Interview: Francis Hunt - Stand Out Riot

Coming from Manchester, UK, STAND OUT RIOT is a genre-blending carnival of sound mixing Punk, Ska, brass and even a splash of Metal. It's an intense and addictive sound best epitomised by the band's storming, frenetic second album 'The Gentleman Bandits' recently released on TNS Records. This is what vocalist and trombonist Francis Hunt had to say.

..To start with, can you tell us when and why the band got together? What was the main aim of the band when it initially formed – and how has that changed as the band has progressed?
Hey! Almost all of our current line-up went to the same high school, so we'd all played with each other, in some form (jazz bands, cover bands etc), and they go all the way back to around 2001. We've basically always been a group of mates who are into the same stuff.

..Being a seven-piece, was it originally planned for the band to have so many members – or did it just grow as time progressed? Does everybody have input into the songwriting and direction of the band, or is there a ‘leader’ around whom the band operates?
Yeah, the band has grown and shrank over the years - starting as just a three-piece, and peaking at eight members a few years ago. We've always wanted lots of people to give us more power and energy on stage, and also to widen our options when songwriting.
As for group structure, we all have roles: I book gigs and generally manage everything, Hannah and Tessa do merch and money, Will deals with the online shop, and Dave drives us around - but we're all a team, so all that often blurs!

..I note that you, Francis (vocals, trombone), Hannah (sax) and Tessa (violin) all have the same surname – I presume you are all siblings? How does being in a band with your brother/sister work on a personal level?
Haha, yes we are siblings! It works out good for us, there's obviously the occasional bickering and stuff, but we get on dead well most of the time.

..You’ve hooked up with TNS Records – which must be one of the hardest working collectives in the UK. How did you hook up with them? Would you consider releasing material on any other label?
We've known Andy and Bev from TNS for years, and they were putting us on gigs before they even started the label, so it was totally logical that we could both help each other out by working together. They're absolutely awesome, and we're dead proud to be associated with them.
We're not looking to be released on any other UK labels at the moment, as TNS do everything we want from a label, but would love to maybe work with some international labels at some point in the future.

..The band has just released its second album, ‘The Gentleman Bandits’. In what ways do you think this is an improvement and progression on the debut album, ‘Carnival Militia’?
Yeah, I definitely think we've grown as a band, both in songwriting and performance and it really shows on this album. The new stuff is heavier, faster and angrier, but also is more technical in terms of playing, with a lot more depth than anything else we've done before.

..I’d just like to talk about a couple of the songs on the album, starting with 'Doublethink'. There are hints of the lyrics of Dick Lucas (SUBHUMANS/ CITIZEN FISH) here, in that they are witty but address the issue of people who blindly follow what they are told, right or wrong. Where do you think these apathetic traits come from and what can be done to change them?
I think that the apathetic idiocy is mainly down to people's total laziness, and our nation's willingness to pass the blame for any wrong doings. So many people stumble through life not thinking for themselves, believing everything they hear on TV, following orders, "professional" advice.

..What about 'Live For Nothing'? Can you explain the ideals behind this song?
'Live For Nothing' was written while I was approaching the end of my time at university; I was living in a horrible place, and didn't really have any prospects, and just felt like I was being forced through a system which was a means to an end. I, along with a massive amount of my friends, finished Uni, then went straight into the benefit system as there just simply weren't (and still aren't) enough jobs out there. All this made the three years (and £20,000 of debt I accumulated) seem utterly pointless. It's probably the most open, personal and honest SOR song lyrically. Later in the album is 'Count for Something' which is basically the other side of the coin - and all about making the most of whatever you have, even if it's not what you'd dreamed of. I really like the themed link between these two songs, gives the album more of a cyclic feel.

..What’s a STAND OUT RIOT gig like? I guess with seven of you on stage, it can be quite an experience. Having played a few festivals, do you prefer to play the larger outdoor festival or smaller, intimate club gigs? Ever play any covers?
We try to make sure that every gig uses up 100% of our energy every time. We're really proud of the songs we've written, and just want to convey them in the most visually exciting way possible. Expect jumping, climbing, high-fiving and copious amounts of sweat at every show.
We don't really have a preference of what sort of gig we play, as long as we're close enough to the crowd that we can all get involved, then we're happy! And we've done a couple of covers - 'Keasby Nights' by Catch-22 is a popular one we've done in the past.

..I believe the band has played in Europe a few times – how have those gigs been when compared with those in the UK? Any immediate differences?
Yes we have! We recently got back from our first European tour with our best friends BEAT THE RED LIGHT, and it was AWESOME! All the shows were fantastic, all the people were great, and we did some seriously hard partying! The main difference between the UK and the rest of Europe is the hospitality. We were treated so well out there, and had food, beer and a place to stay almost every night. I'm not trying to insinuate that we necessarily deserve those things, but having them makes touring so much easier and more enjoyable! So, a massive thanks to all the amazing promoters who put us on while we were over there.

