The Story So Far…
[spunge] has been around for quite a while even though no one really heard of them till early ’98 when they released their debut EP ‘Kicking Pigeons’. Here’s the story so far…
[spunge] didn’t start off as [spunge], in fact when they played their first gig in July ’94 they didn’t have a permanent name at all – every time they got booked for a gig they had a different name to play under (by the way, this is a good way of getting loads of gigs at the same place, especially if you suck!)
The original line-up was Alex on lead vocals & bass, Wol & Des on guitars and Jem on drums. At one of their gigs, under whatever name they were that week, a friend of theirs called Simon Bayliss saw them and asked if he could join, on bass, as he had heard that Alex was looking to change to just doing lead vocals. The band all thought this was a good idea and Simon joined in April ’95.
Everything went really well with the new line up and they wrote quite a few original songs of their own (one of which was ‘Kicking Pigeons’, yes, it is THAT old!) and although they played quite a few gigs the first time they strayed out of the local area was in June ’95 when they played two gigs in Birmingham.
These were at the two Xposure Rock Cafe’s of the time (R.I.P) and on consecutive nights. The first night was cancelled due to the roof falling in over the stage and water pissing into the PA (good start) and the 2nd night was supporting a Stiff Little Fingers cover band, although due to the night off the day before everyone was kinda feeling hung over so the details are a bit sketchy!
After this highly successful (not) debut into the world of touring the band did a few gigs every now and then but it wasn’t until October ’95 that they decided to give themselves the name [spunge].
Having acquired the name they started to build up a serious following in the Cheltenham/Gloucestershire areas around which they lived.
They tried to branch out and after a while it was decided it would be worth getting a CD made of some of the songs they did because everywhere they tried to get a gig they were told to send in a demo, and also it meant they had something to sell at gigs.
They all went into the studio (Lionsheart Studios, Tewkesbury if you want to know) in June ’97 and put down 3 tracks, ‘Kicking Pigeons’, ‘Friend Called Fred’ and ‘Best Mates Girlfriend’.
As the band got more into what they were doing they came to the conclusion that they wanted to give it a serious go and do it full time. All of them, that is, except Simon Bayliss. Due to the fact that Simon had a good paid job and had just started a college course he decided that he couldn’t make the sacrifice and, sadly, he parted with the band in August ’97.
This left [spunge] with a big dilemma.
The line up had been the same for over two years and it was a real blow to them. Luckily the same week that Simon left, Des bumped into a guy called Martin Holt at a party. Des got chatting about bands and ,knowing that Martin was in one himself, half jokingly asked if Martin fancied a side project as we needed a bassist. To his surprise Martin decided to give it a go (even stranger as the band he was in already was a hard-core band!), and he joined the band at the end of August ’97.
It wasn’t until now that [spunge] found out that some of the recording on the EP had been screwed up and so it was that they went back into the studio and had to re-record Simon’s bass lines, this time with Martin Holt playing bass, in October ’97. After what seemed like an age the EP was finished in February ’98, a few hundred copies were pressed and it was sent out in March/April ’98 in order to get the band some gigs.
(It went on to sell a LOT at shows, something that made them realise the choice to go full time had been the right one)
One of the places it was sent was the very same Xposure Rock Cafe that had been the setting for their triumphant first step into touring in ’95. The man responsible for booking the bands was one Dave Juste, and he liked ‘Kicking Pigeons’ so much that he offered to manage the band. So it was that Dave Juste became [spunge]’s manager in June ’98. After a few meetings the band and Dave all decided what they really wanted to do was tour their asses off in order to get noticed so Dave organized a HUGE tour from September ’98 until whenever the venues ran out!
Whilst on the tour a label called MoonSka heard about the ‘hardest working band in Britain’ and decided to check a gig out in November ’98. They were suitably impressed and offered the band a one album deal.
This was to be the debut album ‘Pedigree Chump’ which the band recorded during December/January ’98/’99. The album was released on March 1st ’99 and the band went on another tour to promote the new record.
Then another set back struck. The constant touring got too much for Martin Holt and after much thought he decided to leave the band in August ’99. He finished the tour that they were on at the time (although he had to borrow a bass amp for the last couple of weeks as he had already sold his!) and then went his separate way.
Again [spunge] had the problem of finding a new bassist. Luckily this time they were starting to get known and they put out the word although they knew they main thing was to get someone they could get on with due to the constant touring. It was then that they remembered a guy they had come to call ‘Jarvis’ who was no longer in the band he used to be in (‘B Movie Heroes’), and they asked if he would like the job. They knew they would get on as he had roadied a few times for them before, the only major setback was that he was a guitarist, not a bassist, but this seemed quite minor at the time!
Chris ‘Jarvis’ Murphy accepted the challenge and after a couple of practices to see if it would work he became the third bassist of [spunge] in September ’99. Within about 6 weeks of joining Jarvis was off on his first tour with [spunge] in Ireland. [spunge] then toured the UK right up to the end of December ’99 during which time they landed another record deal with Sucka-Punch Records.
