The Blinders arrived in a bit of a whirlwind for me as I was ordered by a friend to attend their show at Manchester Academy 2 back in October 2018. I had liked what I’d heard on the radio, but the anticipation in the room that night was special. Anyone who is anyone in Manchester was there. And to justify the buzz, on stage arrived a fully formed, quite mature-sounding, band. The energy at which the band lead by Thomas Haywood performance-ready with Kiss-like makeup dripping off his face was infectious, and I quickly found myself deep amongst the adoring fans standing before him singing every word to every song.
You couldn’t help but be impressed. Transfixed almost.
A year on and the promotion for the first album Columbia wraps up nicely this year with another appearance at the ever-growing and quite simply wonderful NBHD festival (1 wristband for 15 major Manchester city-centre venues for 1 whole day of music from over 100 bands). We caught up for a chat to learn all about just what the hell happened in the last 10 years – spoiler alert – it was mainly Arctic Monkeys…
THOMAS HAYWOOD – THE BLINDERS
J: How did you all meet?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: We met when we were very young at school. We floated around one another’s circles because of our tastes in music and used to jam together for a couple of hours almost every day. It’s been like that ever since, except now we live in Manchester and we’re butchering our own songs instead of other peoples.
J: Where does the name come from? Are you fans of Peaky Blinders…?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: It comes from the hot topic TV show, The Peaky Blinders, yes. We couldn’t think of a name so we jumped on top of that with all intentions to change it. We were going to be called Judge, Jury and The Executioner.
J: What genre of music does The Blinders slot into? You have supported Blossoms but I can also imagine you at Ozzfest…
THOMAS HAYWOOD: I imagine that’s because we ride the same veins as both Blossoms and bands you might find on a bill like Ozzfest. Tom Ogden speaks as endearingly as myself when it comes to Alex Turner’s lyrical worth, but then I have a tattoo on my arm I’ve had since I was 17 of Black Sabbath’s Lucifer symbol.
J: The makeup is iconic – how did it develop? It adds a mystery and darkness to your presence on stage but what does it represent for you?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: It was never something I sat down and thought about. I just did it and never stopped to a point where I couldn’t go on stage and perform without it. I’ve tried to play without it on and I’m completely hopeless. So, going back to your question, I suppose it represents a mask.
J: You’ve stated your love for Arctic Monkeys before – which era and album of theirs do you associate with most?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: Arctic Monkey’s ‘Humbug’ is an essential to The Blinders. I can confidently say that without it we would not exist in the way we do today.
I remember the first time I heard it my step-father had brought a copy home the day it came out, I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time. We went out to sit in the car and listen to it because the car had the best stereo system. He played the first track and said something like ‘What’s this rubbish? This isn’t the Arctic Monkeys.’ We sat in silence and listened to the record in it’s entirety. When it was over, my step-father made another unsavoury remark and we got out and headed inside. That evening I went back to the car and grabbed it from the car’s stereo and put it into my CD player. I’d never heard anything like it in my life.
As I got older and became more experimental in both lifestyle and music taste, the record kept on unravelling secret sounds and pathways in songs like ‘Dangerous Animals’ and ‘Potion Approaching’. The only other record that has gripped the same way since is probably Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Humbug is my bible. It taught me how to write songs.
J: You also have a song called Ramona Flowers – do you prefer the Scott Pilgrim books or the film?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: The Scott Pilgrim comics are really good fun and in fact are great bathroom reading material, but there’s something about Edgar Wright’s spin on the whole thing.
I wrote Ramona when I was 17 years-old, stoned out of my mind whilst watching the film on repeat for a whole weekend. I was obsessed with Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s portrayal of the character and so I wrote her a poem.
J: Your music features in advertisements (I’m thinking of a certain betting app in particular) – do you have much say on this kind of thing?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: Commercial use of tracks is one of the ways record labels get a return in the modern music world. We have some say on the whole thing, but in this case the advert has gone on longer than we expected. We have our opinions on the matter but it’s being used so that’s that. Would we change our minds given the opportunity today? Probably. But if it’s a track on James Bond or the Peaky Blinders, then you’re God damn right we’re taking the money.
J: What is the significance of the French language in your music? Will it feature again in album 2?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: L’etat C’est Moi was a well known phrase in our history books at school.
[it translates as “The State is Me”, i.e. wielding absolute power, unrivaled by nobles or a legislative branch of government]
Supposedly said by the ‘Sun King’, Louis XIV, the idea of the phrase excited us and so we decided to write a song around it.
Slightly off topic, I’m a complete Francophile. I have a fascination with Rimbaud, Serge Gainsbourg, Jaques Dutronc, Bridgette Bardot, and one day hope to move to Paris.
J: We’re a pop culture blog – how would you sum up the past decade?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: If I could use one word I’d choose seismic. Politically, it’s been one of the most important decades in modern history. The rise in popularity of liberal and humanist ideals is comforting to me. But at the same time the surge of the far-right is frightening beyond belief. The future of the country we live in is still uncertain and across the pond we’ve gone from a socially engaging President to a mad-man running the show.
The overall understanding and even open-armed acceptance of the LGBT+ movement gives me faith in ourselves as humans although there is still a long way to go and the threat of a climate crisis is finally being taken seriously (by most). The whole flat earth thing was a bit strange though.
Film and music is at the best it’s been for a long time. 2016 was a weird one. So many musicians dying but so many great albums.
On a personal level, I don’t think there will be a more important period of time. I’ve been a child, a teenager and an adult in this decade. My childhood was wonderful, my teenage years confusing and my adulthood so far as been taxing. You’ve just got to ride the weird wave I suppose.
J: What does the future hold for The Blinders?
THOMAS HAYWOOD: We definitely intend on continuing to exist in it, if that’s what you mean.
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