Ahead of his performances with The Yalla Yallas and as a solo act at Rebellion Festival next weekend, we caught up with Rob Galloway to talk about the festival, the next generation of punk bands and the responsibility that bands have now to make sure that the scene is an appropriate place…
Hello Rob! How is everything in your world right now?
Hey Craig, Yeah all is good thanks. I’m sitting in my garden feeding my cat whilst listening to some pop music. I’m quite enjoying the new Lykke Li album ‘So Sad So Sexy’. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Berlin later in the year.
It’s been just over a year since we last sat down for a Q&A. What’s new with The Yalla Yallas since then?
The last time we spoke we had just released our latest album ‘Medusa’. We went on tour in Europe which was so much fun and then we’ve been playing some shows around England to support the album. We’ve been performing a couple of new songs ‘Diamond Ring’ and ‘Into the Future’. More recently we’ve had a little break over the summer and are currently readying ourselves for the upcoming shows.
You’ve also released a solo record in that time – Stripped. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Yeah, I wanted to do something raw. Just me and my guitar. To go in the studio for a day and see what happens. To capture a moment in time. I was hurt and I needed to let off some steam. I recorded twenty songs in four or five hours. Mainly acoustic versions of Yallas songs but also a few new ones in there too. We just pressed record and I played. In the afternoon we mixed the songs pretty quickly. Hardly even touched a button. I did the artwork the same evening and I released the album the very same night as a free download. The next day I started selling the CDs and booking the European dates. After a few weeks I made enough money to get some extremely limited edition vinyl pressed featuring a selection of songs from the session. It was a real fun quick-fire project. Sometimes it’s nice to work on instinct. I’m pleased I’m able to work in such a way.
You’re playing at Rebellion for the first time this year both as a solo act and with The Yalla Yallas. It’s about time, right?
I think it’s more the right time for us to play. A few weeks ago I found an interview of ours from when we first formed about ten years ago. Myself and Dempsey were talking about just wanting to be a good enough band that someday we can play at Rebellion so we can get free tickets. I believe we’ve finally reached that point. We’ve worked hard for it and we’re going to enjoy it. I’m personally feeling that maybe it also signals the band reaching its natural conclusion. Dempsey won’t be with us though, he has been sitting out the last six months. Myself and Will are both exhausted. Is it the end? I hope not but we certainly need a very long break and if we don’t return then it would be a nice gig to go out on.
Playing a genre-specific festival like Rebellion obviously has it’s advantages in that everyone there is already a fan of the type of music you play. Does that also come with added pressure to make yourselves stand out, and how do you go about doing that?
There’s no pressure for us and I’m sure it’ll be business as usual. I think we’re a little bit different from most Punk bands anyway. We’ve always gone about things in our own way. Our shows have a unique type of energy and I don’t see many bands like us out on the circuit. So I think we kind of naturally stand out. I don’t ever really worry about the other bands on the bill. We just focus on our task.
I’m excited about having to play in The Opera House and how our songs will feel in that room. I’m also interested in how I’ll be able to move around as a frontman. It’s a seated venue so that has some new challenges but I like a challenge.
Punk festivals like Rebellion often suffer with a lack of diversity at the top end of the bill since there are only a handful of bands within the genre capable of filling those top spots, so the same bands tend to play every year and the same headliners are on rotation every few. Are there any punk rock bands that have caught your eye recently that you could see realistically overtaking the likes of Anti Nowhere League and UK Subs and staking a claim for those top spots in the coming years?
In all honesty I struggle to see where the next generation is coming from. Don’t get me wrong the quality is most certainly there but the resources to support the bands aren’t. We could do with a couple of record companies dishing out a few million pound contracts to some upcoming bands and getting them some much needed tv exposure or radio play. That might inject some new life into the scene. Most of the better bands though seem to have the strongest DIY ethos and would probably reject such deals but you’re not going to headline the biggest festivals by working a day job and playing gigs for free and a few beers. You need the resources around you like PR, Agents, Roadies, Managers, and Merch staff and it all needs paying for. Then you’ve got the problem as soon as a band starts climbing the ladder the cries of “Sell out” or they were better when they were playing small venues and the backlash begins. So I don’t think even as fans were allowing the next generation through. I’d really like to see Roughneck Riot do well and be able to make a living out of it. Also the likes of X-Ray Cat Trio, Tim Loud, Pleasant Boys, Matilda’s Scoundrels they’ve all earned their stripes and put the hours in but more importantly they have great songs.
After Rebellion, what else is coming up for both you and The Yalla Yallas for the rest of the year?