..You did a video for the track, ‘Spacesuit’. What did you make of the video-making experience – something you want to repeat?
It was fun! Difficult to try and capture the intensity of our live show in a rather sterile studio environment, but was enjoyable nonetheless! And yes, we're looking at doing a new video in the near future.

..Tell us about life in Manchester, UK. Is it a good place for a Punk to live? Your song, 'K's For X's' decries the fractious nature of our Punk scene, with elements looking for 'coolness' points etc - is that apparent in Manchester? Is there as much trouble and drug issues as the media makes us believe?
I love living in Manchester, it's a very real city. It's not glitzy or glamourous, it's just full of normal people living their lives. There's problems with drugs and crime and stuff, but not much more than anywhere else really, it's not a massive worry of mine.
With regards to the Punk scene - it's good! There's not as much going on now as there was a couple of years ago, but there's still the occasional awesome DIY show that keeps everyone happy.
'K's for X's' is about a certain demographic of Punk fans who are so caught up with the 'image' and 'Punk lifestyle' that they've forgotten that the music is actually the important issue. In my opinion, if you're playing is full of passion, it's no less Punk being a 9-5 IT consultant than if you live in a squat and spend your days sewing patches on your jacket.

..The city has a long Punk Rock heritage, going right back to BUZZCOCKS, DRONES and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS, through JOY DIVISION and THE FALL and onto a myriad of more recent bands. Does this musical history of the city, or the city itself, provide any influence? Have you ever referred to the city, directly or not, in your lyrics?
Haha, that's always a strange one - we're perpetually being reminded of our city's musical heritage... But none of it has really influenced us directly. Some of our songs are sort of set in Manchester, but we've not yet written a homage to the city!

..You ever thought about moving away from the city - be it to another part of the UK or overseas? There's a song on the new album, 'Past-Mortem', that suggests a vague disdain toward those that never look further than their immediate locale and have no desire to progress or move forward. How does that song and its sentiment fit into your own future plans?
I'd love to move over to Austria at some point, I've visited/toured there several times in the past couple of years, and it's hands down my favourite country in Europe. It's both beautiful and completely down to earth at the same time.
'Past Mortem' is a song written about our hometown, New Mills (a suburb of Manchester), which is a place where people just seem to get stuck... They never move, or have any aspirations of anything that doesn't involve the town they grew up in, and just grow old. It just confuses me how people are having to settle for what's closest and most easily available, especially when there's a whole world to explore.

..It’s clear you guys have a lot to say in your lyrics, so can you tell us your thoughts on the rather bizarre state of UK government right now? How do you feel the Tory/Liberal alliance is working out?
It was just a stupid move by a greedy man. For Nick Clegg to go back on the vast majority of his promises just shows a total lack of integrity, and I think after this time in office, he will have sunk the Lib Dems completely. Which is a shame, as it's taken years to actually establish them as a genuine contender for power.

..What about the Royal Family – pro or anti or couldn’t-care-less?
Yeah, not really fussed about the Royals... But it'd be nice if they didn't take quite such a generous chunk of tax payers' money to fund their ludicrous day-to-day lives... But obviously they're an important part of our heritage, I guess...

..What are the best and worst aspects of life in the UK?
Well, given the current riotous situation, I'd say the worst parts are the total lack of respect people seem to have for each other, and the places they live. The first track on our new album ('Get Mutual') is all about how this lack of respect has a negative effect on society. I'll have to get back to you about the best part of living here...

..If you could change one thing about life in Manchester – and that of the UK as a whole – what would it be and why?
I'd probably try and find a cure for the apathy and lack of respect that plagues our country! If people just cared even a little bit about caring for people in their community, keeping the place they live clean and safe, supported local and independent businesses and actually valued the (free) education we all get, then maybe we'd have something to actually be proud of.

..A fun question: STAND OUT RIOT is called upon to play the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012. What would you do to make the event totally memorable for the band and those watching?
Cripes! I have no idea! Olympic Wall of Death?!

..You’ve recorded two albums and a split EP in a matter of a couple of years, which suggests you are a prolific band of songwriters. You started work on the follow up to ‘Gentleman Bandits’ yet?
We've slowly started working on new material, but it's all definitely in the writing stage at the moment. I imagine we'll probably bring it into the practice room after a couple of months!

..What’s the next plan for the band? Any specific goal you have in mind?
Just to keep doing what we've been doing - playing gigs, seeing new places, meeting new people and generally having an awesome time! And probably we'll do a split EP with our mates BEAT THE RED LIGHT at some point in the future!

..Anything you want to add?
Think we've covered just about everything ever! My head hurts!

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