Exclusive Interview: Under talk “Stop Being Naive”

Under APF

Andrew Field of APF Records: In January 2017 I decided to finally launch the record label I’d been planning for some time. Conversations were had with bands who might be interested, but I never thought to approach Under. I assumed they would be tied up with someone else. Somehow the stars became aligned and I found myself in discussions with them about becoming my first signing. Those discussions turned into blatant begging from me after the band gave me their newly recorded album “Slick” to listen to in February of that year. “We suppose you ought to hear what you might be releasing” they said. After the first listen all I could think was “Oh. My. God. I want you”. Slick became the first release on APF Records – catalogue number APF001.

I had admired the Stockport trio since first seeing them blow a tiny venue to smithereens in Fallowfield in 2015. Like all the best power trios they created a sound that was more than the sum of their parts. The combination of incredible technical ability, their desire to push the boundaries of heavy music further into left field, and the immense noise they made when they settled on a big riff immediately piqued my interest. Its rare to come across a band who sound like no one else, but in Under I had found one. Their debut self-released EP “First Attempt” captured some of their magic, and served as a reference point for their stunning live shows – because it was on a stage that Under really shone.


The last few years have been incredible for underground heavy music in the UK, but a handful of albums have stood out and set the bar for those following in their footsteps. I’m talking about the likes of Boss Keloid’s “Melted On The Inch” or Elephant Tree’s self-titled LP. Under’s forthcoming album “Stop Being Naive” (Out on 26th October) is one of those kinda records. It’s something very special.

At the core of Under’s sound is the singing of all three members. Lead vocal lines are sometimes clean, sometimes growled, sometimes shouted, culminating in points in songs where they come together in the most sublime three-part harmonies. The nine songs on ‘Stop Being Naive’ (ten on the vinyl version) are all progressive, in the best and truest sense of the word: containing odd, angular rhythms and time changes with melodies going off at tangents unexpectedly. Moments of noisy dissonance are followed by sections of unparalleled musical beauty.

Ahead of the album’s release I spoke to the lads about the new record and much more…….

Under 2018

APF: Before Under there was Halfling’s Leaf. For those who weren’t around at the time can you tell us how you three first met, what the score was with Halfling’s Leaf, and how Under was then born?

Andy Preece – Drums and Vocals: “It goes back even further than Halfling’s Leaf as a matter of fact. Before HL we were a very, very stylistically confused progressive death metal band called Flesh. I turned up to watch a practice as my mate was playing bass and I’d heard they were cool dudes (I later learned I’d been lied to). Anyway their drummer didn’t show up to practice so I told them I could blast at 450,000bpm and the rest is history. Halfling’s Leaf later emerged, a sort of wacky tech band which was all about showing off, and after that band went defunct we decided to do something with a bit of taste and vision. We actually originally wanted to do hardcore punk a la Dead Kennedys but it quickly and organically became something very different…


APF: When you look back on First Attempt and Slick, what are your feelings towards them? Your live set has featured very little from either release over the last 12 months – does that tell us anything about your view of them?

Simon Mayo – Guitar and Vocals: As the engineer for both ‘Slick’ and ‘First Attempt’, I have very mixed feelings towards them. Particularly to do with the production style and the approach i took towards them as an engineer and what I would do differently. Only recently have I been able to fully appreciate both releases.

Spending hundreds of hours listening to the same tracks, going over the same sections sometimes seconds at a time, is enough to drive anyone insane. Once they were finished I was exhilarated to be done with them. I couldn’t really appreciate them for their artistic merit and I had to rely on other people to tell me it was good to feel any sort of gratification. Now I think they sound amazing and I have a newfound appreciation for what we achieved with those releases.

In terms of playing very little from either release, we have a hard time sticking to anything for too long a time. Before ‘Slick’ was released we already had another album’s worth of material written and we just want to keep pushing that preconception of what people think about our music. We really fucking love the music that we write, but we love more the newest material at it closer to where we’re at, at that point in time.


