JAWS remain both an overlooked wonder and a national treasure. My own experience with the Birmingham-based group is oh-so sweet; discovering them via a friend in that glorious, Foals-headlining-Reading summer of 2016, before taking my somewhat hermit-like brother to see them at Electric Ballroom, Camden, three years later for his birthday (to this day his first and only gig). The band have just released an untitled track – one that didn’t quite make the cut for their 2019 album, The Ceiling – as well as a photobook documenting the band on their most recent tour. Thanks to the convenience of Zoom, I was graced with the audience of Ed Geach, JAWS’ drummer, where we spoke of simpler times, life on tour and pictures of frontman Connor Schofield (with his trousers down).
I begin by getting the obvious out of the way; lockdown and all its throes. “To be honest, we never really saw each other through lockdown anyway,” begins Geach. “It’s only when we have a gig coming up, or if we’re going into the studio or something, in which case we’ll go and smash out a few weeks in rehearsal. Connor is down in London, we’re all here in the Midlands and dotted around wherever. We’re just used to speaking to each other everyday on WhatsApp.”
The lack of face-to-face contact has surely taken its toll on many acts, JAWS included. “As far as making music goes, not a lot has happened, purely because motivationally it’s been quite hard. Of course you write little bits here and there, but not complete songs, so we’re really looking forward to meeting up again and practicing; I’m sure we’ll have quite a few ideas floating about.” Geach anticipates a question about the single and photobook, but I have a burning query to clear first. Years ago, Schofield tweeted that he was looking for the next Cure song to rip off, so I jokingly ask if developing material from Disintegration was ever a conscious decision in the studio.
The drummer laughs. “When we started we just made music for ourselves, then all the reviews we got said it sounds like The Cure or The Smiths. We took it in our stride, because there’s far worse bands to be compared to, so as a running joke we might be like, ‘Oh, which Cure song can we rewrite?’ Nine times out of ten, whatever we make will sound like The Cure, but I’m happy with that! If you’re going to rip off anyone, it might as well be the greats.”
I move onto the untitled track; mainly, why it didn’t make The Ceiling. “It didn’t really tie in with the rest of the songs that were definitely going to make the album. We didn’t know where to put it, plus we ran into an issue regarding the vinyl being pressed, because you need a certain amount of tracks on each side, and if you have too many tracks you have to talk about getting a third side, which would have complicated things,” he continues. “I was already sceptical about the song at the time, regarding the sound and where to put it, so unfortunately it was as simple as deciding to sacrifice it.” Geach speaks of this as though it’s an inevitable part of being a band, and I suppose it is. Curating and cherry-picking a tracklist must be one of the hardest things a band does; the abundance of re-releases and reissues of classic albums that get put out, chock full of outtakes, demos and forgotten tracks are often met with praise, but the stories behind them are usually left untold. Geach explains his view: “I’ve got nothing against the song and it was never like, ‘Let’s get rid of it,’ I think we just knew it was inevitable at some point. But now we’ve had the opportunity to release it, I’ve listened to it a lot since then and now I love it. I’m excited to see what people think of it.”
“Going onto the photobook, apart from the fact it was the most recent one, was there a particular reason you chose to document this tour?” I ask. “It wasn’t really a conscious decision,” admits Geach. “Of course, that tour had some of the biggest gigs we’ve ever done, but we got into the habit of taking a photographer with us, and the guy we usually had doing it was busy with something else, but we still needed someone to fill that gap. Connor was already friends with Peter Lally – who just so happens to be a very talented photographer – and Connor asked if it was alright to bring him along and we accepted. I mean, I trust Connor with anything really – he knows what looks good – so Peter came along and started taking pictures and they turned out really great. We didn’t decide to do a book there and then – I think it was near the end of the tour – because Peter was going to do one of his own accord and asked us for permission to use the photos. Obviously we were okay with that, but before long we decided we would work together on it and release it as a joint effort. The pandemic slowed things down, but we’ve finally got it now and I feel it’s a good representation of what it’s like on tour. There’s lots of pictures of us just sitting around or in service stations and what have you; it isn’t just pictures of us playing. That’s why I feel it’s a good representation, because you spend a lot of time waiting around on tour. I’m more than happy with it and I’m glad it’s something a bit different.”
Geach’s final sentence on the matter intrigues me. A photobook isn’t exactly a new idea, but with technology and digital media growing ever-present by the day, as well as lockdown pushing an introverted and inward-comfort pursuing lifestyle, perhaps the notion of a current, physical collection of photos is a little retro, or at least a nostalgic touch to an otherwise elite artform.
