Interview: Gen and The Degenerates

Gen and The Degenerates

Words and Photos by Gary Lambert

Live photography by Aimee Asbury-Luck

One of the biggest difficulties I have in doing the work I love with Popped Music is that some of the bands I want to talk about I have also worked closely with personally.  It makes me worry that I am not being objective enough with the band – or that I’m skewing their words to say what I want them to say.  The band I’ve been working closest with is Gen and The Degenerates.  I’ve been their tour manager, tour photographer, and generally Daddy Degenerate when it comes to looking after them pastorally.  It has been over a year though since Popped Music caught up with the gang, so with a new release on the horizon, I thought the time was right to catch up again.  Plus with the Rules of

Lockdown meaning that we couldn’t meet up, I put the dictaphone down and used Facebook Messenger instead so you definitely have the band in their own words.

Gen and The Degenerates 4

Popped Music: So the last time we met you were all getting your band tattoos, is the band love still as tight?
Jay: Of course it is.
Jake: Tighter
Jay: Yeah, tighter is right.
Sean: If this lot says it’s true it must be.  I’ll just say I love them under duress.
Evan: In my opinion it’s never been stronger.  I reckon the bond we have is so tight that it is on the point of being weird.
Gen: We are unhealthily attached.
Sean: In all seriousness, it is pretty ridiculous, such a unit.
Jay: Yeah, we’re getting closer to forming our own language.
Sean: It’s almost at the point that it could be alienating to other people.
Gen: We are still friendly though!
Evan: It’s not intentional, but I do see where Sean is coming from.  I think we do get caught up in our own bubble.  But like when we were on tour, we brought Getrz into that bubble rather than keeping people away.
Jake: We are definitely tighter too on stage than we were a year ago.
Gen: Yeah, any decent people are allowed into the gang.
Sean: I think it helped that Getrz slotted into the gang very easily.
Gen: You’ve just gotta be down for chaos and silliness.

Popped Music: You mentioned being on tour with GETRZ, how was that?
Gen: Big fun
Sean: Amazing
Jake: We saw a rainbow.
Sean: Just the best possible experience you could hope for on your first tour.
Gen: I climbed on so many things.  A barrel, a speaker stack, a staircase, a balcony.  It made our roadie Peel very nervous.
Evan: I think we couldn’t have had a better time.  Nothing really went wrong, and we just vibes around the UK for a week.
Jake: The gear survived and sounded great, AND we saw a rainbow.  What more could you ask for?
Evan: Yeah, a big shoutout too to our roadie Peel, our manager Zander, and our Tour Manager/Driver/Photographer (you, Gary) for ensuring our survival and that the experience was so good.
Evan: We did lose one piece of gear on the first night mind you.
Jake: What?
Evan: The SPD (Note: Electronic drum pad)
Gen: Yeah, Evan’s little robot friend.
Evan: It’s deffo a goner.  RIP SPD.
Jake: Oh yeah.  But we were able to play without it.
Evan: Yeah, it just had our intro tracks and samples on it.  We can manage without it, but it was annoying because we’d just finalised the set using it.

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Gen: My favourite gig was at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham.  We’d played in the city, but not at that venue before.
Jay: In terms of the tour, we were so lucky when we booked it because if it was even a few days later, it would have been cancelled by the government for Lockdown.  It just wouldn’t have happened.