APF: To these ears, opening track “Malcontents” is where Under was always heading musically – the elephantine riff, the three part harmonies in the verse, the dissonant (and quite stunningly discordant guitar work in the) chorus, and the jazzy improvisational bridge. How was this song born and how did you develop it into its finished version? And is it the natural conclusion of “Under – Phase 1”, considering where your writing is taking you next?

Preece: The main riff for Malcontent was one of those great lightbulb moments. I was in Primark, a truly mind-shreddingly awful place, waiting for my then-girlfriend to come out of the changing rooms, and started hearing this groaning, warping riff with this enraged heart-palpitation thrashing at the end of each phrase, and I knew it had to be our next tune.

As ever (we never find it difficult to get on each other’s wavelengths) it sounded exactly as I had heard it my head. I fucking love tunes that develop that way. ‘Innards’ from Slick was another one like that, and they always turn out to be your best tunes. The problem is you have to be in the right place at the right time to receive the inspiration, so tunes like that only come along every now and again. That unsettling, obnoxious vibe really got us tumescent though so it’s definitely something we’ll be pursuing as far as we can humanly push it in future.

APF: I had the pleasure of listening to the vinyl test pressing with Rian Gamble, who recorded the album and captured your sound magically. What did Rian bring to the recording process that wouldn’t have been there without his input?

Mayo: Being the first Under release that I wouldn’t be engineering, I was excited to purely be playing on the album and stepping back from the production process. In hindsight this was the best decision as a whole, for my own peace of mind and for the quality of the recordings as Rian just seems to be an absolute natural with his ideas and efficiency. The quality that he has managed to achieve is several leagues and bounds above what I could have done. And no doubt from here on out, once our fans hear it they will understand that Rian is as integral to the ‘Under’ sound just as much as we are the musicians. Absolute Legend!


APF: The three of you are very creative as individuals. When you are writing and recording as Under does that creativity flow together easily, or does it cause sparks and heated debate?

Matt Franklin – Bass and Vocals: Our writing process is my favourite part of this band. On occasion one of us has a riff or a section prepared and we all jam on that, more and more these days however we just get in the room and start playing.

We’ve been playing together so long that we often have the same ideas with very minimal communication. There aren’t any arguments as we’re all brutal and undemocratic – if one of us isn’t keen on an idea then we keep moving and find something else.

APF: The vinyl version of ‘Stop Being Naïve’ has a bonus track. What was the thinking behind this – why is it not on the CD and digital versions?

Preece: I proposed leaving “Soup” out of the official track list. I actually love that song but after obsessively listening through the album and a few different re-jigs of the running order I just couldn’t find a place for it where it didn’t seem to disrupt the flow of the album. It’s a great hard little banger with loads of attitude though so people who buy the vinyl will be pleased they get to hear it I think.

Naive Cover

APF: You openly fight against categorization of your music. So…… you meet a bloke in the pub, tell him you’re in a band, and he asks what you sound like. How do you describe Under to him?

Franklin: Categorization doesn’t keep us up at night, people will try and describe us with familiar terms and that’s fine. What we want to avoid is feeding into a lack of imagination – if we think we’re doom or avant garde or whatever there will be people that disagree and then it’s just a boring dialogue about genre.

The “man in the pub” scenario is a good one as I often find myself in it… I find adjectives work well; we’re “heavy” or “weird” or “unsettling” by my descriptions. I also find this gives a more accurate description and you sound like much less of a cunt than saying “progressive avant noise sludge” or something like that.

APF: For bands to make a living these days they have to go on tour – and tour heavily. Would that life suit you? Playing the same songs every night for a year. Or would your desire to be continually creative be frustrated by road life?

Mayo: I think life on the road would be a welcome one for us. We have countlessly fantasized about being able to go full time with the band as our lifestyle and primary source of income. Unfortunately, because of the competitive nature of the industry and the unorthodox style of our music this has not been and will not be an easily achievable goal.

