Words by Niall Summerton
There has been a persistent buzz surrounding the Leeds music scene in the 3 years I’ve spent in its midst. A real sense that truly inspiring music is being created and it can be easy to overlook just how fortunate we are to be a part of it.
Amongst the DIY shindigs and the collective, nurturing aura of the musicians in the LS postcode, Joshua Zero have been a leading force in the local domain. With beers and brews, I caught up with them before their headline show at Wharf Chambers.
To kick things off, can you tell me a little about the history of the band?
Beth: I don’t remember! I’ve been drunk for all the rehearsals!
Joshua: I released a solo album a few years ago and then we just thought we’d make it a band! It started out with Ash, and then we just asked all of our friends to get involved! We all graduated from LCoM a couple of years back.
Beth: What was your first album called again?
Joshua: Love Songs from the Bedroom! I launched it here! I had all these rose petals everywhere…I ordered 2000 rose petals or something. It was great but they stank of fish for some reason. You’d open the packaging and get this massive whiff of fish! I’ve still got them somewhere; you never know when you’re going to need something like that!
You once labelled the band as ‘cry-dance’. How would you explain this term sonically?
Joshua: Big, emotional, but fast. It just came from writing a bio in 5 minutes really! Someone else called us cry dance once and we just thought ‘Yep! We’ll take it!’.
Ash: It makes sense though because all the songs are ballads. Yesterday Josh said ‘I want more ballads!’ and we were like ‘They’re all ballads!’. [collective laughter]
You just released your latest single ‘Yellow Teeth Red Skin’. What stood out for me was the gritty vocal approach and subject matter. What influenced this song?
Joshua: I usually write lyrics first. It started out as just a writing exercise, I was trying to fit loads of colours into a verse like ‘yellow teeth...lungs are black...country is blue...’ and then you just get in a flow of it and it makes sense. It ended up as some post-Brexit sensual number.
Ash: Nothing gets me like a bit of Brexit!
You’re currently on tour with Soybomb. What has been your favourite stop so far?
Joshua: I liked playing in Bristol. We had such a good time there.
Ash: I think the best hasn’t come yet! Some of my favourites have been the ones that no one else was at. Northampton was great, Huddersfield was fun!
Joshua: We played only to Soybomb in Huddersfield. It was a Monday night and it was so stormy outside.
To The Local: I think every tour has to have one of those!
Sean: We’re doing our best to show off Soybomb. They’ve been so kind to us in suggesting that we do this tour and helping us with the booking. This is our own shitty way of paying them back!
Any silly stories from the tour so far?
Ash: We broke down on the M1! I think we’ve driven through every storm imaginable.
Beth: Shout out to my mum for coming to rescue us. She drove her car out to the side of the motorway for us to swap all of our gear into her car. There were people going past thinking what the fuck are those guys doing!!
Ash: Can we tell the story from yesterday when we got stuck in traffic?
Joshua: We were in standstill traffic and there was all this peeing in bottles.
Beth: And I was stuck right in the middle of it!!!
Joshua you’re from Wembley. Do you feel there is a pressure to move down south?
Sean: I have a hot take on this! I grew up just outside of London where everyone thinks it’s important to be in the capital. The last 8 or so years of being in the industry I’ve seen people that have blown up, been able to see how they did it and what they did right or wrong.
There are people in other cities that have really concentrated scenes that pick up national press and that then resolves around people in London. There are so many moving cogs in making a band that you think is successful, that it’s entirely arbitrary to think of it in a geographical sense. 100 gecs are massive on the internet! One of them lives in New York and one of them lives in Austin! This idea that you have to be in London to be part of the ‘scene’…the scene is whatever the fuck you want it to be!
To be cliché… If you be the change you want to see, you don’t have to rely on some dickhead in a suit at some management company to say ‘Ah yes...I think I’ll give you Fat White Family support’. But that’s my take on that!!
Joshua: You get this thing of huge regional pride and I get it to a certain extent. I’m super grateful for Leeds having shaped how we are, but I don’t feel like we have to ever be defined by what city we are in. It’s past that. Moving to London for success is like moving to the city of broken dreams!
Beth: The thing that brings the Leeds sound together isn’t exactly genre, but it reflects on the DIY ethos. It’s a little bit gritty and out of the box! I can’t name a straight pop band to come out of Leeds.
Sean: Being successful in the creative scene in Leeds to me kind of just means being able to pay your rent and be part of a community. There’s a lot of care and safeguarding that goes into the things that creative people do in Leeds. You have places like [Wharf Chambers] where you know they are going to be really keen on being a safe space, where people like myself, as a trans woman, can come and know they’re safe. Places like Chunk, Temple of Boom and Hyde Park Book Club to name a few others.
What is in the pipeline for Joshua Zero?
Joshua: We are recording an EP that will hopefully be out at the end of this summer if everything goes smoothly.
Ash: That’s optimistic!!
Sean: It's a very Leeds band thing to do to have loads of songs and take about 3 years to record an EP!
Joshua: That’s our plan at the moment. We’ll hit the road with it and hopefully get some gigs in Germany with our pals Soybomb. We’re going to close our eyes and run!