Interview: Gen and The Degenerates

Interview: Gen and The Degenerates

Words and Photographs by Gary Lambert

I’ve met singers and bands in all manner of locations. Meeting them in back street pubs, recording studios, photo studios, and taken them to a flat above a shop to play table football, a tunnel used by late night drunks and graffiti artists (we went in the day for safety), or even into a women’s toilet in a gig venue in order to get the photographs we have needed for Popped Music. Never though have I had a message like the one I received from Gen and The Degenerates, “we are going for band tattoos tomorrow, do you want to meet us and do the interview then?”. There was no way that I could turn down such an opportunity despite the fact that tattoos make me so queasy that I once tried six of them in Liverpool city centre to pop my tattoo cherry, and scored a total of zero tattoos and six separate panic attacks.

I was greeted at the door of Design 4 Life tattoos on Liverpool’s Lime Street, by several Degenerates looking far more smart and clean than the name would apply. I was to be rushed straight up the stairs as the eponymous heroine, Gen, was getting her tattoo done that moment, and they did not want me to miss the photo opportunity of her looking less “on brand” than you would expect. Alas for them, Gen does not do off brand and as soon as I asked for permission to take the photo, she turned to me with a smile that said “I own this moment”. That’s the thing about this band, they don’t look live in the moment, they look to take control of the moment. Every moment the band is together is an opportunity for their ambitions to be seized.

Apparently these band tattoos had been in planning for quite a while which goes to show you the intensity within Gen and The Degenerates given that they’ve only been together for roughly a year. “We’d been talking about it but getting round to doing so for quite a bit, and then it was a case of we’re all in Liverpool this week so Gen came in and booked it. Jay and Sean are seeing one tattooist, and Gen, Jake and Evan with the other dude you saw”.

The inking though is not just a rock n roll thing, it connects a very close band together forever no matter what happens. They might not share DNA, but “it’s like being in a family made up of five of your best mates, it’s hectic but fun”.

For those who are yet to be introduced to the band, I’d describe them as a punk band but whereas traditional blues underpinned the sound of Sex Pistols, for Gen and the Degenerates the foundations are in soul. It’s why recent release Weatherman, which we will come to later, has not been that much of a shock to the senses despite being far less unruly than their previous drops.

The band are a great example of the fates knitting together to create a something special. How did they meet? Well The Degenerates all knew each other by various degrees from their upbringing in Leyland, but then life sent two of them to Liverpool John Moores university where a girl from Cambridge was on the hunt for a telephone number for a taxi firm. Soon enough they had progressed from chatting to singing around an acoustic guitar or two, which then progressed to recording using an old wardrobe covered in blankets to dampen the sound. By this stage, Jay had left Leyland in order to join in the fun although he was still a while away from joining the band fully. He recollects Friday nights getting glared at by Jake for talking whilst drinking cheap cans of whatever beer was on offer whilst Gen took on the world in her DIY vocal booth, in particular a track of theirs called Natural Disaster as well as the fledgling versions of Money and Weatherman.

Gen, “We just had to use what we had available to us at the time. I had been writing acoustic songs since I was seventeen. It was only when we sat down and realised that we had almost everything we needed to form a proper band that we moved on to that. I don’t miss those simple days though, I’m really happy with how we are now. We didn’t do any proper live gigs before this, it was just a hobby with the occasional open mic night suggest by our uni lecturer. We weren’t a band until Jay and Evan joined us”.

The gang was not complete though until Jake and Evan were working opposite each other in a grim call centre. A conversation ensured about people they knew in Leyland and quickly enough a drummer was found and The Degenerates were whole.

It isn’t an easy life being a Degenerate though. The band is now split between Liverpool and Leyland, and with people having full time jobs a lot of time is spent travelling around to gigs and rehearsals. “It’s hectic, finishing work, getting to the gig, and a lot of the time Gen is actually running the gig so there are different layers to our busyness. And as we’re a band we are not that good at timekeeping”. But going on how they smashed opening up at Popped Music’s stage at Threshold Festival the next day, it is worth the risk of the drummer and guitarist turning up late for soundcheck when they can perform so electrically.

It is not just a live proposition though despite their obvious proficiency in that area. Recently released single, Weatherman, has shown the talents of the band probably to a higher degree than the earlier high energy releases. “It’s quite a transitional song for the band, and the whilst the first two weren’t exactly speedy, there was definitely a lot of energy in them. But we thought we would release Weatherman as it let us show that we are not just one type of band. We have other vibes and range. We all have different influences and try to pull the sound in different directions. I’d say we each listen to very different music to each other, but because of that we create songs that have something in them to keep each member of the band happy. We appreciate each other’s skills in the field of songwriting”.

It seems to be that Gen, who writes all lyrics, and Sean tend to take more of a hands-on approach to giving birth to their tunes. “We all make a contribution, but sometimes Gen and Sean will bring in a full song, and other times it is just the spark of an idea which then everybody joins in with to flesh it out. We are planning on recording Cocaine, which probably won’t be called that when it is released as we will have thought of a better name by then, and that one came about very naturally when it was written. It started off with Jake playing a dumb, simple riff, and then Jay started to play over it. We all quickly reacted like ‘well that sounds good’. And it all came from us titting about to start with. That was the first time we had written a song together. It made us all feel like we knew this was a good gang to have together”.

“We are going into the studio next month for three days and hopefully we are going to come out with some singles and, eventually, an EP. The schedule is to release more records, probably every other month. We’ve got a big summer banger coming next”.

I was wondering with Gen’s position at the forefront of everything that the band do, whether some of the Degenerates would find it difficult being in the background, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. As Jay says “well there is only me and Gen who have big egos in the band, so if I was standing behind someone who was sub-par it may be a bit different, but Gen deserves to be the centre of attention, she commands it, she owns it. Sean, Jake and Ev are happy to let their music do their talking for them too”.

I could not agree with this more. Gen is the sort of frontperson who makes you watch them rather than needs you to watch them. Gen sees her bandmates in, dare I say it, a maternal light. “Sometimes the others aren’t good at putting themselves forward. They’re all very clever and very good once you’re in a conversation with them or you let them show you what they can do. But none of them would ever start that conversation themselves. Whereas I’m like HELLOOOO”.

“Gen’s right and it works” confirmed Jay. “I moved here to be in a band with Sean and Jake like we had been in school, but it needed Gen. She is the final piece in the puzzle. Obviously it came out of their acoustic project that morphed into this”.

I still can’t get my head around the idea of these being in an acoustic project, but out of unplugged acorns, rock n roll grows. Gen and The Degenerates are definitely rock n roll.

Listen to Weatherman here:
2 Responses to “Interview: Gen and The Degenerates”
  1. bingingonabudget says:

    Thanks for sharing, very good interview. Do you do interviews on your blog often?


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