The reason why I was so keen to interview Rydell is because they have released my favourite record of the year, their debut album “Per Ardua Ad Astra” (which translated from Latin means "through hardship to the stars") on Headhunter records. The album is, I think, essential listening to anyone interested in melodic indie-rock or punk. Rydell are a hardcore band, and I know that will put some people off – although it shouldn’t – but Rydell actually have a guitar sound that is closer to that of Johnny Marr's than Fugazi, and the atmosphere of the record is similar to that achieved by REM in their early days. Rydell are Miles Booker –Milo- (Vocals), David Gamage (Guitar and backing vocals), Adam French (Bass), Duncan Morris (Drums) and new recruit Mark Wilkinson (Guitar). They formed in 1997 after the break-up of Couch Potatoes, a hardcore band which had formed in 1990 and had featured, across several line-ups, Milo, Dave and Adam.

Rydell are key figures in England's South-East’s ‘emo’ hardcore scene and have released a variety of records on many small hardcore labels, before Headhunter stepped in with an album deal. Their most successful release to date has been a split single with Hot Water Music on the Scene Police label which is now in its fifth reprint after selling over 4000 copies. Other than that, Rydell have released splits with Hunter-gatherer, Pale, The Babies 3 and Sunfactor. They have also recorded a brilliant acoustic EP 'Home' (on ‘Firewalk With Me’ records) and have contributed several tracks to compilations, benefit CDs and even extreme sports videos. This includes the highly recommended 'Emotion Sickness' compilation, a collection of British ‘emo’ bands, which includes two Rydell songs, 'Across Three Parks' and the acoustic version of 'Home'.

For most of these records Rydell had been a four-piece but opted to add a fifth member, Mark Wilkinson, for the recording of their debut album. Before, Milo had been playing rhythm guitar,so I began by asking why they decided to expand to a five piece.

Milo: “Basically because I was really shit at playing the guitar and it got to the point where I was breaking more strings than I was playing. Mark wanted to join, he was pestering us and we thought “Ah, give it a go!” It’s worked really well.”

Dave: “To be fair, Miles is pretty good at playing the guitar but, if we’ve got two people who can concentrate on playing the guitar when we’re playing live and one person who concentrates on singing and jumping around, it gives the whole thing a better dynamic. Our songs aren’t exactly difficult, but for him to sing and play guitar at the same time was getting a bit complicated. And Mark is a good friend of ours and it seemed like the right way to go.”

Why did you decide to change from being Couch Potatoes to Rydell?

Dave: “We didn’t really change from Couch Potatoes to Rydell. Our bassist went to Uni, our drummer went to Chile and it just kind of stopped.”

Milo: “There was a gap of three months in-between.”

Were you getting bored with being in Couch Potatoes, because Rydell are very different?

Dave: “Not really, no. Couch Potatoes were more your straight-forward hardcore band like Jawbreaker or The Descendants. We were really into that at the time. Our old guitarist Dan has got a new band, Sporting Heroes, who absolutely rock, and they are more hardcore based. We wanted to do something more emo, a slightly different thing, basically.”

Milo: “It could have gone either way though. At the time it could have gone much heavier as opposed to much softer. Fortunately, we took the softer approach but we did talk about becoming a very heavy band.”

Dave: “But Rydell’s style wasn’t planned. We were actually a lot more like an indie band when we started.”

Milo: “Very mellow”

Dave: “We’ve still got soft tracks but a lot of heavier ones now. We wouldn’t say we were an ‘emo’ band or a ‘hardcore’ band. We’re just a band!”

Has being in Couch Potatoes changed what you do with Rydell at all?

Dave: “Yeah, for example, with Couch Potatoes we played over 500 shows – something ridiculous like that – so we know what shows are worth doing and which ones aren’t.”

Why did you decide to make the 'Home' EP acoustic?

Milo: “Can I tell him the real reason? Well, we can laugh about it now but at the time we were very annoyed. We did want to do an acoustic EP at some stage but hadn’t planned to do it when we did. But, we had studio time booked, and our drummer was going to come back from holiday the day before. He worked it out wrong and got back the day after. So, very rushed, we did an acoustic EP. It was basically a jam the night before to work the songs out!”

