’re so bored that if you make it to the end of a song, you’ve done well- I think we just stopped playing, and you [indicating Giles] thought that would fit in perfectly- and we spent more time on that little bit than we did the rest of the set!

Giles: That’s the perfect example of us doing something in rehearsal that we find ridiculously funny, and we just assume that that will translate, and everyone else will find it funny! Andy, the drummer, always keeps us on our toes [like that], we never know whether he’s going to go and do a stupid drum-fill, so there’s always that anticipation! And it was the same with ‘The Birdie Song’- although it probably did cost us in some ways with that label!

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

Photo Credit: Dom Meason (Twitter: @dommeason / Instagram: @measons)

While ‘The Birdie Song’ sadly didn’t make an appearance at A’s set that afternoon, the unbridled, youthful delight they take in making music was palpable throughout- from their hilarious walking circle pit (in Jason’s world ‘It’s age appropriate- I’m not running anymore!’), to their playful jibes towards Dougie (Jason’s melodramatic cry of ‘It’s his last show with us… he just doesn’t like playing to old people!’ earning a bashful Doug a chorus of well-meaning, jovial boos from the onlookers!), A harkened back to the spirited teenagers inside all of us. Older and wiser they may be, but out-for-the-count? Absolutely fucking no chance!

In preparation for that upcoming UK tour, check out the video for 'Monkey Kong's titular track below:

The full dates for A's upcoming UK tour are below, and tickets are available here:


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