Eagulls: Into the Bad Lads Army
The last thing that one expects to hear from an up-and-coming post-punk band with hardcore roots is that they are anxious to meet Bill Murray. But, on a Wednesday afternoon, bassist Tom Kelly of Eagulls sat in the Inked Office talking about his love for the Ghostbusters star and his goal to meet him later that week. As Kelly walked into the office, he lifted up his shirtsleeve revealing a rather fresh (less than 24 hours old to be exact) tattoo that simply spelled out “B-I-L-L M-U-R-R-A-Y.”
“Mine took like hours,” Kelly said with a laugh as he pointed to the new script directly below the large lettering work that spelled out “E-A-G-U-L-L-S”. “It’s part of a sleeve, so it’s been like four sessions [of tattooing]. This is the sleeve completed now.”
After forming in Leeds, England and signing with a prominent Indie label, Eagulls were swept on a brief journey through the USA in 2013, playing both the South by Southwest festival and the CMJ Music Marathon. Their success has skyrocketed in the last year so they returned to New York last month to promote their upcoming album with two late night gigs and a performance on The Late Show with David Letterman, whose special guest that day happened to be just the man they were looking for, Bill Murray. Their self-titled debut LP is set to drop in March but was recorded way before the band even signed with American label Partisan Records.
“As to why we had to get the album out [later], we had to teach Tom [Kelly] how to play bass,” said vocalist and frontman George Mitchell.
“I was really good,” Kelly interjected. “I had an accident. I’d forgotten!”
Performing on Letterman served as the group’s network debut but was nothing compared to the theater-in-the-round, old school punk floorshow the band put on the following Friday night at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right. Eagulls set up directly in front of the stage and strongly encouraged their fans to gather both in front and behind the band. The dynamic within the band’s live show felt more like a 1979 PiL rehearsal than a Brooklyn gig as Mitchell seemed to channel his inner John Lydon, while the rest of Eagulls fell into their own jam session. This strange, audience-inclusive energy resulted in at least 20 kids bumping into Henry Ruddel’s drum kit throughout the night, with some show-goers even bravely attempting to add their own cymbal track every now and then.
“With the album our main goal [was] to try to make it sound as much like the live show as possible,” stated guitarist Liam Matthews.
“We call on a lot of hardcore bands when we’re playing in England,” noted founder and guitarist Mark “Goldy” Goldsworthy. “The sound, the feel of the music is in the melodies. It’s like the textures of the sound; we like the tone quite harsh and cold, so we play with a lot of hardcore bands. There’s an aspect of it [when playing with those bands], like the intensity. It’s not like we’re trying to sound like that hardcore band.”
“It’s more like the abhorrence, the dirtiness,” finished Mitchell.
All the members of Eagulls have been inked with matching tattoos much like the members of Black Flag and the other ‘80’s hardcore bands that they revere. Each Eagull has work that reads “BLA” representing “Bad Lads Army” seemingly connecting the group to the British television show of the same name designed to rehabilitate society’s troubled youth.
“I’m really curious to see what people are going to look like in the future with all the neck tattoos and flesh tunnels,” said Kelly.
“’’Cause everyone has tattoos now,” Goldsworthy said. “Maybe years ago tattoos were associated with bikers or heavy metal or punk and stuff like that, but this person who I worked with was just like ‘I just want a sleeve.’ He didn’t know what tattoo he wanted he just knew he wanted a sleeve.”
“My own mum wants a tattoo now because she’s watched Miami Ink,” exclaimed Matthews.
This humorous, do-what-they-want, say-what-they-want attitude has been one of the most driving forces in Eagulls’ accomplishments. Whether it’s forming a band to blow off steam from the tireless day jobs they all started off with or trying to find ways to cope with America’s need for light beer, Eagulls always seem to find the joke of it all in the end, including the challenge of naming their band in the hopes of legal action being taken against them.
“We thought it would be really funny if we got a lawsuit,” Kelly said. “We’ve been pissing ourselves laughing about how funny it would be if The Eagles [a popular 1970s American rock band] tried to sue us.”
“We thought it would be funny because then we could be called ‘The Illegal Eagles,’” Ruddel said. “But then there’s a tribute band that’s already called that. So it was like fuck it.”
Much to the band’s disappointment, no lawsuit has been filed as of yet; however, Bill Murray did eventually grace the band with his presence after their performance on Letterman.