The Afternoon Gentlemen are one the UK’s premiere grind attractions, ferocious grind played by hard working and hard drinking gents. Getting a chance to speak to the Gents in February, we had a lengthy chat about the band’s origins, touring with Weekend Nachos, festivals and the mystery booze game they play on tour.
Jack: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Smith: Not bad thanks. I’ve got a blocked nose though, which is quite irritating.
Jack: You formed in 2007 as you knew each other from different bands, but what inspired the name?
Rich: We actually formed in 2006…
Smith: Yeah, Oli Schofield (from Plagues) told me that this week is exactly 10 years since the first Gents gig, so we must have formed in mid to late 2006. The name was something I’d had in my head for a while. It was just The Afternoon Men to start with I think, the idea of people who start drinking early in the morning, so by afternoon they’re already steaming and at the peak of their powers, before things go downhill. So in my mind ‘an afternoon gent’ was like a kinder, more forgiving euphemism for a tramp or daytime drinker, a bit like ‘man of the road’ and all those type of circumlocutions. I may have just made that all up though.
Jack: When you formed did you know you wanted to be a grind band?
Smith: Sort of. At first we talked about doing slower sludge\doom stuff with just occasional grind parts and blastbeats, and we wrote some slower stuff at the start (some of which ended up on the ‘Afterdoom’ EP). Our first guitarist Bear was really into Iron Monkey at the time, and Barthur, Rich, and I were listening to a lot of slower stuff too. But after a few jams the song-writing veered more towards simple fast hardcore punk riffs and we just went with it without particularly thinking much. It started as a side project from our main bands of the time, so we didn’t really focus on anything too much apart from drinking beer and having fun making a racket in our house.
Jack: You’re one of those bands that has a big underground following, are you still surprised as to how successful you’ve become?
Smith: Yes. But then again, no. Is it a trick question?
Jack: What’s the process for the creation of an EP? How do you go from a blank slate to the finished product?
Smith: Just riffs and ideas really. We all mess around writing riffs on the guitar from time to time, everyone in the band plays guitar and drums. Someone comes up with a part, or a whole song they’ve demo’ed, and shows it to the rest of us. I usually make demos with roughly recorded live drums, the others usually use Guitar Pro or something similar, I’m not exactly sure. We piece the songs together bit by bit, then usually there’s a good bit of ‘Ere, no, that bit should be four times’ and ‘do it again after the second rer-den budu-der’. We faff around revising it and argue about who is right until thusly a hit is born.
George: If we’re off to the studio with the songs then they get demo’d. Usually these take the form of an extensive collection of MIDI demos created on Mick’s laptop. These are hilarious. Most of the last LP and split 10” we released exists in a MIDI format with our drunken yowling over the top as a vocal guide; diabolical. No one knows the music of The Afternoon Gentlemen until they have been through ‘Konkretulator.mp3’.
Jack: What’s the recording process like?
Smith: It’s alright. I usually quite enjoy it cos I get to go first, do my bit, which usually doesn’t take too long, and then I can concentrate on drinking and heckling the others as they do their parts. Last time we had the full band set up in the studio (minus vocals) with a headphone mix then we played through the songs together, so it was good fun to do, a bit like a band practice but with much better sound than normal! Recording longer releases is a bit more challenging I guess, cos there’s a bit more pressure to get all the stuff done in time. Doing the session for the last LP George had done all the bass parts (25 songs) then when we listened back we realised the battery had been dying in his active pick-up, so the signal sounded all shitty and he had to do it all again. That wiped the smile off his youthful features, I’ll say.
Jack: A lot of your material is available for free on bandcamp, why do you upload it for free?
Smith: We play music because we like it and we want to. People can and do buy our records if they want to, but we also want to offer our nonsense to people who can’t or don’t want to pay. We are going to carry on like this in any case, people can have it in their lughole one way or another.
Jack: Last year you got to play the US with Weekend Nachos? How did you find the US?
Rich: It was our 2nd time touring the US, the first time was 2011 (also with Nachos). But this time on the East coast. It was great, though the whole tipping thing got a bit much after a while, even going for a piss in some places, people expect a tip… I’m not tight and I tip in the UK, but based on the service, not just because…
Smith: The east coast trip was great fun. Hung out with some good people, drank lots of good beer every day, had some intense and well-attended gigs. Got to see the big cities. Everyone was very friendly, strangers likewise. The bigness of everything is one of those cliches that you have to experience. The visibility of the poverty in the big cities was pretty shocking as a European, lots of people on the streets. You get a real palpable sense of what it could mean to live in a society that’s been stripped of its social welfare and become hyper-competitive on a fairly fundamental level. It’s basically hustle or bust, no support for a lot of people. Is it not the Tories’ dream to have the UK in the same state, with all of us too busy grubbing around for a pittance and fighting each other to notice them feathering their own nests and lining their pockets?
Jack: It’s clear that there is a lot of love between the two bands. How did your friendship begin with the band?
