Photo: Luis Kramer

Track-By-Track: Regressive Left on their irreverent and invigorating On The Wrong Side of History EP

Following on from their fiery opening trio of tracks released through 2020 and 2021, Regressive Left today release their official debut EP, On The Wrong Side of History.

As expected from title and band name, it’s an unavoidably political affair – and Regressive Left are not afraid to look right into the eye of the storm and call out what they see; all the unsettling, sinister forces that are swirling around our planet. Sure, there’s some satire in there – especially in the myopic white man that is portrayed in the opening track – but for the most part, the trio waver between angry, scared and defiant.

While the words might have your guts turning, they are tempered by the instrumentation, which comes in direct lineage to DFA greats like LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture, with loopy vocal ticks akin to Talking Heads or Devo.

It’s only four tracks, but On The Wrong Side of History stacks up into a teetering pile of influences and ideologies that is ready to collapse and consume you. While you enjoy the tunes, here’s the band’s vocalist Simon Tyrie to give you the inside track on the processes and impetuses for each track.

01. “The Wrong Side of History”

I think the earliest draft I have of this song is a note on my phone dating back to spring 2018. It was more of a poem then and barely any of that note made the final cut – there are bits about Syria and the aftermath of Grenfell and it’s just this really dark and bitter lyrical newsreel collage of all the really horrible things that were happening in the world but voicing it all from the perspective of the worst human being on the planet: your typical inflammatory white man – the kind of person in power that was just so disassociated from it all that couldn’t even pretend to care. But when I came to rewrite it, I found I was more interested in the voice of this character, so it became more broadly about imperialism, colonialism and Anglocentrism, and I saw climate change as the perfect culmination of this western arrogance. We’re seeing this even more with the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s attempts to control the food supply. Rather than try and solve or reverse climate change, we’ve got all these super-wealthy, super-powerful freaks figuring out how to profit from it. 

Fun fact – there’s actually line in the song that references Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind”, which is kind of about the perspective of an Indigenous man turned terrorist who’s watching his land get colonised. The way it’s framed (“He sees the foreigners in growing numbers / He sees the foreigners in fancy houses”) is really jarring because we’re used to that kind of rhetoric coming from racists and white supremacists. Obviously this song takes a sympathetic view whereas the character in our song doesn’t deserve this because they arethe colonisers, no matter how much they like to go off on paranoid rants about immigrants.  

Writing all this it sounds like a huge juxtaposition that the song is quite silly and humorous but really it’s a reflection of how silly these people are that we’re writing about. They might be pure evil but also pure evil is often quite silly. The people ruling the world aren’t evil geniuses – they’re small minded and very unserious, and they wouldn’t be in power if it wasn’t for the inequalities in our society. That’s why they’re so scared of progress.

02. “World On Fire”

We started writing this one in between the first and second lockdowns – it started out as a funky keyboard loop with quite straight drums and lots of guitar shredding and in the end we pretty much rewrote the whole song. I think we also cut out about three guitar solos. I was reading stuff at the time in some science magazine about how there were some scientists in India(?) that were trying to find a way to block out the sun using this giant parasol to control climate change, and it just sounded like the most ridiculous thing ever.

nd then I had an argument about it with my line manager at work who was very much the stereotypical pro-capitalist liberal that thought that the market could solve literally any problem. It reminded me of that meme with the dog in the burning room saying “This is fine” – the idea that it’s worth risking the fate of the planet and everyone on it for some short-term market returns. And the markets are all in freefall now anyway so what was the point?

03. “Bad Faith” (feat. Mandy, Indiana)

“Bad Faith” is the classic example of wanting a song to exist so you just write it yourself. It always seemed like such an obvious idea to me – but anyway, bad faith politics has been having a really long moment in the sun, pretty much since Twitter was created, and that’s not to say it didn’t exist before then; it’s just that I think social media really amplifies bad faith arguments. Everyone’s got to find the most contrarian take or they’re out hunting for a ‘gotcha’. I saw someone call Sleaford Mods ‘scabs’ the other day on Twitter – I’m not sure why? I think it was something to do with Jason saying Liam Gallagher was quite friendly.

If anyone’s unsure about what a bad faith argument is, the example I’ve used before is that it’s like when you had all these white supremacists saying the BLM protest was racist against white people because it was saying that white lives didn’t matter. Obviously that wasn’t the case – it just suited their politics to project that.

The French lyrics were a late addition – none of us could pronounce them very well and we were fortunate enough to get Val from Mandy, Indiana (who is actually French) on board to record them. Originally we sang the “Je sais bien, mais quand même” line (an Octave Mannoni quote) as a bit of a chant, and I think we expected Val to sing them in a similar way, but she blew us away with the way she performed it. It added quite a fun B-52s vibe to the track. 

We actually had a lovely message out of the blue from the grandson of Octave Mannoni a couple of weeks ago saying that he was a big fan of the song and just generally laughing at the fact his granddad had become a pop reference. It was a very surreal moment. 

04. “No More Fun”

This song was originally called “Tuna In A Cash Bag”. It was written during the free school meals debacle, and I saw a picture of one of the so-called free school meals that had some tuna literally scraped into a coin bag. Someone replied to the image saying that “Tuna In A Cash Bag” (or maybe it was “Coin Bag”) sounded like a song John Peel would play. 

It took us a really long time to get this one right and in the end what we recorded was just a scramble – one of the issues we had was the groove was off. We do everything to the grid because there are all these sequencers, and so Georgia usually drums to them, but for this we worked the other way round. Georgia recorded to a click and then I played all the synth parts live. I’m not a very good keyboard player so everything’s a little bit messy. But it all adds to the charm. It’s probably the most ‘live’ sounding song we’ve done and I can definitely see us approaching songs in a similar way going forwards.

Regressive Left’s On The Wrong Side of History EP is out now on Bad Vibrations – listen to it on your preferred platform. You can find the band on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.