Interview: Neurotic Fiction

Words by Maddy Howell

Jostling their way to the forefront of the scene over the last couple of years, the members of latest Specialist Subject Records signing Neurotic Fiction are no strangers to the DIY music world. With plenty of experience under their belts and a wealth of friends in the scene, the four-piece joined forces to create their own infectious brand of post-punk, powered by their early-born love for punk. Urgent, brash and uncompromising - Neurotic Fiction demand attention, edging ever-closer to achieving the success they are surely due.

With their debut album, 'Pulp Music', due for release next month, we caught up with guitarist Livi Sinclair to talk about the recording process, label changes and the importance of other musicians within a community-led scene. 

Burn After Writing: For those new to Neurotic Fiction, what musical influences can be heard within your sound?

Livi Sinclair: I'd describe us as a pop band whose members have grown up listening to punk music, which can never be unheard. Fast and melodic stuff like The Damned, Dead Kennedys, and X influence the guitar playing, and the kind of knowing, tongue-in-cheek post-punk of bands like Gang of Four, DEVO, and the B-52s has inspired the way we approach writing songs. Contemporary bands we love include Rata Negra, Sauna Youth, Shopping, Crumbs, the list is endless...

BAW: You're gearing up for the release of your debut album, ‘Pulp Music’, due in mid-November. What can you tell us about the themes behind this record?

LS: Most of the songs relate to feelings of inadequacy and guilt and how they play out in social interactions, relationships, and projects. I tried to avoid it all just coming across really self-deprecating so the lyrics are mostly written from the perspective of someone who's come to terms with being a sniveling weasel and is able to indulge in their melancholy paralysis and be at peace with the concept of never amounting to anything.

The title track, Pulp Music, celebrates how by throwing away ambition and delighting in making low-brow, disposable art it's possible to find a unique sense of fulfillment. So we thought that was a fitting name for the album. The band was originally going to be called 'The Meaning of LYF' before we decided to scrap that name on account of the need to spell out the pun when introducing ourselves, but that was a nod to the concept of the band as we started out which is explored on the record. I guess the record concludes that life has to be bearable and in order for it to be bearable traditional notions of success have to be rejected, that it's necessary to indulge in purposelessness and meaninglessness at times.

BAW: You released the first single from the record a few weeks back, titled Collateral. What is the story of this track?

LS: We were trying to write a pop-punk song, kinda like The Marked Men or something. I'm not sure it came out like that but it's probably the least weird one on the album, so a gentle introduction! Lyrically it describes how a disproportionate fear of unintended consequences can inhibit innovation, and the ever-present temptation to run a mile and sever all ties to a project instead of remaining accountable in the case of a fuck-up. It's kind of a note-to-self to learn from mistakes instead of avoiding risk, but like most of the other songs, the protagonist doesn't quite get there, preferring to wipe their hands of all responsibility. You can explore feelings in songs that you can't get stuck on in real life...

BAW: ‘Pulp Music’ will be your first release since early 2017, when the tracks Mediator and Generals were put out as a double A-side. Was there any significant change in the writing process of the two releases?

LS: Well, we've changed the line-up a couple of times since then, we've had three different singers. When we recorded those tracks we were still playing with our good pal Rosey Brown who moved to Berlin shortly after. We roped in Rosie Smith for a few months and wrote a bunch of new songs and toured a load, Rosie has since left to focus on her own music with Oh Peas! So now we're playing with Jessie Pfundner who has brought the power of synth with her. The songs on the record are from all eras and lineups so there's a bit of variation but I think our songwriting is changing more dramatically actually since the record so probably will be more evident on what we do next.

BAW: Your debut album was recorded with John Hannon of No Recording, who has previously worked with the likes of Muncie Girls and Hundred Reasons. How was the experience working alongside him?

LS: John recorded Rory's other band The Fairweather Band so Rory knew he was sound and I guess I was excited because he's recorded some legends like Trash Kit and Sauna Youth. I felt pretty inexperienced and maybe a bit vulnerable having never been in a proper recording studio but he put us all at ease and spent a long time mixing some of the tracks with us to make sure we were happy with how it came out.

BAW: You recently made the decision to sign to Bristol-based label Specialist Subject. How did this collaboration come about and what made you believe they were a solid fit for the band?

LS: When Andrew and Kay expressed interest in releasing the record it seemed like a no-brainer. We met a long time ago through the DIY scene and since then Rory and I have both released records with them in previous bands, Rory worked closely with them in the Cavern when they were based in Exeter and now works in the Specialist Subject shop in Bristol, and we're good friends with a bunch of the other bands on the label. I feel very lucky to be working with a label which is both local to Bristol and which has a wide distribution network, and I think having worked together before we understand each other and what motivates us to keep making music, so we're not starting from scratch.

BAW: As artists operating within the thriving DIY music scene of Bristol, what other local bands are you enjoying at the moment?

LS: There are a whole load. Bellies!, Slagheap, Swallow Cave, Dogeyed, Crvelty, Worst Witch, and Yama Warashi is a good start. Across the Specialist Subject roster and within the UK DIY scene as a whole, there’s an overwhelming sense of community.

BAW: Speaking of community, how important is the support of other bands when trying to find your footing in this scene?

LS: It's massively important, we've toured with Breakfast Muff and Molar in the past year or two and have played with a load more UK DIY bands. They've been sonically inspiring not just directly but also indirectly, just spending time with friends in bands exposes you to lots more music, contemporary and older, which can shift what you spend time listening to and how you write.

I think the enthusiasm of people in DIY bands and the diversity of experience, like how people discover punk music and why it's important for them to stay involved, creates a kind of solidarity and sustainability. I don't think folks are doing this for widespread recognition of their work, and it's definitely not a lucrative interest. It's the interest in each others' stories and creative output that keeps us wanting to produce more. This is kinda the 'Pulp Music' concept of delightful meaninglessness.

BAW: Following on from the release of the album in a few weeks’ time, what comes next for Neurotic Fiction?

LS: We're playing a load of shows over the next few months in Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff and London and writing for the next release. Most importantly we're teaming up with our original singer Rosey Brown to learn a B-52's cover set for a Halloween show raising funds for a new DIY space in Cardiff.

Listen to Neurotic Fiction's latest single, Loose End, here and click here to pre-order the band's upcoming album, 'Pulp Music'.