Basement Manners: Fresh

Written by Daniel Rourke

In recent years London has become the go-to city for upcoming DIY punk bands. With venues such as DIY Space For London opening, the influx in bands has increased. One band from that scene who have been catching the attention of anyone who will listen is Fresh.

With a mixture of acoustic and full band tracks, the band's first two EPs took the scene by storm in 2015. Despite the band still having a heavy presence on the UK touring circuit, they haven't released anything since 2015. We sat down with vocalist Kathryn Woods to discus how it all started, what's next for the band and more.

Burn After Writing: Where did it all start musically for you?

Kathryn Woods: Well I wasn’t a big music person, I couldn’t play any instruments until I was fourteen. I got an acoustic guitar, then I started to get into punk music and My Chemical Romance, and whatever else my friends were listening to at school.

Growing up, my parents loved Abba, Elton John, David Bowie, Queen, basically all the theatrical gay music, and I loved that. I still love amazing fucking pop music with great harmonies, I don’t care how cheesy it is. I think Fresh wants to be that mix of punk and amazing pop harmonies.

BAW: You mention not getting into music until you were fourteen, does that mean Fresh are your first band?

KW: Yeah, Fresh are my first band. When I was seventeen I came up with the name, but I didn’t do anything with it until after my eighteenth birthday, that’s when we started playing shows. Then when I was nineteen Dan and George joined, and now I'm twenty and... yeah.

BAW: Usually musicians tend to play in various high school and college bands, and it isn’t until their fourth or fifth try that they start to gain some traction, but just looking at who Fresh have played with (Jeff Rosenstock, Great Cynics, The Tuts) it’s clear that you’re doing fairly well already. What’s that experience been like?

KW: I’ve always rushed everything [laughs], it’s just nervous energy. I think my internal body clock is pretty sure I’m gonna die at twenty-five, so I’ve gotta get everything done. I tried to play in my school band when I was fifteen – I tried to play the bass, but they didn’t want me. 

Oh! I played in this band when I was like sixteen, I played bass very briefly. We had a song called The EDL Are Going To Hell. So yeah, Fresh aren’t my first band, goddamnit, that sucks.

I dunno, I guess I’m just determined to do everything fast because I’m always anxious. [laughs]

BAW: You mentioned your first band and the song title, then looking at Fresh’s social media feeds there’s some social and political commentary there. Do you think it’s important for bands to have ties to social and political situations?

KW: I don’t even think it’s important, I think it’s something every band should do. I think art is obligated to care about the community and care about social issues, and those issues tend to be political issues anyways. I guess it means that art is often required to be political.

I think it’s an accessible way to get people into politics when they otherwise wouldn’t have been. I’ve always been a little political, but having bands I like, record stores I like, and communities I like using music to get to politics made it a lot easier for me.

BAW: The scene Fresh operate in is a scene largely dominated by older straight white males. When Fresh started out you were a teenage female. What was it like breaking into that scene as not only a female, but also a teenager?

KW: Music doesn’t like teenage girls, it really doesn’t. For some reason if teenage girls start liking a band, that makes it bad. I don’t know, I think teenage girls have the best fucking taste in the world.

When we started, I was mostly the only girl on the line-up, but now… of course there’s still a ridiculous lack of women in music, but I feel it less. I’ve found this bubble of these amazing artists who aren’t straight white cis guys. We’re now playing with bands who are really diverse and interesting, but I still have to take a step back sometimes and be like, ‘oh, this isn’t actually what most music is like.’ Sometimes we play shows that make me realise that problem. We played a show in Portsmouth once and I was probably the only woman in the room, it was awful.

I don’t know, sometimes people patronise. It’s difficult, I am young and I don’t know a lot, but that's because I’m young, not because I’m a woman. People often grab my rig or my guitar and explain shit to me, and it’s like, ‘Okay, maybe I didn’t know that, but I didn’t want you to fucking tell me it.’ I have my friends and people like George and Dan, they’ll explain things to me if I need help.

