Okay, Bye – the punk rock power couple – managed to put out a glorious six track DIY EP during lockdown. Catchy and angry. They should be on your radar.
We’re back in the mine of the rich seam of Colin’s Punk Rock World.
The latest release, Hidden Gems 2 takes a tour around bands with, shall we say, modest, followings on Facebook.
One such, but well deserving of upping their follower count, is the Exeter duo of Okay, Bye.
Recent self produced and released EP, Personal Hell is a gift for fans of, say Blondie, L7, Anteros and, well, anyone who knows what’s cool.
Okay, Bye are Grace (guitar, vocals) and Tom (hitting things) and they were more than keen to have a gas on some form of internet alchemy.
We start off as usual:
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Tom: We’re in Exeter. For the last hour, Grace has been designing a new piece of merch. And I have been recording some drums in our home studio, for another band.
P3dro: Tell us a bit about Okay, Bye. What’s the history of the band?
Grace: Okay, Bye is only my second ever project. Tom and I had been in another band, but once that died out, I started just playing guitar on my own. But that felt lonely to be on stage on my own, like some sad git. So, then Tom joined the band – we’re partners anyway, so it was pretty easy to organise everything.
P3dro: How long have you two been a band?
Tom: I’d guess about two years. It doesn’t seem like that long, but then we’ve been inside for nearly a year.
Grace: We put out our first EP in Spring 2019.
Tom: We’d been the band a couple of months before we recorded, but being a couple we were able to rehearse and put things together quite quickly. We could rehearse, like, four times a week.
P3dro: Does the band have any kind of ethos or message?
Grace: Yes, although we don’t have any kid of written mantra. Tom and I have never sat down and thought: “What’s this band about?”. But we spend a lot of time together and our opinions are similar on moral issues. I write nearly all of the lyrics, although when I write, I’m aware that I am not the band. We are the band. Although, we’re both strongly behind what I put out there.
There are a lot of feminist themes. And being resentful to having to work full time, just to keep your head above water! Because it drains you. So, I guess there is an anti capitalism as well, although I don’t think we define ourselves by any of that, it’s just you can tell what drives us.
Tom: I would add to what Grace has said by saying that when I’m doing any musical project, it has to be true and earnest to the band. Our songs are typical punk stuff. Socio-economic issues. Gender issues. And just being a bit, kind of, pissed off about things.
But that’s because it’s absolutely relevant to huge parts of the working class in the UK. We’re all pissed off and we haven’t got any money or any power.
Grace: I don’t really sit there and think: “Oooh, what can I write about”. I don’t live a particularly unusual life.
Tom: I also think we try to make our music accessible. We don’t try to hide behind any metaphor. Like the Daily Mail, we try and keep it to a reading age of about 10 years old!
Grace: I don’t do that!
Tom: There’s no shame in writing direct lyrics. A lot of the bands I listen to are incredibly airy fairy – you could argue for ages about what the lyrics mean. But I think for Okay, Bye anyone should be able to get it.
Grace: There’s no doubt what we’re about.
P3dro: We always have to ask this question at the moment. How has the last year been for you guys?
Grace: Different answers from both of us. It’s been horrible. I’m a massive extrovert and I just can’t live like this. I mean, there’s no other choice, so … I just am a very bad version of myself.
But it’s been really nice having the studio, still being able to write. Luckily, I’m still working. I also learned to skate in the summer, so it’s not been all bad.
Tom: I think I agree. I don’t have any particular insight, or interesting takes on it all. It’s crap innit, but not for any reason I can give that your readers don’t already know about.
Although, as band, it has been an amazing year because over Christmas 2019 we recorded the record that’s just come out – ‘Personal Hell’. That was the first time I’d ever recorded, the first time I’d ever mic’d up the drum kit, put mics on the guitar cab. So, from there to recording it, mixing it, mastering it, having it put out to the label and then releasing our first vinyl as a band.
We’re doing a lot of writing on a new album. We’ve managed to get on through what will be one of the more difficult years of our lives, but from a band point of view, it’s been really positive.
