By Flora Pick, Deputy Music Editor
We sat down with Bristol-based The New America and spoke about loving your city, even when a pandemic makes it seem terribly distant.
There’s a certain compulsion within me to assume all bands live in some Geordie Shore-esque set up, cohabiting, eating breakfast together, there may even bunkbeds.
Bristol-based post-punkers The New America are massively gratifying in this respect. Attempting our phone interview on one of many COVID-infused dreary afternoons required an initial audio-only rush around their shared house, led by guitarist Zac, as an attempt was made to scoop up any other available bandmates. Ultimately their bassist, Tom, joined to discuss what Bristol means to them, hijacking freshers group chats and aiming high post-COVID.
A mutually held mindset of lockdown melancholy led to initial reminiscing on alien times before, where you could stand in overcrowded rooms stinking of IPA, to be blessed with the face of a familiar sound guy who doesn’t recognise you in the slightest.
The New America would not exist but for the tactical misuse of fresher’s group chats and a healthily obsessive interest in IDLES. Zac, an international student, informs me his interest in the latter played a not-insignificant role in his moving to the city. He tells me, ‘I started messaging loads of people in August – those big fresher’s chats you get put in – and Cam is a DJ, so he used to do some of the Propaganda events and he set up a group chat about alternative music Bristol freshers in order to basically promote his DJ set. We got talking about the new IDLES album because it came out right as I got accepted and then I met Cam and Ali through that.’
Their geographically-misguided name, shared with a ‘Very, very not-good’ Wii Sports-core French electronica act, is now something they feel ‘Deeply ambivalent about’. Despite this, their love of Bristol is anything but, as Tom is eager to stress: ‘[the city] Is so full of opportunity, with a really really really rich music scene, before the whole pandemic I was going to two, three gigs a week across venues in town. They’re so well put on, such a high quality of music. It’s not even just musical stuff, there’s so much going on in Bristol, there’s a whole wealth of things you can find out there.’
This is something of a mission statement on their track ‘I Love Where I Live’, with its refrain of ‘I feel a little bit better when you're beneath my feet / I feel a little bit at home when I hear your sirens scream’ - an ode to finally feeling as if you’re where you’re supposed to be. Their most recent single ‘Going to the Races (Dressed like a Racist)’ is as provocative as it sounds, despite Zac denying that the band tries to be especially political. Its ‘Weird, kinetic, angry vibe’, initially triggered by Zac’s being stuck indoors at home over summer, later overlaid with lyrics infused with the turbulence of the political unrest that prompted the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred at the start of 2020.
While it’s been hard to be so physically disengaged from the scene in the throes of lockdown (though Zac rightly notes the excellence of socially-distanced gigs The Lanes managed to engineer last year), the guys are very aware of how lucky there are to have their living situation: ‘Relatively we’re not doing too badly as we’re allowed to do rehearsals and bounce ideas off of each other just living together in the flat,’ Tom elaborates: ‘We can just come to each other with ideas, push each other on while practising — I guess we know each other really well so know when to not annoy each other. And we know how to not get on each other’s tits! So I mean that’s pretty helpful. We’ve avoided potential arguments surprisingly.’
Asking after their plans for when the world does eventually open back up, The New America are looking to push from the grimy post-punk they have been working in to an experimental, Talking Heads and afrobeat infused style: ‘We’re writing music now that’s just so much weirder than the stuff we have released.’ Beyond this, they are keen to get back to playing with bands across the country, as well as settling some scores closer to home: ‘There’s a band in Bristol called Football FC who just are really really great. We played with them one time and absolutely bombed. Our goal is to not play absolutely terribly in front of them.’
Featured image: Rupert Gammond
Check out The New America on Spotify.