Children Of The State discuss relocating to Manchester | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, June 13th, 2021  

Children of the State discuss relocating to Manchester during lockdown

A change is as good as a rest

Jan 25, 2021 Photography by Duncan Stafford Children of the State
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Manchester based five-piece Children of the State had banked on 2020 being their breakthrough year. Having put out a handful of well received singles prior to lockdown (“Sweet Sky Blue”, “I Shiver When I Burn”, “Big Sur”) they were due to play a number of shows and festivals throughout the year which should have cemented their growing reputation as one of the UK’s finest new live bands.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to that. What it hasn’t done though is prevent them from writing and recording, culminating in the excellent Tragic Carpet And The Magical Wasp Gang From Notre Dame EP which came out in November. Comprised of four songs and produced by The Coral’s Ian Skelly, the EP arguably represents their finest collection of songs to date.

So, Under the Radar excitedly set up a Zoom chat with three of the band - guitarist Nathan Keeble, drummer Conor O’Reilly and bass player Corey Clifton (singer John McCullough and keyboard player Harry Eland are absent today) - to talk about the band’s origins, relocating to Manchester, lockdown and their future plans.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): How did Children of the State start?

Nathan Keeble: It started in 2018. Me and Conor (O’Reilly) had a previous band with our singer John (McCullough) which wasn’t great to be honest. We met in Doncaster. There’s only one bar you can go to in Doncaster that plays good music, which is The Social. So that’s where everybody met.

Conor O’Reilly: We’re all originally from little villages just outside of Doncaster.

You’re all currently based in Manchester. When did you decide to move there?

Nathan Keeble: It was actually the 2nd September last year when we all landed on our knees across the pennines! Everything was going great. It looked like we were coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic as things were starting to open up again. But then October came along and it got ten times worse.

Conor O’Reilly: So, we’ve been stuck in this flat ever since.

Would you advise bands from musical backwaters like Doncaster to move to bigger cities like Manchester in order to get some recognition?

Corey Clifton: Hopefully. That’s what we’re banking on. That was one of the reasons we moved to Manchester. It’s just a more exciting place to live.

How’s it been during lockdown? Has it forced you to adapt and change your approach to making music?

Nathan Keeble: We’re still sharing song ideas, albeit virtually. It’s just weird, because we’ve all moved so close to each other. Yet this is probably the least we’ve seen each other since the band started! We stopped rehearsing together because it wasn’t really responsible to do that so it’s been really strange having to adapt to writing and recording individually. It feels like we’ve become a virtual band!

Conor O’Reilly: We moved here to be closer together but so far, it’s turned out to be the opposite!

You were scheduled to play a number of shows and festivals last year which were subsequently postponed or cancelled. Does it feel like the band’s progress has been stifled somewhat? Put on hold even?

Nathan Keeble: It does feel a bit like that. We were scheduled to play the main stage at Tramlines last summer which would have been massive for us. It’s felt like being a hamster on a treadmill chasing a carrot at times! The festival was the carrot and we’re still stuck on the treadmill. Our friends The Goa Express are in a similar situation to us. They’re doing really well at the minute and we’ve been speaking to them a lot as they only live round the corner from us.

Your EP Tragic Carpet And The Magical Wasp Gang From Notre Dame came out at the back end of last year to a wave of critical acclaim. Where did the title originate from?

Conor O’Reilly: Honestly? From the band’s group chat on Messenger! We were just throwing some ideas around for song titles and that one stuck so it became the title of our EP.

Nathan Keeble: It’s just dadaism really! There’s no rhyme or reason to it to be honest.

The four tracks on the EP all show a different side to the band. For example, “Hot Money” has a Fat White Family vibe while earlier single “Sweet Sky Blue” is in a similar vein to Spacemen 3’s “Big City”. Is that something you’re all conscious of when writing? Does everyone bring different ideas and influences to the mix?

Corey Clifton: I think we’re all into the same sort of things but at the same time, everyone’s into things that are different if that makes sense. We all have similar tastes but our influences are very diverse and spread so far. Some people think we should have a particular sound but I tend to disagree with that. A song should exist how you envisage it to. You shouldn’t have to try and push it into a shape or sound. It should be as free as possible to take on sonically.

It definitely makes bands more accessible if their sound is impossible to pigeonhole by genre, which is where I’d place Children Of The State. If you had to describe yourselves to someone that hadn’t heard your music what would you say?

