Army of Skanks are a Coventry institution with a rich heritage in one form or another, they are a classy Midlands group of makers of mayhem.
Starting off as a five piece, but now down to finely honed, slick and raucous trio, Army of Skanks have been beating up the Midlands for the past decade. They have many a tale to tell. We were all ears.
Once we’d managed to get going (Zoom Yay!), we had a great chat with bass and guitar wielding Wendy and Carol.
It was a shame, their superbly named drummer, Whippet couldn’t make the date, but, two out of three ain’t bad.
Here we go. You know the score by now:
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Wendy: We’re from Coventry and we’ve been doing Army of Skanks for 10 years. It originally started as a joke band. The lead singer and guitarist were, I think, about 17 years old, and then there were three other, older ones. We just did covers of early punk songs, which went down really well, although it didn’t last very long.
And then we looked for a new singer and a new guitarist, so we found Jess, through a mutual friend, she had been singing in jam nights at a local pub.
And then we had a gig in Redditch, where Jess couldn’t make it, so me and the guitarist just bumbled our way through it. Carol was in the audience and joined us on stage to do an Iggy Pop number.
Carol: Well, my own band was playing, anyway, so, happy days.
Wendy: And then we haven’t been able to get rid of her, ever since!
Carol: She loves me!
P3dro: So, how long have you been a three piece?
Carol: It’s about three and a half years. Because Jess was ill [and we’d been booked to play Rebellion] so we had a quick practice as a three piece. We didn’t want to cancel Rebellion, we didn’t want to let people down, so we went as a three piece. And it was alright in the end.
P3dro: So, are you happy as a three piece? You’ve had that many line up changes, are you still the original Army of Skanks?
Wendy: Army of Skanks have never done a gig without me! I’m the only one. Whippet’s nearly [there]. He was in about three bands and we would get a stand in drummer [sometimes], but it was really just a laugh for the first three or four years. Nothing really mattered if we played well or not. But it sounded like early punk. It was so messy.
P3dro: You mention Rebellion. How as that experience for you?
Wendy: Oh, the first one was amazing.
Carol: We were on the Olympia stage, with a big glass roof. Jock from GBH and Pinch from The Damned were helping me set up the guitar amps. There was this big wall of black amps and they were going: “Do you want a 2,000 head or a 900?” And I’m saying: “I just want something with a bit of distortion” It all looked the same. It just had knobs on it. But they all helped us get set up. It was really lovely of them.
The vibe was incredible. It’s a fantastic experience to do it.
Wendy: We’ve done four [Rebellions]. That [first] particular gig was so echoey, all the bands complained, but we did it, though. We were lucky, because we were the first band on that stage, so we got to sound check and we played on that stage for a good hour. Somehow, we even ended up with two encores! We had a really full on gig.
The room was full. We were amazed, because it was 1pm on a Friday. It was brilliant, a really good vibe. Although it was pure daylight when we played, like being in a car park.
P3dro: We’ve been listening to the last album, Perfect Storm. Do you have any plans for new music coming out?
Wendy: Definitely. Can’t wait. We’ve got two songs fully ready and the bones of another couple of songs. Carol’s been sending me ideas as well. So, yeah, since we’ve been a three piece the songs we’ve written have been by jamming and that’s really worked well for us like that.
Carol: There’s more collaboration now. None of us tread on each others’ toes. We don’t give a shit. Because we can just say; “Ah, well, that’s a bit crap”, but nobody gets offended. All three of us are on the same page and if that works, then, great.
If it’s not perfect, then we can spend a bit more time and make it better. Sometimes, with the CDs in the past, we’ve loved the music, but we’ve thought Ah, we should have done that or something else. I was still learning my lead solos after we’d recorded the last CD!
Wendy: Yeah, there’s a couple of songs we’ve played since and we’ve improved them since, just by jamming them. Maybe we recorded it too soon. It’s much better now.
Carol: We’re getting it right now. So, people won’t like it.
Wendy: The album was called ‘The Perfect Storm‘ as a comment on the world. When we were doing it, we hadn’t realised how many songs were about climate change, trouble and what we’re doing to the sea. One of the songs is about a storm, as well, so, it just felt like everything can’t go on as the way we are now.
Something was gonna crash. And it has. Big time.
P3dro: You couldn’t have predicted this one?
Wendy: Well, there’s the virus and how many crazy weather things that have happened in the last year or so. Massive fires, massive floods.
P3dro: So what’s the next album going to be? A series of love songs?
Carol: Ha! Yes! [ie No!]. I think it’s a bit more mature, because we are more mature. We’ve had the time again. ‘Storm‘ was quite lyrically strong anyway, but this one’s even stronger. Rather than looking at problems and moaning about them, because every band does that, we started to look at how to improve stuff. It’s a bit less moany. Perhaps.
P3dro: Will it be an album, or, perhaps an EP?
Wendy: Not sure. I’d be happy to work on, maybe, half a dozen songs. Doing [the last] album was really tough as it was the first time I’d been a lead singer in any band. We recorded that album in two halves, because I didn’t think I was going to be strong enough. But, as it turned out, I’m really happy with it.
P3dro: Any plans for gigs?
Carol: We have one festival we always do, which is the Beltane Bash, but it’s like walking on ice. You can’t do it. You get offered gigs, you say ‘Yeah’ and then they get pulled. Promoters must be pulling their hairs out. We were offered one in London, but we couldn’t do it because we’re in Tier Three, so we couldn’t even rehearse. [How quickly things change – Ed].
P3dro: And even if there were gigs, they’d probably be all seated. Does that have any appeal to a band like you?
Carol: Not a massive appeal, is it? It’s sterile. It’s probably good for some bands, but, with our sort of [music] – well, I don’t know. In my day, you’d try not to pay on the door, because you wanted your money for beer.
If that’s all that’s left, then you have to do it, I suppose. But I’ve watched at some pubs doing acoustic sets, before we became Tier Three and it’s as dull as dishwater to me.
It does bugger all for me. I suppose I should be saying I love it, because it’s music. But I don’t.
Wendy: Yeah, I’m a massive New Model Army fan. And I love it when they do acoustic. But, I really want noisy New Model Army.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Wendy: I love the The Blunders – they’re fantastic. Also Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes. I saw them in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. It was a fluke. Of course, it was sold out, but we went to hang out by the venue, hoping to see a tout, or someone, but there weren’t any. We hung around anyway and talked to the bouncers. They said to come back later and see if anyone who had bought tickets online hadn’t turned up. But they took a shine to us and let us in 🙂