Shaking off the lockdown blues with a stellar debut EP, bold riffs and a DIY attitude, Blanketman are coming in hot.
Words: Laura Freyaldenhoven. Photo: Through The Eyes Of Ruby.
Not to recount the tragedies of last year, but, as we all so painfully remember, it put a screeching halt to live music and gigging culture, robbing dozens of emerging bands of their big break (or at the very least the age-old ritual of relentlessly touring the country). One of those unlucky ones were Manchester post-punk outfit Blanketman. Having racked up an impressive following throughout 2019 and early 2020, they were this close to the breakthrough. *Enter stage left: Coronavirus*
“We’re at that stage where it’s become more than just a hobby. Though it’s not quite a job yet… I think this would have been the year that would have happened, but the fact that we went into lockdown kind of put the brakes on it,” vocalist and rhythm guitarist Adam Hopper sums up the band’s current situation. Joined by drummer Ellie-Rose Elliott in their chosen home of Manchester, the two talk songwriting, band dynamics and, well, lockdown ahead of the release of their debut EP ‘National Trust’. “We’re quite weird actually. We obviously have the EP coming out but we’re not even playing those songs anymore,” Ellie reveals about the upcoming release. “By the time we get back into gigging, we’ll already be on to the next load of songs. We’re currently writing towards our album, so it’s weird to be constantly one step ahead.”
Ah yes, the new-for-fans-but-not-new-for-us phenomenon, one of the weird and wonderful side effects of being a touring band… The very thing that makes Blanketman so intriguing? Their sharp edge and the raw “live” energy seeping through each one of their songs. But before we get into the gritty details, let’s recap their origin story. Blanketman are Adam and Ellie, along with Daniel Hand (lead guitar and vocals), Jeremy Torralvo-Godoy (bass) and most recent addition Shane Dickinson (synths and keys). After moving to Manchester for varying reasons, the four original members met – and this is perhaps the most surprising fact of all – online. But not on social media, following each other’s musical journeys on Youtube, Instagram or Facebook. Nuh-uh these four went old-school, responding to ads on joinmyband.com (not sponsored btw). “I had used it in the past for other bands and, most of the time, it does not work. I’ve never really met anyone that I particularly felt I was on the same wavelength with. But then we all kind of clicked quite quickly,” Adam says about this chance-meeting/twist of fate as Ellie jokes: “We don’t have too many disagreements…” Talking to the two, it’s clear that they just work.
“All of us are always pulling in different directions, so when it comes together, we hopefully get something quite original”Ellie-Rose Elliott
But, of course, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and even the best of friendships come with their rough patches. As Adam explains: “Lockdown has made things difficult for all relationships. As a band, you go through your fair bits of tension, but you usually have a kind of release and get on with it. If you’ve had a little fallout or something, then you play a gig, and it’s the best thing in the world again. But at the moment… we’re quite strong characters, and we all have strong opinions on music and the band and stuff… and at the moment we haven’t really got that release.” A release. That’s what their music is to them. An outlet for all kinds of frustrations and anxieties. A sentiment that is directly reflected in their songwriting where thunderous drums and infectious guitar lines mingle with honest, relatable lyricism. Debut EP ‘National Trust’ comes packed with seven of those raucous reflections. “In a way, some of them are themed together because I wrote the lyrics for four of the tracks around the same time,” Adam says about putting together the tracklist. “Dan wrote ‘Beach Body’ and ‘Harold’. ‘Beach Body’ is quite an old song. It’s been a staple in our sets, so it felt nice to put that on the record. ‘Harold’ was new and is about sleep paralysis, which I think we all get. But the ones that I wrote, when I listen back, it’s all just about feeling trapped and wanting to leave.”
The most literal iteration of those feelings would be ‘Leave The South’, a track that, driven by feisty guitars, laments the tangible consequences of the North-South divide (“I know the North can be quite grey, it’s too expensive down there anyway”). Also, a definite winner is ‘Dogs Die In Hot Cars’ – not only an important PSA to careless pet owners but a clever commentary on wanting to break out of a suffocating environment. As a whole, the EP does a great job of encapsulating the band’s sonic evolution and showcasing their vibrantly eccentric character.
What makes Blanketman’s sound stand out from the masses is that their recordings retain the energy of a live performance. Ellie puts it quite simply: “We are a live band, and the EP is fully recorded live. I think that captures us really well,” and she’s right. Listening to their first succinct body of work, you can hear their personality shine through. Everything about ‘National Trust’ says “watch this space”. But finding their sound wasn’t as easy as one might think. It’s a work in progress. “It’s an ongoing battle,” Adam explains. “It’s one of the hardest things to balance as a band. But I also think it’s one of the things that makes us sound good.” “All of us are always pulling in different directions, so when it comes together, we hopefully get something quite original,” Ellie agrees.
One thing is abundantly clear: Blanketman are gearing up for big things and big stages. That is, if the government allows. But Adam and Ellie have unanimously decided to stay optimistic: “It’s so easy to be negative about it, but overall it’s not looking quite as bleak now, so fingers crossed.”
Taken from the April 2021 edition of Dork, out now. Blanketman’s EP ‘National Trust’ is out 19th March.