Popped Music: What have been some other gig highlights for you?  You’ve supported some big hitters over the last year.
Gen: Supporting Zuzu with Munkey Junkey at her hometown show was my favourite!
Sean: Yeah, the Zuzu show was a definite highlight.
Evan: Zuzu in Liverpool was probably the best night we’ve had.  Sitting down in front of that many people in Arts Club was mad.
Sean: To play a venue that size, that was packed out, was fucking awesome.
Jake: It was very fun.
Sean: We had some major technical difficulties at the start. But it was great.
Evan: It was rock n roll mate.
Sean: Yeah…. In the first song my guitar strap snapped and Gen’s dress decided to fuck off.  Someone had to throw her one of our t-shirts from the merch desk to wear.
Gen: Oh yeah, my dress fell off during the Zuzu show.  That was just fantastic…. Just me in my bra and knickers in front of hundreds of people.
Jake: When we supported Zuzu I got to use my Strat live for the first time which was very nice.
Evan: Also we got to support Strange Bones again which was a vibe.  And the WSTR show was mad.
Gen: Playing with Strange Bones again was sick.  Those boys are insane.  So good.  My stupid friend took acid though.  I had to stay up until sunrise looking after them whilst they ate jelly and sang Taylor Swift songs.  We’ve had such a great time in terms of live shows.  Especially considering we are such a baby of a band still.  We’ve only just turned two during Lockdown.  We had a Zoom party with drinks to celebrate.

Popped Music: As you get more experienced, do you find songwriting coming easier to you?
Gen: Songwriting has always come fairly easy to us.
Sean: Yeah, I’ve always found songwriting easy.
Jay: I’ve been writing less, but practicing a lot more.
Evan: Usually songwriting is a very democratic process for us when we are allowed to get together and rehearse.
Jay: We’ve known each other for that long that songwriting has felt pretty much a natural process.
Sean: Yeah, I think you’re always improving as you practice and learn.  And listening to new music constantly helps you too.
Gen: Sometimes my lyrics can take a bit longer than the melody.
Jay: We all know that as a collective we want our art to be as good as it can possibly be, so that does mean disagreements happen at times.  It’s a passion for us all.
Evan: Yeah, we really know the sound of Gen and The Degenerates now, so our collective ideas for music are very much aligned these days.
Gen: We’re a hive mind now.
Evan: I don’t think any of us feel limited by genre constraints or are afraid to try what might be weird stuff.  The only criteria is that we have to think it sounds good and it suits the band.
Sean: I think we all have different styles that we tend toward in terms of playing, writing, and production which can occasionally result in a little conflict but I think that tension and mélange of sounds is where the best stuff comes from.  With all bands that’s where the magic happens.  And as Ev said, we all listen to so much different stuff there’s rarely, if ever, a feeling of constraint.

Gen and The Degenerates 3Popped Music: What is the most excited you’ve been when writing a song?
Evan: One that we’ve yet to release.
Gen: If you’ve seen us live, you’ll know the line “I love rock n roll more”…
Evan: Me and Jake spent about three or four nights writing the main idea, and I adore it with all my heart.
Sean: Yeah, I think the ones I’ve been most exciting about have not yet been released.  Ooh!  We’re such teases.
Evan: The way that song came together with us all inputting and finally Kurran helped to polish has made it possibly my favourite tune.
Gen: Even my ex who knows it was written about them likes it.  That’s gotta be a good thing.  To be fair, I think when we wrote Cocaine a year ago we were all really excited about it.
Sean: Yeah, Cocaine was exciting because it happened so naturally.  It was almost accidental.
Gen: There was a moment after we played that where we all knew that we had something pretty special.  Like we’d had loads of fun before, but then that was like “oh fuck, this is gonna work”.
Sean: Yeah, for sure.
Evan: That was the first time that a song that had been written by the band had stood apart from the original songs that Gen had written.
Sean: It felt like a vindicating moment.
Evan: Also it’s when I felt really comfortable and confident about being in the band.
Sean: And it was the first fully collaborative effort that was written entirely in rehearsal rather than me or Gen bringing a fully written song along.  It was born from jamming together which is always nice.
Evan: I think it confirmed that we could work well together as a band in terms of writing and playing in addition to getting along personally.
Jay: Yeah, it felt good bringing the pieces together out of nothing rather than having any specific plan.  I think when we get on a roll with something it’s great because we all just egg each other on to do better.  You know when someone throws in a little fill or a line, and we all know together and give them The Face.
Sean: Absolutely.  And it has set the template as how we write songs now.  I mean there will still be times when one of us brings in most or all of a song, but I think the exciting and rewarding moments are the songs that you just pull out of the air at rehearsal.  It’s pure chemistry.