“I was discussing this earlier actually,” he says. “As social media has taken over everything – including the world of photography – it’s similar to the age-old argument of physical vs. digital media, such as vinyl vs. streaming. I mean, as a fan of many bands, this is something that would be right up my street. You can pick which one is your personal favourite and you can do what you like with it – cut it out, stick it on your wall – whatever you fancy. I believe it does give the opportunity for those photos we’ve all chosen to be appreciated. Posting on Instagram is fine, but they sit amongst billions of other photos, so I feel sometimes really great stuff gets overlooked.” I press on about London-based Lally’s photography in particular. He has provided content for big journalistic names (such as Vice and Copa90), but also for household names like Greggs, Wilkinson Sword and Tesco. “Do you think Peter’s photography captured the essence of JAWS?” I enquire.
“He was amazing really. Most of the time, Peter was sitting with us and I hardly ever noticed him taking photos. You can see that a lot of the time, we’re not looking at him or we’re doing something else; we’re not posing for the camera or anything. He did it in a really subtle way in order to capture us in a natural setting, like having arguments or telling shit jokes. When I first got the photos back I thought, ‘Bloody hell!’ It just came across as really true – and a bit too true for my liking! But no, I love it and I can’t wait to see what the fans think, as I feel they’ll be able to relate.” I of course want to get a peek at some of the photos, so I ask if he has any favourites.
He mentions a great one of Schofield with his trousers down, but stops himself before he reveals it to me onscreen. He instead opts to show me a black-and-white snap of Schofield and his Dad, phones in hand, both almost cowering at the sight of Newcastle playing on the screens in front of them. Schofield is hiding behind his hoodie, his eyes hopelessly drawn to The Magpies. It’s beautiful. Here, Lally expresses a human, family-oriented and traditional approach to experiences in the midst of rockstardom and its vices. There is something so gorgeously British about a young man and his father, seemingly worlds apart in life yet inseparable due to their love of Newcastle and the beautiful game.
I mention the upcoming Winter tour, and that the venues they’re scheduled to perform are far more intimate than those they played back in 2019. “To be fair, it’s usually the way we do it, especially as we haven’t released anything aside from the new/old track.” says Geach. “We want to get back into things and get people back to gigs, so it’s more of a warm up. The idea is to play smaller venues, maybe put out some new material, see how people receive it and then play the large venues later. I’m hoping we get in the studio either before the end or immediately after the tour and get working on a new album.” I ask if the untitled track will see some live attention. “We’ll have to wait and see, but we will definitely give it a go in practice,” he says. Some songs just don’t work live, but who knows, it might sound okay.”
Before I go into my traditional interview-closing questions, I wonder how he feels about JAWS approaching their 10th anniversary. “To be honest, I can’t believe it’s been that long. You genuinely do love it and that’s the short answer. We just love making music together and can’t wait to get back in and be with each other, as I feel like we’ve lost two years. It’s so exciting and we’re shamelessly fans of our own music. It’s still amazing for us to think we have fans and it keeps us going.”
It’s relieving to hear of such a healthy relationship. Time and time again, promising British bands break up too soon or otherwise find themselves unable to continue. With three records under their belt and plenty of enthusiasm to boot, it’s a genuine pleasure to hear Geach and co. are still raring to carry on the legacy they’ve crafted. With time running out, I fire away my last questions.
“Favourite JAWS track?”
“Oh my god! ‘Stay In’.”
“Favourite gig you’ve played so far?”
“Manchester, The Ritz.”
“Favourite record of all time?”
“Led Zeppelin IV.”
“Any music that got you through lockdown?”
“I used to listen to Children of Bodom when I was younger and after the lead singer died a while ago, I got back into them again, so I feel that my end of year Spotify charts will be filled with Children of Bodom!”
It’s humbling to see Geach so fervent about his band and the music around him, while not putting any extra pressure on himself or the group. In an ever-changing world it can be harder than ever to find oneself, least of all be content with one’s identity. Geach’s words are hopeful, but his sentiments regarding JAWS’ 10-year stint resonate best: “Truthfully, sometimes we’re still in the same mindset as we were when we started the band in college; we’re still just lads making music in a tiny room, but then we get to go and do amazing things.”
All photography by Peter Lally, sourced via.
You can read more by Connor here.