The most unassuming rock stars in the world, We Are Parkas are one of Bath Spa’s most explosive indie rock bands yet. After a year together, playing a string of shows around Bath and Bristol, SpaLife met with three quarters of the band in Oldfield Park’s quirky café bar, the Velo Lounge, ahead of their EP release.
“You’ve gotta be a bit of a dick, haven’t ya?” Explains Matt Banks, the band’s frontman, as he tells us what it’s like to be the band’s resident twat. It’s “palpable charisma,” according to lead guitarist Owen Stephens. “I have a duty to the name of frontman, [which is] also the name of twat,” Matt continues, winking as he helps himself to another cup of tea.
You’d think the most irritating member would be Matt, but “we’re all really irritating,” says Joe Heffell, the band’s drummer. “It’s a cycle of being really annoyed with everyone.”
“Maybe that’s why we get on so well,” Owen says, smirking at the others. “We’re both irritating and irritable at the same time. That’s the best bit.” The boys expect that one day their bassist, George Hopkins, will come to rehearsal with a “massive paragraph of lyrics about [them] irritating each other.”
However, as the boys sit around the table drinking tea and laughing, the irritation is obviously not too severe. Their quick wit and constant banter is an indicator of the band’s chemistry which clearly feeds into their live shows – where they can really blow off steam.
Having met on the Commercial Music course, after a gruelling three-day showcase – with the added inspiration of Matt’s arguably iconic coat – We Are Parkas was born.
“Matt was wearing his parka and everyone had already cottoned onto the fact that Matt was born in the wrong era and the wrong place. He should’ve been from 90s Manchester … ‘Parkas’ was already taken so we added ‘we are’,” says Owen. “It’s amazing what two words can do,” says Matt, his parka slung over his chair.
When it comes to gigging, We Are Parkas are “completely incapable of organising [themselves],” but somehow they manage to pull it off, delivering an energetic performance every time. “You can’t be too drunk on stage,” says Owen, for obvious reasons, “ … you can tell how drunk Joe is by how much he stands up while he’s playing the drums.”
Their natural charisma combined with Matt’s stage presence, is really the main driving force behind their live shows. “Alcohol brings out another side of us that actually makes us perform a bit better,” says Matt, using his improved showmanship as well as the band’s heightened energy levels, to justify alcoholism.
As for the We Are Parkas sound, they are a “more aggressive Nirvana” fused with influences from The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or “anything groovy with attitude.” The band leave the songwriting to Matt, who’s got a “big book of lyrics that grows everyday.”
He does a good job of it too; his lyrics are memorable and poetic. ‘The holders of hands walking underneath the rain/ Trying to escape a never-ending pain’ sings Matt in their debut single, ‘Swallow Me Whole’. Backed by the band’s heavy instrumentals combined with their confident attitude, We Are Parkas have the thrilling momentum and power to sell out venues and fill arenas one day.
Their music is worth sinking your teeth into; it’s meaty, it’s tender and above all else, tough. We Are Parkas are sizzling with potential and not to be messed with.
We Are Parkas released their debut EP We Are The Gods on 23 March.
Words by Annabel Miller
Featured image: “We Are Parkas. Left to right: Owen Stephens, Joe Heffell, Matt Banks and George Hopkins.” © Evie Blackburn