Aptly, it is the first day of Summer. A beautiful blue sky halos England. The sun radiates heat, bright bright light and optimism. In moments immediately previous, an un-mastered version of Antihero’s forthcoming – and as yet unnamed – album settled down to a finish. I’ve been honoured a preview. The stereo recuperates, and silence sneaks in. I can’t decide whether my head is brimming full or totally empty.
Antihero singer Pete Hurley acts as silence-breaker : “What did you think of the album?”
He is genuine, wanting an honest response, but confidence shines in his eyes. My reply is slow to out itself from my speechless mouth: “Amazing…” It’s all I can muster; but in truth I’m feeling so much more, and keeping it reserved for fear of appearing pathetically grovelsome. The album is astounding – gripping from start to finish, encapsulating, headfucking, and without a weak second or moment of filler. It’s the best British rock album I’ve heard in a long time. Scratch that, it’s the best rock album I’ve heard in a long time. Scratch that, it’s one of the best rock albums I’ve ever heard.
Backtrack: you need to know more about this band. This album is officially a debut, to be released on Alpha Engineering Records, but the Antihero legacy has roots embedded in years gone by. This interview with Pete “pistol” Hurley (tall, handsome, insanely charismatic, sprawled on a cheap couch, occasionally fingering an old bass guitar and eating chocolate) is intended to disclose the band’s growth up to the present day, and what they aim to do from here. A snapshot of the Antihero psyche.
DiS: You released two singles on Integrity Records (Miss Black America, Million Dead) but decided to leave before the album. Did you lose faith in the label? Is there a grudge?
HURLEY: I don’t want to diss Integrity. They’re nice guys. They wouldn’t have spent time and money on us if they didn’t believe in us or want us to succeed, that’s what I think. But they hoped that our song would do its own work, and that’s fairly impossible for that to happen.
DiS: The song in question being ‘Rolling Stones T-shirt’. Integrity signed you on the strength of that song, and obviously had beaucoup de faith in it. Did you?
HURLEY: No, it was fucking awful. We wrote it, and it was messy and scrappy; Steve Lamacq played it, and Integrity thought: “An unsigned band is being played on Radio 1 for no apparent reason, we must sign them, clean the song up and make it sound like a big single”. It was an attempt for them to show us “this is what we think are the best things about you”. And then all of our friends and fans were like “that’s what we don’t like about you”… ‘Rolling Stones T-Shirt’ just wasn’t us, you know. Live, we didn’t sound anything like that.
DiS: So you were essentially signed on the back of a song which didn’t represent you at all. On a song you even disliked.
HURLEY: We were 18, we’d just finished school, we didn’t have jobs, we had no idea what we were doing... But then, if we didn’t have ‘RST-S’, we wouldn’t have had a deal, and the exposure from that is the only thing which means we now have a foundation to release stuff on Alpha Engineering. You have to look at it like that. That deal let us in.
DiS: The second Integrity single, ‘Stravinsky Gave Me Nightmares’ was a much better representation of Antihero, I felt.
HURLEY: With ‘Stravinsky…’, we thought “we’re doing this as a B-side, so who really gives a fuck?”. And then it was the single. So it didn’t really have any dynamics or ear candy or glitter at all… but at the same time we were really happy about that.
DiS: Were you happy about the response from the fans?
HURLEY: ‘Stravinsky…’ did much better than ‘RST-S’ as far as sales and back-orders and so on, and that was because all the money from our whole career was spent on promoting that one single. But the exposure was good, we’re not just some local band any more. Now, when the next single comes out, Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy and John Peel will hopefully want to do sessions and interviews, because we blew our wad then.
DiS: Although you’ve been signed before, and you’re now signed again, there is an incredible air of DIY ethos about Antihero. You’ve worked hard, and paid your dues. Do you agree?
HURLEY: Every gig we’ve ever played, we’ve booked ourselves. And that… that means we don’t get paid as well as other bands, basically. When we toured with Miss Black America, they were getting paid good money every night, and we were getting paid nothing. And that’s because they’ve got an agent.
DiS: You’ve earned your fans the hard way, then.
HURLEY: The way we got a fanbase was through luck. All our friends went to university when we did our first tour, so everywhere we went a few people would be there and bring a few friends. And then, you just steal other people’s fans. You go there, you get 10 people on your mailing list, you can go back and play there again.
DiS: In early 2003 you were releasing singles, doing Peel sessions, touring with the likes of Miss Black America and Reuben; I thought there was a feeling that you might explode… and then you didn’t. Where did you go? Why the hiatus?
HURLEY: Half of it was winding-down from the Integrity deal and tying up some loose ends. We all worked full time, which is a massive rarity, we played about two shows, recorded our next single and our album.
DiS: So the break was still pretty productive. Are you glad for the time off?
HURLEY: I think the break was good, but it hurt us. 2003 was the worst Antihero year on record. In 2002, we were best friends, us against the world. Now our interests are different; we’re good friends in a good band.
DiS: That said, Antihero definitely has an uncommon, almost familial, closeness. Do you have a lot of love for each other?
