Groak: Band Of The Day

By on 7 December 2015


If you’re sick of checking out new “sludge” records that just sound like detuned Fu Manchu B-sides with additional screams, then sickeningly heavy trio Groak are the perfect antidote. Born out of Leeds’ fertile hardcore scene (vocalist/guitarist Ben Southern used to be in The Day Man Lost and currently provides vocals for grind legends Suffering Mind too, whilst bassist Joe Hall plays in doom three-piece Wiht and drummer Steve Myles somehow finds the time to play in Clenstch, Cattle and Gloomweaver), their debut release ‘Masticator’ is one of the filthiest, heaviest and downright nastiest EPs of the year, a punishing 25 minutes of intimidating, lumbering riffs, gruesome low-end murk and the occasional blast of abrasive grind fury. And fuckin’ ell, those vocals! If you can find a more harrowing example of piercing, tortured shrieks this side of Khanate, then we’d very much like to hear it. You can hear it over on Groak’s Bandcamp page, or pick up a copy on tape from F H E D.

Wasting no time at all, Groak have already followed up the EP with a split with Leeds powerviolence champs Lugubrious Children (and there are more on the way apparently) and played a number of shows across the UK with the likes of Famine, Human Cull, Atomçk, Nothing Clean and more. With no signs of slowing down (well, aside from in a musical sense of course) in 2016, we thought we’d catch up with the band to find out how they manage to sound so damn filthy…

FOR FANS OF: Noothgrush, Grief, Dystopia
LATEST RELEASE: Groak/Lugubrious Children Split (Mind Ripper Collective, 2015)
WEBSITE: Facebook & Bandcamp

Could you tell us briefly how you all met and formed Groak?
Ben (Southern, vocals/guitar): “Me and Steve had been talking about playing in a slow band for a little bit since I moved over to Leeds from Preston. I met Steve when he was doing sound at ‘Kin Ell Fest one time for The Day Man Lost and had been at a few of his previous bands gigs before. Steve had helped set up the Chunk DIY space in Leeds so it was easy to sort practises out. A couple of friends had suggested getting Joe involved on bass who at the time was still playing in Wizard’s Beard.

Steve (Myles, drums): “Ended up chatting to Ben about starting up a slow band at ‘Kin Hell Fest which we were both playing at a few years ago. Was dead chuffed when Joe got involved, known him since before the Wiht days so worked out nicely.”

Joe (Hall, bass): “I was into about 6 bottles of Wells Banana Bread Beer at Brudenell and Ben asked me if I wanted to play bass in a slow band. Jumped at the offer!”

Did you have a specific sound in mind when you formed the band, or did that grow and evolve as you played together?
Joe: “We’ve all got a pretty varied taste in music, but the one thing we all get on with is minging crust doom. So when we started playing that’s pretty much what came out. The new songs we’re writing at the moment are significantly different to our first couple of tunes. So I guess we’ve all settled on an idea of what we want it to sound like now.”

Ben: “Originally I think we had the intention of going for a Grief/Dystopia vibe. Wanted to go as heavy as possible but without having a metal influence on the sound. For me personally I was wanting it to be simple punk/grind riffs, tuned really low and played very slow with harsh vocals. As we spent more time in the practise room Steve’s added some blasts in there to mix it up. Also we all wanted to keep it as DIY as possible.”

Steve: “Just wanted it to be proper slow and proper horrid, ditched any melody, turned it up, walloped everything harder and tried to spit out the harshest vocals we could.”

What kind of stuff are you and the rest of the band into? Who would you cite as influences?
Steve: “My main points of reference are probably some of the slow DIY bands that have been kicking about for a bit like Moloch, Pombagira and Lazarus Blackstar. We’re all into Thou, Grief, Corrupted and Noothgrush and all that. Got a pretty broad taste when it comes to what we listen to outside of the band though. Everything from grind to grime for me!

Joe: “Corrupted have been one of my favourite bands for years. I absolutely love how they can write a fairly simple tune but have it cloaked in so much misery. Really admire that. Another favourite of mine is Meth Drinker from NZ. They do a similar type of thing, only more sludge, and swap the misery for anger, and add a shit-ton of feedback.

Ben: “Personally I am mainly into punk, grindcore and powerviolence. Bands like Assück and Hellnation although that might seem quite contradictory as they are all fast as fuck! For me, bands like Grief and Dystopia have heavily influenced my part in the band.

How does your writing process normally work out? Will you meet up with song ideas pretty much fully formed beforehand, or do you tend to jam stuff out a bit more?
Joe: “All pretty much happens at Chunk where we rehearse. We’ll write a tune in a session – Record it on a phone – Forget it – Try and re-learn it huddled round the phone speaker for the next 2 hours.”

Steve: “Originally Ben would have a couple of riffs loaded and we’d go from there, last couple have been written on the spot though. Suppose with any band as time goes on you get more used to how each other play and adapt to it, has always been pretty stress free so far.”

As well as Groak, you all play in other bands – is it ever hard to find the time for Groak?
Steve: “Takes a bit of juggling, definitely benefit from having an up to date calendar! A bunch of us practice down at the same spot (Chunk in Leeds) so we’re always giving each other gigs/turning out for each others sets etc. Have found that being well practiced in one band helps keep the others together too so it’s not too bad if you have to miss a couple of practices for whatever reason. Wednesday is Groak day though as a rule.”

