Limelight: Hookworms

Every band has its light-bulb moment. In the case of Leeds five-piece Hookworms, theirs arrived during a gig by another local outfit. “They’re called Kogumaza and do a lot of great stuff with wah pedals,” explains bassist MB. “They were playing this really interesting harmonic stuff and we all started looking at each other. And when we started putting those kind of effects on our own songs, they completely changed. It turned into this weird space-rock thing. We realised that having a wah pedal doesn’t mean you have to be Jimi Hendrix.”

The upshot of all this was the distinctive Hookworms sound of 2013 debut Pearl Mystic, which married droning psychedelia to a shared love of US hardcore. “We wanted the repetition and volume,” says MB, “but we also wanted it to be heavier and sludgier, a bit like Pissed Jeans or [80s Bay Area punks] Flipper.”

Arriving two years after the band’s first EP, the album drew some ecstatic reviews. Their thrilling live shows, meanwhile, were marked by levitational jams and cosmic grooves. Think Spacemen 3 kicking up a fuzz with unruly Texans Pure X.

If Hookworms had any trepidation about following up Pearl Mystic, you’d never know it. Latest album The Hum is even better, offering up a tougher, harder and less ambient set of songs, their drama heightened by the anguished yelp of frontman and lyricist MJ.

“We really wanted to trim the fat and make this one more concise,” affirms MB. “And doing that made it even more powerful. MJ has his own struggles and when we were writing Pearl Mystic he was going through a rough time, so that kind of stuff affected the lyrics. We were definitely all in a better place when we were writing the new album. And that’s absolutely reflected in how it sounds.”

The Hum is also a killer experience when heard live, where Hookworms’ songs stretch out into extended mantras. “Without wanting to sound like a fucking hippie, you zone out,” says MB. “It’s a weird, transcendental thing and I think that’s what we all get out of the music. When it’s at high volume, it’s a complete bliss-out on stage.”

One of those who has witnessed Hookworms in their pomp is MB Snr., a man of impeccable taste. “My dad and my girlfriend’s dad both subscribe to Prog magazine,” reveals MB. “They’ll be so psyched about this! My dad’s heard the album and has been to see us play a few times. He’s constantly saying that we’re a prog band and there are definitely similarities. As well as the long jams, we use a lot of effects and production. As a kid I went with him to see bands like Rush and Yes, so all that must be in our music somewhere.”

Further proof, if it were needed, that Hookworms have a great bloodline. RH

Prog File


MJ (vocals, keyboards), SS (guitar), JW (guitar), MB (bass), JN (drums)

sounds like

Suicide and Wooden Shjips rammed into a psychedelic wormhole

current release

The Hum is out now on Weird World


Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.