The independent label has had a rocky reputation over the past thirty odd years. They’ve built the foundations of movements across the world and formed the record shops that have become tourist destinations. They watched in bewilderment as their ‘indie’ abbreviation became a genre, and the genre became so popular that it moved to the mainstream, creating an identity crisis. Then aided by the technological advances of the internet, they started to conjure images of nerdy guys with a laptop in a crusty bedroom.
Dirty Hit is a label stripping things back to basics. No frills, no shit, just good music and a belief in the creative visions of their artists. Joining the likes of The 1975, Wolf Alice and the Japanese House on the small but select roster is the resurrected Superfood, the formidable King Nun and the glistening Pale Waves. We met the label-mates on their stint across the country on the Dirty Hit tour.
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In a world where nutrients and antioxidants are name dropped as the best friends of the trendy and stylish, superfoods have become the powerhouses for an aspirational lifestyle. The re-emergence of Superfood has all the impact of a large dose of vitamin C.
After three years of silence, the duo – Dominic Ganderton and Ryan Malcolm – made an anticipated and triumphant return with single ‘Double Dutch’.
“In all seriousness, it's not even a step away, it's a step forward” they say, undressing from the “auto-indie mode” that they found themselves in with debut album ‘Don’t Say That’.
‘Double Dutch’ is a breezy cut, with vocals swinging to the same rhythm of a skipping rope, dreamily cutting through floating synths. Written at home, it was inspired by kids chanting and shouting outside their window.
“We wanted something a bit surreal, like a taster of the album, it's a good segway into what we're doing. This is sort of the only track on the album that isn't really about anything that isn't personal to us - it's a picture, a mood.”
The debut was recorded in a two week rush, and the boys say they were living “double lives” – making one type of music and listening to another. Living together, working together, the two have become more comfortable and confident with each other.
“Over the past few years we've kind of gone through big events in our life that weren't so good. On the first album we were always so scared of writing about ourselves and writing personal songs and being introspective,” says Dom, half-laughing, “it took me to sitting in the back of a taxi listening to Ronan Keating and getting teared up, to think actually you need to write about yourself.”
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Approaching this, Ryan adds: “We've tried to not make it easy like pouring our hearts out, but it's dressed up in a different way.”
“We want interesting things. We didn't want two guitars, bass and drums - you know what I mean? We've made a conscious effort I think to make it something we want to listen to.”
For years the duo say that they “kind of drove [themselves] mad thinking and talking about music”, and the motivation and “not caring about being skint, not seeing mates, not going out on the weekend”, demonstrates the tightness between them. “We complement each other. It's good because so many people know when you're writing music that you'll have the first minute, and it's great to have another person there to add a middle eight or add another chord in or change the melody... I think we're really good at finishing each other off...”
Innuendos and boyish laughter aside, the signing to Dirty Hit is something that has refreshed the Superfood attitude.
“They’re the best label in the UK” they agree, “We were always so jealous when we used to tour with Wolf Alice. We were like: they've got a fucking cool label, they're cool guys on a fucking cool label.”
“They won't put anything out that's shit, or any photos up that are shit, they won't make you do any cringey stuff that you're gonna regret in like two minutes. I've never heard anybody from Dirty Hit say that our songs need 'more colour' or like 'I think it needs a bit more kinda blue...'”
Headlining the Dirty Hit tour, audience participation helped the live resurrection, and at the first date of the tour Superfood insist that “everybody was on MDMA in the crowd at Oxford, everyone was just pretending to sing the words to these songs that they don't know.”
Superfood have fallen back into the swing of touring effortlessly; they dance to King Nun’s sound-check, and swoon over Pale Waves. There’s a family formation between the band and the others, in Liverpool they all went to a tequila bar that served £1 drinks, the night ended in them declaring their love.
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There’s a few things you should know about King Nun. The four have a Stranger Things-style friendship, they eat at Greggs three times a day on tour – and are open to a sponsorship from them – and they’re a “sick band.”
They are. The four piece have a knack for crafting a killer hook, a monstrous chorus and abrasive, ferocious delivery. They are wild with their teenage racket, and they’re riding with the whiplash that the past few whirlwind months has handed them.
“I think we've learnt that we need to do things as quick as possible and we need to make a connection as quick as possible.” Explains frontman, Theo. “I think if anything we've learnt that the songs have to be very in your face and very clear, so we've learnt how to do clarity well. “When it comes down to it we have to say things as quick as possible and as meaningfully as possible, and with as much impact as possible.”
