I meet with up and coming Sheffield band Idle Ross’s front man Ross Green in Sheffield’s Forum ahead of the launch of the band’s debut single. Over close to three quarters of an hour we chat about the band’s influences, music, interrelationships and our shared history. [Disclaimer – I knew Ross of old, having taught at the school he used to attend some ten years or so ago!] After a brief chat about how busy Ross has been, acting as a slightly reluctant stand-in manager to the band and wrangling his band mates, we begin our interview proper.
Backseat Mafia: So how did you guys all come together?
Ross Green: Well obviously Charlie (the bass player) went to the same school as me. I always vaguely knew him as he was good mates with my brother… in fact I saw a think on timehop the other day, y’know how it says it’s been however many years since something happened? Well, Charlie had posted something about six years ago saying let’s have a jam and we literally started last summer, so it took a bit of time to work it out. Me and Charlie had a couple of jams and we’d both been in bands before and the drummer and guitarist were in another band that split up just before and it was a chance meeting at a Courteeners gig. I bumped into Joel (the drummer) and asked what he was doing and he asked me and we said, right let’s make something work. And it was going to just be us three and then Joel said he’d invite Spen (the guitarist) and so that were it. A chance meeting at the Courteeners because if Joel weren’t in our band, he’d definitely be in a band. He’s like Keith Moon! He’s a proper drummer!
BM: And where’s the name from? Obviously you’re Ross…
RG: Well that were just a username on Twitter and Instagram and stuff and it just kinda made sense as the way I had it, I had a bank of songs that I’d demoed on my own that were just, some of them were rough ideas, some of them were full songs and the idea was to show the others the songs and see what they think and go from there. It just kinda stuck cos I’ve got quite a decent following on Instagram . It weren’t an artistic decision! It was pure convenience. You think, how are we gonna get followers to start with and I had a few so we started with that. I suggested we come up with a name, like I like being creative, but band names I’ve always struggled with. My mind goes blank. Every band I’ve been in has had a crap name!
BM: I was about to get onto Skintight Rocket (Ross’s first band, formed whilst still at high school)!
RG: [laughing] I mean, what is that?! That’s awful! Can you imagine that like on a gig poster?!
BM: On the topic of other bands, I remember I saw you once playing with Paul Fletcher and the Dukes. How did that come about?
RG: I’d been in bands since I was about seventeen, then I did music production at uni and because I’d done music in different environments – it wasn’t a creative environment, y’know, I was doing it to get a grade – and so I fell out with it for a bit and didn’t do anything. Then Paul messaged me a few times about doing something, replacing his bass player. He’s really nice and that helped me get back into it. I proper owe Paul a massive debt because that did get me back into it. I think I was with him about a year and if he ever does a gig where he needs me and I’m available, I’ll definitely help him out!
We briefly chat more about his Skintight Rocket days, about the idea that at school there were those who were into football, but as he wasn’t as much, he ended up in a band. He wasn’t especially musical or had any training but ended up in the band nonetheless. He notes that he may well be the only one left from his circle of friends in bands back then who’s still pursuing it. We also chat about digital footprints, how there are YouTube videos of Ross’s early gigs and even the band’s old Myspace is still active (as active as any Myspace can be) which leads me to ask about a video I stumbled across.
BM: There’s a video with you guys jamming with Jon McClure from Reverend and the Makers. How did that come about?
RG: Yeah yeah, that was back when I think they were still working on their demos and Jon had DJ’d somewhere like Plug and I messaged him and said I couldn’t get in as I didn’t have any ID and they did some acoustic gigs and I’d just learned the bassline to “Heavyweight Champion of the World” and I knew their songs inside out – they were my favourite band – so I thought it’d be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a jam.
BM: Are you still in touch?
RG: To be fair, you can still bump into him and his brother around Sheffield and I say hello, but I’ve not mentioned about the band because when you’re like him and you’ve got a reputation for helping out unsigned bands, I bet he gets thousands of messages and I don’t wanna be one of them people… I think I’d rather see him, have a chat about it and see what he thought about the music.
BM: You’ve played quite a few gigs in your short time together. Just about everywhere in Sheffield so far!
RG: [laughing] Yeah, I think one of the ones we still hadn’t played was the Green Room, but we’re doing that for Tramlines. We’ve got Beg, Borrow and Steal for the Friday, then Green Room for the Saturday. We’re a new band, we’ve got no promotion, no manager, we’ve done it all ourselves. I said to the lads the other day, I think we’ve done really well doing it all ourselves. We haven’t got money behind us or a leg up from anyone. We are doing it ourselves. We think it says something about the people who’ve seen us and have liked our music. We got offered the Green Room slot after the guy had seen us at the Washington. We didn’t know he was there but it were mad, he messaged us and offered us the slot. It’s exciting but it can also be frustrating at the same time because we’re so new we just need to get more people to see us and to enjoy our music. This is why it’s frustrating not having a manager! We need one! We need guidance! Sheffield’s music scene and its history and reputation is unparalleled, apart from maybe Manchester, but it can be quite cliquey. People know people and you’ve got to like chat them up a bit and it’s not quite me! I just wanna let the music speak for itself, but I can’t help thinking networking can be more like brown-nosing sometimes. We’ve learned a lot in the last six months.