Smith: We first met the Nachos when we played together in Czech Republic on our first tour abroad in 2010. It was a brilliant gig with Lycanthrophy, Wojczech, Suffering Mind, and the atmosphere was great with all the bands hanging out together all night, everyone seemed to get on really well. We played together one or two more times in the UK later on that tour, London and Leeds too I think. Then a couple of months later they invited us over to do three weeks with them in the US. That was when we really got to know each other better and realised that we share a similar sense of humour.
George: As a relative n00b to the band (joined at the back end of 2013), I’d always been a fan of Nachos and the first time I got to play with them/meet them was in London in 2014. One of the best sets I’ve ever seen and they were instantly so keen to shoot the shit and get to know me a bit better, which was really cool. Lueders is loose.
Jack: Was their final European tour emotional in any way?
Smith: Of course. It’s like the end of an era really, though it didn’t sink in properly until a few weeks later. But it was all about going out on a high, and I definitely think there was an extra intensity about the audiences and the shows with it being their final run. London and Leeds were both pretty wild.
Jack: What will you miss the most about Nachos?
Smith: I will miss the bit where Brian gets naked and does vocals then stage dives. Also the bit with ‘crows in Hull’, and Snyder’s cheeky little face. I think we’ll be seeing some of those guys again sooner than you think though.
Jack: As a band you tour a lot, as a band where members are in other bands, how do you balance it all?
Smith: It was hard for a while but we have improved at using calendars, diaries, and other bits of paper over the years. Besides, there’s usually a pretty constant ebb and flow of who and what bands are busiest at any one time, so it often works itself out. Gents goes at a pretty steady amble these days, we’re not in any massive rush.
Jack: What’s the best thing about touring?
Rich: Getting the opportunity to travel and see places and things you maybe wouldn’t normally see.
Smith: Getting to drink beer and play grindcore with my mates every day.
George: Spine and egg.
Jack: Do you have a favourite story from tour?
George: Spine and egg.
Rich: I once accidentally caused a bomb scare at the Eiffel tower when we played in Paris… That was pretty crazy to say the least.
Smith: Barthur’s ‘wasp story’ was always a favourite, but it’s impractical to attempt to relate it here. I definitely have some least favourite stories.
Jack: You’re going to be supporting Wormrot in February, what do you like about Wormrot?
Smith: We’ve played with them a few times over the years, they’re really nice chaps and I’m looking forward to seeing what their new drummer can do. I haven’t listened to their new album, but it will be cool to see them live again, they always give a great show.
George: The first time I ever saw The Afternoon Gentlemen was with Wormrot in 2008 at The Fox and Newt in Leeds – weird thinking back to that gig as the last time I saw Wormrot, and how much has changed since then.
Jack: You’re also playing Ritual Festival in Leeds in April, do you prefer festivals to gigs?
Smith: Personally I don’t make much of a distinction, a lot of festivals these days are just like big gigs anyway (for example Maryland Deathfest), and some regular gigs have enough bands to almost be classed as an all-dayer, so the lines are a bit blurry. It’s the people that make it good at the end of the day, and that could be a practice room or basement show or a bigger gig alike.
George: Festivals sometimes result in loads of bands that we’re mates with being in the same place at the same time in the middle of nowhere for three days, which is a recipe for a good time. Being on the other side of world and seeing the confused faces of Tonio and Pibe from Whoresnation necking big cans of Four Loco in a carpark with the lads from Sixbrewbantha and Hemdale was a highlight.
Jack: When can we see new music from The Afternoon Gentlemen?
Smith: You can’t see music, ever.
Jack:What else do you have planned for 2017?
Smith: We have three UK gigs with Wormrot at the end of February, two with Misery Index in April, then a London gig and a fest in Belgium at the start of May, and the Manchester Punk Fest. We’ll probably do a couple of other bits in Europe in the summer (including Chimpy Fest), then towards the end of the year maybe start pulling some new songs together for the next record.
Jack: I heard you like to play a game called mystery booze on tour, what’s been the most interesting booze you’ve had on tour?
Smith: I remember a highly ancient booze one time on a farm in Brittany, some sort of frightful brandy buried in the earth, he had to dig it up from the garden, the bottle all caked in soil. The stuff fair took your breath away.
George: Obviously many of the things consumed on tour get lost to the swirly archives, but there’s a few which rear their ugly heads in conversation every now and again. Honourable mentions include: 90% absinthe-soaked sugar cubes, Jimi from Extreme Vandamme Terror’s grappa – ‘made of 100 different grasses from the mountain, and only I have it’. A particularly potent plum-flavoured slivovica which we encountered in Denmark, fondly remembered as ‘the purple’ (not purple), and noted for its ability to hinder even the most skilled joogler’s journey home.
Jack: Finally, what makes Obscene Extreme so special?
Smith: Well, a lot of the people there can certainly be described as special. It has a lawless kind of school holiday-camp vibe to it which seems to appeal very strongly to the inner juvenile in a lot of people. That and plenty of booze, drugs, and terrible bands I guess.