They took January ’00 off to write the second half of the new album (the first half being songs that had been written while on the road), and then went into DEP International Studios, Birmingham (UB40’s own studio fact-fans), in February/March ’00 to record it.
[spunge] were then offered the chance to go to Europe for the first time, and although they still had a few things to finish on the album, they decided to do it. The band did a few warm up dates in the UK and then went to Germany.
When they got back the single ‘Ego’ was released on June 19th ’00 and then, after another string of dates to promote ‘Ego’, they put the finishing touches to ‘Room For Abuse’ in July ’00. The release date for ‘Room For Abuse’ was set for October 9th ’00 and featured the single ‘Ego’ plus covers of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ and Sublime’s ‘Santeria’. The single version of ‘No Woman No Cry’ – complete with new lyrics from Alex – was the first cover of a Bob song ever to receive permission to be altered by the Marley family as Ziggy loved it so much.
While they were waiting for this the band got itchy touring boots again and went off to Norway for a month gigging!
There then followed a UK ‘Room For Abuse’ Tour which started on October 23rd in true ‘play everywhere’ fashion
All this attention brought them to the eyes of B-Unique and a deal was signed in February 2002. ‘It’s quite weird,” states Alex, ”Right up until now, we had almost no back up, just word of mouth through gigs. It shows it can still be done the hard way – it’s all home-grown.”
The [spunge] approach to music is philosophically the same as it’s always been (“All feel good music”) – just bigger, stronger, louder and all those other things that you associate with great modern rock. The first single to be taken from the new album ‘The Story So Far’, ‘Jump On Demand’, is the ultimate crowd-pleaser – a huge bouncy mosh-pit thunderer of a track, full of elastic bass, ska riffing and an anthemic, sing-a-long, stick in the head like an axe chorus.
Produced by John Cornfield (Muse, Oasis), the single blasts out with the undeniable power of the band’s legendary live show. ‘Jump On Demand’ hit the Top 40 despite being ignored by radio and mainstream media magazines and also topped the Kerrang! TV chart for two weeks. “That song was kind of inspired by ‘Fight Club’ – looking at class diversion in an amusing way and doing your own thing,” explains Alex, “And the irony is there for all to see, I’m singing about doing your own thing, but when I shout ‘jump’ the pit does exactly what it’s told!”
Also working with Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Therapy?), ‘The Story So Far’ contains elements of ska, punk and dub, and, according to Alex whilst trying to hold down a giggle, “some ballady-rock.” Subject matter sits largely within the usual irreverent [spunge] styles – “There’s a whole song about haircuts, nothing too serious. Our last two albums have had songs about guinea pigs, so I’m sure they’ll find a way in somehow!”
Such is the humour of [spunge] that vegetarian bassist Jarvis was given a freshly removed pig’s head for his 21st birthday by the rest of the band. He returned the joke in style however, by naming the head ‘Terry’ and insisting that he travelled with them on the tour bus. Eventually the whiff of a dead pig in a hot sweaty tour bus meant that it just had to go… “I wanted a cow…” deadpans Jarvis in mock despair.
With a less than serious take on the world, it’s hardly surprising that [spunge] can count Never Mind The Buzzcocks star Phil Jupitus and Dave Gorman (whose live show ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ won Time Out New York’s Comedy Show of 2001) amongst their fans. “Yeah, I heard that Dave Gorman plays ‘Kicking Pigeons’ at the end of all his shows!” enthuses Alex. “I guess comedians like us ‘cos we’re comedians ourselves!”
Following up this success was going to be difficult with next single ‘Roots’, but the band still managed to chart in the top 50 again with zero radio play showing that their army of fans were as loyal as ever. However, things between the band and the label B-unique|Warners weren’t rosy. Both releases had been delayed after the band had arranged sold out tours and promotional appearances meaning that things were not coinciding as they should. This was to raise itself again shortly. The album, ‘The Story So Far’ was then scheduled for release at the end of August 2002. On the same day as the Reading and Leeds festivals which the band were playing. Great timing. No, the band didn’t think so either. Most of their fans were at the festivals and wouldn’t have the money to buy festival stuff and the album at the same time. Cue another disagreement.
The band then recorded a cover of ‘Oliver’s Army’ with Steve Harris, which Alex Donnelly at Radio 1 said he would A List, Alex having seen the band at a press show at London’s Camden Monarch in July and at Reading. For once the band would have radio support for a release.
The label again asked for a tour to go with the release and a huge UK tour was arranged for November/December 2002: The band were in full control of all the promotion for the tour and most shows were sold out with over 15,000 tickets sold to [spunge] fans, with no financial support from the label, and no press coverage at all. The single wasn’t released.
Another meeting in December between label and band management had [spunge] pointing out that the label had let the band down again, that there had been 5 different production managers in 6 months (including 3 in seven days!), that the press representative had not even contacted the big four magazines to arrange press for the tour (a fact confirmed by the editors), and that overall the organisation was a sham. The label agreed. 48 hours later [spunge] and B-Unique parted company.
On the live front things kept going from strength to strength. The band played the Download Festival at Castle Donington on June 1st 2003, alongside Audioslave, NOFX, Metallica etc, as well as headlining some other smaller festivals during the summer.
