Thursday, 13 April 2017

An Interview With THE LUKA STATE ~ 07.04.17

The Luka State are a Winsford based four-piece made up of Conrad Ellis, Lewis Pusey, Jake Barnabas and Sam Bell. They've spent the last few years perfecting their own magnificent brand of rock n' roll, which has seen them receive high acclaim and airplay from the likes of Q Magazine, BBC Introducing, Radio 1 and This Feeling. Their industrious work ethic saw them complete a gargantuan world tour in 2016, playing shows not only on home turf in and around the UK but also as far out as Germany, Poland and Canada. All of this aside the band are keen to retain an intimate connection between themselves and their ever expanding fanbase, regularly travelling far and wide to play house party gigs across the continent.

The band host a regular web show titled 'Listen To This', in which they recommend and review the crème de la crème of British up and coming and unsigned talent, thus "Giving rock n' roll the voice it deserves." This alone showcases their passion for music, and their drive to not only succeed themselves but to support and bring something to the music industry as a whole. Already, this year has seen them release new music, by way of the swaggering 'Lies, Lies, Lies' and the opulent 'Bring This All Together'. One thing's for sure... 2017 is going to be the year of The Luka State.

I was able to chat with the band upon their long awaited return to the North for a gig at the Frog & Parrot in Sheffield for AMP Live Presents. I've met them on a number of occasions now, and am always struck by their warmth and humble nature.  

How and when did you first come together as a band?
Conrad: Me and Sam have been in bands together since we were 12, and then about 3 years ago we started this project. Jake came on board first and we were a three-piece, and then we were looking for another guitarist. Me and Pusey went to school together.
Sam: I'd known him since we were about 12! We'd been a three-piece for so long that it never really crossed my mind that he'd still play guitar. We were watching an Oasis tribute band where we're from and they were rubbish so I went outside, saw him and just went "Still play guitar, mate?" He was like "Yeah!" I was like "Do you want to audition for us?"
Lewis: One month later I was on the One Night Only tour, and two weeks later I was in the 'Believe' video! Deep end!
Conrad: So that's it, and we're still here now. We've only actually been a band as a collective for 3 years so it's still early doors, really. 

What did you grow up listening to, and did any of that inspire you to want to make music yourselves?
Sam: Mod stuff really, wasn't it?
Conrad: Yeah, me and Sam are kind of from the same musical background.
Lewis: Me and Conrad bonded over stuff like The Clash and Sex Pistols.
Conrad: Me and Sam are massive fans of The Beatles. We were mainly into the mod movement, so The Who, The Jam, The Beatles, Small Faces... mainly because Sams' family is. But going to school with Pusey, we bonded over punk music.
Sam: And then it turns out that Jake likes all of the same music, but even more so! He likes them and can name the songs! Him and Lewis are really into Queens of the Stone Age and stuff like that.
Lewis: It's weird because collectively we don't all have the same music taste. It's like four, different coloured pieces of lego slotting together!
Conrad: What a wonderful analogy!

You play quite a lot of house party gigs... people can apply through your site to have you go and gig for them. What kind of experiences have you had doing that? It must be so different to normal gigs, and you even went to play for someone in Paris, didn't you?
Sam: Paris was the first one! They're always really messy!
Conrad: Basically, we just wanted to do something different. We're just trying to take the music to the people and put it in peoples' faces because at the minute its kind of hard and there are a lot of sharks out there, promotion wise and there are a lot of gigs that end up shit and some people aren't paying attention.
Sam: We're basically cutting out all of the bullshit.
Conrad: Yeah, we're cutting out the middle man and taking it to the people. Any of the fans that want to see us, we'll go out and play to them right in front of their faces. It's rock n' roll, back to it's roots. It's rock n' roll as it should be... raw, and it's a very punk ethic way of doing things and it's literally just us going back to our roots. It's us doing what we used to do... just turning up and playing!
Sam: I think there's something special about playing in someones' kitchen as well!

What's the most memorable house party show you've ever played?
Sam: The kitchen one was quite memorable because no one could actually get to the beer so whenever anyone wanted anything, Jake had to go and grab it and then pass the beer along!
Conrad: That was London. What's good about most gigs as well is that we're not just doing it for our benefit, we're doing it for other peoples' benefit and we're making a lot of good friends by doing it which is important. Recently we played in London again and did another house party, and we still stay in touch with them. They come to our gigs, so it's a nice way for us to broaden our fanbase and make friends which is great because it can be quite lonely being in a band when you're on the road. You play for people, then you go and you're on to the next place. It's nice to build friendships.
Sam: I think it's going back to that punk ethic thing as well... playing anywhere and creating our own movement.