We do our best and accept whatever publicity or success that our music achieves. And I think that living on tour would not jeopardize our creative output, if anything it would inspire us more and our music would just veer off onto another tangent made possible by the touring lifestyle. It wouldn’t frustrate us being on tour, we will continuously be writing music whether we are on tour or not as we are mostly inspired by our personal lives and current goings on.


APF: Does being from Stockport, Greater Manchester in any way influence your writing, and who you are an individuals?

Franklin: I think it is impossible to not be influenced by where you’re from. Stockport is one of those weird northern towns that aspires towards grandeur but is ultimately a bit of a backwards shithole. It makes for lots of sardonic lyrics and a very special blend of off-kilter strangeness with just enough chavvy bravado to stop us turning into walking berets.

APF: Finally, anything you wish to declare?

All: Fucking love your label mate!

UNDER’s “Stop Being Naive” is available to pre-order now on “piss yellow” trans vinyl, CD and digital download from the following links:

Under’s Bandcamp page

APF Records Big Cartel Shop


Battalions: Exclusive Interview with Phil Wilkinson

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Hullensian quartet Battalions will release their third album “Forever Marching Backwards” on 30th November. We recently dropped the title track as a single and video, and it has gone down a storm with fans and critics alike. The album will see the light of day on vinyl (a limited edition blue one as well as a standard black), digipak CD and digital download – and there’s a sexy t-shirt and CD bundle version as well.

It’s taken nine years of hard work for Battalions to get to the cusp of bigger things, which must surely now be just round the corner for them. APF Records signed the band last autumn, having foolishly passed on releasing their staggering “Moonburn” record a few months before. We all make mistakes, and that was a big one. But the band now have the full force of the label (and their PR partner Hold Tight!) behind them as the three month campaign to promote the album begins.

group pic

We caught up with vocalist Phil Wilkinson for a chinwag about past, present and future.

APF: You’ve been around for a while. There seems to be a rising wave of love for Battalions right now. Have you noticed it, and if so what do you think has caused it?

Phil: We have been around for a while! Closing in on 9 years of the band now, which is insane when I think about it. The love for the band has never been bigger, and I think that’s through hard work and sticking at it for as long as we have. Over the past few years we’ve stepped up our game in terms of writing, recording and playing live further afield. On top of this we are completely lovable idiots and people seem to warm to us, which certainly helps.

APF: How was the writing of Forever Marching Backwards? Was it easy pulling the 8 songs together, or like pulling teeth?

Phil: We started writing pretty much the moment we finished recording “Moonburn” last year. We had the majority of the album written, but in the months coming up to recording it we still had a few songs to finish and one to write to make the full record. Luckily, we have Pete ‘The Riff’ Cross in our employ, so we set him to task and he pulled those riffs out of his many hiding holes in those riff-filled layers he constantly wears.


APF: How was your week recording at Skyhammer? For those who haven’t been, what’s so great about it and why did you choose it?

Phil: This was actually our 3rd time there, choosing to return to Skyhammer was a no-brainer. Chris Fielding is an absolute gent to work with, and the studio is top notch. He knows us and we know him, with each of the previous albums being a step up in production values as he’s gotten to know the band better, and this time out he has well and truly knocked it out of the park. It’s always one of the band ‘holidays’ in the calendar for us, as well as tours, as you stay in the accommodation at the studio. It can get a little claustrophobic at times as you’re all on top of each other for days on end, but in the main it’s a completely fun experience for us, especially the end-of-recording blow out!

APF: What’s your personal favourite track on the album and why?

Phil: Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose, which is strange because personally I’ve had a song on the previous albums that I’ve preferred above all others. I guess if I was put on the spot, I would choose “Devil’s Footsteps”. The groove in that just gets me moving!


APF: Tell us about the making of the Forever Marching Backwards video.

