“There’s a good shot of me running in my pink shorts and cowboy hat, nothing else, to the middle of Westminster Bridge with a microphone. It took about a minute for the police to come and tell me to get out of the road. Tourists were taking pictures and cyclists were shouting ‘go on, son!’”
Josh Loftin, frontman of South London psych-pop group Tiña, isn’t someone who takes himself too seriously. Streaking semi-naked in front of Big Ben for a music video, using a pink cowboy hat to symbolise his band – these things are par for the course as far as he’s concerned.
“It’s silly and fun, not aggressive,” he says of the way he presents his band. “There’s an element of pastiche, playing with the idea of what a band should look like.” The way he sees it, there’s enough self-seriousness in rock music. “Yeah, it’s quite exclusive, like ‘we’re the baaaand’, and we wanna be inclusive with the audience; even though all the lyrics are angsty and dark, talking about death, there’s a positivity to them. It’s less ‘OH GOD’” – he lets his voice crack theatrically – “more ‘come on, there’s a lot to being alive’; but we’re not making a specific statement, just talking about what’s going on at that time without judging too much.”
His idiosyncratic approach is beginning to pay dividends. In January, Tiña released their second single, ‘Dip’, on Speedy Wunderground – home to releases by Squid, PVA, Goat Girl and more. Basically, they’re the only label that seems to matter in the UK right now. An elliptical, deceptively catchy rumination on perseverance, anxiety and listlessness, it canters along with a charming looseness, Loftin’s reedy falsetto leading the way.
“It’s gone more crazy than we thought,” he says about the warm reception to the track. It seems to be a culmination of an extended period of work on the project, during which the group’s lineup has gone through several iterations. “The band that has now formed for Tiña really works. We’re in sync with each other without having to verbalise much. I learn a lot. Things would be simpler musically if it wasn’t for these people, because I write quite simply. Our bassist Adam is a really good musician, and he can come up with stuff that gives the song a little extra something. I’m not really as good as some of the others in the band – they did music at university and I did film. I don’t even know the shape of a B chord on a guitar.”
For someone with such self-confessed technical limitations, Loftin has an impressive track record as a musician so far. His previous band, the thrillingly anarchic Bat-Bike, rose to cultish notoriety as part of the garage-rock wave that flowed out of South London a few years ago, led by the Fat White Family.
“We just made shitloads of noise and it was quite messy and really fun,” he says of his time with Bat-Bike. “It was a real collaboration – with arguments. There was love at the centre but there were a lot of creative battles, because everybody really cared.” After six years, Bat-Bike came to an end, and Loftin needed to find a new outlet.
“I’d stopped writing stuff for guitar, but then I was feeling shit about a breakup and got the guitar out and singing along. That ignited a new relationship with the guitar, and I started writing the first Tiña songs after that. I was writing from a different perspective, not putting pressure on myself. With Bat-Bike, signing with Trashmouth Records and doing stuff with the scene around Fat Whites, Meatraffle and stuff, it felt like the music had to be a certain way. When I started writing the new stuff I didn’t have an agenda – I felt free. A lot of it felt familiar, but I liked it being poppy – I’d joke and say ‘we’re only writing hits’. That’s what Tiña is really. Me being quite honest but doing it in a way that’s quite catchy.”
“A younger generation of musicians have been coming through, and it feels more genuine and honest. There’s something quite beautiful about that”
As Loftin’s songs came together, the initial lineups for the live band also began to coalesce. An early grouping included Lottie from Rough Trade signees Goat Girl on backing vocals, which led to a happy coincidence that would have quite the impact on Loftin’s new band.
“Lottie asked us to play at her birthday at Deptford Bunker, the last spot that feels untainted by the crazy gentrification around there. We played and she sang a few songs with us, and at the end as a present to her we did a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s ‘Move On Up’, and everyone went nuts.”
“That whole time Dan Carey [Speedy Wunderground producer] was there. He came up to me at the end, said it was sick, and asked us if we’d wanna do a single. I didn’t know who he was at the time, so was just like ‘yeah, cool man, nice to meet you, I think we’re gonna record an EP…’ I thought he was just one of those random people. But then I told our drummer George that this guy had asked if we wanted to do something with Speedy Wunderground and he was like ‘WHAT?!’” Carey, for his part, knew immediately that he wanted to work with the band. Speaking to NME last year, he said the impromptu gut-feeling he gets is his “favourite way of doing it”.
Like so many members of the UK’s most exciting new bands, Loftin glows with praise about Carey. “Working in the studio with him you don’t feel much pressure and you can have an extra think about how you wanna do something. He’s allowed us to play as we want, and just seems to love what we do, and that gives you extra drive and confidence to make the song the best it can be.”
An exciting year looms for Tiña. They’re recording their debut album with Carey soon, and have a busy touring schedule ahead of them. Loftin, though, seems keen to stay grounded in the scene where it all began. “A younger generation of musicians have been coming through, and a lot of it feels a bit more genuine and honest,” he says. “Everyone’s just doing it because they care, not to get famous. A lot of it’s tied to politics – a lot of socialists doing charity gigs – so there’s more to it, its own social movement. There’s something quite beautiful about that.”