“Everyone is so quick to make everything black and white, but I think grey is always more interesting,” says Giant Walker vocalist and lyricist Steff Fish, when asked to explain her band’s nuanced approach to songwriting.
Her bandmate, guitarist Jamie Southern, picks up the thread. “The last thing the world needs is another love song. I don’t think any of us like anything that’s kind of like… ‘Bleugh… this is how I feel, eat it.’”
Listen to Giant Walker’s debut album, All In Good Time, and that aversion to anything too straightforward makes perfect sense. The Geordies’ take on prog metal ebbs and flows. Songs start out on solid ground before reaching their apex in a different dimension and surprisingly agile grooves turn on a hairpin at a moment’s notice, buoyed by unpredictable time signatures.
By the time latest single Katoomba reaches its first chorus, the song has shifted on its axis three times, anchored by Steff’s clarion-clear, cathartic vocal melodies. Citing influences as wide-ranging as Deftones, Karnivool, Soundgarden and Radiohead, it’s a sound that’s tricky to pin down.
“I like art that makes me think a little bit more,” Steff continues. “Lyrics that have multiple concepts and ideas. [Recent single] Past The Peak started off as being about an article I read, about a woman who ended up addicted to painkillers for a knee injury. But it morphed into being about how, quite often as humans, we tend to try to paper over our issues with easier solutions when actually the problem is deeper.”
The band, completed by drummer Alex Black and bassist Jordan Gregory, formed during lockdown in 2020, but the four of them have been making music together for years. Childhood friends Steff and Jamie met in their high school music class before getting together with Jordan at college and forming their first band, Xero, while Alex eventually joined the ranks when the quartet moved down south to study at London’s Academy of Contemporary Music.
“We came up with the name in college before we knew there was an accountancy company called Xero and about a million other bands also called Xero,” he chuckles (including the first version of Linkin Park – History Ed). “You can always tell when you’re not comfortable in your own skin.”
When Covid hit and the band, like many of their peers, found themselves contemplating the viability of their artistic future, the period of reflection provided an opportunity for them to rebrand. Jamie continues: “It’s not a good sign when you’re really passionate about the music but when people are like, ‘What band are you in?’ You’re like…” He cringes through a grin. “‘Oh, you know… that accountancy company…’”
All In Good Time is very much a product of the pandemic. In early 2020, Alex moved back home to Newcastle, leaving his bandmates in Guildford, and as a result the album was written remotely over the course of multiple lockdowns, with songs pieced together via files shared back and forth online.
“I knew I would put a lot of strain on the band, but actually what came out of it was the best scenario,” reveals Alex of his decision to relocate. “We fully embraced technology and had weekly Zooms, and it really wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.”
By late 2020 the band had been contacted by Chris Coulter, the producer best known for excavating the glitchy, progressive intricacies of ex-post-hardcore visionaries Arcane Roots, who invited them down to The Ranch studios in Southampton to work on the song that would become recent single, Katoomba. The sessions went so well, the band asked him to produce the rest of their debut.
“We’re still proud of the songs we did as Xero, but they were rushed; there was always a compromise,” says Jamie. “This was the first time we were like, ‘We’re going to spend the time. We’re going to get the right producer and invest in it.’ I knew we were in good hands. It was just a case of, ‘OK, I need to perform.’”
The resulting record, which was recorded in early 2021 at London’s Stakeout studios, is a confident, fully realised statement that certainly doesn’t sound like the opening gambit from a band less than two years old – never mind one who, due to lockdowns, have only played one gig to date.
While most bands cut their teeth live before heading into the studio, the circumstances of the last two years meant Giant Walker had an album’s worth of untested material ready to go before they even stepped onstage under their new moniker.
“I found it really gratifying to know that the songs translated live because we’d never heard them played in a room before,” says Jamie, remembering the jitters surrounding their first show, in a packed room at Aldershot’s West End Centre, and how the crowd enthusiastically embraced the new music. Now, with their first official UK tour coming up in June, we predict a lot more would-be fans are about to fall under Giant Walker’s hypnotic spell.
“People are more invested in this than in previous projects,” smiles Jamie when Hammer suggests their story is only just beginning. “This album will be something I can look back on in 20, 30 years and be like, ‘This holds up, I’m still really proud of it.’”
All In Good Time is out now. Giant Walker tour the UK in June.