In your head

With their new album, NYC trio Skaters shift to a bold new sound
By Sarah Roberts | Music | 13 March 2017

It’s been three years since Skaters released their debut album, which served as an homage to their then-new home, New York. A lot has happened since – like a baby for drummer Noah – and last year Skaters finally crept back onto the scene, releasing their Rock and Roll Bye Bye EP, playing a sell-out tour with Ratboy, and performing a live session on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show.

And on 24th March, Skaters will release their long-awaited second album, which unites clever songwriting with exciting production. A taster of the album has already been released in the form of gritty, punky-pop fused single In Your Head, and an accompanying video, which features a ballerina in a hoodie pirouetting through the streets of Hull, hints at Skaters’ experimental new direction. The album, also called Rock and Roll Bye Bye, will be released on the bands’ very own Yonks records, and is a free-spirited, skewed take on pop that brings together the band’s varied New York, LA and Hull-based influences.

Sarah Roberts: How does it feel to be releasing your album after so long?
Josh Hubbard: It’s a relief because we’re still playing and we’re still a band. The second album needed to come out. We’ve had it recorded for a while, so now it’s all in place it feels great because we invested a lot of money and effort into it, and it’s much better out there in the world where people have the opportunity to listen to it than it is sat on our hard drives.

Sarah: What have been the biggest challenges of self-releasing the album?
Other elements of life always infiltrate art, so keeping an eye on the prize and doing what we’re supposed to be doing has been tough. I self-released a second album with a previous band, and I did it on our own label, so I’ve done it before and it didn’t frighten me too much. You don’t often find these relationships so many times in your life, which is why when it was a bit touch and go with Skaters in the middle of last year, I really wanted to give this record a good shot. 

Sarah: Do you think that not being signed has given you a bit more freedom with your second album?
Josh: I don’t think so. We wouldn’t have made a different record if we were still with Warner Bros. Maybe the subject matter would be slightly different, because some of the songs are slightly kiltered towards leaving Warner Brothers and being independent, but we’re also all fifteen years into our careers, so we’ve all been doing it for a long time. The record that we’ve made is the record that feels right to us now. As Skaters, I think that the record would have been the same regardless of whether we were signed or not.

“Brit pop was a big influence for us. We were influenced a lot by Primal Scream and Happy Mondays and early 90s Manchester music, and considering that Oasis haven’t reformed yet, we thought we’d try to write some Oasis songs.”

Sarah: Your first album was very centred around New York. Do you think your music is still influenced at all by where you live?
Josh: Subject matter is always transitional and reflective of some phase of your life. We’re all a bit older, and we’ve all been touring a lot and listening to music on the road. When we wrote our first album, moving to New York was the really big thing that was happening in our lives at that time. Living in New York is still one constant influence. Your senses are always being opened and fed. When we started the band, we were already a little past the type of record that we made. The other two were trying to revisit elements of their youth, which is why we named the band Skaters, because of the culture and ethos that’s involved with skating. There’s still that energy in this album, but it’s way slower, and brit pop was a big influence for us. We were influenced a lot by Primal Scream and Happy Mondays and early 90s Manchester music, and considering that Oasis haven’t reformed yet, we thought we’d try to write some Oasis songs.

Sarah: How did you come to write an EP and an LP of the same name?
Josh: We jumped in deeper with the recording equipment when we began recording again. We’ve built up our synth game, and there was a long period of time when we were trying to transition to more studio-based, bigger sounding songs, but at the same time we wanted to play the live music venues we’d played previously, so we had this idea of doing a double album. We went into the studio with the hopes of recording a live album, and then a more synth, electronic-based album. The live album wasn’t really fully there, but there were five or six major live tracks, and that’s why the EP came along. It’s worked out well because it shows our transition into the album.

Sarah: Why did you decide to set the video for In Your Head back in your native Hull?
Josh: I had to come back to Hull for an operation and Noah had had a kid, so we decided to take a little sabbatical. We had the record ready and we’d finished mixing it, so it was all ready to go. Between us we were all a little bit downhearted, so while I was in recovery for my operation, I started scheming ideas. It’s quite easy to direct music videos when you’re part of the writing process for the actual song. You know the messages, hidden or obvious, that you want to bring out. You can make it as abstract as you want. This is the longest I’ve been back in Hull in eight years, and the energy here at the moment is amazing, so the concept behind the video represents all the frustration that I’d previously had with the city elevating into excitement. And I’d always wanted to do a choreographed dance video, but I’d never got round to it. So it’s that really, me as a young chav now trapped in a 30-year-old musician’s body.

Sarah: How did you go about finding people to collaborate with you on the videos?
Josh: I turned to Facebook and reached out to fans, and I had maybe 50 people get in touch, and there were about six that were really good. One of them was this kid called Josh, who shot our Northen Soul video that hasn’t been released yet. Once I shot that with him, I knew what he was capable of, so I just rang Josh again and asked if we could shoot another video, and he said yeah, so that’s how In Your Head happened. I’m also working with a kid from San Francisco, an illustrator in Bristol, a student in France, and a kid in Philadelphia, who is doing a really abstract art video for us.

Sarah: What are your plans after the album is released?
Josh: We’ll see what this record holds for us. We’re not going to do a hell of a lot of touring, we’ll just play a few shows when I get back to New York, and then maybe we’ll come across to the UK for a couple in the summer. We haven’t got that far. The plan is to put the record out and see what happens. We’re completely independent and we can’t afford to support our own cause, so if the demand is there, then we’ll act on it and play the shows. Other than that, we’ll probably go back into the studio immediately. There are some plans to build our own studio, which is cool because it means that we’ll solidify a base for us and we’ll be completely independent and self sufficient at that point. So that’s good news for Skaters and for people who like what we do.

You can pre-order Skaters’ new album here.


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