I can’t really remember the first time I met Giles. It was in a field in Belgium in May and I’d been up at 5am that day to get a coach from London Victoria to Groezrock, a punk festival near Meerhout, so I’d had a lot of time to get some pre-festival day drinking in (coincidentally, that’s my third favourite kind of day drinking). We were at a little acoustic stage, I say stage, it was wooden box in the campsite and anyone could have a go (I did a horrible version of The ’59 Sound a bit later on, I pray there’s no video and haven’t looked). We’d been watching Wil Wagner of The Smith Street Band do a small set when Giles turned up and I had a fanboy moment. I’m not really sure of the rest but I woke up the next day with my friend Rob gently spooning me, a sore head and a blurry picture of me and Giles on my phone.
The second time I met Giles was outside a Smith Street show in Camden a few weeks later; his band Great Cynics were the support act. I was very drunk again but Giles was sober because he had an exam the next day. This surprised me because I barely manage to balance university with remembering to eat, let alone with being in a band that play as many gigs as Great Cynics. So on this, the third and easily most sober time outside The Exchange in Bristol, I thought it would be interesting to find out how he manages a student workload whilst being the lead singer of a touring punk band.
“I think being a student is probably one of the easiest ways to be in a band actually. At the start of the term you know what exams and coursework you’ve got and you can base touring around that. It’s probably harder to be working in a normal job where you’ve not got the time off, but as a student no one really notices unless you’re gone for months at a time. I think that when Iona and Bob where at uni they also based it around that and it’s okay because you can study away. Every university has a moodle or something going on so you can access it in the van and do some reading. I mean it is harder and there are way more distractions, and I am definitely one for being distracted, but it is doable”.
Great Cynics were concluding a European tour with Joyce Manor and Cheap Girls at the time of the interview, and for those aware of the band it’s a line-up that makes a lot of sense. There’s a lot of Cheap Girls in Great Cynics’ brand of punk, the guitar tones, riffing and Giles’ story telling lyrics especially, yet they also have this energy and bounceability (fuck you I can make up words if I want to) that is reminiscent of Joyce Manor’s high tempo pop punk. The response to the tour in the UK was great and Giles seems very excited and grateful about the opportunity.
“It’s basically our dream tour, we’ve wanted to tour with Cheap Girls since we started our band. On our first record I emailed Bob a link to the latest Cheap Girls record at the time and was just ‘we should sound like this, this is fucking rad!’ It’s just been amazing touring with two bands that I love and listen to at home with my mates”.
In the days leading up to the Bristol gig the band tweeted about having Ian from Cheap Girls guesting on their new record, the follow up to 2013’s excellent Like I Belong. The prospects of a Great Cynics / Cheap Girls cross is a tantalising one to most punk fans, so obviously I had to try and get some more information out of Giles (for you readers obviously, not just me as a selfish fan…); about that track, the new album, and any other guests they might have lined up.
“Well we’ve recorded almost all of it, doing bits and bobs at our friends’ houses, extra vocals and that kind of shit. Then we asked Ian if he wanted to sing on it and he said yes, which was good! It wasn’t an embarrassing thing to be told no, and it sounds great! It’s really weird to hear one of your favourite singers on one of your records.
“Then usually when we record we do it near Exeter, where a lot of our friends’ bands are based, like the Muncie Girls or The Cut Ups. Usually those guys come along, but this time because we recorded it so last minute I think the only people we have singing on it are Andrew and Kate from Specialist Subject Records, and Ryan, who’s Iona’s housemate and comes on tour with us; but we always try and get our friends involved”.
If you’re a fan of Great Cynics then you probably don’t need me to explain who the Muncie Girls or The Cut Ups are. This is because all three bands are part of an absolutely fantastic DIY punk scene in the south of England right now. You have Gnarwolves in Brighton, Whoanows repping Cornwall and Caves holding it down in Bristol, with numerous others such as Bangers that I could mention. This scene is based around hard work and DIY ethics, with the bands taking each other out on tour and helping promote and produce their records. Almost every band in that list I discovered by seeing them on tour with another band on the list, and every band on that list has their own spin on British punk that makes them creative and unique. Whether its Gnarwolves skate infused hardcore or Caves grungey, political vibe, each band is well worth checking out and they all kill live. I ask Giles if he can think of any reasons why South England is producing so many great bands right now and what it’s like to be in the scene.
“I don’t know man, it does seem like in the South of England right now there are a lot of good bands, but I’m sure up in the North you’ve got the same thing, but we’ve got London so people are going to hear about it. There are rad bands everywhere you go but you don’t necessarily hear about it. Being in Bristol now we’re equidistant between Exeter and London almost, so including Plymouth bands, Brighton bands and Southampton bands you’ve got a good couple that you could make a sweet playlist out of. We’re lucky for that and as a band we feel really grateful to be in and amongst that, being able to play with our friends bands who we also love. Bangers for example, they’re like one of the best bands ever as far as I’m concerned and it’s amazing that Andrew puts out our records and we live near them in Exeter now, it’s nice to be around things that inspire you”.
Giles is a really nice guy who is clearly happy and patient enough to chat with drunk idiots in Belgian fields, but on top of that he’s a really passionate and talented performer who deserves any success that comes his and Great Cynics way. If anyone’s managed to get this far through the interview and haven’t listened to Great Cynics yet, then I really hope that you go find them on Spotify and I’ll see you at their next Bristol show; knowing them it probably won’t be too long, depending on Giles’ exam schedule of course.