Dave: “The record we did before the acoustic EP was the split single with Hot Water Music, which was quite heavy. A lot of people were saying “Bloody Hell, what are Rydell doing?” We got reviews calling it “romantic, campfire music” which I was really pleased with when it came out.”

Milo: “I wish we could have had more time. Then we could have really gone to town and got a cello or piano in.”

The British hardcore scene is very tightly knit, with bands keen to help each other out, touring together, releasing split singles and generally being part of the scene. Musically, perhaps, it has moved on from 70s punk but it annoys me when people criticise it as being fake-punk or just a poor alternative. Musically it takes its roots from the American underground of the 80s but in spirit it is still true to punk rock, and has a right to call itself punk. Rydell have over time lent their names to a number of causes, mainly benefits but also a show for the Manchester Hunt Sabotages. They, however, wouldn’t call themselves a ‘political’ band.

Milo: “Doing benefits is just the nature of the scene we’re in really. Its good to be playing benefits but they’ve probably been the most poorly attended shows that we’ve played, which isn’t good. As a band we don’t have any shared political beliefs and we certainly don’t have any political songs.”

Dave: “Punk is more social politics than, like, party politics. That kind of thing is part of the punk scene, definitely. You could ask any band and they would have cool opinions but, at the same time, they wouldn’t call themselves a political band.”

Milo: “Some time or other we’ve been into bands like Conflict and old-school punk so we’ve got nothing against them.”

When Rydell, hoever, signed with Headhunter records, an American label linked to the worldwide Cargo distribution, they took a step beyond this hardcore scene.

How did you get in contact with Headhunter?

Dave: “Well, they got in contact with us actually. We were on a German label, Scene Police, and we were happy with them. But on Scene Police we had to pay for our own recording and stuff. Our drummer is a student and two of the band are unemployed. They e-mailed us, after hearing some of our demos and said “We’ll pay you to record the album for us!”

Milo: “Headhunter is a cool label, they’ve got 7 Seconds, Rocket From The Crypt, 3 Mile Pilot – good bands. And they are owned by Cargo – a worldwide distribution. We had nothing to lose, and we’d already written the songs.”

And it means that Rydell are now in a position to tour America, something, despite having played over 800 shows in various projects, they have neveryet done.

Dave: “We’re touring in September. We’re really looking forward to that. We’ve toured in Europe quite a few times now, and around the UK as well but we’ve never been to America and we all wanted to.”

The hardcore scene is much bigger over there, isn’t it?

Dave: “Yeah, its massive. But, unless you’re an American band its very hard to crack. But we just want to go and have the experience of touring America.”

Milo: “I’ll be interested to see what sort of crowd turns up. I’m not sure whether Headhunter have marketed us towards a hardcore crowd or a college rock crowd. It would be nice to play to a mix of both. But we’re touring with Hunter-gatherer who are a hardcore band. We’re also playing the CMJ music festival in New York which will be amazing.”

It’s a bonus crowd as well, so long as you get the British sales…

Dave: “Yeah, but we actually sell most of our records in Europe, in places like Germany. Germany is an amazing place to tour. There is such a big hardcore scene.”

The record flows together well, but features quite a few songs Rydell had released before (the three songs on the Hunter-gatherer split and a fourth version of the track Home). Was the record conceived or was it a case of sticking your thirteen strongest songs on a record?

Milo: “We wrote nine songs for it, and the remainder were old songs. But with Mark joining they could have an intricate second guitar line, rather than just me bashing a power-chord.”

Dave: “After writing eight or nine songs we wanted just to get the album done quickly. But, saying that, once Mark joined we were just bashing out songs at a phenomenal rate.”

Milo: “ I don’t have any problem with reworking older songs because for the fans it’s just like a remix. Also a lot of the earlier versions were on limited-editions, so more people can hear them now.”

Dave: “Also there is a financial element to it. We just can’t afford to go into the studio every time someone asks us for a track to go on a compilation. So most tracks we actually record end up on at least two releases.”

The album has quite a polished sound. Was this your intention?

Dave: “It is polished but we were actually trying to make it quite raw. We recorded it practically live. But the drums sound better. The drums on the album sound really good.”

