Matt Abbott, frontman of Skint & Demoralised, has plenty to be excited about. He’s just played his first gig in six years, newly signed to Fierce Panda records with a single release getting regular plays on 6 Music. He’s not long come back from a holiday in Italy with his fiancee, and he seems as surprised as anyone that his band has reformed. He tells me if I had asked him last year whether the band would get back together he would have said he was 99% sure that wasn’t going to happen.
Where did this urge to reform come from then? “I’m not that musical, I’m a poet,” Matt tells me, “David Gledhill writes the music, we’ve never physically been in a room together whilst writing.” Back in 2007, David was producing in Sheffield under the guise MiNI dOG when he heard the 17 year old’s poetry on MySpace. The first album, made from chopped up poems laid over instruments, charmed the alternative indie scene with demo plays on BBC Radio 1 from Steve Lamacq.
Matt who has gone on to be “quite a political poet” laments the fact their first album Love And Other Catastrophes focused only on love songs. Perhaps because Matt, then 19, was “flitting about having love affairs, at a time when your own identity consumes you.” Inspired by Sleaford Mods’ political following, the duo wondered if they could do something similar, “Wouldn’t it be great to do a low-fi political album – let’s do three songs and see how that goes.”
So far it seems to be going well, the band’s first single release Boro Kitchen 4am featured on 6 Music and they are set to play The Great Escape’s Fierce Panda stage this weekend. Matt recalls their first gig at TGE 10 years ago in “that bar at the end of the pier, I got pissed and fell off the stage.” He played Komedia later that same evening and thought the label (Universal) was “a bit tight” sending him out with a boombox to read from his phone. He laughs, “Which ironically is what Sleaford Mods are doing at the moment.”
Their first album for Universal was extremely polished, with orchestra, brass, keys, backing vocals, it was pop well produced, but the band was dropped by the label when their single Red Lipstick didn’t make the top 40. He remembers being encouraged by them to be “more of a dickhead” on stage. He describes himself now as a polite person, quite friendly, charming. At the time though, he said Universal told him ‘you need to make people feel annoyed you have to perform for them. It’s a proper rock n roll thing, you can’t be nice.’
This time around the album has been recorded on their own terms, in a shipping container in Stratford. He’s feeling the pressure of being a frontman, the expectation – as long as you’re authentic though he says, it’s ok to be outspoken.
And he has no problem with being outspoken. The new album We Are Humans which he describes as “quite raw, post-punk lyric driven” takes its title from a photo of graffiti on a portaloo in the Calais Jungle. He volunteered there a couple of times either side of the Brexit referendum. He also grew up in Wakefield, an electorate that voted 66% leave. The album defends a lot of the reasons people voted leave “I find myself in a really weird position” he says, “I understand the fears about unemployment.” Much of the lyrical material for the album has been lifted from Matt’s acclaimed spoken word show Two Little Ducks, which explores working-class views on Brexit. He hopes its message about the contradictions of nationalism will reach a wider audience.
For now though, he has to try and be a frontman again, they have two comeback shows, and an album out at the end of summer. “Aye” he says “Do I need to be a dickhead, start swearing at people? Nobody needs to do that. I’m just going to go and have fun.”
Skint and Demoralised play The Great Escape’s Three Wise Cats (Casablanca) stage on Fri 10 May at 3:15pm.