In another change up around that time the band decided to part company with their manager Dave Juste mainly due to a difference of opinion in how the band should grow. The split was on a totally amicable basis and both parties involved wished the other all the best in what they did and went their separate ways.
After this split the band decided that, rather than get another manager, why not manage themselves?
This proved to be a good move all round with the gigs and the songs coming on stronger than ever! While doing this they decided to start up their own label DENT’ALL RECORDS and had their first release on Feb 23rd 2004 called ‘THAT SHOULD COVER IT’ – a collection of covers they have done, some previously unavailable live demos and two new [spunge] songs.
[spunge]’s first Dent’All Records release ‘That Should Cover It’ was a great success for the band with sales of the CD still going strong. Reception for the album was (and still is!) great with many people liking the covers better than the original versions by the Artists themselves!
This was a great boost to the band as it showed that they hadn’t made a mistake by doing their own thing.
During 2004 the band returned to the studio for a short while to record two more brand new tracks for the next album with the intention of producing a video for one of them to release to coincide with a major tour in Oct/Nov 2004.
The two tracks chosen to record were ‘Backstabber’ and ‘One More Go’, the second track being the most likely candidate for the video release. They follow on the tradition of catchy riffs and infectious chorus’ that has become the [spunge] trademark.
A video was commissioned through Goblin Pictures for the song ‘One More Go’ and was sent out to all the TV stations etc in the hope of it getting played on air.
While all this was going on they also decided to put on an all-dayer at Cheltenham Town Hall. Hosted by Dent’all Records and [spunge] this was to become EXTRACTION FEST 2004. The show was a great success and they waited to hear which stations would be playing the new video.
The video wasn’t added to ANY playlists, various excuses were made but the upshot was no-one was going to see this awesome video. They booked up the UKKO tour and went out and played it live to the masses instead. Another blow for [spunge] but it would take more than that to shake them.
The band decided that if the TV stations and labels didn’t want ‘One More Go’ then they would release it themselves and why not a full length DVD (‘The High Life’) with the video on as well while they were at it!
The single and DVD were released on the same day, 21st March 2005, and to coincide with that they booked another tour entitled the ONE MORE GO TOUR to help promote both releases. The tour was great and although there were a few hiccups with getting the single into the shops on time, the releases came about and both did great, again with no backing from radio or TV.
In early 2006, Wol decided to part company with the band after over a decade due to a change in circumstances.. [spunge] decided that rather than replace him they would continue on as a 4 piece.
The band were back into the studio in 2007 to record the self titled album ‘Spunge’ – all new tracks and the first with the new lineup.
Although the band then played shows and toured every year to their die hard fan base they were a little quieter than usual but still ticking away behind the scenes…
Fast forward to 2011 and the band once again entered the studio with Dave Draper (who was to become the engineer behind the next two release as well) and they recorded and released two brand new tracks – Nothing At All and Higher Ground – which were received with open arms by the fans with many people feeling they had found their mojo again 🙂
After more shows and doing what they loved playing live the band decided to do something a little different….
In 2013 they announced that they were going to be releasing a Greatest Hits (later names Greatest Hit……..s by the band to recognise that these were FAN hits, not always chart ones) but one with a difference.
By teaming up with PledgeMusic they got the fans involved from the very start of the project by getting them to vote as to what tracks they would like to see on the CD…. but that wasn’t the only twist… they also went into the studio and re-recorded every single one of the tracks, after all, times were very different when some of them were originally recorded and this time they wanted to make sure they were bought up to date and sounded great for the fans.
Released on the 25th November 2013 to a great reception, the band also toured the album, taking the set list directly from the songs that the fans had chosen for the album.
With this new found energy the band the announced that for their 20th Anniversary year (2014) they would be recording and releasing a brand new material album called Hang On?
This album was released on 4th December 2014 after a tour to play new and old songs alike, all of which showed record turn outs and showed the band they were still remembered after all these years.
2015 was a fairly quiet one compared to normal for the band as they decided after the tour and release to take it easy for most of the year, with the view to do some shows in later months.
In September 2015 they decided they would be bringing back the Extraction Fest name, and some of the bands from that era, and that these will be the ONLY shows that they would play in 2015 – a chance for the fans to hear old songs, and new ones for the first time since hearing the latest album.
After a great tour they decided it was time for another release, this time in the shape of a LIVE album, the first official one in their career, titled Live In London and taken from their 2013 tour where they had recorded their entire set at several shows. Choosing London as the focus they set out to plan a tour to back up the May 2016 release.
After booking the initial tour they were approached by Slam Dunk Festival to play again. So as not to let the original tour goers down this led to the band playing 12 shows in 9 days – 6 in the first 3 days alone, and an amazing reaction to their live set with the band really capturing exactly why they love to do this even after 22 years of playing live.
With some one off shows to finish off 2016, shows for 2017 already being talked about and the band starting to discuss putting some new tunes down for another release, the band show no signs of stopping what they love to do…
The End…. For Now….