Milo: “I had terrible problems with my voice tuning and we had to have quite a few breaks. Then they went and mixed it with the vocals very loud! But I think it works well, and quite a few people have commented about the vocals.”

Dave: “ We are, don’t forget, just a wimp-out indie-rock band, and to be a wimp-out indie rock band you have to have quite a polished sound!”

Do you envy in any way the success and coverage of bands you’ve toured with, such as Green Day?

Dave: “No, we don’t envy them.”

Milo: “ What bothers me is the way people will go ape over some "latest thing out of America", people in Britain that is, but won’t give five minutes to a band who is playing down the road. If you’re playing with an American band nobody cares about the support group. But when we started going to hardcore shows, years ago, it would be like, three bands playing – wow, look at this great, varied line up. We’d go ape over every band.”

Dave: “It would just be about enjoying yourself.”

Milo: “ I’m jealous of the response foreign bands, no I’ll take that back – American bands – get over here. ‘Cos we played recently with a band from the Czech Republic who were great, but noone turned out to see them and this was their London show, which was really annoying. Unless bands are from California it seems like no one cares.

In the NME they will mega-hype Burning Airlines, and while they’re a good band, they don’t even put a Rydell review in.

Dave: “Yeah, and we supported Burning Airlines, twice. We don’t begrudge the bands themselves, Green Day or whoever, because they are very good bands and nice blokes as well, so you feel good for them, not bad. But it would be nice if people were a bit more open minded and listened to European hardcore bands as well as the American ones. Often though, there just aren’t enough good gigs to go around. There are so many hardcore bands playing. Often mediocre bands end up getting more coverage than they deserve because they manage to get good support slots.”

You often get compared to Hot Water Music and Chamberlain, in particular. A lot of bands find these sorts of comparisons annoying but do you?

Milo: “People will always draw comparisons like that. Its one of those things.”

Dave: “Chamberlain and Hot Water Music are two of the best bands ever. They are excellent. So if somebody says a band sounds like one of them then go see them. Unless it’s Rydell, of course, and then don’t bother!!”

Who influenced Rydell’s sound?

Dave: “Revolver, definitely. A lot of British indie bands. We started Rydell before this whole ‘Emo’ thing kicked off but there were bands like Split Lip, Braid, Get Up Kids and Promise Ring who were doing a similar thing to us.”

Milo: “Suede, lyrically and musically.”

Dave: “Everyone in Rydell likes different music. We all commonly like hardcore. But as we like a diverse set of bands we tend not to do the obvious thing when writing songs.There a lot of indie influences, especially early on, like Suede, Revolver, Radiohead maybe.”

What are your overall aims for the band?

Dave: “We are really in a band because we are all friends, and we all like doing it. Touring America was something I really wanted to do and now we’re doing that. I know Adam is keen to go to Japan so we’ll try to sort that out.

But I really enjoy just recording and writing songs. It would be great if more people got to hear us. Not really for an ego point of view. It would be great if we could make a living out of it and do it all the time. People who say that punk groups who sign to major labels are corporate whores are arseholes, basically. If somebody said that I could be in a band and play gigs all the time, and earn a living, I’d bite their arm off!

In the short term however, Rydell have a number of exciting plans. The second album will be recorded in the New Year, and the songs, in Dave’s opinion, are “blistering, really fun to play”. They predict that the second Rydell album will be a marked improvement on the first, a stunning prospect to say the least! But before that there is the aforementioned US tour, a new split release with San Geronimo (a hotly tipped new hardcore band – watch out for them!) and A Rocket Sent To You and also a single from the album with older B-Sides on a Canadian label. Hopefully there will also be a full tour of the UK in the near future. Rydell have been successful so far, the album is fantastic, and they have got encouraging press (despite their absebce from the NME!), none more so than from Kerrang which called Per Ardua Ad Astra the “best English hardcore album ever”.

Rydell play lots of gigs in the south-east and London, but also play around the UK and Europe on a regular basis. For gig updates and for new releases, contact details etc. or to contribute sleeve art suggestions or T-Shirt designs see www.rydell.co.uk













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