The Victoria in Dalston, was in full Saturday night swing, filled to the brim with people laughing, drinking and socialising, the perfect venue for garage punks Avalanche Party and Canshaker Pi’s joint headline tour.
As I sat at the bar, waiting to meet Jordan Bell, Avalanche Party’s enigmatic lead singer, blasts of the band’s hit Porcelain started drifting into the pub, signalling that the boys were still in sound check, but eventually, they each, in turn, came out, greeting me like an old friend, chatting about drinks orders and if they should order food.
“Jordan’s just putting a shirt on!” guitarist Jared told me, making me wonder if he soundchecks shirtless, as well as playing the shows shirtless.
(This was something I never found out…).
A few minutes later there appeared Jordan, greeting me with a friendly smile, pulling me in for a quick hug and then turning walking off, speeding through the pub, venue and then the maze that was backstage, with me doing my best to keep up.
Ending up outside at the band’s tour van, the inside of which I was amused to see had been signed by the many different bands that had used it, including The Blinders and Bang Bang Romeo, we sat down, he offered me a beer, rolled himself a cigarette and we were ready to start the interview just as the faint sound of Canshaker Pi sound checking could be heard in the background.
“The headline was a joint decision, we’d seen Canshaker Pi before and they’re pretty cool… And we’ve got the same agent.” He says with a sheepish grin.
“I think the joint headline works well. They’re from Holland so are doing really well over there but we’ve ended up headlining most of the shows just because being an English band we’ve got more of a following in England… as you’d expect. So it makes more sense.”
I remembered at a previous Avalanche Party show Jordan telling me their previous band was ‘3 Foot Ninja’ and was met with laughter after reminding him of this.
“Yeah, 3 Foot Ninja. We did all right; it was just us doing it ourselves. We started really young; I was 11 at our first gig. And we didn’t really know how to play at that point either; we sort of started a band before learning our instruments properly. We did an album but I haven’t listened to it for a long time. Unless it’s been wiped you can still find it on iTunes. I think my Mam’s still got albums stuffed around the house…”
“When you listen back it wasn’t like ‘lad rock’ but there were a lot of ‘wo oh-oh’ choruses and stuff… But there was a point where we’d got competent enough to know what we wanted to do and it wasn’t being in a band called 3 Foot Ninja…
“We wanted to stop and start a new band. And then it took another two years to get the current line up, and then it changed again quite a lot. We’ve only really been going with the line up for three years, but the Avalanche Party been going for five. It started when I was 21.”
Avalanche Party are very much known for their dramatic, and even otherworldly live performances, with Jordan fronting the band, spending most the show in the audience, and never losing focus, almost appearing in a trance-like state. It’s a very bold and, in a way, brave performance style, completely putting yourself out there and is something I’d always wondered if they had done even when they were just starting out.
“Because we’d all been in other bands we kind of started out with a following so we were lucky in that sense but we definitely have played shows to five-10 people at a time….But yeah, no matter the size of the crowd we still try and put on the same show. It feels shit when you’re onstage giving it nothing; you come off stage feeling awful like it just feels like a waste of time. And those people watching you won’t want to see you again either.”
Something that I noted again and again throughout the interview was how different Jordan was to his onstage persona. Gone were the intense looks and the heightened energy and instead he was a funny, charming and a very sweet ‘everyday’ kind of lad, miles away from the man we know from the stage.
“It’s not as defined a thing as putting on a character, I haven’t gone full Ziggy Stardust, but that would be a quite cool thing to do later on. Going to gigs when we were in 3 Foot Ninja and seeing so many bands, after a while, they all start to blend into one. We wanted to make live shows exciting and make the people-watching feel excited. I have done the whole ‘putting on a character’ in other bands though. We had a band called ‘Galatic Glam Cowboys’, where we were all cowboys with different names. We had a keyboard player called Lightning WankHank, I think I was Sweet Sugar Ray. We all glammed up and wore cowboy hats, only for one gig. It was actually really good, we could’ve gone far. Now and again it’s fun to let your imagination run wild, create a project. We only did one gig and one release but we still had to do all the writing, recording and promoting, there was eight of us all working together on this band.”
Hailing from Yorkshire, along with bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, it turns out that this was more of a hindering factor in the success of the band and they had to travel to find their scene and their audience.
“Joe and me didn’t go to school, I went to playschool and then went into homeschooling. We did the whole GCSEs and A Levels though. The schools around us were shit and my parents were both teachers so that, combined with how far the schools were, meant it made sense to be home-schooled. You just had to go to a college to sit the exams and that was it. For a lot of bands, your first gigs are playing to your schoolmates we didn’t have that at all and had to go elsewhere to find an audience.”“We lived in North Yorkshire, right in the middle of the moors and there are no venues or anything. We lived five miles out from this tiny village; there was fuck all around there. Middlesbrough was the closest town to us where there was a sort of scene for music so we got used to travelling for the band pretty early on.
“We did have friends though!” He quickly confirmed with a chuckle. “We weren’t living in a cave. It kind of made it easier for music because there was no timetable and we didn’t have a place we had to be every day, so we could kind plan things, as we wanted.”
Having released their newest single, ‘Million Dollar Man’ (Check it out, below!) just the day before, Jordan sites the bands and his personal influences as Nick Cave, Iggy Pop but also more surprisingly a lot of dance music.
“I really like Die Antwoord at the moment. When I was younger I’d always go to Global Gathering that drum and bass festival. I think Scooter was the first thing I bought. And I like bands like Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes but I never grew up listening to more indie stuff, whereas a lot of the band did, I sort of caught on afterwards.”
I mentioned I liked Fidlar, and he instantly agreed.
“FIDLAR are fucking sick, they were also a band we were listening to loads of when we started Avalanche Party.
“But it was good recording Million Dollar Man because it was different to what we’ve done before. But because we’ve had more of a live focus we don’t have much recorded and that’s something we’re keen to change. We’re kind of setting up to go into a studio and record a proper album.”
Wondering if the limited songs the band currently has recorded ever caused an issue for live performances, Jordan insists not.
“We do have a few songs we don’t have recorded that we can stick in if we want to extend the set. The only time we ever really had that issue was while we were still 3 Foot Ninja and we played as a cover band to raise money for recording. We’d cover really awful cliché songs like Oasis, The Killers. We did a New Year’s Eve gig at this shit pub and it was the most money we’d been paid by miles and we were like this is great, think of how much studio time we can pay for. And we got there and the guy was like “right I want you to do three sets, an hour and a half set each and we’d got maybe two hours worth of covers. So that night every song had a five-minute guitar solo to extend them all.”
“There was one moment where we were playing Last Night by The Strokes and this big fight kicked off. This woman was getting really irate at the bar staff, and there was this big argument, while we were still playing, but when we saw this happen we sort of stopped singing and were there playing watching this woman throwing pint glasses at the bar staff. And it took ages for the bouncers to clock what was happening and drag her out… and we’d been playing the whole time, we somehow managed to extend that song to almost 15 minutes, it had about 12 verses and 15 choruses… and nobody noticed!” he says laughing at the bizarre memory.
Deciding this was a good note to end on, I thanked him for his time, and he thanked me with a warm smile,
“I think we’ve covered everything, music, the band, life, the future, the past, we’ve done good.”
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Innovative Photographer and writer for The ZineUK, Elly Bailey is a SUPERtalent. You’ll find her at the front of all the hottest gigs in town, and as the instigator in some of our most in-depth interviews.