Idles: Snarling punk that encapsulates the state of the nation

Earlier this week, Bristol band Idles supported Foo Fighters at their gigantic show at the London’s o2. It’s long overdue, mind. Their debut album, ‘Brutalism’, is a expletive-laden, punk triumph that tackles the current Tory rule, toxic masculinity and mental health. Utterly vital. In a pie and mash shop on the day of the gig, we find frontman Joe Talbot is still calling the shots as he sees them.

How did you end up with the massive gig supporting Foo Fighters?

“We were told that we were on their shortlist, and our manager said we had to get ahead of the game as it were. We were all in the mindset that there’s no need to play it cool anymore and pretend you don’t want shit, it’s boring. A lot of London bands can pull that game, but when you don’t live in London you’ve got to try harder. You’ve got to not be aloof for any opportunity you get, just because you’re ‘fucking cool’. So I thought it would be a good idea to get a jigsaw puzzle made with a picture of our bassist in his pants saying ‘Pick Idles’.

The band has been going since 2009 – so it’s been a long slog to get to this point, hasn’t it?

“Yeah, but we were shit for about six years anyway.  ere not good as a unit or as a live act. We weren’t ready to make an album or anything, so when we made it last year, it probably came at the right time. If it came earlier, we’d probably have pissed it up the wall.”

But in that time, you’ve built a decent fan base because of it

“Yeah I think so, I think there’s a certain loyalty that I’ve found recently with our fans, if you want to call them that. Because we’re not an atypical band, we haven’t been thrust into the limelight really quickly. I think people are quite cynical of bands that are fashionable. I think a lot of our fans have found us themselves and feel like they own part of our ethos and our music. I think that’s great.”

What do IDLES, as a band, stand for?

“We show compassion and we listen, and we work hard and we enjoy our music. We don’t do anything other than what we want to do for ourselves and as much in a loving way as possible. We’ve got no misconceptions of who we are, because we haven’t got loads of ‘yes men’ around us. We’ve still gotta work our arse off, y’know? We’ve still gotta try harder to get a Foo Fighters gig than any other band. Nothing lands on your lap. We don’t deserve this, you just gotta work for it, y’know?”

You’ve said that Kanye West’s 2013 album ‘Yeezus’ had a big influence on ‘Brutalism’. Why so?

“Well, just its stark bravery. It’s like a fucking jack-hammer. There was nothing else that sounded like it at the time. I just made us realise that we don’t have to write something to please anyone but ourselves because if we don’t please ourselves – then we’re just fucking bullshitting.”

There’s a lot of dark humour in your lyrics. Does that help tackle the current shitshow?

“The humour’s supposed to actually be the most caustic part of the album. It’s funny but it’s also tragic. But the stuff that I’m taking the piss out of, is actually the stuff that I fucking hate the most. I think people get angry about my lyrics – but they all actually make complete sense to me. I’m not fucking Leonard Cohen. Does it have to fucking change your world? It’s changed mine. Fuck off!”

Your album is arrives at a fertile time for young people, who totally changed this year’s election. Did you see that coming?

“Yeah, it was magic. A really amazing thing that happened, I was totally blown away by that. Gave us hope. I think people write off the young vote too often and, well actually rightfully so in the past because no fucker voted, I think a lot of young people are starting to be more pro active and considered about how they’re living their lives. It’s down to an attitude towards hedonism, austerity and things like that. People aren’t just so willing to go out and party and fuck their life up like my generation did.”

Do you feel like there’s hope for Britain’s next generation of youngsters?

“Yeah, there’s gotta be hope. There’s no point in being like ‘everything’s shit’ and moaning. Change people’s minds with love and understanding and listening to each other. You’re not gonna teaching anyone anything or learn anything by shouting stuff. You need to listen as well.”

Idles’ debut album ‘Brutalism’ is out now

Catch them live

Swn Festival, Cardiff (October 20)
Simple Things Festival, Bristol (October 21)
Village Underground, London (November 23)