Tom McFaull: A Bar Stool Preacher28th September 2019
The idea of punk rock to many, conjures up nothing but the idea of rebellion; anarchy and disobedience…but if you look past the stereotypes and the safety-pin covered cliches, punk is one of the deepest, thought provoking, socio-politically-aware movements to ever come out of alternative music. Proving this point, is a wonderfully humble young gentleman by the name of Tom McFaull. All About The Rock sent Gav for a chat with THE BAR STOOL PREACHERS vocalist when they rolled into the Welsh capital to play Clwb Ifor Bach on their recent UK tour…here’s what he had to say.
Ok, so…Gavin Griffiths here for All About The Rock, and I’m joined today by Mr Tom McFaull from The Bar Stool Preachers!
“You are! Gav how are you doing?”
I’m not too bad butt! How are you you?
“I’m very well, thank you! Happy to be here in a bustling, busy Cardiff city centre!”
Yeah they’ve had the football on today so it’s been a bit busy!
“You got the engine folk down in town, lots of lads making lots of noise on the old Vuvuzela’s…”
Dude those things do my HEAD IN, some of the worst things ever made…
“Yeah…that and the football ruined South Africa!” [Laughs]
[Laughs] Anyway, yes, The Bar Stool Preachers; for anyone who’s new to the band and just discovering you, give us a bit of back story…how did you all come together and run us through your formation.
“So…we all live in Brighton, which is like a musical Mecca. I moved there from the Czech Republic when we had some sort of, family health news, so I moved back to Brighton, didn’t really want to be living in the UK to be honest. Met Bungle though, the bassist, on my FIRST day in the UK, fell in love immediately…started writing songs around the kitchen table. Around the same time I met Gibbs, he was a DJ, a really good DJ; he used to do the Brighton Dub Club…so we found him, he joined. He was like “I’ll play guitar”…we were like, no you don’t…and he didn’t. Turns out he’d been playing BANJO for the last five years, but he blagged his way in.”
“The rest of the players we just sort of, assembled as we went along; different players that we met and liked, and different people that were recommended to us. We weren’t really one of those bands who grew up in School together or anything like that…none of us have known each other for longer than the five years that the bands’ been going really. You know, it’s really rare to meet people that, become your brothers straight away…there’s not one bad person in the band.”
OK, cool, so mentioning Brighton…like you said it’s a Mecca for live music, a lot of up-and-coming artists, recently having the spotlight put on the place thanks to the success of the likes of Yonaka for example…what is the current scene like in Brighton? Who are your influences in and around the area?
“There aren’t many of our influences from Brighton, to be honest, there aren’t many punk bands in Brighton doing their thing anymore…uh, because it’s such a student town, you know they’ve got this huge music college and university scene. A lot of the new bands are the zeitgeist for the town…it’s whatever seems to be quite popular at the time. Nowadays you’ve got a lot of two-pieces going on, a lot of fuzz, you know 15 pedals and 15 minutes of…noise. Some of them are incredibly talented, but there seems to be a lot of old players as well that sort of, gravitate to Brighton because, it USED to have so many venues and, it used to have so many like, artisanal spots and bases where you could, go hang out and meet other artists. But like, a lot of our modern subculture, it’s sort of being eaten…and Brighton is no stranger to that. We’ve lost six or seven brilliant venues in the last five years…”
Gav: I think that’s universal up and down the country, really, there’ not a lot of funding to support a lot of venues and it’s quite a shame really…
“It really is, it really is…and not to pin it all on one party or anything like that, but the governmental cuts that we’ve all lived through and the period of austerity, unfortunately no money has been spent on the arts at all. And if you look at us in comparison to Germany, for example, they still subsidize all these amazing bands and venues that have accommodation; places that can hire chefs, and you end up with this much better calibre of band coming through. So many esteemed musicians I would say, that, just can’t play in the UK anymore, or struggle to, because so many of our venues are closing down. Brighton’s very lucky because we had like, thirty, and now we still have six or something. Other towns HAD like, just six and now have none…”
Coming from Brighton for now, we’re in Cardiff as we mentioned, coming to the end of this current run of tour dates…
Absolutely; you can hear it in the voice and see how scruffy my jeans have become! Shoes covered in mud…we’re a little rough around the edges…as it should be!”