Your web show 'Listen To This' is all about bringing attention to up and coming bands/artists. It's such a great thing that you're doing... do you think there are a lot of challenges facing unsigned acts, especially guitar bands, in this day and age within the industry?
Conrad: There is a challenge, yeah. The challenge is only as hard as you set for yourself, but with regards to the show it's just a platform that we wanted to be able to give other bands because we were lucky enough to have the YouTube subscription and to use YouTube's bases. Rather than it just being a wasted opportunity that we did nothing with, we thought that because me and Sam are into different film things and generally being in front of the camera that it made sense to do something positive with it and give back and give something back to the industry that just isn't happening at the minute. If you think about it, MTV isn't what it used to be... it's all about Geordie Shore and fucking Ex On The Beach, which is absolutely shocking. Back in the day you used to have Gonzo and that's not out anymore, and it's a shame. We're not trying to be that, but I think it's nice for bands to be able to help each other out and scratch eachothers' backs. That's the way the music industry should work, we should all be helping each other and everyone should have their eggs in the same basket. We should be working together to make something better at the end of the day.
Sam: Again, it's all about making friends.
Lewis: In history, if you look at the impact of music... three of the biggest bands in the world, The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones... all three of them would play together and communicate. It's all about bringing that back rather than being like "We need to be bigger than you so we're not going to talk to you." It's making it a community again rather than it just being every band for themselves.

So far this year, you've done quite a lot of touring up and down the country. Is there anywhere in particular that you always look forward to playing?
Sam: Germany is one. We'll always go back to Germany because it's just mint! It's just mental, and every night is always totally different. Once again it's all about making friends, because everyone you meet wants to talk to you. I think because we're from England as well, they're already intrigued. Vice versa as well, because we're intrigued to find out about them.
Lewis: We play a gig over there and talk about the beer and stuff like that, and you'll have someone walk up to you and be like "You're staying at mine tonight!" You'll get to their place and they'll have put beds out for you and feed you breakfast and everything, and that's not just at the odd venue... that's their way of greeting bands.
Conrad: With gigs for me in that sense, I see every gig as a challenge. I like to go out and try to win people over. That's the biggest challenge and that's the most exciting thing about being at this stage because it's important to try and get everyones' attention. If you're not making noise and you're not in everyones' faces, then you're never going to get their attention.
Lewis: And we do make a lot of noise! Which helps!

So would you say that shows in somewhere such as Germany are quite different to playing shows here in the UK, in terms of the crowds and suchlike?
Sam: I'd say the difference really is that in England people will get drunk and just stand and watch where as over in Germany they get drunk and they really do let their hair down!
Lewis: What we find is that the dancing in every country is different! When we played the house party in Paris, within 2 minutes there was a full on mosh pit in this guys living room! But then when you play Germany, we can be playing some of our heavier tunes and they'll be dancing to it. It's interesting to see because in like Poland, Belgium... they all dance a little bit different!
Conrad: In the UK, people are trying too hard to look cool.
Lewis: Yeah, it's like they're worried that they're going to be judged if they get up and dance.
Sam: I think in Germany in general, they just don't give a hoot!

In turn, is there anywhere that you'd love to play but haven't had the chance to yet?
Conrad: I've got a bucket list. Top of my bucket list... I have not attended Glastonbury yet, and I won't ever go as a punter. The first time I ever go to Glastonbury will be as an artist. Manchester O2 Apollo as well... I love that venue! It's amazing, and I really want to play there. It's a beautiful building.
Lewis: I really want to do a tour of Northern America, as in like coast to coast, and I really want us to get out to Japan. In my mind, we know we're going in the right direction when it becomes a proper global thing, and we start to play in places like that or do festivals like Fuji Rocks and stuff like that. So yeah, that and the moon... I want us to be the first band that plays on the moon!
Sam: Summer Sonic in Japan. That would be incredible!
Jake: I don't really have any dream venues. If we sold out an academy... just to know that so many people have come to watch us would be enough for me.
Conrad: At the end of the day, deep down we just want to be playing in front of as many people as possible and that is it.

