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Interview: Cabbage


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Cabbage are not a band for the faint hearted. Their tracks about quiches containing a certain bodily fluid and the failures of network rail have become, for many, the soundtrack to post-Brexit (apocalyptic?) Britain.

Having toured across Britain, Cabbage have left no stone unturned, especially on their ‘Healing Brexit Towns Experiment Tour’. They recently played venues such as 53 Degrees in Preston, Ku Bar in Stockton and Holmfirth’s Picturedrome - and are about to take the stage at University of London’s Student Union, a rather unique yet monumental venue in the capital.

Discussing this, Lee sounded more like an excited, giddy child than a ‘cool’ frontman of a popular indie band.

“I’m pretty excited” he says. “I’ve heard it’s a really good venue. I think a lot of people have been thinking it’s a very strange choice. I spoke to a journalist before who told me about a very famous Butthole Surfers gig that happened there in the 90s so I suppose it’s created a lot of mystique and I’m intrigued for the band to play there.

“[The Brexit Town Tour’s] not something we’d really thought of before until now but when the management came up with the idea to play these towns it made a lot of sense. We’ve experienced the big cities and already four days into this tour we’ve realised what a great idea it has been and how the town experience is a completely different vibe.”

However, the band are expected to be met at the venue with a student protest. Earlier in the year, whilst supporting Kasabian, lead singer Lee was accused of sexual assault by an onlooking gig-goer. Since, the claim has been retracted and the band now work alongside SafeGigs4Women to raise awareness of the dangers women face in venues - though there is a still a bitter taste left in the mouth of many music fans.

“There’s an element of awareness which has gone up almost double since the incident," Lee says, "and I think it's not only in the band, it’s everyone in the room. At a Cabbage gig everybody feels that awareness now.

"From all the negative connotations and all the bad things that have happened, the positive to come out of it all is the raised awareness and you can see in the audience people doing that and looking out for one another.

"Our relationship with SafeGigs4Women is great, we’ve taken some of their posters and put them up to always make sure the people in the venue are aware.

“We are so vigilant now on stage because I know off the back of it there’s been a few scenarios where bands have been the ones to spot the issue.

"At first it was really difficult because I felt so betrayed by something so preposterous. You get the feeling that you don't even want to perform anymore. We got over it now and we are in a much stronger position now to put a 100% guarantee that everyone at our gigs, particularly women, feel extremely safe.”

Northern at heart, the theory that London is the ‘centre of the universe’ seems to be backed by many a band, but Cabbage know that the capital isn’t the be all and end all of their musical career.

“We are such a staple band in the North that I don't think playing in London will affect us. It’s nice to play in the capital every so often, and we only recently played Scala and sold that out. We thought it was pretty early to get back down there, but the capital is so important and it’s the capital of every industry, whether that be film art or politics, everything. So it’s important to get down there, but can’t say it’s going to change anything.

“I don’t think it would make any difference if we played with bands from the South because there are so many great bands from there, but there’s like an underlining connection between Northern bands. It’s almost like a silent agreement between one another ,like we are all part of a Northern mafia…”

Though it sometimes feels like the band have skipped the queue to become one of the biggest bands of the North (they’ve only been around two years), they still tour smaller venues - though Lee does say he’s sad that there aren’t any venues in to play in their hometown of Mossley.

"We’ve played The Rising Sun pub before but unfortunately we could only get about 30 people in there. We are aiming in the future to play Seel Park, Mossley A.F.C ground and we are working hard on that."

When asked to describe the fans they see gig to gig, Lee exclaims that “They’re wide eyed maniacs!” 

He adds: “Leeds on Saturday was at times slightly worrying because there was no barrier and there was a crush, but what I notice is that in the audience, although it is out of control, people help others get up so its really nice.

"There is one style that is regular at Cabbage gigs and it’s the '50-year-old punk that’s seen everything’, and he's normally got a blazer, a black post punk band t shirt, some battered jeans, docs and some strange hairstyle. If anything if there’s someone I want at our gigs it’s someone who's seen it all before. And then you get the young pups at the front who just want to cause mayhem.