Corey Clifton: I wouldn’t know where to start! But that’s the beauty of it to be honest. Even those of us within the band struggle for words when it comes to describing our sound.

Nathan Keeble: I think it can also go the other way where someone might like a particular song but then isn’t so keen on any of the others because they’re all so different. But then I guess that’s just the price you pay for having the creative freedom that exists in a band like ours. It’s also down to the people we work with as well. People like Nathan Saoudi (Fat White Family) and Ian Skelly (The Coral) for example, they bring so much out of us in many different ways. That’s why the songs on our EP vary so much.

How did you become involved with Nathan Saoudi and Ian Skelly? What did they bring to the mix and would you consider working with them again in the future?

Corey Clifton: I think we’d definitely love to work with both of them again. We haven’t got any concrete plans but when we do get around to doing something this year, we would probably go to Ian (Skelly) again. He would be our go-to producer. The only reason we stopped working with Nathan (Saoudi) was because he had to move away from Sheffield being in his band and going on tour. The studio shut down. I think we would have carried on working with Nathan if it hadn’t. We did try recording at other studios but it just didn’t work out for us. That’s when we approached Ian and luckily, he took us on which worked out well.

Nearly every song Children Of The State have released so far has a video to accompany it. Do you believe the visual element is just as important as the music itself?

Nathan Keeble: We’re all into films and stuff. I’m into film scores so I have always strived for the video to be a certain way. We’ve never been big fans of live performance videos.

Corey Clifton: Our music videos aren’t just there to serve a purpose. Some bands do them because they believe they have to. Whereas we’ve always come up with new ideas right from the first EP, and as its progressed with more releases we’ve come up with more ideas about what to do with music videos. And actually, wanting to put out these ideas as opposed to a live performance or lyrics video just to serve a purpose.

What are your plans for 2021?

Nathan Keeble: Hopefully when the studio’s back open we’ll record another single. That’s something we were definitely considering before the latest lockdown. We’re also banking on Tramlines happening this year in July because its outdoors. I just wish I had a crystal ball! Working Men’s Club played Yes in Manchester and Sheffield Leadmill in October, so we thought it was only a matter of time before everything started up again. Then it went the other way instead.

Will there be an album in the foreseeable future?

Nathan Keeble: There aren’t any plans yet but I guess that would be the next logical step. It’s definitely our next big objective.

Corey Clifton: If Covid hadn’t happened and last year turned out how we’d planned it to, an album would be something we’d be looking at this year. But because we’ve had to put a lot of stuff on hold, mainly around playing live, we’re looking at starting from where we left off when the time’s right to get back to normal. Mainly because we miss gigging so much, even though an album has been on our minds.

What advice would you give to a new band just starting out?

Nathan Keeble: Just write. Keep writing songs.

Conor O’Reilly: That’s what Ian Skelly said to us. Write as many songs as you can. Master your craft.

Nathan Keeble: It doesn’t matter if all of them don’t make it to the release stage because the one that does might just be that killer single.

Corey Clifton: It’s probably the best time to start a band now because there’s no pressure towards playing your first gig or putting out a demo. You’ve got all this time where you’re not inclined to play gigs so its not as if you’re missing out on anything. But what that does give you is time to refine your sound as much as possible for when it is safe to play gigs again than when we started practicing then played our first gig two months later.

Has lockdown impacted on the band’s quality control in that way?

Corey Clifton: Definitely. I don’t think we’d have released the Tragic Carpet… EP if it wasn’t for the first lockdown. That’s what forced us all to go separately and write on our own as opposed to jamming in a room together. It meant we ended up sending more polished recordings to each other while actually sitting and thinking about songs, planning things out more in a weird way. We possibly got more done during the first lockdown working that way than we would have if we’d just been meeting up at rehearsals every week and going through the set worrying about whether we were tight enough for the next gig.

Conor O’Reilly: None of the four songs on the EP had even been written before lockdown.

Nathan Keeble: Furlough was a great thing for us, because it basically meant we were getting paid not to work so we could make music instead.

Are there any other new artists you’d recommend for Under the Radar and its readers to check out?

Nathan Keeble: Julia Bardo‘s amazing. We did a couple of gigs with her before lockdown.

Corey Clifton: I’m a big fan of Guest Singer. They’re a band from Doncaster. If you don’t know them, check them out.


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February 11th 2021

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