(You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/G65bVLXtzns)

Phil: It was one of the hottest days of the year, a Sunday morning following another awesome Humber Street Sesh we were involved with playing. The day started with a trip out to a well-known derelict building in Hull – Lord Line – breaking in and filming all the walking shots. This was followed by us all meeting up at our practice room and turning one of the rooms into a mini studio for the second half of the video. I was ridiculously hungover and throwing up all day, one of the first shots I had to film was me screaming into the protagonist’s face, in full fear that it may include accidental vomit. Luckily this didn’t happen.

The video’s protagonist is no other than Kris Barford, our original drummer and key architect in forming the band. It was great to have him involved as we’re all still great friends and he is now gracing the cover of the album!

Battalions Logo - resized

APF: When you look back over your ten years in Battalions, what shows stand out as being your favourites?

Phil: Well, not quite 10 years yet, closing in on 9 years this January haha. But still, this is by far the longest I have ever been part of a band and I can’t imagine life without Battalions these days. There have been hundreds of shows and it’s hard to pick. However, since I have to, here are some of my favourites:

Bloodstock Festival 2017

Headline Slot at Humber Street Sesh 2017

Supporting The Ocean, Sworn Enemy and Church of Misery (twice!)

The whole tour with Pist

The whole tour with 1968 / Ritual King

Any show we play at Rebellion in Manchester

Tech-fest 2018

Battalions 2018

APF: There are stresses and strains in being an underground band, but also in being a successful one. If Battalions ever became big do you think you could cope with the fame and attention?

Phil: There are times when I want to scream with dealing with a band and having no management. But when it all comes off it’s the best feeling in the world. I’d have no qualms with stepping up and gaining more fame, I don’t think any of us would change, that’s the working class northerner in us all!

APF: You’re an integral part of the APF Records family? Which other bands on the label do you have a particular affinity with, personally or musically?

Phil: Thanks! We certainly feel a part of the APF Family now, even before we signed we felt a part of the wider APF community. Obviously, we are best buds with Pist following our tour together earlier this year, so much so that Dave and John feature on the new album, although maybe not in the way we initially intended in John’s case. We just like hanging out with other APF bands when we get a chance, the Barbarian Hermit boys have been good to us recently, I think being signed and releasing albums around the same time has given us a shared goal and we both want each other to succeed.


APF: What’s your highlight of 2018 so far?

Phil: It’s got to be getting the album recorded, artwork completed, and everything ready to go before the deadlines. We just cannot wait for this record to be out and for people to hear the rest of the record. The feedback we’ve had so far from the release of the single has been mind-blowing, and if people are reacting like this to just one song, I can’t wait for the rest of the album to get a listen and hear what people think because we couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved with this one.


APF: Who’s the biggest bellend in Battalions?

Phil: We’re all bellends in our own way. But, without a doubt, it’s (Bassist) Dennett. The man doesn’t have an “off” button and is, as I have said to him many a time, ‘unnecessarily loud, all of the time’. He’s a bellend in the most lovable way though, and we’re usually in hysterics laughing at him being an idiot, sometimes even laughing with him and not at him…….


Forever Marching Backwards is available to pre-order now from:






Barbarian Hermit: Exclusive Interview with guitarist Adam Robertshaw

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Barbarian Hermit released their new single “Reawaken” earlier this week. Taken from their debut full-length album, ‘Solitude And Savagery’ (which is out on 16th November), it encapsulates all that is good about the band in 2018.

Since the release of their ’01’ EP in 2016 guitarists Mike Regan and Adam Robertshaw have bedded in a new rhythm section (Rob “Spadge” Sutcliffe on bass and Gareth Manning on drums) whilst welcoming back vocalist Ed Campbell – who fronted the band before, in its early days. Their shows have become more like events than mere gigs, as anyone who saw their incendiary live performance at this year’s Bloodstock Festival will attest to.

As the PR campaign for the new album kicks off, we grabbed Adam for a quick chat about all this Hermit.