This has become somewhat of a trademark question for me and something that I ask in most of my interviews... but I love the variety of weird and wonderful responses that I get from it. So... tell me something about The Luka State that no one else knows... 
Lewis: There are individual moments and stuff like that... like the way me and Conrad met. It was in year 8 English. I had long hair at the time he turned around and was like "You look like a labrador," and then for about a week he would just turn round and stroke my hair every so often... and that's how our friendship started! To be fair to him, I actually did look like a labrador so I'll give that to him!
Conrad: I got pepper sprayed for trying to get into a strip club in Poland after a gig...
Lewis: No, no, no! I have to clarify that... we were not trying to get into the strip club, we were literally trying to stand under the shelter because it was raining! We were stood outside and the bouncer was like "Can you move on?" I asked if it was alright if we could wait until the rain stopped, which he said was fine. Out of nowhere... another bouncer came round, followed Conrad and pepper sprayed him!
Conrad: Never going back!
Sam: Don't say that, mate! We will go back!
Conrad: What else is there?
Sam: Don't you think that's enough?!
Conrad: What goes on tour stays on tour...

Music aside, has anyone in the band got any strange talents or interesting hobbies?
Lewis: I build my own guitars.
Sam: Lewis has got a higher IQ than our manager.
Lewis: Because he's probably going to see this, it was a wonderful moment when he was going on about IQ levels and I just dropped it in there...
Sam: I love acting. I've only been in one film but I do like it.
Conrad: I play a lot of squash but I'm not very good!
Jake: I don't do anything!
Sam: He can pump some iron!
Jake: That's all I do... pump iron and drum!
Lewis: You know like in the Rocky Montage? He goes out to the train station and just pulls a freight train! That's his workout for the week.

If you could travel back in time, where would you go and what would you do?
Jake: I would go back to the 60's to see if the hippy movement was as real as the crazy kids today think it was.
Sam: It'd have to be the 60's for me too to go watch The Beatles.
Conrad: I really like World War II so I'd like to go back and be a fly on the wall. I was named after a soldier in the Gulf War.
Lewis: It's one of three for me... either the Isle of Wight Festival to see The Who, Hendrix, The Stones, Spike Island to see The Stone Roses or back to 1985 to see Everton pick up the FA Cup

Is there anything that you've done so far, whether that's a particular song, a certain show you've played or perhaps something else entirely, that you're either especially proud of or feel has been integral in getting you to where you are today?
Conrad: I'm very proud of the record we've just made. It was a long time in the making to get where we wanted it to be, and to sound how we wanted it to sound. Finally, we're there and I am immensely proud of it and can't wait to put it out. There's no date as of yet, though!
Lewis: In our first year as a band we went over to Canada and played a festival called Indie Week. The festival had been going well, but whilst playing this gig, a couple of songs in we stopped and it was the first time that I'd properly experienced the roar of a crowd because they were wanting more. I suppose it would be like the first hit of a really addictive drug or something, and I knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.
Sam: Mine was a festival in Spain, again because of the crowd. I don't think we'd ever played to a crowd that big, and again the roar from the crowd after we'd finished and a lot of them were singing along to all of the tunes as well which was amazing. We didn't expect that at all. We weren't headliners or anything. I'd never had that kind of experience before, playing in the heat. It was all just crazy... we're not used to warm weather here, are we!
Jake: For me, recording the album. I can't wait to show it to everyone, because it's pretty good!

Do you believe in life after death- and if so, what would you do if you came back as a ghost? 
Lewis: I do have a theory about this! I am very passionate about this theory. When you dream, your brain releases a chemical, so you have rapid eye movement... a dream can feel like 3 hours, but it's only around 30 seconds. What I think is when you pass away, your brain will flood with all of that... so in your last hour, you are essentially living another lifetime, but it's a lucid dream. You can right all of your wrongs, so say you haven't spoken to a certain member of your family or something like that, you sort of do the whole thing again but all of the bullshit and all of the bad bits are missing from it. That's my thought.
Conrad: I'm an avid atheist, so I don't believe in God or religion. I believe in the forward thinking of Buddhism. I don't really believe in life after death, although I do believe that we have a spirit... I just haven't worked out what that is, yet.
Sam: I'd like to think that there is life after death in some shape or form. I do get quite scared of dying sometimes, but that's why you just have to live every moment and live for now. Just take it as it comes. This is getting deep! I'd come back and haunt everyone... but as Michael Jackson!
Jake: I don't watch enough films, so I don't have a theory or anything! I just don't believe in it.

Finally... what are the hopes, dreams and plans for the future of The Luka State?
Conrad: To release the record on a major label, and hopefully get a top 5 with it. That's where we're aiming. Other than that, just playing plenty of shows.
Lewis: The same thing we do every night, really... try and take over the world!

Watch the official music video for 'Bring This All Together' below

Where to find them...
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: TheLukaState 
Catch up on 'Listen To This' here.

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