Johnny Lloyd cuts a relaxed figure as he lounges on a sofa backstage at the O2, long hair covering half his face. But he quickly becomes animated as, after initial small talk, we get on to talking about his band, Tribes, one of the hottest properties in English guitar music since last January when their debut album, Baby, came in at 9. Lloyd describes this as one of the all-time high points in his life. What with this success, and the veritable storm of critical acclaim that has come Tribes’ way, it seems almost criminal that they haven’t been more widely recognized, and remain relegated to the smaller room upstairs in the O2, and the online-only section of Cherwell.
English guitar music hasn’t exactly been dominant in the charts in the last few years, and Lloyd sounds slightly bitter as he complains that “guitar bands don’t get as much support on the radio as they should”. But it’s 2013! It’s the year of the guitar band, as proclaimed by the almighty NME! “They say that every year though,” moans Lloyd, who clearly has an axe to grind as he goes on to say “I resent that guitar music is defined in its own category separate from everything else anyway. It’s damaging to the whole rock n’ roll industry.” So he wouldn’t consider incorporating electronic influences in his own music at all in the future? “Fuck no, I can’t stand that stuff,” he responds earnestly, launching into a mini-rant. “If there’s a computer on stage you might as well go home and listen to the CD. It’s different every night with Tribes. We play instruments, which is almost a redundant thing. It’s like, ‘oh really, you play? Shit, why? Why don’t you just be a DJ?’ We take pride in our musicianship and we always have and we won’t be buying synths any time soon. What’s more exciting, watching the Stones in their prime or watching fucking Basement Jaxx?”
The band’s new album was recorded in the legendary Sound City, Los Angeles, famous for being the studio where Nevermind was recorded. Lloyd says the change of scenery was just part of the drastic change in the band’s mindset with their sophomore effort. When they were recording Baby in Liverpool, Charlie Haddon, a close friend of the band and lead singer of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, had just leaped to his death from a crane at Pukkelpop festival in Belgium. But Lloyd says LA was “a very cleansing experience”. “The Americans drink less, they go surfing every day,” he continues, outlining what sounds like a very relaxed but also work-orientated nine weeks. Not only that, but they were mixing with the stars. “David Bowie’s pianist did all our piano and we had all the original Motown singers on backing vocals”. In the future, he says he’d love to work with Mick Jones from The Clash, after the great job he did on The Libertines’ first album.
The band are looking forward to festival season, enthuses Lloyd, who insists that British festivals are “better than anywhere else in the world” and goes on to say that “Reading’s one of the best music festivals, it’s my favourite because of the size of it. It’s a great opportunity for guitar music to reach a greater audience.” Tribes play Reading for the third time in a row in August, and are clearly planning to enjoy it.