Interview: Eat Defeat

Words by Maddy Howell

Born from the ashes of former bands in 2010, Leeds-based quartet Eat Defeat have been a friendly face on the scene for a long while now. With a sound that seamlessly blends the carefree notes of skate-punk with a positively upbeat pop-punk vibe, the four-piece have successfully set towards creating their own niche within a saturated scene. Now on the verge of the release of their latest album, the band seem set to continue their reign, offering up a collection of optimistic anthems for the dejected. 

With the album release looming and a U.K. tour now underway, we sat down with frontman Andrew Summers to talk about the new record, the Japanese music scene, and Pokémon.

Burn After Writing: You’re just gearing up towards the release of your latest album, ‘I Think We’ll Be Okay’. What can you tell us about the ideas behind the record?

Andrew Summers: Aw man, we’re straight in with the serious stuff. It’s… I mean, I think I started to try and be more honest and open lyrically with our last EP, 'Time & Tide', and I’ve really tried to push it on the album. Something I always found difficult was writing overly personal lyrics because more-so than the listening public judging you (because no-one listened to any of my old bands), it’s awkward bringing that to your bandmates. Like, hey guys, I wrote this song about my girlfriend. Or, I wrote this song to try and deal with feeling like I want to kill myself. That’s just part of the whole anxiety and societal toxic masculinity stew and it’s taken some time to realise it’s all bullshit and the worst I’m going to get is a "Summers loves his girlfriend" because there’s a reason I’m in a band with these guys and I love them.

To actually answer your question, it’s largely about ideas of separation anxiety and trying to deal with loneliness all the fun mental health issues that come with those things. I travel a lot both with the band and with other bands as my actual full-time job, and touring as much as I do can be really draining emotionally. Like I try not to tour with bands that are bad eggs, but even touring with the best people in the world it’s tough not having any consistency and being away from the people you love. I know there’s been quite a lot of talk recently about touring professionals and the specific mental health issues connected with that lifestyle, so I suppose the album is a byproduct of that. On the other hand, when I worked full time in an office and was at home all the time, I was even more miserable. So it’s about trying to find a balance that works, trying to stay positive and not taking things for granted.

BAW: Your sound has always steered quite neatly away from pop-punk cliché, blending a lot more melodic elements into your sound. What can you be found listening to on an average day?

AS: The big thing for us over the last couple of years is that I’ve well and truly embraced pop music and it’s who I am as a person and I’ll never abandon it again. If you can listen to 'Red' by Taylor Swift and not feel anything then you’re dead inside and I hate you. But also there are just so many amazing young bands that are constantly inspiring me and making me super jealous since I apparently only learned how to write a decent song at 30.

Boston Manor and Trash Boat are two huge ones that I listen to a bunch, they write stuff far beyond what people in their early 20’s should be capable of and it’s sickening. Really excited for both of their new albums this year. I’ll also never get tired of bands like The Swellers, Less Than Jake and Mixtapes. Just honest melodic punk that’s totally free of pretension, which I guess is what we’ve always strived for.

BAW: I heard that Eat Defeat was actually formed from the remains of a ska-core project a few years back. What inspired you to drop the ska theme and move onto this new style?

AS: The main thing I think is that I’m the only member that’s been in the band the entire time and when I started Eat Defeat it was directly after splitting from my previous band which was a full-on skacore band. I think a lot of the UK ‘scenes’ can be pretty cliquey, and because I’d been a big part of the ska/skacore scene for the best part of five years at that point it seemed like the logical thing to do would be to carry on in that genre as we’d be able to easily get gigs etc.

Thing is though is that as much as I’ve still got a ton of love for a lot of UK ska-influenced bands like Random Hand and The JB Conspiracy, I’d just fallen out of love with the genre and my heart wasn’t really into writing songs like that anymore. We tried to go for a kind of The Flatliners vibe where we’d play a kind of edgy punk with the occasional ska bit but as members came and went influences changed, and I just more became enamored with pretty straightforward melodic punk and pop punk.

BAW: Eat Defeat has been an established band since 2010, yet most of your output prior to 2016’s ‘Time & Tide’ EP seems to be quite disconnected from what you’re currently working with. How have things changed in your 8 years as a unit?

AS: This pretty much boils down to members coming and going really, as we had a bit of a revolving door for the first five or so years we were a band. New members coming and going can mean new influences and skillsets which is great, but it also means taking a big chunk of time to ‘train up’ a new member which really stunts things like songwriting and recording etc. So for years what would basically happen is we’d get to a good point, someone would leave and we’d have to start all over again. It was really demoralising and there were absolutely points where I was ready to just call it a day.

In mid-2015, Steve completed the current lineup and for whatever reason, that was a catalyst to really step up our game. I’d also say a HUGE factor in the difference in our recorded output was actually investing in ourselves and finding a great producer at a great studio and realising that whilst you can cheap out on a lot of things, if you cheap out on your studio time then you get what you pay for. Andy Hawkins produced 'Time & Tide' and the new album, and we owe a whole lot to him.

