In the spotlight – Bleak Affair

In the spotlight – Bleak Affair

In the spotlight – Bleak Affair: Imagine Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Placebo went to the pub together and decided to write an EP. That’s how British band Bleak Affair describe their sound. Bleak Affair consist of two members: Ben Barnett (guitar/vocals) and James Oliver (guitar/Father Figure). They released their debut single ‘Sometimes’ in September. Let’s chat about their debut single and plans for the rest of the year.

Tell us about the origin story behind Bleak Affair. How and when did the band get together?

James: “Me and Ben met while working together back in 2017. We got talking about films and music one day and realised pretty quick that we’re into the exact same stuff. One night after a pretty rough day at work we decided to go for a beer. We started talking about the instruments we play and how we both missed playing in a band. A few beers later we were showing each other songs we’d written in old bands. From there we booked a few hours in a rehearsal studio so we could have a jam and see if there was any chemistry. Neither of us had played for a long time so we were both super rusty but we knew straight away there was something there.”

“We started meeting up regularly, originally with Ben on drums and me on guitar and vocals. It was really fun for us and we were writing a lot of songs but hadn’t quite found our sound yet. We all pretty much lost two years to Covid and lockdowns so once we were able to meet up again we wanted to get it moving. We decided the best way to get the sound we both wanted was to have both of us on guitar and Ben on lead vocals. At that point Bleak Affair started and ‘Sometimes’ followed.”

I was wondering, how did the name Bleak Affair come about?

James: “Coming up with a band name ended up being one of the hardest parts for us. We messed about with a load of different names in the time we’ve been playing together but none of them really felt right. We spent a couple of weeks pulling our hair out trying come up with a name. I remember being sat in a pub garden in Cambridge and seeing a building across the river with “Bleak House” written on it and thought it would be a good name for the band. Unfortunately after a quick Spotify search it turned out some other people thought it would be a good name for band as well. Luckily before we completely moved on, Ben’s girlfriend, Annie, suggested changing it to “Bleak Affair” and straight away we knew that was the one.”

Are there any influences that you would say have shaped your sound?

Ben: So so many. We’ve both got a really broad music taste, which I think is why it took us a bit longer than we expected to find our sound. Bands like Radiohead, Placebo, Foo Fighters and Queens Of The Stone Age are probably our biggest influences when it comes to our specific sound, I think we use little bit of all these guys when writing songs. But bands like Nirvana, The Beatles, Elliot Smith, Smashing Pumpkins – I could go on for hours, have a huge influence on both of us, especially when we were growing up. These were the bands that made us want to make music in the first place and they’re also the bands that kinda taught us how to write songs.”

You released your debut single ‘Sometimes’ last month. How are you feeling about it being out in the world?

James: “It’s super exciting for us. We’ve been playing music for most of our lives and played in other bands before this, but this is the best it’s ever felt, so for us to finally have something to share with everyone is a great feeling and the reception has been incredible.”

Did you celebrate the release in any way?

“The only way we know how, a little session down the pub.”

Tell us about the inspiration behind the song.

Ben: “I’ve always enjoyed songs that are neither happy nor sad but instead more of a matter of fact, with ‘Sometimes’ we were trying to emulate that feeling. Once I had used the word “sometimes” I realised it was a perfect way to summarise the ever changing situations of a person’s life without giving an opinion on those circumstances. We wanted the sound to facilitate the feeling of the lyrics through constant evolution until it reaches its conclusion both lyrically and sonically.”

With this being your debut single, what was the process like deciding what would be your musical introduction?

Ben: “It was interesting because ‘Sometimes’ was a song written and recorded in lockdown when we were in between sounds. At the time it didn’t quite fit so we never actually planned to release it and so it sort of just fell off our radar. A couple of months before its release we were going through a load of old tracks we’d written and we came across ‘Sometimes’. We listened to it over and over again, everything about it now felt perfect for the sound we’d been developing. We had a couple of sessions rewriting and re-recording parts and eventually it was ready to introduce us to the world.”

What can you tell us about the songwriting and recording process for your first release?

James: “It was really challenging but really fun at the same time. We were jamming over FaceTime during lockdown and Ben started playing a song he’d written the night before. It stood out to me straight away, it wasn’t like anything we’d written at the time, the guitar was really interesting and straight away I loved the lyrics. We spent the next couple of weeks jamming the track over FaceTime and sending logic files back and forwards over email. Ben would record his parts and send them to me, I would then record my parts and send them back. We did this back and forth until we were happy with it. It’s definitely the most interesting way we’ve written and recorded a song so far.”

What does ‘Sometimes’ mean to you?

Ben: “It will always be the beginning of the story for us no matter what happens. It’s a song that defines us perfectly and what we’re trying to do. It’s given us a great start and has set us up perfectly for what’s to follow.”

Do you write songs based on personal experiences?

Ben: “Our writing can definitely be affected by our moods or environment, but we rarely write based on personal experiences. Most of the time for us the lyrics come first and a story might emerge after. Overall we like our songs to be open to interpretation, we want the listener to imprint their own meaning and relationship on our songs.”

What are some of your biggest goals as a band with your music?

“The absolute dream is obviously headlining Glastonbury but right now we’ve got our sights set on our first UK tour. It would be incredible to travel the UK playing our music live.”

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

James: “We’re super busy at the moment writing and recording our first EP and we’re also putting a band together for live shows which is really exciting for us. So if all goes to plan we’ll be announcing a couple more singles and some live shows very soon.”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“This was really difficult because there are so many good tracks in this playlist. We’re gonna go for ‘45 Degrees’ by Takeaways. It’s got an early Arctic Monkeys feel to it which we were really into, it’s a really cool track.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“Our bonus track is Come At The King – ‘It’s Good Life’. We absolutely love what these guys are doing. This is their first single for two years and they’ve come back with an absolute banger. Everyone should go check it out.”

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(Photo credits: Phoebe Christoforou)