Photo: Piran Aston

Interview: Idle Hours

I should have predicted the outcome of our interview given the dystopia of failed Google Meets and Zoom calls we now inhabit, but my planned interview with Jack Waldron, singer of Manchester indie band Idle Hours, was wrought with technological glitches. We both pop up on our screens as we have all grown accustomed to: Waldron in front of the “Thinker Monkey” and me shuffling through rooms of my house to find the strongest Wifi signal. After several failed attempts using different headphones, devices, and platforms, it was decided that an interview by email was best and perhaps a proper interview over drinks is in order next time (checking for flights to the UK…). 

Beats Per Minute “met up” with the Manchester quartet to talk about their latest single, “Souvenirs”, the upcoming EP, dogs, Banksy, science fiction, and the state of the world. 

How did you get the quartet together? 

We all studied at a music university in Manchester, although I met Alex at an Ulrika Spacek gig at a venue called Soup Kitchen – an incredible band definitely worth checking out.

Where did you come up with the name, Idle Hours? Was it from the concept of hours with nothing to do or something more metaphorical or perhaps the painting by William Merritt Chase? 

It is taken from the painting by William Meritt Chase! I’m not sure if it still is but it used to be one of the Windows screensavers and the title of the painting would appear in the corner of the screen, for some reason when it came to choosing a band name the years of seeing that painting on school laptops rose from my subconscious. 

“Idle Hours” by William Merritt Chase (1894)

I heard the foundations of “Souvenirs” originated from listening to “Angie” by shame on repeat during a dog walk… What kind of dog do you have? 

He’s a Lucas terrier. They’re a cross between a Sealyhams terrier and a Norfolk terrier but in appearance they look like a pretty standard Terrier.

What is its name? 

He’s called Reggie. During the pandemic I had to move back to my Mum’s for 18 months and he barely left my side, the definition of a good boy. 

Does everyone in the band have a pet? 

All of us except Jimmy have pets currently, Tom has three spaniels and Alex has a Schnauzer and King Charles cross. As well as Reggie I also have two cats and a tortoise so the house can get pretty manic!

Is “Angie” Shame’s best song? 

I think it’s definitely up there for me, it’s an incredible album closer. The big ones like “Concrete” and “Alphabet” are also great but my other favourite is “Human, for a Minute” off the latest album, I think their slower stuff is just as good as their manic, high energy tunes. We saw them live at the Ritz in Manchester last year which was wild. 

After the dog walk, did you come home and start writing a rhythm or what is the typical songwriting process? Guitar riffs, vocal melody or does it depend?

The inspiration of “Angie” came from the driving pulse that carries the song even in the softer moments, so I wanted to try and recreate that with a repetitive rhythm and bassline which is where it started for “Souvenirs”. This created an element of Krautrock which is something we hadn’t really experimented with previously but it’s an element we’re utilising more in our recent writing. Our writing process usually starts with an instrumental and then I’ll add words and melody last. 

Your music usually contains a social commentary. Lyrically,  you referenced Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. A theme in Stranger in a Strange Land was counterculture.  Does modern counterculture still exist? 

I think so for sure. There’s enough to be angry about in the world today to form a number of countercultures, it just might not be as cool as the punks and hippies. 

How is counterculture today expressed through music?

The punk ethos seems to have reached a stalemate in the modern age of technology and cancel culture, but I think UK grime is a strong environment for counterculture to thrive. 

Had everyone read Stranger in a Strange Land previously or was everyone required to while you worked on the EP?

I think I’m the only one who’s read it, but I’d recommend it to anyone. The film The Man Who Fell To Earth would be the next best thing. Maybe an Idle Hours book club will be our next project!

What is the biggest challenge working as a quartet? 

Trying to work around everyone’s work schedules is probably the hardest part. We all work full time jobs so it’s sometimes a challenge to find the time for rehearsals, we’ve done a few late night/early morning ones which are interesting after a full day at work. But I think this is something that most bands have to wrestle with. 

Tell me about the Banksy’s Dismaland Project inspiration. 

The Dismaland Bemusement Park was an exhibition in a derelict sea-side swimming resort in England which turned the idea of Disneyland completely on its head. I’m a sucker for anything with a dystopian theme and I’ve always been a big fan of Banksy’s work, the project directly inspired the first line of the song. I never got the chance to go but the footage and photos are incredibly striking. Some would say Disneyland is a dystopia in itself but Banksy takes it to a whole new level. 

Does the rest of the EP have similar inspirations? Any others you would like to share before the release?

The rest of the EP varies a little bit, our next release is about Televangelism in the US which was a lot of fun to write about, and the last tune on the EP touches on escapism and wanting to leave this reality to join another – the usual stuff!

What are your drinks of choice and your favorite place for a drink?

I normally start the evening off with a few pints of cold Guinness because it’s good for you and if you’ve not eaten it basically acts as a full meal. Alex has got me into rum and pineapple juice recently so I’d probably move onto that as the night wears on. Our favourite place for a bev in Manchester is probably a bar called YES, there’s DJs on most nights and they serve very very good pizza as well as being a top music venue. We’d also have to give an honourable mention to a pub where we live in Salford Quays called The Matchstick Man which serves slightly worse food and stages some questionable DJs, but we’ve had many wonderful nights there. 

Idle Hours’ new EP will arrives this summer. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.