BAW: With a style that seems to change so swiftly on each release, what artists have been particularly important in forming the inspiration for your latest album?

AS: I’m not too sure it comes down to any particular artists, I think it’s more having confidence in writing songs that are a bit different to things we’ve done before. Like after Shortcuts ‘blew up’ (in the most modest usage of the term) it was awesome but also just KILLED my productivity and confidence because it was a benchmark, an expectation to live up to. Like, ‘if this isn’t similar to Shortcuts, is anyone going to give a fuck?’. So there were quite a few songs on the album that I’d written, demoed and then decided to scrap because it didn’t have the same vibe as Shortcuts.

What I kind of had to make myself do was send all this stuff out to everyone and actually trust what they were saying about them and that actually, they were worth pursuing and fleshing out. Like, I'd written A Little Less Than Ok off entirely before the rest of the guys were like "yeah, no, this is a good song." We also literally decided that we were going to record Running In Place the day before we went into the studio, and that’s now one of my favourite tracks. I think the only thing we kind of can’t avoid is the obvious Motion City Soundtrack love, which comes across in a lot of the weirder synthy ideas we’ve worked in. It’s pretty blatant.

BAW: Alongside the album, you’ll also be heading out on a release tour across the U.K. What can people be expecting from these shows?

AS: We’re still working out ideas, but we definitely want these shows to have a special vibe. It’s going to be a solid mix of old and new stuff, and we’re doing our best with our limited technical expertise to figure out getting some of the electronic sounds from the album involved.

Also, the stage setup is going to be full of stuff we’ll probably end up kicking over. The Key Club show, in particular, is going to be pretty emotional! Oh also, Fireball is endorsing the tour so you can probably expect a ton of weird cocktails.

BAW: You’ve had a strange amount of success in Japan throughout your time as a band, which led to you being able to tour over there last year. How was that whole experience?

AS: Yeah, that whole thing was bizarre in the best possible way. I would attribute 100% of it to the team we had over there though. Yuki from Milestone Sounds who put out our record over there KILLED IT. Like, CD’s and physical music, in general, is still huge out there, so they still have these multi-floored Tower Records. Yuki told us we’d be stocked in them, so we decided to go into as many as we can because we’re suckers for things like that.

So the first one has the CD, that’s awesome. The second one, we’re on a listening post alongside stuff like Blink-182 and Neck Deep etc. The third one, the same thing but we also have this massive store display next to Neck Deep and we freaked out a bit. Our local crew went and got a member of staff and we got to sign something that they put up next to the one that New Found Glory had done earlier. It was surreal.

For me personally, Japan had always been this magical place that was like a bucket list place to visit, so to actually get to travel and play gigs over there was just something I’d never dreamed of. I visited like, six different Pokémon Centres and we all spent so much money on cool crap. I talk about it all the time but going to start the last song of the set on the last night of the tour in Tokyo was like, the most emotional moment of my life. I’ve never not wanted to play a song more in my life.

BAW: You guys are from Leeds, a city pretty renowned for its DIY scene. Do you think you owe much of your success to the community network and venues that you were established amongst?

AS: I think if I’m honest, up until 'Time & Tide' was released we’d had more success in mainland Europe than in our own hometown [laughs]. That being said, we’re so lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing bands, venues, and promoters who’ve given us so many chances to play amazing gigs over the years.

Whilst we were around to see the demise of places like The Well and The Cockpit, I’d say it’s The Key Club and the guys in Slam Dunk that really make us value just how lucky we are to be based in Leeds. Opening for The Swellers a few years ago is still one of my proudest moments and even prouder still was getting to headline the same venue for the release of 'Time & Tide'.

BAW: Are there any local Leeds bands who you want to give a shout out to?

AS: The Human Project are always top of the list for me, they’ve just released a new album (also produced by Andy Hawkins) and I actually filled in on bass for them for a tour last year (which is hard, they use more than three chords). Jesus and His Judgemental Father were an amazing band that recently split which was heartbreaking. Blueprints are a newer band I’m really excited to see at our Key Club show. I’ve probably forgotten someone really important and I’m sorry!

BAW: If ‘I Think We’ll Be Ok’ was a Pokémon, what type (or types) do you think it would be and why?

AS: SOLID QUESTION. Appreciate the dual type option. I mean it’s pretty straightforwardly an electric/dark type really, as it fits the colour scheme and general day/night vibe. I just spent half an hour trying to figure out if there was an existing Pokémon with this typing and I couldn’t find one so that’s disappointing.

BAW: What’s next for Eat Defeat following the release of the album?

AS: Oh man, I have no idea. We’ll be headed back to Europe before the end of the year for sure, and generally trying to get out and play as much as possible. I think we’ve all decided that two years is way too long to wait between releases though, so I reckon we’ll probably be straight back to writing for the next release...

Eat Defeat's new album, 'I Think We'll Be Okay', is released on August 3rd via Bearded Punk Records. Pre-order the record here.

Also, check out the band's latest video for the single, Can't Say I'll Miss You, taken from their upcoming album.