APF: You’ve been around for a while. There seems to be a rising wave of love for Hermit right now. Have you noticed it, and if so what do you think has caused it?

Adam: It’s been a slow rise over the last couple of years. It’s noticeable in terms of our social media following creeping up, more people turning up to shows that sort of thing. I think it’s just because we’ve purposefully kept a presence on the scene, gigging as often as we can in as many places as we can. It seems to be paying off!

APF: How was the writing of Solitude And Savagery? Was it easy pulling the 7 songs together, or like pulling teeth?

Adam: It was the easiest and the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We gave ourselves plenty of time to write and we love writing riffs so most of the songs came pretty easy. Some of them like Reawaken for example, we spent months honing and perfecting and I think that shows when you listen to it. As it got nearer recording time we started to feel the pressure a bit but thankfully that lit a fire under our arses and we ended up writing Laniekea, which is probably one of the most ambitious songs we’ve ever written!

Barbarian Hermit

APF: How was your week recording at Skyhammer? For those who haven’t been, what’s so great about it and why did you choose it?

Adam:It was amazing, a dream come true. We’d always said from the very start of the band that Skyhammer would be our studio of choice, just because of the output they’ve done over the years and their reputation as being the best in the business for our kind of music. It didn’t disappoint. Chris Fielding is a pleasure to work with. His attention to detail is astounding and he really knows what’s best for the song. Plus they have all this amazing gear for you to play through so we were like kids in a candy shop. On top of that you sleep and eat there while you’re working so it was like a little holiday for the band, and we actually came out of it having bonded more. We can’t wait to go back!

APF: What’s your personal favourite track on the album and why?

Adam: This changes every time I listen to it but I think Black Mass. I wrote the main chorus riff years ago and we’ve been banging our heads against a brick wall for years trying to fit it into a song and we finally did that, so that’s pretty satisfying, plus the rest of the song is journey through all our repertoire of lightness and darkness, groove and brutality. Ed’s vocals on that song are fantastic, Gaz hit it out of the park, and there’s some lovely interplay between myself, Reegs and Spadge. It’s a good snapshot of where the band is at right now.

Barbarian Hermit 2018 - Resized

APF: When you look back over your time in Hermit, what shows stand out as being your favourites, and why?

Adam: Obviously Bloodstock, as it was the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to and it was the result of months of blood, sweat and tears going through the M2TM competition. HRH in Sheffield was amazing. Again, a great turn out and it was one of the first gigs we did with the newer lineup. We’ve had some crazy shows at Riff Fest in Bolton over the years too. One sticks out where the boss of our record label came flying over the barrier and landed on my pedal board!

APF: There are stresses and strains in being an underground band, but also in being a successful one. If Hermit ever became big do you think you could cope with the fame and attention?

Adam: I think we’d have a good stab at it. Praise and attention is always flattering so I’m sure we could handle a bit more of that. Plus the money and other trappings that come with fame would be nice. One of us might end up dead though.


APF: You’re an integral part of the APF Records family? Which other bands on the label do you have a particular affinity with, personally or musically?

Adam: Under have been our boyfriends for years, I can’t wait to hear their new one. I think we’ve played more shows with Pist than we have any other band, it’s like we’re their unofficial support band. And I think because we were signed around the same time as Battalions, we’re releasing near to each other and have the same PR in Hold Tight! there is a bit of friendly competition going on but also a fraternity, like we’re going through the same stuff together, which is cool.

APF: What’s your highlight of 2018 so far?

Adam: That’s a tough one as it’s been a big year for us. It’s got to be recording at Skyhammer for me. With Bloodstock being a close second.

Barbarian Hermit 2017

APF: Who’s the biggest bellend in Babs, and why?

Adam: Haha! Spadge. Have you seen his helmet?!

APF: How do you manage to not fanboy Mike Regan every time he walks in the room?

