As the name suggests, One Man Boycott started life as a one man outfit. It was around three years ago that frontman Joe Brewer started writing and playing songs alone on an acoustic guitar in the kitchen, but since then, guitarist Lewis Chappell, drummer Frank Rawle and bassist Tom Hitchins have joined the fold, and all our very much present on the band’s debut album, ‘Counting The Seconds’.
“It’s definitely a band effort,” explains Brewer, “but it feels like such a personal achievement for me. I feel like I’ve been through a lot to get to this point, so I’m super excited about it.”
Both of those things are very much in evidence on the Bristol quartet’s full-length debut. They brim with upbeat energy – it’s not quite pop-punk because it avoids the clichéd trappings of that genre, but it’s not far off, either – but beneath the excited, effusive melodies, there are some sinister subject matters lurking in the lyrics. It’s a juxtaposition that was entirely deliberate.
“I want this to be a positive, hopeful record,” Brewer says. “Someone told me it sounds like summer and those are the positive vibes and the feeling behind it. But a lot of the time when I write, it might sound positive, but the actual words are about something quite dark. Monument, for example, is about cancer as a result of addiction, but the chorus is fighting against that. It’s kind of recognising those things about yourself and realising there’s still a way out of it, that you can change your ending.”
Full of contemplation for the wonders – and the sadnesses – of the world, Counting The Seconds isn’t all entirely based on Brewer’s own life, but that defiant attitude is absolutely his, and he’s drawn them from his own personal experiences. As such, making this record was a very cathartic experience. In fact, at times it was almost too cathartic.
“When I wrote If I Survive,” he says, “it was the week that I lost a grandparent. It’s not about that specific situation the whole way through the song, but I was up in the studio singing different words and different melodies trying to figure it out and I hit this zone after about an hour, sang the song through basically from start to finish and was in tears by the end of it. I couldn’t finish the song, but I also couldn’t remember what I’d sung. So I got my shit together, listened back and it was like ‘That’s the one!’ And every time I sing it now, it feels good. It means a lot to me.”
As well as a vehicle for expelling his emotions, One Man Boycott is also a way for Brewer to experiment with his remarkable voice. That song, in particular, is a gentle, poignant ode that shows off both the way his vocals carry emotion and the way he can hold a note, but throughout the album, his vocals range from earnest but melodic shouting to an impressive falsetto that Jeff Buckley would be proud of. In fact, it’s almost as if he’s doing the work of two singers. It wasn’t always that way, however.
“I was fucking shit when I started singing,” he laughs. “I was absolutely rubbish. I can’t explain how bad I was, but everyone has to start somewhere. I still have some old recordings but they’re too cringe worthy, so I won’t play them to anybody. Just through working out it – by doing it – I got better. I think it’s important to sit down and learn your voice – what you can and can’t do with it, and what you should and what you shouldn’t. I’m really trying to explore what I can do with my voice in this band and I’m still learning, so it still surprises me when people have nice things to say about it.”
Counting The Seconds is out now through Super Sick Records. For more information on the band, visit their website.