When Sam Matlock’s previous band Dead! broke up, he started drinking too much and sending terrible song ideas to his friend Milkie Way. Bonding over a love of cock rock, cyber pop and wanting to cause the same amount of chaos that comes from playing Limp Bizkit at 3am at a house party, the pair started making bedroom demos together as Wargasm. Turns out mixing riot grrrl and nu-metal together is the perfect combination: Matlock’s song ideas stopped being bad, Way quit her job as a session bassist for folk-pop musician Barns Courtney, and the duo have been on the move ever since.
Wargasm — who say they eventually want to create a stage show to rival Rammstein‘s — aren’t interested in being role models: they get bored too quickly to think beyond just releasing singles, and they’re not afraid of calling out a twat when they see one. “We’re kind of abrasive, in real life and in music,” Way says from their lockdown hideaway in Ireland.
Early Wargasm tracks sat comfortably in the realm of hyperactive alt-rock, but this year they’ve gone in a more “what the fuck?” direction. The nu-metal thrash of ‘Spit’ and the bloodthirsty ‘Backyard Bastards’ position Wargasm as the chaotic yet logical reaction to this hellfire world we’re living in.
NME caught up with the pair on Zoom recently to talk the nu-metal revival, touring with Yungblud and creating a soundtrack to people’s anger in 2020.
NME: Wargasm make “angry music for sad people”, which feels like the perfect genre for right now.
Milkie Way: “Everyone is angry and everyone is sad, so we might as well get some good bangers out of it.”
Sam Matlock: “Our music is 100% influenced by what’s going on around us, but we’re not the kind of people to mope around and put on a brave face. If the world feels heavy and dark, obviously your sound is going to reflect that. If you feel a bit lost and confused, your sound is going to feel all over the place and quizzical.”
Tell us about ‘Backyard Bastards’…
Matlock: “We wrote it at the start of lockdown before the government started being massive cunts. It’s about that feeling of homicidal rage: everyone tries to hide it, but you’ve definitely looked at someone and wanted to peel them.”
Way: ”No one sees Dominic Cummings’ face on TV and thinks: ‘I definitely don’t want to hurt him’.”
Matlock: “It got immediately banned by Ofcom, even when we replaced the swear words. It’s probably better to let those feelings out via a song than me doing this interview about Milkie trying to break me out of jail, though.”
Are the lyrics “when you wake up do you feel hollow? Do you wash your hands of all the sorrow?” aimed at the Tories?
Matlock: “I had given up being angry at politicians who are twats. They’re never going to change and they’re never going to care what we have to say. My rage is more directed at the people who enabled that sort of thing by voting for them and then going: ‘Yeah, but…’. If you have to justify your political choices with a ‘but’, then they aren’t the right fucking choices. The next track we’ve got coming out is a pissed-off political one, though.”
Where does the nu-metal influence come from?
Matlock: “It’s just more fun than other stuff, isn’t it? Radiohead are fucking great but you don’t always want something that complex. You’ve now got Poppy, Rina Sawayama and Loathe [who] all [have] a nu-metal influence, but when we started out the bands that were playing Reading & Leeds didn’t have that violence or that energy. It felt like that primal fun was missing from the rock scene.”
Way: “That’s what you do with your art: you fill the void and make the things that you want to listen to. If you want to see a certain type of representation of a type of sound or people, the best thing to do is fucking create it yourself.”
“It’s OK to be fucking angry at things. It’s good when you have a soundtrack to do that to, and that’s what we’re creating”
You’re touring digitally with Yungblud ahead of a proper IRL tour next year. That’ll be fun, right?
Way: “Dom’s a good mate and the new shit he’s putting out is very fun and very cool; he’s smashing the visuals as well. There might be some new shit he’s putting out soon that’s extra angry and extra fun, but I don’t know what else we’re allowed to say.”
We won’t get you in trouble about a possible collaboration, then! You sit at the heavier end of what Yungblud does — are you worried about what his fans will think?
Way: “Not at all. We’re opening with a new song and it’s very shouty. If they don’t like that, then they won’t like the rest of the set. It’s a warning: if you don’t like it, at least you know early on and you don’t have to waste your time or ours.”
So there’ll be no attempt to sugar-coat it, then?
Matlock: “That’s just not the kind of people we are. I don’t think you should go in as a take-no-prisoners kind of band, but if that’s the way it comes across… The reason it feels raw and in your face is ‘cause maybe we’re not the smartest or the fastest people, but maybe we just don’t care about sugar-coating stuff.”
What do you want Wargasm’s music to mean to people?
Matlock: “The band exists as an agent of chaos. We’re not role models, but we’re relatable. ‘Spit’s about wanting to scream that things are disgusting. It could be the way your ex-boyfriend treated you, how you feel when you turn on the news, looking in the mirror and hating what you see, or someone not putting their mask on on the Tube and you wanting to kill them. I’m not saying go out and act on it, but your dark thoughts aren’t always the worst thing in the world. With our music, it’s not [about there being] someone out there [who is] as fucked-up as you, but [you] worrying about admitting that you are…”
Way: “It’s that it’s OK to let it out. It’s OK to be fucking angry at things. It’s good when you have a soundtrack to do that to, and that’s what we’re creating.”
How ambitious are you?
Matlock: “I don’t know yet. Some people talk about us headlining a stage at Reading one day, but I don’t see our sound reaching that point. I don’t know if we care yet, either. We’d just want the free ticket. There’s no lid on the ambition for the music, though. This is the first time in my life that, as a writer, I’ve got no fucking idea where anything is going. It’s why people are sticking around — they have no idea what’s going to happen next.”