Ben: “Not really to be honest. With Suffering Mind although we release quite a lot of material we don’t tend to do many live shows so it doesn’t interfere with any Groak stuff. Joe plays in Wiht but they don’t play too regularly as the members are spread out across the UK. Steve plays in about 36 bands in Leeds but somehow manages to make time to write, gig and record with them all. We practise up at the Chunk space every week, can put shows on there and record their too. Which is really handy for the volume of material we intend to release.”

Joe: “Not for me personally. I play in another band called Wiht, but that’s once in a blue blue moon when we rehearse or play as Rick the drummer lives near Bath and Chris the guitar player lives in Worthing on the south coast. With Groak we usually dedicate each Wednesday to a rehearsing or writing session, so we all usually know what’s going on.”

What can you tell us about your new split with Lugubrious Children?
Ben: “Love that band! I’d say they are the UK version of Charles Bronson and Reversal Of Man. We have played quite a few shows with them as they are quite active on the LeedsLeedsLeeds DIY scene. We know the guys quite well so it came about really easy. We tend to play gigs with faster punk/grind bands and thought fast/slow contrast would work quite well on a release. I’d say we have more in common with DIY punk ethic than we do with other slow bands we sometimes play with. Also it’s really cool of Mind Ripper Collective to help release it. Thanks for the support.”

Steve: “Glad to have had the opportunity to do a release with those lot, sorted lads and dead talented. One of those bands who were slick straight out of the gates. Really liked the idea of having a split with one slow side and one fast, change it up a little bit. Their EP (S/T CS) is well worth a spin and all, recorded by Ben (their drummer) who has just recorded a track for us too.”

Joe: “They’re super lovely.”

How about your ‘Masticator’ EP? What was the inspiration behind the lyrics?
Steve: “It all started off from the word Groak which is the act of staring at someone while they eat in hope that might offer you some. The EP’s lyrics focus mainly on weird eating habits, processes, parasites and greed in general. The first track is based on a disorder that gives you the compulsion to eat human hair and its long term effects. One is about a parasite that replaces the tongue of some fish and then exists within the animal without really harming it and another is about overconsumption and the unfair distribution of food stuff globally. Some of it’s just supposed to be visceral and awful and some of it’s a little bit more serious.”

How would you describe the typical Groak gig?
Ben: “We tend to play DIY grindcore shows mostly with fast bands. We are really fortunate that Leeds has a very active DIY scene and bands come through all the time. Venues like Temple Of Boom, Wharf Chambers, Brudenell Social Club and the CHUNK space put gigs on an awful lot and have really helped the Leeds scene. Typical Groak show would be extremely loud in a DIY spot in Leeds, cheap beer and loads of mates with Soft Lads DJ blasting out some Brandy and Monica till the early hours.”

Steve: “Usual gig procedure is lights down, amps up and hope for the best.”

Joe: “I guess pretty loud and heavy, what you’d usually expect from a doom gig really. Whenever we tune-up (whatever that is) I’m sure it goes down a step each time too.”

What’s been your best moment as a band? And on the flipside, what’s been the worst thing to happen to you in music?
Joe: “One of the best times was the Groak/Famine weekender in August. All dead lovely lads. Wild camped on the Saturday night under the stars. Played some ace gigs in Liverpool, London & Nottingham. The latter being where we played with your band; Shrykull. Bloody ace! Not really sure about the worst to be honest. I guess one of them must be driving over to Manchester with one of my old bands, setting up and getting ready to play when a load of football hooligans showed up and started trashing the place. The gig got cancelled after that, but what hurt the most; we missed out on the free hot-dogs :-(”

Steve: “Aye, Famine weekender was a good laugh and played a mad show out in the lakes in September at the same site as Blackwood Gathering. Getting to play a set with EHG was pretty bangin too but I reckon my fave gig of the year was with Cloud Rat, Moloch, Nothing Clean and Carcosa. Just one of those nights where everything lined up perfectly. Worst experience was probably in my old band where we broke down on the first night of a three month job and had to drive from Rotterdam to Belgrade in 24 hrs to play catch up, whack few days that.”

Ben: “I’m really happy we have managed to get a few releases under our belt in the first year as being an active band as well as playing live shows regularly. I really enjoyed our weekender with Famine in summer. Think that made us realise we can all be in a van together for a few days! Also getting asked to play the Doom Chile benefit at the 1 in 12 Club. That was really cool to be a part of. Worst experience in a band was probably getting denied visas to play the American tour with Suffering Mind earlier this year, a couple of weeks before we were supposed to go out and play.”

What does the future have in store for Groak?
Joe: “Loads of splits. Loads of cuddles. X”

Ben: “We are recording a few more splits soon with Mitrega from Poland and Chinsniffer from Liverpool this year. Starting to get a few lined up for next year too. Next year we want to get out and do a Euro jaunt, hopefully with Famine again! Can guarantee there will be lots of cuddling.”

Steve: “Just focussing on a writing a bunch of tunes for a few splits we have on the way, got a set lined up at Daughter of Chimpy next Jan which should be banger and hopefully getting on the road a bit more in general. Plus cuddles.”


About Kez Whelan

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