“My favourite thing about Manchester used to be the back room in Gullivers. It was a really great meeting place and at the time, all the bands from Manchester would spend all night in the back room until it shut. My favourite thing now is probably the people in the street, they’re pretty cool. If you meet anybody in the pub you can have a talk or a chat with them, and I think that’s what people in the North struggle the most with when they go down to London. I remember the first time I went to London and talking to someone in the street and it was just such an alienating experience. Manchester is really warming and they should be proud of that.”

Staying local, whether it be writing tunes about Manchester or working with producers situated in the North, is clearly of importance to Cabbage. Before signing to Infectious Records, Cabbage worked with Skeleton Key Records, owned by James Skelly of The Coral. Lee suggests they’re more than working partners and rather, a close knit family in the chaos of the music industry.

“Skeleton Key was just the grandest opportunity we had at the time, not that we would have wanted anything different. When opportunities come your way you know when they’re right. Skeleton Key was a blindingly obvious one.

“Although we have moved onto a different bigger indie label, we still continue to work with James Skelly because the friendship and partnership we’ve created is rolled into the debut album that we will be doing under Infectious Records. There’s a sense in Manchester and our management that it’s a family and we have stepped into this. James did Blossoms’ debut album and now he has done our album, which is great for James because it can show the diversity of how he can work.

"Us and Blossoms couldn't get any further away from each other so in my eyes he has completely nailed both genres of music in the album so we look forward to getting that out and showing people.”

Though Young, Dumb and Full of Cabbage is technically the band’s debut album, Lee explains Cabbage don’t see it as such.

“We wanted to do [the album] but we were only 10 months into our career so we just thought it would be better if we split the album up into three EPs. We released an EP once each month and then at the end we released them as a compilation album, so that’s why it’s not technically our debut album… it’s a debut compilation album.”

They are not shy of teasing their fans by releasing EPs rather than an LP, but it's less of a marketing scheme and more of a way of giving fans quicker access to their music. 

Their love of Manchester often inspires the band’s work; iconic Mancunian street performers The Piccadilly Rats are one of Cabbage’s biggest inspirations.

“They’re great, it’s mind blowing… and if they’re bad, it’s still mind blowing, whatever you’re going to get. For us it epitomises everything we wanted Cabbage to be. It’s street theatre at it’s finest and every single member of the band is such a strong character. It’s just like watching a TV series every time you walk past them each week. It’s so fantastic. At the start of Cabbage’s career we really wanted to meet them, we really wanted to tell them how much they inspired us and eventually we did meet them. But now it’s flipped on it’s head, they will be busking on Saturday and people will walk up to them in the street and say ‘oh my god you’re Cabbage’s favourite band’. It’s a nice full circle of influence.

“It’s hard to say where we get our inspiration from. The lyrics are just what we spent the week talking about or I’ve thought ‘shit! I really want to write a song about that’. It’s just a natural calling of something we want to do at that time. I’d never want to insight a riot with our music otherwise we would just be a lame Kaiser Chiefs! It’s completely up to people how they take it; we are very passionate about what we sing about. 

“Songs like ‘Necroflat in the Palace’ refers to the Royal Family as lizards and the only element of truth in that is that Jimmy Saville had a place to stay in Buckingham Palace whenever he wanted, so we mutated that truth and created something much more out of this world about it.

"The stories about Marilyn Manson and Eminem show they had a lot of trouble because people took their songs too literally. There’s an element of being intellectual enough to know what to take seriously and what to laugh at.”

Besides touring up and down the country and creating the soundtrack to post Brexit doomed Britain, Cabbage also take time out to help raise awareness of homelessness in the UK. Cabbage recently headlined the 20th anniversary gig of Emmaus Mossley and are also set to headline Musicians Against Homelessness on 10th November at The Leadmill in Sheffield. Should musicians feel they have a responsibility to be the ones preventing political problems?

“I don’t think we have a responsibility at all as musicians, maybe as politicians we have but fucking hell they don't do anything, so they leave it to the musician to take care of things.

"There’s no responsibility at all but as I’ve said before, so many people have a fanatical obsession over music, (it's) god-like to some people, so it’s the best way to spread things if you feel strongly about anything. Music is the best way to spread the word.”

Cabbage are currently touring on their ‘Healing Brexit Towns Experiment’ tour which includes Peterborough, Dundee, Cumbria, Bedford and Wolverhampton. Tickets can be purchased here:

Tickets to the band's ULU show TONIGHT can be purchased here:

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