Impact is something that the band hold as a strength. Their single, ‘Tulip’, is a smack in the face with misconception. Latest release ‘Hung Around’ slouches in a temper tantrum. It captures the madness of cabin fever, the frustrations of adolescence and the sweaty desire to be in an unforgiving band with your best mates.
Recorded in Leatherhead, the boys describe it as “the unhappiest place”. Recalling being stuck in a “dingy” studio, Theo found himself in an angry strop “with being in the worst studio ever, and paying too much for being in the worst studio ever.” Deciding to ruin practice, he started to play the verse chords, believing they were bad but pretending he’d had an idea for an amazing song. The plan backfired, as he recalls that the others “all started jamming to it and loved it and I was like, fuck.”
Since, the track has been written again.
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“We said to ourselves that the song used to be really good and it is good, the core of it. We had to turn it up and we slowed it down, gave it more space. There's a lot of places that song has been as an attitude,” says James, the guitarist.
As a band, the four press each other’s buttons with brotherly love. Nathan explains that there’s a rule not to draw sharpie moustaches on a sleeping band member. Caius calls Nathan a square.
They all agree on their admiration for Dirty Hit as a label, and the culture surrounding it. “I think you always want your music to be a part of something bigger, and the fact that there's a team behind us and bands to support each other, it's a really exciting thing.”
Where “everybody in the planet is scared of being themselves to a point”, King Nun provide a cathartic release. As Theo explains, “I feel that it's the job of musicians to be constantly exposed like that. The bands that I like the best are the ones that have a serious, instant communication. I think there isn't enough of it in the world, but music in general is an oasis for that sort of thing.”
The Dirty Hit tour is the first for the band, and they compare being on the road to that first time festival feeling, when everything just clicks in “and you're like 'I just stayed in mud for four days, and I smelt bad, and nobody was wearing anything', but it was amazing.”
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Pale Waves pop the kettle on and settle down together on a sofa, I’ve caught them on a “sleepy day.” This morning they were up at 4:30am to join the queue at the U.S Embassy, to prepare to hit the States for their run with The 1975.
The band have been leaving glittered trails online for a couple of years, but this year has marked the beginning.
“We hit up with Dirty Hit like a year and a half ago, and just like any band would it's like starting officially, whereas before with putting demos out it was us doing it ourselves,” explains Heather, the frontwoman.
Drummer, Ciara, adds that this allowed them “to just hone in on the sound, so in that time our minds went in a different direction.
“You're not the same person every year, so you're not into the same things, so we developed. We found our own thing.”
Collectively listening to a lot of 80s music, “everybody attribute different music to different members.” Ciara is given gospel, Heather’s a mix bag, Charlie’s a Drake lover, Hugo’s R&B full and full.
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Their first official single ‘There’s A Honey’ was produced by label-mates Matty Healy and George Daniel of The 1975. It’s a nostalgic trip of gentle melancholy, wistful synths and sunbeam melodies, acting as a delicate drape of comfort.
“It’s weird because we’ve always had this other song in mind, that was going to be the single.” Explains Ciara, as Heather adds “'There's a Honey' just came to life really and overtook it, it was like 'let me be the first'.”
‘There’s A Honey’ subtly demands this attention, the spirit attracts attention in its timelessness. For the band, “it's the right first single, it's not too anything… it's just everything that we want to be. That's our sound in a nutshell and it represents us in the best way possible.”
The band sit together, the embodiment of their music. They look effortlessly cool, they know their own style and they know that it works. Their social media pages are vibrant with bright photographs documenting the band and their journey. It’s personal, and it makes a connection.
“It's more like we want to be recognised, it's not like we're obsessed with image, it's more like we want a defining world. We want people to see a glimpse of a picture and be like 'oh that's Pale Waves' world'. It's an aesthetic.”
Pale Waves’ world would be animated, they tell, it’d have velvet buildings and velvet grass. Dogs would probably over populate humans, despite Charlie’s allergy to them. There’d be equal opportunities for all. This world would be neighbouring towns with Dirty Hit’s world; a place where “you'd walk in and be like this is impressive. It would be so chic.”
The ethos they feel, is “simple but effective” and this runs across the label and their acts. Dirty Hit is a label only concerned with the music and the musicians, and they let them do the talking.
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Stay in touch with Dirty Hit HERE.
Words: Tanyel Gamushan
For the latest Superfood tickets click HERE.