He discusses some testing times with gigs and promoters after a dream first gig at Plug, with disappointing results in terms of both the industry and the steep learning curve. Ross’s philosophy is to play as many free gigs as possible to as many people, matched up with bands who fit the same sound or genre, rather than be stuck doing badly attended paid gigs on unpopular nights.
BM: How much of a catalogue of songs do you have at the moment?
RG: As a band, we’ve got a set of about ten. About half an hour, but I’ve got like an endless bank of songs and I can go through a few riffs and see what the others think and bring in. Like, one of our best songs, it was just Spen riffing and it’s become one of our favourites. It’s a tune called Sleeptalking which goes down well. It’s sort of like if Gorillaz did a Bond theme. It’s got some proper swagger! ‘Cos I don’t think we’ve got an indie sound, I don’t think we have that much in common with indie bands like Catfish and the Bottlemen. At the same time though, people go “Who are you? Who are you like then?” and it’s hard to say! It’s like when you fill in a bio on anything and it says ‘sounds like…’ and you’re thinking do I really wanna say?!
BM: So, you’ve been compared to the Strokes, the Hives, the Gallaghers, Reverend and the Makers and perhaps more in your style than your music, comparisons with Kasabian, Oasis and the Jam. But listening to some of your soundcloud tracks, it’s clear there’s a lot more to you than that. The track called “Feel”, has a real Madchester, Stone Roses rock’n’roll vibe to it.
RG: Yeah, I think some of our songs have a bit more groove than indie bands tend to.
BM: And your debut single “Into the Thick of it” has a darker, Arctic Monkeys “AM”-era vibe, with some real rock guitar solos going on.
RG: Yeah, honestly, Spen he went proper Slash on it! It’s mad. It’s a proper mad tune! Like the guy who was mastering it, said he was gonna produce it like it was I’m gonna produce it like a hip hop tune because the drums and bass are the most prominent things. If you listen to it, there’s a lot going on. It’s simple but there’s a lot going on. The chorus riffs are proper rock riffs which we reckon have been missing from some of the bigger bands alately.
BM: Also some interesting lyrics.
RG: Yeah, I think lyrics are important. If they’re not good enough, then I can’t be arsed to write it. I’m not gonna write something just because it rhymes. I don’t wanna be just another band that writes songs that just mean nothing or are just clichéd songs about girls. Just leave it out! It’s cool to be in love, but there’s more interesting things and there’s more important things to write about, like the track, it was written around the time of Brexit and just from talking to my mates about it, and with lyrics like ‘apathy’s setting in’, there was this general feeling of apathy then. Our generation – half of them, you get criticism for being outspoken, or being told we don’t know what we’re talking about. Education’s supposed to be improving, generation by generation, so we should know what we’re talking about!
We also discuss voting, how younger people can be motivated to get involved in elections, how things could easily be changed by the younger generations turning out to try and make a change, about the Parkland massacre and how its survivors have found themselves criticised. We also discuss how being political in music can get you pigeonholed as a ‘political band’.
RG: I remember about ten years ago, maybe fifteen, there just seemed to be a lot more optimism. People were getting along better, and since then it’s either just fear or confrontation. Like things have gone the opposite way to how things should be. We were a multicultural society, everyone got on and that was part of being English, but now it’s proper grim.
BM: So, what are your next plans? Can bands still make a living from the industry do you think?
RG: I think bands can still make a living from it, particularly from live music. We haven’t got to the point of releasing an album or anything more yet, but we do still believe bands can make it. Our dream of making it isn’t just sitting in a hot tub and even though you get practically nothing from selling your music, hardly anything from streaming, there can still be money from having your music featured in film and TV. We’re wanting to do an instore in Pretty Green (Liam Gallagher’s clothing label) as they do a lot of those, they help with promotion on social media and everything. Music and fashion go together quite naturally. [laughs, remembers] We once had somebody review us who focused more on what our fans were wearing and didn’t really say anything about our music! He hated us!
BM: Final question – worst thing and best thing about being in the band?
RG: Worst thing is probably the long hours at a venue, being there when it’s empty and you’re setting up and you’ve got hours ‘til you’re on and you just wanna go out and have a drink, but you’ve got a gig to do! Best thing is just meeting people, it’s not just doing a gig. It’s a night out, talking to people and it just brings people together. Friendship groups who’ve all come together. If you’ve got things in common musically, you tend to have a lot more in common too and I love that.
Across our time, we also discuss media bias, stereotyping people based on their clothing choices, promoter weirdness, whether Ross would start his own fashion range like Liam Gallagher (yeah, definitely!) and much much more. Ross and the lads seem hungry for the challenges ahead and also very much prepared for them, certainly if their music and Ross’s determination are any standard to measure them by.
Check out the rather hypnotic debut single “Into the Thick of it” (reviewed here) and follow the boys across social media on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Look out for their forthcoming live dates too.
Ross Green was speaking to Ben Lewis.