Grace: We’d rather have been touring, though. We had plans. And then they just got postponed and postponed and postponed. The EP was ready ages before we released it and we were just holding it. But then we thought, let’s just get it out. But I feel really good about it. It’s one of my most proud things.
P3dro: That’s interesting, because various bands we’ve spoken to have had music ready to go and decided to put it out there [during lockdown], whereas other bands have said they wanted to wait until they can tour a new release.
Grace: Yeah, some people were almost rude to us about the fact we were going to put out an EP, because they preferred to wait. But, then I thought we’re all just little bands anyway, doing this for fun, so we can just do it because we enjoy it.
And then we have Glastonbury not going ahead this summer. And all the smaller festivals [will get cancelled as well]. So, are you going to wait two years? At the moment, just go for it and just enjoy it.
Tom: People are thirsty for new music. We’ve almost sold out of the first pressing of the EP.
Grace: It’s been mad. I can’t believe how many people care about it.
Tom: I think if we’d have not released the EP, then in 18 months time, or 2 years time, or whenever, then everyone and their Mum would be releasing a double gatefold, 22 track epic.
So, we were able to put out a record and people gave a shit.
Grace: And we have some new stuff in the making and we’re not going to hold back on that either.
P3dro: So, what is next?
Tom: Well, we might as well just say: an album.
We have about 15ish, fully finished, songs. Drums, guitars, vocals, backing vocals that are demoed. We need to polish them up, weed some out and then put them out there.
Grace: We’ve been messing around a bit. Tom has a four track recorder, so we may release somthing done on that as a bit of fun.
Tom: We may do a short run of something completely analog – something that has never been near a computer – recorded, mixed and mastered on tape. It would really challenge me, because I’ve never done anything like that.
But I also think it’s interesting and cool. There are people out there who are quite into our cassettes, so it would be [good] to do.
P3dro: Absent Covid, how’s the music scene in Exeter?
Tom: It’s really good. I’ve been fortunate to have been in bands, and taking time off school to go touring, for the last 17 years now. The Exeter scene is like an amazing petri dish with all sorts of bands.
Specialist Subject Records started in Exeter, although now in Bristol. There are bands like Bangers, Shit Present, American Enthusiasm, Cagework. So, all of these amazing bands who have come out of Exeter.
But, we’re lacking a good mid-sized venue. We’re blessed to have an incredible small venue called The Cavern, which is a 200-250 cap place. It’s great. I love playing there.
But, then the next thing we have is a 1,000 + venue, so there’s a huge gap for the alt and punk bands who would go to mid level venue.
Grace: I think that’s why, when smaller bands take off, they tend to move away from Exeter. And that’s quite tragic. There are people who say: “Well, you should put on a gig”. But that’s risky and expensive.
Tom: When you don’t have a mid level venue means that people don’t see those mid level bands and there’s no [inspiration]. And then you have fewer people who are inspired to pick up a guitar …
But that also means every band in Exeter is really good.
P3dro: If either of you could go to your fantasy gig right now, then who would it be and at which venue?
Tom: I would go and see Fugazi, right at the beginning of their career, in CBGB. That would be cool.
Grace: I don’t know, I can’t answer. I’ll just stay at home! I’ve already seen lots of my dream bands. But Phoebe Bridgers is a big deal.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album we should be listening to right now.
Grace: I’ve only listened to one thing all year! I’ve been listening to Sir Chloe’s album, ‘Party Favors’. That’s so good. I get obsessed with a band and then I’ll only listen to that one thing for [a while].
Tom: So, this is a band called Don’t Worry, who have just released a single called ‘As If By Magic’. That’s pretty cool.
I’m also in another band and we’ve just released a single, too. The band is Soot Sprite and the single is called ‘It’s Summer and I Don’t Feel Like Smiling’
These are probably the things that are relevant to people who are into our music. A lot of other stuff I like is probably more challenging.
Grace: ‘Challenging’ is such a rude word! Maybe you mean, more of an acquired taste.
Tom: Yeah. There’s also Probably Not and their recent album, called ‘More Than Skin’.