Tired but buzzing after the launch last night of their debut album Fed To The Lions, Tax The Heat are relishing God’s Own Junkyard, a dizzying warehouse in Walthamstow that’s crammed with strange treasures, signs and enough neon to wipe out the national grid. It’s all very cool – until they spot the tricycle.
“I’ll totally get on that,” says guitarist JP Jacyshyn, lowering his lanky frame on to the tiny contraption that’s clearly meant for kids.
“Don’t mess with a grown man on a kid’s tricycle,” singer/guitarist Alex Veale says, waving a Union Jack like The Trooper.
Post-photo shoot, props relinquished, we meet the band properly…
On their debut album, Tax The Heat aren’t just rehashing the classics.
Tax The Heat love old-school classic rock; the 60s and 70s are in their DNA. But that isn’t where it stops. Drawing from the likes of The Hives and early Supergrass, they make the kind of fearsome, propulsive noise that says ‘contemporary’, rather than ‘past it’.
“We’re trying to capture an all-round energy,” explains Veale. “I don’t want us to be just another ‘retro’ band.”
“We want to take the feeling and urgency those guys had,” adds drummer Jack Taylor, “to get into the mind-set that The Who and The Kinks had, but do it in a modern way.”
It all begins in the West Country.
Veale and Taylor had a sleepy, rural childhood, involving pheasants rather than musicians. Starting bands as teenagers meant looking further afield for members. They played in separate punk and metal outfits, after which Veale honed his chops with rock trio The Operation. In 2013, he and Taylor formed Tax The Heat, bringing in Bristol University students Jacyshyn and bass player Antonio Angotti. The aggression of their punk years, however, never really left them.
“One band we all really like is The Bronx, for the heavier punk sound,” explains Taylor. “They just kill it on the energy front. But we just know what we want to do with Tax The Heat.”
Their drummer once sold a guitar to Hollywood superstar Nicolas Cage.
“I’ve worked in music shops for years. And one Christmas Eve he walked in,” Taylor recalls. “They had a house in Bath. And their son was going to do a performance for the family, so he bought a guitar and microphone.”
Each band member’s day job reinforces their efforts in Tax The Heat, apart from Jacyshyn who works as a chef. Angotti and Veale teach bass and guitar, while Veale has played guitar on film and television themes, including BBC comedy Episodes (“Starring Matt Le Blanc!”) and, erm, the movie Marley & Me: The Puppy Years (“It was a straight‑to‑DVD thing…”).
Those suits get really sweaty.
Playing hard rock in nice suits is no picnic, especially when your dressing room is the boiler room, as they discovered on tour with Black Star Riders.
“It would’ve been fine, but it was the hottest day of the year,” Veale remembers. “The boiler was kicking off heat. We got off stage after our set and ran straight into a boiler room. Heat on heat. It was like hell’s kitchen in there.”
The Wurzels won’t be asking them to dinner.
At a Somerset festival a few years ago, Veale got on the wrong side of the Combine Harvester men. “I was in my last band, and The Wurzels were headlining,” he says. “They took so long sound-checking, all the drunk people were there for The Wurzels. We played afterwards at about one. The stage was a mess, there were power cuts. I shouted at them to go fuck themselves – from our lorry to theirs. That’s a thing about Somerset festivals, they’re always on the back of a lorry.”
Together they’re stronger.
“That’s something we love about those older bands,” Taylor muses. “It’s not individuals just flung together, it’s a team. On stage our suits are part of that. We want to make something that’s a bigger sum than what we can convey individually.”