I’m fine with people explaining things to me and helping me out, I just want them to do it because we’re helping each other and it’s experience, not just because of how I look.

BAW: With starting Fresh so young, I imagine you still study? Obviously, you have bands that will balance a day job with touring, but what’s it like balancing deadlines, essays and socialising with touring?

KW: I’ve just finished my first year of university. I decided to take a year out between the end of A-levels and the start of university because I wanted to start Fresh. It’s been hard, but I just take my work with me when I tour. It helps that I love music, but I also love studying French. It’s not work because I love it a lot.

Dan works a full nine-to-five job and I think he finds it a lot harder than I do, but I think you can do anything if you want it enough, that’s the end of it really.

To be fair I don’t do anything social at university, I have like two friends, I go in for the classes then I go home. Maybe I have sacrificed some shit, but being in a band is kind of like the social part of university anyways.

BAW: In terms of releases, Fresh have been fairly quiet since November 2015. Can we expect new music this year?

KW: There is definitely going to be new music this year. We didn’t intentionally leave such a big gap; we started playing a lot of great shows and we wanted to carry on with that for a bit, then I started university and I was stressed with that. We’ve all had pretty bad spots of mental health in the past year-and-a-half, that’s made it hard to write and to get in the right mood to write.

However, we now have something written, recorded and ready to come out. I’ve also started writing what comes next. It feels good to know that.

It’s weird though, there’s a different line-up on the last two EP’s, and that’s the only thing people can listen to us on, that’s the only thing people get. It’s not really representative of who we are now, we’re a lot different, and I think we’re better – not because of the people, just because of experience.

BAW: You touched on mental health a little there, what’s it like touring and playing weekenders when you factor in mental health, is it tough striking the balance between looking after yourself and being the person you need to be on stage?

KW: It’s easy when the people in the band are your friends and you want to be spending time with them anyway. That’s what it comes down to with the band. Dan and George are my rock when it comes to mental health stuff, and I hope I am with them. All three of us have issues with depression and anxiety, so we all know what to do and how to help each other out.

I think it’s hard because people in the band have girlfriends and wives and people who they miss, but personally I think being in a band has made it easier to deal with my mental health, I just have more communication and more knowledge about it. People I know outside of Fresh have mental health issues, but I just think it helps to have people in this part of my life knowing what I’m going through mentally.

BAW: You’ve touched on upcoming plans in terms of releases, but what’s your tour schedule like for the coming months?

KW: Well we want to tour on what we put out. Obviously, we want to tour on it as much as possible. We haven’t got any finalised plans for that tour, but touring and playing shows is what Fresh does, it’s the best thing about being in the band. Whatever band that wants to have us then please. We have our dream tours and we have our plans, but I don’t want to say too much because plans fall through.

BAW: Away from Fresh you also play in DON'T DIE with Dean and Nicola from Doe, can you tell us a little bit about that?

KW: Well, I did, but Dean has recently decided he wanted to do it on his own. I think that’s good though, he already does the punk band format, so I think DON'T DIE will sound better as his own thing. It was really fun to play in that band.

I want to get better at guitar. Me and Phoebe from Happy Accidents met up recently and did a jam, I don’t know what will come of that, but it was really fun. George and Dan have Sad Blood, but I find it really hard to be in more than one band.

BAW: Finally, what bands have you come across recently that you think people should be listening to?

KW: Oh my god, everyone probably knows this band already, but I’ve just gotten into the 2016 album from Mom Jeans., it’s called ‘Best Buds’ and it’s crazy good. George has gotten me into Remo Drive, their full-length album ‘Greatest Hits’ is good. Oh, the new Diet Cig album ‘I Swear I’m Good At This’ is so good, I love the opening track, Sixteen. I love Diet Cig, they’re so good. I’m also really excited about the new Charly Bliss album, I don’t think it’s out yet, but Black Hole is such a good song.