Popped Music: So how did you end up revisiting Cocaine?
Jay: Cocaine, as you can tell, was a song with a big place in our hearts.
Sean: And it’s been our set closer ever since we wrote it, so we’ve always loved it.  And it has always had this danceable groove to it which made it the perfect track of ours to rework as a remix.  Jake, this is now your cue to take over the conversation.
Jake: Yo!  Right basically we got the stems from Dave and thought it would be a cool idea to write a remix based around how the bad was originally formed before the ultimate rhythm section joined us.  So with that nod to our past, plus I am a massive fan of drum and bass, The Gang let me go ahead and have an outlet for my love of electronic music.  Also, doing the remix also has given us an excuse to release the full-length version of Cocaine.

Popped Music: Does the progression of the band expand on your ambitions as well as the music?  I notice there are no longer any shy people on stage.
Jay: I think just gigging in general has brought that confidence out.
Sean: Hahaha, yeah.  I mean I’ve always gone pretty bananas on stage in terms of thrashing about, but not necessarily in terms of playing up for cameras and whatnot.  I’ll absolutely fess up to that change in me.  But I think you just get more comfortable as you go on with elements of your performance.
Gen: I have never struggled with being shy.
Jake: I think we’ve all been playing shows since we were about 15 so there is a natural confidence.
Gen and The Degenerates 2Gen: To be fair, I definitely didn’t like myself before I joined this band.  It’s improved my internal confidence so much even if the external confidence was always there.
Sean: I’ve never been one to particularly enjoy being the centre of attention though I’m now learning to erm enjoy that sort of thing.  Just a tiny bit.
Evan: I must say it is easier when you’ve got four of your best mates all on the same wavelength.  Like when you have confidence in your own ability and in our songs.  Once we’re in that zone, there’s no room for worrying that people are watching.
Sean: Yeah, for sure.  I think that pure pack mentality gives you confidence by proxy or osmosis.  You’re surrounded by people you trust with anything and that you feel totally comfortable with.
Gen: We’ve always had big plans though.  Especially Evan.  He’s been hyping about stadium tours from Day 1.  That may be why he hits the drums so hard.
Evan: Anybody in the gang will tell you that we expect to have headlined every festival on the planet one day.
Sean: We don’t want to be good, or great.  We want to be the best.  I don’t just want to be huge or famous, I want to be huge because we’ve worked hard to become the best at what we do.
Evan: Listen, if you don’t want to play stadiums what’s the point?  I wannabe a rock star, and I just want to play drums.  So I will play drums forever until it happens.  I don’t mean it in a snobby way but each time we play a bigger venue I feel like we fully deserve that opportunity.  So far we’ve smashed every step up we’ve been given the opportunity to try.
Jay: I think we have the songs, and will have more of the songs, to play those stages one day.  I totally believe in our creative ambition.
Gen: And the journey, that’s the fun bit not the end.  If it was just handed to us on a plate, I’d just be thinking of what’s next.  I’m not someone who can be content with what I’ve achieved.  I like to celebrate it, but then it’s a case of how can we make this better.
Sean: I want to learn to be great.  Like Gen said, it’s the journey to that which matters rather than anything else.
Evan: I feel like these days it is very obvious how hard it is for bands to succeed and I completely get why it’s just too much sometimes for people.  But in my head, we will work until we drop to be the band we want to be, and you can reference me on that in fifteen years time if you want.  I’ll be happy to say “I told you so”.
Gen and Sean: Ride or Die baby.
Evan: I’m more than happy to be a pain in the arse telling people to check out my band until it reaches a point where I don’t need to tell them to check us out.
Jay: If you’re not here for the debt, you’re not there for the jet.

Please click here to pre-save the forthcoming release.

 

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