We caught up with Nima, frontman of the raucous Arrows of Love before their triumphant headline show at XOYO. A group fast becoming notorious for their manic, infectious live performances, Arrows of Love blend grunge, post-punk and sheer talent to create music as visceral as it is joyous. Want to feel the love for yourself? Come to XOYO on Tuesday 15th October – just don’t be surprised to get very up close and personal with this most anarchic of bands! [click here for a chance to win tickets to this show]
How did you get involved with Strummerville?
We had quite a few friends who were involved with them, so we just naturally picked them up about two or three years ago. They helped us fund one of our tours, so we are forever grateful for that, and they’ve been really supportive in other ways too – we’ve played a couple of their stages and their festival. They’re a great bunch.
Bet you’re excited to be playing XOYO!
It’s a great venue, somewhere I’ve always seen bands that I like; it’s a bit of a step-up for us in terms of capacity since last year. I get the impression that, even though it’s a bit bigger, it’s gonna suit a band like us, ‘cos we’re pretty messy and… we kind of roll on and off the stage into the audience and all of that kind of stuff! There’s some places that stick you up on an immensely high stage for the size of the room and you just feel a bit like a strutting chicken or something, stuck on a podium – it’s the last thing you want, that awkward feeling. It’s a good line-up, so I’m really excited about that.
So if you’re quite a messy band, have you got any particular influences?
Definitely – everyone’s always got influences – but I’m a bit loathe to say what could represent all five of us. As an individual, I’ve got a natural tendency towards 90s based music, like the Pixies, and a lot of 60s stuff, like The Doors. That was my bread and butter at the beginning, the reason I picked up a guitar was because of Jimi Hendrix! It just changes all the time, for everyone – your favourite band one year, the next you might not really listen to them anymore. When we first recorded demos of this album, a friend of mine introduced me to a band called Shellac and they blew my mind. I was like “oh my god!” – and I can see why he played them to us, because there’s a lot of similarities there. I ended up getting in touch with Shellac and one of them’s actually mastering our album – he’s literally the best person in the world! I’m in a really privileged position in that one of my influences is actually shaping the product they inspired!
Why should people come and see Arrows of Love live?
Well, I’d never say that people should come and see us – there’s no should about it! – but what people tend to say when they come makes us feel like we’re getting something right. We’ve had a lot of people say things like it’s the first time they’ve ever felt like they’ve been at a gig, how they feel unsettled at our gigs. I guess all of these things is because we do take it to the audience and we do interact; we don’t just stand on a stage and play our stuff and be perfect. We’d rather have more energy, let things go a little more and have a bit of life.
When people say unsettled, what do you think they mean by that?
At times, one or the other of us are roaming round in the audience singing and playing guitar, and we end up right in people’s faces – not everyone’s used to that! Most gigs do involve the audience and the band standing in their designated areas, and when we get right up close to people or grab ‘em, or wrap ‘em up in leads I can kinda understand why they’re uncomfortable! At the same time, there’s a wild look of excitement on people’s faces that makes us keep doing it, the excitement of not being sure what’s gonna happen next. There’s a side of us that likes to get up there and just make a bit of a balls-out, fucking noisy mess!
Does it matter that you build up that kind of personal relationship between the band and the audience?
I think it matters loads – some of my least favourite gigs are the ones where we didn’t connect with the audience. For me, it’s such a vital part of the experience for everyone in the room. I think someone said once that it’s like a feedback loop, that the energy that either the audience or the band gives to the other one leads to a sort of loop where everyone’s buzzing. Some bands don’t even talk between songs.
Do you feel that the concept of genre, and sorting bands into genre, is limiting?
For me, as a person who makes music of some description, it’s really important that if you’re writing songs and making music you don’t give genre any thought whatsoever – that’s when it becomes limiting. If you see yourself as a grunge band, or as a ‘whatever’ band, I think something happens to the mind of the person creating that art-form, whatever it is. Even with genres of painters and stuff; if people start seeing themselves as something then that’s one of the most damaging things for their output. You end up entangled in self-perception. There’s a real risk, if you start thinking too much about what genre you are then the things that you produce won’t come out naturally. With Arrows of Love, that’s one of the good things about the band – if there’s any kind of rule, it’s that the next song shouldn’t sound like any that we’ve written before. Enjoy the music for what it is – if you force it, it’s always going to be obvious, it’s always going to be flawed in some way. Ah, always is a strong word… usually! Maybe some people have forced out songs that have been killer.
So you’d class music as an art-form?
I just feel that it’s all part of the same thing really. Most of the rules that I apply to stuff, what I like about a well-done piece whether it’s a poem or a painting or a song, tend to be the same. For instance, I like it when a piece isn’t quite completed until it’s in the mind of the viewer or the listener, with a little bit of room for interpretation.
Having said that, is your aim with your song-writing to stop short of being explicit about things?
There are times where I’m looking at the lyrics of a song and the words make sense and they work but it feels a bit too on a plate or preachy. The last thing I wanna do is shove anything down anyone’s throats; what I’d rather do is sort of prod and hope that we stimulate a bit of thought, or contemplation. Not forcing them, but giving them a nudge and saying ‘eh! Look at this!’ Creatively, that’s more interesting, regardless of what type of art it is.
What’s it like playing in the current musical climate?
There are things about it that are really tough for musicians, but I’m not gonna sit around at home and cry about it; I’m just gonna get on with what I can do as a person with whatever resources I’ve got, or have managed to hustle! It is really stressful, and a struggle, but there’s a lot of good things about it.
What have you learnt through working with Strummerville in terms of being in a band?
This might sound really obvious, but just doing it – if you think that something musical needs doing, then go ahead and do it. If that’s on the creative side, or you just think that you need to write more songs, it’s the same. You just need to get into rehearsal rooms and play! Even if it’s simple, just do what you can, and when you’ve got more at your disposal, then you’ll have more options available. Strummerville have helped us so much.
And having worked with them, what do you think about the Strummerville ethos and the Strummerville way of doing things?
Obviously, it’s amazing! I feel honoured that we’ve been supported by them, but the only reason I feel that way is because they’re such a good foundation. It’s a privilege. Their set-up and their way of running things with the principle of helping musicians that don’t always have a huge amount of options is great. They’ve helped us, and they’ve helped loads of other people in different ways, and they do it without prejudice. There isn’t a music style which artists have to stick to; if you’re earnest and you’re trying hard, and they can see that, then they’ll support you. What better principle can there be than that?
Arrows of Love: one of the best bands on the scene at the moment, with a sound and an attitude which prides itself on being fiercely individual and a real connection with the audience. Ignore them at your peril.