How has the tour been so far? You’ve toured pretty extensively already this year…
“We have yeah, though this is our first UK tour this year…the response we’ve had has been phenomenal. Really, the amount of support and the volume of the crowds and the fact that they knew all the words…we had some fans follow us for four gigs in a row, five gigs in a row, up and down the country with us; we’ve never had that before! So like, being able to pull 200 people on a Monday night in Leeds is like, that’s quite new for us. We’re really lucky too, we went to America and we’re ROCKETING in America, like we’ve taken off a ludicrous amount over there. And, somehow that translates into a lot more UK fans being really on our side y’know? They kind of make every gig feel like a home gig now in the UK, it’s nice.”
Regarding the tour as well, you’ve been doing a lot of promotion for your most recent album; “Grazie Governo”…I probably butchered that? [Laughs]
“No that was good, you remembered it! More than half of the interviews!” [Laughs]
That came out sometime last year / early this year?
“August 2018 so, just over a year…”
How has the reception been for that since its release?
“Brilliant…we’re still kind of working out the best way to get our live sound and our live energy down on to physical music, you’ll see when you see the show later; it’s a lot more teeth and claws as opposed to the recorded sound which can be quite smooth, but the response was amazing. We sold out the first three pressings of it, it was a national pick in HMV for a while, all those things that use to mean something ten, fifteen, twenty years ago! [Laughs] But the real response for us is and always will be how the fans take it. Y’know we see tattoo’s with the lyrics on, its nuts!”
It’s like, you’ve got that for life mate!?
“I know! [Laughs] But yeah the response from the crowd is, the fans themselves have been incredibly humbling; they love it. It’s fairly split though…people say ‘Ah we loved the first album you should go back to that traditional ska sound’ and other people come up and they go ‘Ah I’m so glad you’ve developed away from just being this big bouncy ska band’”
It needs more trumpet!
Tom: “Nobody, literally ever no one has ever come up to us and said where’s the trumpets gone?” [Laughs]
Obviously “Grazie Governo” translates as “Thank You Government”…what’s the message behind the album? Is there a specific meaning, is there a story?
“Absolutely…it’s a real life story, um, there was an eruption, and it was Mt. Etna…so this was in Sicily. And so the villagers of the surrounding towns had told the government COUNTLESS, countless times, that it was about to happen and they needed help, they needed money for infrastructure. They needed a way to actually save some of the things that they’ve, y’know, worked their whole life for; and the government ignored them. So countless times they asked, countless times they were ignored…when it erupted as they said it was going to, the lava destroyed everything in its path, as is it’s want coursing down this hill. One old man got out a wooden table and chairs outside the front of his house, opened a bottle of red wine, and in big red letters on the side of his house he wrote “Grazie Governo” as the lava was coming to take everything.”
So it’s all very much the statement really…
“Yeah it’s a real state of play, it’s a real current political message…I just feel that everybody in the current climate is slightly under-heard. I feel like as a race of people, or as a global community, we’re so under-represented by the people that are supposed to have power, and supposed to govern for us, so when I heard that story it was like, that’s it, that’s what we want to say…”
Punk rock and politics have always gone hand in hand, it’s always been that sort of, ideal fit, do you believe that, like you mentioned with today’s climate, do you think more bands or more artists in general should use their voice?
“They should be! There seems to be a real fucking lack of people with soapboxes actually using them, y’know? If you look at people like Stormzy; he is…if you look at bands like Fever 333; they are…you know there ARE some bands out there that are saying the right thing, and there are other bands that are just, happy to ignore it because, they’re getting funded to do so…in a lot of ways its like, don’t’ rock the boat as it were. For us we’ve always seen it as part of your social duty…it surprises us that more young bands AREN’T angrier, or if they are, they’re just not saying it, because we, for the first few years had people saying you are too political, you need to tone it down…you’re such a great band of musicians, you should be writing these pop songs you know that aren’t “Grazie Governo”, songs that aren’t calling Western democracy a terrorist state but, I don’t really care. We don’t really care as a band, how much we’re vindicated right now. That’s never been the thing for us, it’s never been the fame or the money I mean, fuck wanting to be a famous, rich punk musician; you’re barking up the completely wrong tree!”
