The mercurial, teenaged frontman for Working Men’s Club is not one to mince words. We’re less than 10-minutes into our interview with Sydney Minsky-Sargeant and he has already made it quite clear that he’s got no enthusiasm for indie music circa 2019. “The reason there aren’t as many popular guitar bands right now is because they keep reproducing the same shit,” he tells us from his bedroom in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. “No one should be surprised it’s dying.”
There’s a certain irony here (not lost on Minsky-Sargeant) considering his band – rounded out by Jake Bogacki, Giulia Bonometti, and Liam Ogburn – has been hailed as leaders of a burgeoning post-punk renaissance. Breathless reviews greeted their debut 7”, and the blistering salvos of ‘Bad Blood’ and b-side ‘Suburban Heights’ earning them comparisons to Manchester royalty The Fall, and as well as contemporary acts like Brooklyn’s indie-rock kingpins Parquet Courts.
“No one should be surprised guitar music is dying” – Sydney Minsky-Sargeant
Add to it a string of live dates through summer, including as openers for Fat White Family, and all outward signs would point to Working Men’s Club being well positioned to take up the mantle as the latest of “guitar music’s saviours”. Minsky-Sargeant, despite all available evidence on the band’s single, seems curiously indifferent to its resuscitation.
“I really love Suicide and a lot of the 70s new wave bands. I love drum machines and synthesizers too. So it poses a problem in terms of which way we go.” Minsky-Sargeant’s restlessness suggests many might have them pegged all wrong.
Indeed, their eclectic live set showcases more of the electronic influences Minsky-Sargeant mentions. In fact, there’s perhaps more in common with Southend iconoclasts These New Puritans. They too were once precocious teenagers, themselves tipped as post-punk’s next great hopes, but chose to dive headlong into a far more fascinating and otherworldly abyss. It’s a comparison that Minsky-Sargeant doesn’t dispute.
Want proof? Take current live favourite ‘Cook A Coffee’. The motorik beat and an elasticated bassline dominate as the song builds to an urgent climax – guitars nearly an afterthought. The song offers a tantalising glimpse of where they might be headed musically, and is equally notable for its unflinching takedown of a certain television presenter.
“It’s about Andrew Neil, who is a presenter on the BBC and a complete right wing piece of shit.” Yes, the same Andrew Neil who, in a now infamous viral clip from several months ago, danced like a lobotomized fool during his show’s end credits while a decidedly unimpressed Bobby Gillespie watched from the couch in stone-faced silence.
Which begs the question: are Working Men’s Club a political band? This prompts Minsky-Sargeant to take a momentary pause. “I consider myself to be political,” he says, haltingly, “but I’m not going to put that tag on Working Men’s Club. If people choose to interpret [my lyrics] politically, they’re probably not wrong. And I’ll add that in this current climate we’re in, you’d be stupid not to have an opinion and speak up on it.”
It remains remarkable how much they’ve achieved with so little. After all, he is still just 17, fronting a band that has been together scarcely more than a year. In addition to the avalanche of accolades it has received, the aforementioned 7” sold out a week prior to its street date thanks to pre-orders. And to top it off, there is a rumoured record deal allegedly in its final stages.
Heady days indeed, but Minsky-Sargeant would never let on if he’s feeling the heat. “For a lot of bands, their first single is meant as the overview of the first album, but I don’t think that is going to be true for us. There is much more to Working Men’s Club, and what’s to come is going to be even better than ‘Bad Blood.’” Clearly, he much prefers to fan the flames.