Adam: I really don’t know. I was a huge Bisonhammer fan back in the day so I still find it surreal that I’m in a band with him. The man’s a beast! All hail BIG DADDY REEGS!


Barbarian Hermit’s “Solitude And Savagery” is available to pre-order now from:



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John Nicholson of Pist: Pre-Tour Interview


Q: APF has just rereleased your debut EP “Riffology” and first album “Rhythm & Booze” as “68OFO”. What was the thinking behind this release?

John: They both sold out real quick and we’ve not had any in stock for ages. A lot of people were asking if we’ll be getting more and when, so it was a bit of a no brainer to combine the two and add some new artwork/packaging in there to mix it up a bit!

Q: You’re about to go on tour with Battalions. How did hooking up with them come about?

John: We all met up at Bloodstock last year and sunk many beers together, battered each other on bumper cars and had a right laugh. They understood our bullshit banter all weekend so decided we should do a tour. And.. they’re fucking mint.


Q: It’s a decent length tour. Any shows you’re particularly looking forward to, and why?

John: It’s tough to pick one because a bunch of mates’ bands have jumped on each date to support us and I can’t wait to see them all. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Drug Vulture debut in Manchester, I’ve heard some of the tunes.. you’re all in for a treat! I can’t wait for Edinburgh because it’s my favourite place in the UK and Bannermans is class, plus a bunch of people are coming up to celebrate Biscuit’s (BongCauldron) 30th so its gonna get messy!

Q: What’s your favourite tour story?

John: There’s a lot we can’t mention but here’s a few in a nutshell: Corky from BongCauldron pouring a 5L bottle of mixed piss out the window all over the M1 at 70 mph. It was funnier than it sounds. Dave shitting himself before we got to the first venue. Drinking 68 beers between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The whiskey thief from Birmingham leaving in an ambulance cos he couldn’t hack it. Me turning up so pissed in Coventry I thought our soundcheck was our set and told everyone we already played. We could write a book on tour stories alone.


Q: Which is the most annoying member of Pist on tour?

John: We’re all pretty annoying, but whoever doesn’t help load in/load out and just goes straight to the bar…. no names mentioned.

Q: When you look back on the last four years, what’s been the highs and lows of being in Pist?

John: Highs are definitely releasing Rhythm & Booze and playing Bloodstock 2015. HRH Doom V Stoner was pretty up there and confirming for Desertfest, I’ve wanted PIST on that since the band started. Lows are just how much money it can cost, we know everyone goes through that though, it’s just part of being in a band. It’s also pretty stressful booking a tour and you sometimes feel like giving up but it worked out pretty well in the end.

Q: Looking forward to Desertfest? Who else are you excited about seeing on that lineup?

John: I can’t fucking wait! It’s my first Desertfest and I’ll be there all weekend! So many bands to look forward to but top 3 are probably ASG, Eyehategod and Elder.


Q: Congrats on your Blackstar endorsement. How did that come about? And why them?

John: I used one when I played Bloodstock in a previous band and it blew me away, so I bought one shortly after. Then I noticed my mate Josh from Bloodshot Dawn recently got endorsed so I got some advice from him, sent them an email and they said yes! Didn’t expect anything to be honest.

Q: You’re working on a new Pist album for APF. Give us an update on how that’s progressing.

John: We’re a couple of songs away from finishing it but it’s a huge improvement on previous releases. It’s more a mix of styles which may throw people off but we all think it works really well. We’re playing a handful on this tour so come hear it!

Q: What will it say on your gravestone?

John: 68 OFObag

Pist’s 68OFO is out now and available to buy from apfrecords.bigcartel.com

Catch them on their UK tour:

30th March – Liverpool EBGBs

31st March – Edinburgh Bannermans

1st April – Leeds Temple of Boom

2nd April – Nottingham The Chameleon

3rd April – Hull Gorilla Studios

4th April – Manchester The Peer Hat

5th April – Huddersfield The Parish

6th April – London The Dev

7th April – Coventry The Phoenix