I don’t think there’s such a thing as a rich punk musician! [Laughs]
[Laughs] “No, there’s not! I mean Lars Frederikson is close but he’s worked very hard to get it! But no like I said…y’know there SHOULD be more…but that’s not JUST in the music scene.”
There should be more people speaking out across the board…
“Absolutely, where widespread political unrest is, seriously gutting our countries, they’re mining our resources of human time and nature, and they’re turning it into profit per capita is just, greed. To me it’s just inherently wrong.”
Obviously given the current state of the UK with this whole Brexit clusterfuck, which, I’m not really going to go into, no one really wants to go into that…
“Yeah that’s a rabbit hole…”
You’ve got the Trump situation across the pond, and like you said a lot of artists ARE influential to young people, and they provide those people with a voice, and they should be doing a lot more to, even just encourage the interest…
“I agree, totally right, I mean we’ve always believed that, there needs to be a civil debate, across both sides of the spectrum…and there should always be civility and kindness, and y’know genuine human patience to one another to resolve any issues. But, again it’s kind of hard when, the only people to have a voice are the people that are designed to make you afraid…it becomes very, very tough.”
Speaking of across the pond just now, I believe its next month you’re embarking on a West Coast US tour…
“We are, absolutely yeah! It’s gonna’ be great, a bunch of the venues have sold out already! We’re going back to California, which we love, and it’s been nuts really. California was the first base that we went to, in earnest…we went over to the East Coast with the Street Dogs for a small run before that but, California was where we first felt at home in America. Now we’re going out to tour with Bad Cop / Bad Cop as well, and we’re gonna’ do Rock The Ship, for Pirates Press Records, which is insane! They’ve hired out this HUGE, US Navy air freighter, which picked up like, Apollo 13 or whatever, whichever one was successful and they didn’t all die! [Laughs] So yeah we’ve got that, and then we’ve got headline shows…we love tying it in with charitable action so, we’re doing some animal shelter fundraisers, bits like that. Then at the END of October we’re recording with Tim Armstrong…”
That would lead me nicely into my next question, I was going to ask is the current plan to primarily focus on touring or have you been thinking about or working on any new material?
“We’re kind of like musical sharks…we just don’t stop. Whilst we have been touring we’ve written around thirty eight new songs…and then we’ve picked our favorite twenty from that thirty. Now we get home from THIS tour in…two days, September twenty-something, and then we start eight days of pre-production on the album down in Devon a few days after, so we literally go straight from one to the other then come back after the recording of the album or, the beginning of the album, take three days off then we fly to America so uh, we’re busy; there’s focus on both. There might not be the same focus on both NEXT year, we might not be touring AS much, we’ll see.”
Is there any hinting at any new material in your current set? Are you testing the waters so to speak?
“Absolutely yes, that was one of the main drivers in booking the sessions when we did…you can’t know a song, like you’d know a friend, if you haven’t tested it in front of a live audience. That to us is like, our bread and butter so, what we’ve been doing every night of the tour, is we’ve been adding at least two new ones in from the new twenty, kind of seeing how they sink or seeing how they fly. But tonight, I’d imagine seeing how we’ve only got two nights left of the tour, we’re going to be playing about four or five new ones! See it’s our first ever headline show in Cardiff as well so, to us, everything’s new, no one knows us here yet!” [Laughs]
Well, all the best for tonight’s show, I’m sure it’s going to be a great night, and all the best for the American tour too, Tom, thank you very much.
“Thank you! Take care man!”
The Album “Grazie Governo” Is Available To Stream/Purchase Now.
For all music, merch and tour dates, visit http://thebarstoolpreachers.com/
Cover photo of Tom McFaull courtesy Of Gresle Photography