Rebellion is looking like it will be the last thing The Yalla Yallas will do for a fair while. We’re a band in disarray at the minute. Everything is great onstage but we need to take a step back and see what happens next. Dempsey asked to leave the band late last year and I’ve so far refused to accept his resignation. Vince has been filling in for him on bass and has been incredible but I’m missing having Dempsey with me on stage. Joel has moved back to Sheffield and the logistics are getting harder for us to manage. Will also came to me and wants to focus his energy elsewhere. I’m exhausted and disillusioned with the music scene. I’ve been writing a lot though. I did write another Yallas album but I’m scrapping it to write a different album. Ive experienced a lot over the last year and I’m looking at life differently. I need to go be a different person for a while. I’ve found a new path and I want to see where I end up.
The last time we spoke we discussed the call-out culture within the DIY scene and the impact it has on you as a performer. Since then there have been countless allegations and accusations made towards musicians who have been exploiting their influential position. Do you feel like there’s now an extra responsibility given to bands to make sure that there’s a zero tolerance policy towards wrong uns within the scene?
I’m not sure where I stand on this call out culture. I mean I have called people out in the past but I’m concerned as to how it affects creativity and freedom of expression. I’m imagining bands having discussions with labels and self censoring things just in case lyrics or art offends people. Do I really want to live in a safe whitewashed world? I’m not so sure. Rock n Roll is meant to be dangerous. Art is meant to be provocative. Punk was meant to outrage but has since evolved. I’m not saying it’s right but it’s that freedom that inspires.
Call people out? YES. Lynch mobs? NO. Educate or talk to people if you think they are being a dick. Online hate campaigns and banning etc… what does it really achieve? More division, more hate, more negativity. There’s enough of that in the world.
Look at this NOFX thing. I’ve never been concerned with them. They’re not my cup of tea. They tell an offensive joke and the internet is suddenly outraged. Anyone and everyone is morally superior for they have never sinned. They are the perfect humans. They will judge the band and their fans. Now these fans are suddenly offended and outraged because they told a joke they didn’t approve of. Yet, NOFX have been telling jokes about the disabled, women, Auschwitz for years but to no outrage? Where were these people then? The outrage to me often appears insincere, it’s an internet altruistic, I’m holier than thou outburst in a desperate attempt for punk points. I don’t think I like it. Especially when the same kind of folk are sharing ‘Punk in Drublic’ in their all time top 10 tagging event a few weeks later. It seems like every week it’s a different band.
I would prefer however to see bands like NOFX using their position to target governmental injustices or corporations rather than country music fans or victims of tragedies for example. Hopefully they have learned and can change their behaviour. I’d also question holding bands up as moral beacons. Most of us in bands are fuck ups and misfits. You don’t get PR training in this job. People mess up. I believe everyone has been inappropriate at some point in their lives. Would you like your next fuck up to be a internet hate campaign? Most of these things usually just bring more attention to the bad guys in the scene and probably even benefit the band after their carefully worded apology and rehab stint. Some accusations are even pure rumour or unfounded and that is a dangerous game to play. I understand the importance of weeding out the dicks but what if you’re wrong about someone. You only need to be wrong about one person and you could potentially destroy their livelihood.
If someone is committing a crime then it needs to be reported properly to the authorities and for them to deal with. Also now we have the Equalities act and Hate Crime is now punishable in law. In the meantime fans of these bands should vote with their feet. Use your mob mentality to promote the good causes. Let’s spread more positivity. There’s lots of good people out there in the music scene doing some really brilliant things. Let’s promote them and leave bands like NOFX in the 90’s.
To change the tone completely, because it’s always good to end on something lighthearted – if the rest of The Yalla Yallas quit tomorrow and you could replace them with any musicians from history, dead or alive – who would be in your new band?
If I was to create the ultimate Yallas tribute band then it’d look this… I’d replace myself with Stiv Bators from The Dead Boys and Lords of the New Church. I’ve always loved his vocal and often try and replicate it. On Bass I’d have to go for Duff McKagan of Guns n Roses, Velvet Revolver. He’s got the perfect mix of Punk and Rock n Roll. On drums I’d be looking at a fit and healthy Steven Adler from Guns n Roses. I think he’d appreciate the call from Duff. He’s got a great groove. He can also mix Rock n Roll with punk. Guitar wise – I’d want Johnny Thunders for sure. If he wasn’t available then Cheetah Chrome from The Dead Boys. That would be a badass band.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, just in case I don’t get another opportunity I’d just like to thank all our fans for the last ten years. I think it’s all been worthwhile. Three albums that were very proud of and so many good nights on the road. Hopefully we will be back someday when we’re in a better place. It would be nice to see people at our next couple gigs. We’re playing our Rebellion warm-up at Fulford Arms, York on Tuesday 31st July supporting Svetlanas. Also our set for Rebellion Festival is on Thursday 2nd August at 5.30pm on The Opera Stage. I will also be playing my ‘Stripped’ acoustic set at 3pm the same day. Cheers… ROCK N ROLL