HURLEY: When you’re in a band you know people so well, you’re living together and being together and you see people at their most ridiculous.
DiS: For example?
HURLEY: Davo’s mental; he turns on his light in his car when we’re on the motorway to eat a Snickers, because he heard when he was six that someone found a rat in a Snickers. He’ll look at every bit before he eats it He loves Snickers as well.
Dis: With each others’ idiosyncrasies exposed, you must see each other at your most vulnerable. Are there points when you push each other too far?
HURLEY: Being on tour with a band can be horrible, and if you’re not best mates, then problems are going to occur quicker. The thing about Antihero is that we’ve been together so long it’s almost brotherly. We had massive arguments doing the album, we’d be screaming at each other and then two hours later we’d be doing takes together, totally fine. You have to have that. You have to be close otherwise you’re not going to be able to survive.
DiS: You got more than your fair share of bad press during the Integrity years, from pretty much all the major music magazines. Is that a sore point, or have you grown a shell to block it out?
HURLEY: I don’t believe people have malicious intent. The thing about people wronging Antihero is that – now more than ever – I’m so happy with the album and this set of songs and the thing we’ve got going right now, that anything that’s happened in the past is just in the past. It’s just some shit that happened before, this is what’s happening now, and I’m so looking forward to it. There’s no point in dwelling on shit like that.
DiS: So let’s move to current events - the new album sounds excellent. Let’s talk about it.
HURLEY: Okay. It was recorded in November 2003 at Vada Studios, and it was produced by Matt Terry. It was kind of a gamble to work with Matt, but looking back at it, I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else, and it turned out perfectly. He already knew us, he was intent on making it good, and he was taking time out of his day to come to our rehearsals. After the first mix we did, he didn’t like it so he mixed it again for another week. He tried so hard for us.
DiS: So, after working with Gavin Monaghan for the Integrity singles, you went back to the same guy who produced your “formative” demos?
HURLEY: I think our Integrity records sound really soulless, because you can’t hear Davo. Matt nurtured us and believed in us right from the start, when we were rubbish. He told us we were rubbish but that our songs were really good. And when we needed him, he was there, he stopped everything for us, and I’ll never be able to repay him for that.
DiS: You know the album’s good. You seem to be somewhere beyond self-assured, but not cocky. The thick confidence seems totally healthy and well deserved.
HURLEY: I fail to see how any of us cannot be optimistic when our new album has come out… maybe not exactly right or perfect, but I think it’s totally captured what we’re like. It’s fizzy and messy and we did it in two weeks and there’s vocal mistakes and things we should have done better and things we didn’t spend enough time on and I got some of the words wrong and whatever. But it’s just us. He got us. And that’s so important.
DiS: The album comes out later this year, under an as-yet unconfirmed title. You’ve got singles coming out soon, and a tour as well. Where do you see Antihero a year from now?
HURLEY: I can’t wait to go on tour. I’m perfectly happy to give up the next year of my life, blood, sweat and tears, working on Antihero. And I don’t care if I come out cold and broke and with everyone hating me, because we’ll have put out the Antihero record; what Antihero represented. Even if no-one buys our album, as long as it gets a release, as long as we’re there and can be like, “I did Antihero and all my friends loved it, and I loved it.” Full stop.
DiS: There’s definitely a rock romance about your band’s existence. It seems to me that you don’t mind going down in a blaze of glory, becoming a cult legend. Knowing that you might not be around forever seems acute, but a little morbid.
HURLEY: It might seem quite fatalistic, but I think that because of all the shit we’ve been subjected to, we now have to give everything we have in one big push. Even if it kills us. This is the year we have to do it. Antihero have always thought “this is our band, this is our life”. You have to – the dream is a massive reality. You have to sacrifice everything for the tiniest piece of glory. A Peel session, getting played on the radio, a really good support slot. You have to love that, to make up for all the kicks in the balls.
DiS: And if things go well, you’ll be around for a lot longer, I presume.
HURLEY: If at the end of this, the other guys in the band turn around and say “I’ve had a terrible time” or “man, I love you, but I need to stop and go to university”, then that’s fine. If, a year from now, they turn to me and say “Antihero forever”, then forever it is…
DiS: And what about in the long-run? If you stay together forever, what will Antihero become?
HURLEY: My dream is for Antihero to be a club sized band who can do things they want to do at their level and live off it… like Fugazi, they’re probably the best example. I would love to do a tour of Britain, playing the venues we already play, but with them being full. Say, if we put out a new EP, we’d do a tour with two of our friends’ bands, with a crew, and everything would run to a schedule every night. Everyone’s there at the right time, everyone’s sharing equipment, with people carrying stuff on and off. Now, we’re not a bullshit band who won’t carry their own equipment, but everyone gets paid, everything is right, and everyone has a great time. Being able to go on tour with a full bill of bands you like, having people to help and tech for you, playing full venues, and having fans with total interest in what you’re doing. It’s about doing everything properly, and on your own terms.
Antihero's download single, 'Feelbad Hit Of The Summer' is available for a free download now. CD single 'Don't Trust The DJ' comes out on July 19th. They're on tour with Locus Of Control from May 25th-June 19th.