Unqualified Nurse Band are one of the more prolific outfits from Derby – now heading toward their third full length album within three years of forming – as well as one of the city’s most creative in their sound but also in their approach to making music in the digital age. Frontman Chris Jones catches up with Storge editor Sarah Lay ahead of the release of their new single Spit and Howl this week (Friday 23 February 2018).
The first time I saw Unqualified Nurse Band live I was – not to labour a cliche – blown away. The three piece were packed into the back corner of what was then Good Green Cafe on the corner of Strand Arcade and as they thundered through a 30 minute set taking in 11 songs the windows shook, my fellow audience were agog at the ferocity even as they soared on the melody amid the wall of noise. Frontman Chris Jones ricocheted between amps and the front row, no setlist just a shouted next song and a band that played as one.
In the two years since they have produced two albums released through Derby-based label Reckless Yes (which, full disclosure, I do co-run), 2016’s debut Debasement Tapes which deconstructed 60 years of rock n roll in a way that made band’s confining themselves to one genre sound lazy and 2017’s follow up Trashland, which surfaced psych elements and revisited the concept of an album as a complete piece. In between they hit the heady heights of number 74 in the Official UK Singles Chart with a Too Pure Singles Club released 7″. This is a band who do not stand still and who have an openness to approach and sound while also being driven by a singular creative vision: they are the epitome of the modern underground.
Indeed, there was barely time to draw breath since that second LP landed before the band started trailing their new music. Trashland was out, they were already saddled up and headed off on the next stage of their journey and they are talking about the trip toward third album UNB3 in a way few others in the music scene worldwide yet are. The plan to write, record and release a track a month throughout the year – starting this week with Spit And Howl – using different studios and engineers, for a collection which will become their third album.
Chris Jones told me about the idea, “We had a bunch of new ideas quite soon after Trashland and thought about doing an EP, or just the odd single. Over Christmas the first two songs came together really quickly and we just thought it was an interesting way to put something out.
“We can break up the costs rather than haemorrhaging a shitload of money into a three month window and we want to record in different studios and try different things. The only band I can think of who released all songs as singles from an album were The Wedding Present, I think. There’s bound to be loads more but there was no outside influence for the concept.”
This speed of working, and an ethic that sees them move music quickly from idea to release, isn’t new but there’s a challenge even for a band as aligned as players as Unqualified Nurse Band in approaching a release this way. There have been a few others who have stepped up recently – London’s Heavy Heart released a single a month and formed the collection into an album in 2017 while there are other bands stinging the traditional industry with their speed, most well known amongst them probably King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard.
“The first single was done at SNUG Recording Company. We’ve done all four of our releases there so far. The next single is being recorded to tape at Dubrek Studios, which is something we haven’t done before. We’re sorting a studio in Leeds at the moment for June where we’ll do three or four songs. It’s healthy to try new things and work with other engineers. You don’t want to get too comfortable with your surroundings.
“We’ve got rough outlines for maybe five or six songs at the moment. It definitely won’t sound like a normal LP and by going to different studios and using different gear there’s no point in even trying to make it sound like one. It will feel like a playlist or compilation album and it’s exciting that we have no idea how it’s gonna turn out. It might turn out a giant mess. We’ll see.”
It’s an interesting move away from what constitutes an album: a format music industry and listeners cling to even though the modern age has dispelled the limits that led to it becoming a standard. Once the format was everything in sharing and releasing music but that’s no longer the case: pick almost any common physical format or release digitally, stick to standard song numbers and track lengths or ignore it all completely, do it with a label and wider team or do it alone. Is the album an idea we are stuck with out of habit rather than relevance?
“The relevance of the album is still there. 100%. That what our last record was all about. Having a complete listening experience where the album has a real flow. A beginning, middle and end rather than just 12 songs put together. Either way works though. There’s no good or bad or right and wrong.
“I guess people are more inclined to be skipping around several records in one listen if they’re on Spotify as the options are endless. But more people are buying vinyl so there’s a bit of reaction to that. I don’t really know how a band should adapt. Making full length records is expensive if you’ve not got a label funding the whole thing. Digital singles are easy and affordable but every band wants physical copies of what they’re doing.”
Unqualified Nurse Band have tried it all: self-released digitally, with a label, through their own label and back to self-release. As with their approach generally they seem open to the pros and cons of the routes and pragmatic about which one is most practical at a given time. “We came up with the idea for UNB3 in mid January and recorded the first song about ten days later. It kind of took off out of nowhere so we just got on with it ourselves. By the end of the year we’ll look at physically releasing it and we don’t necessarily have to do that ourselves.”
The releases start this week with the first track being as immediate and vital as my first experience of seeing them play live, “The first song is called Spit And Howl, recorded at SNUG, written between Christmas and New Year. It’s a fast punk rock song. We’re all singing on it and its a real relentless beast. It is the right song to start the album with. It’s very different to Trashland and Debasement Tapes but with the way these new songs are sounding they sit quite well between the two records, kinda pulling different elements from each.”
The first track from third album UNB3, Spit and Howl, will be released digitally on Friday 23 February 2018 via Medicine Music and will be available through Unqualified Nurse Band‘s Bandcamp page.
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