October Drift On “I Don’t Belong Anywhere”
Vocalist and guitar player Kiran Roy discusses their second album and most successful year to date
Sep 05, 2022
On a balmy July evening in Hyde Park, you might have spotted October Drift’s Kiran Roy halfway up a tree, microphone in hand. You might think that’s an unlikely place for someone to find themselves mid-set when supporting one of the biggest rock bands on the planet in Pearl Jam. But then if you do think that a bit odd, maybe it’s time you took a closer look at October Drift.
The Taunton band have grown into one of the UK’s most energetic and engaging live bands. It’s a journey that’s been far from an overnight success, after years spent driving across the country to every gig they could get, gradually honing their craft.
After early singles “All Broken Down” and “Come and Find Me”, they released debut album Forever Whatever – a record rammed with indie-rock anthems that were destined to ring out at festivals across the land…until everything stopped.
Just when it looked like their time had come, Covid-19 threatened to pull the rug from under them.
But October Drift aren’t a band to accept defeat easily and they’re back with a new record that promises to pick up where they left off. I Don’t Belong Anywhere is an album packed with as much emotional punch as it is with triumphant choruses, juggernaut bass lines and guitars fueled on a diet of Big Muff fuzz pedals.
It’s a record that comes straight from the heart and one which promises to build their growing fanbase even further.
Under The Radar spoke to the band’s vocalist to find out more about I Don’t Belong Anywhere and getting back out onto the road this autumn.
Andy Robbins (Under The Radar): How’s the summer been for you guys?
Kiran Roy (October Drift): We’ve had quite a good summer of festivals. We did one in Holland, Vestrock, then we did British Summertime with Pearl Jam and Pixies in Hyde Park, and then we did Tramlines, Y Not Festival and Handmade Festival in Leicester. That’s us now until the album release and the album tour in October.
Your debut Forever Whatever came out just before the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. It meant your campaign to promote that record was curtailed sooner than you’d planned.
We put the album out in the January and managed the one tour in February, and then we went into lockdown in March. We’re really thankful we did manage to get that one tour in. Obviously, we didn’t expect it to be as long as it was and we wondered when we did come back would people have forgotten about us? We didn’t know where we were picking up from.
We tried to do as much as we could during lockdown. We released an acoustic EP and did some live streams, but it’s good to be back. But although we missed out on playing some festivals, it feels like we managed to pick up where we left off and thankfully we hadn’t lost too much momentum.
It must have been frustrating though, especially for a band like yourselves that seems to thrive when playing live.
We’ve been October Drift since 2015 and it was 2020 that we released the debut record. It felt like everything had built up to that. Then we did the best tour we’d ever done and then it was like having the carpet swept from underneath your feet. But we were lucky. We managed to get straight back out there when we could and everyone stayed healthy.
Did it mean you started to think about your second album a bit sooner than you had planned?
We’re constantly writing and as soon as we had finished the first album we started thinking about the second one. I do think it means we’ve made a better record though, due to having that time when there wasn’t much else we could do. I was writing every day on an acoustic guitar. When we could meet up I brought all these songs to the guys and we fleshed them all out and ended up recording it all ourselves.
That meant it took a lot longer than it would have done if we’d done it with a producer, but it meant we had the time to make it sound like we heard it in our heads, and yeah, I think we’ve got a better record because of that.
For the first record, we sent about 60 songs to Justin Lockey (Editors, Mastersystem, Minor Victories and yourcodenameis:milo guitarist) who produced it. That was pretty much every song we’d written up to that point, and then we whittled it down to an album. This record is much more cohesive. It’s called I Don’t Belong Anywhere and it’s got a lot of those themes of being a bit directionless and the loneliness, but also questioning your worth. Some of that definitely fed into the record.
It was also born out of feeling a little bit like an outsider, but it was also charged with that pent up frustration of not being able to gig and get outside, stuff like that. It meant that when we were able to get back together, we wanted to make an album that was as loud as possible.
Even though you weren’t personally affected by Covid-19, I believe you knew people who were. Is that reflected in the new record?
Yeah, 100%. “Webcam Funerals” is the most directly impacted by that, obviously. A friend of mine passed from cancer, not coronavirus, but it did mean that friends and family weren’t able to be there for the funeral as it was during lockdown. That song was written out of the strangeness and sadness.
The new record isn’t a straight-up lockdown record, but it was impossible for those themes not to seep in.
You’ve all been friends since you were growing up. Did that chemistry help when you were able to get back together?
We’d been so busy that the first lockdown did give us a bit of time and space to write, but it was so good to be able to get back together again as a band, and to get gigging again. We did some of those socially distanced gigs which were a bit weird, but then we did one of the first tours I think, when you could.
But yeah, we’ve been friends since we were at school and playing music together since we were teenagers, so it was really good to be back at it.
October Drift seems to be a band that thrives from being able to play live together. I’m not saying your records are just vehicles for being able to go out on tour, but are you the sort of group that needs to be out there playing to people, never wanting to sit around the studio for too long?
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s a great feeling when you finish writing a song that you’re really happy with, but ultimately I think we’re a live band first and foremost. That’s our number one love.
You all have an incredible energy when you play live. You usually end up amongst the crowd, making use of almost every square inch of the venues you play in.
We played in front of nobody for so long, kissing the pavement so to speak, that when we started to get even just a few people watching us we wanted to put on a gig where we’d keep their attention and that they’d at least remember us, whether they liked it or not. We were always trying to outdo each other with little stunts.
I saw footage of you singing from up a tree that you’d climbed when you played British Summertime in Hyde Park in July. Have you ever taken it a bit too far, found yourself stuck somewhere and unable to get back onto the stage?
There have definitely been instances! I remember once Dan (guitarist, Daniel Young) jumped on a table which was soaking wet with beer, and he ended up sliding off onto the floor. I climbed up one of those huge pillars at a festival once. I got to the top and started singing, but my microphone wasn’t working so I had to awkwardly climb back down. We’ve had a few, I’m sure.
The one up the tree was one of those where I did it and as I was scrambling up I thought “Shit, if I don’t make this it’s going to be really embarrassing”, but thankfully I did get up the tree.
Your stage antics never seem to be confrontational or aggressive though.
It’s all about connection to be honest. Most of the time the audience are there to have a good time and be involved. It’s never been an aggressive thing. It’s always been about communication and connection. That’s when you know it’s a good gig, when you can feel that connection with the crowd. That’s one of the reasons why we make music and why we do what we do.
How was it playing on the same bill as Pearl Jam this summer?
It was amazing. We got so lucky with the slot because it was Pixies at 6pm, us at 7pm and then Pearl Jam at 8pm and we were the only band on at that time in the whole thing. It was just a great gig. It was awesome to see Pearl Jam and just to be there.
You’ve got a tattoo of Nirvana’s In Utero artwork and your guitarist Dan has got one of Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream logo. Presumably you are all huge fans of bands from that grunge era?
Yeah, 100%. Nirvana were one of the first bands I was into when I was about 13. Those bands have definitely been a big influence on us.
Music is always important, but those formative years are just extra special when you find your own identity through music.
Did you work with Justin Lockey from Editors again on I Don’t Belong Anywhere?
Yeah, Justin runs our label, Physical Education Recordings. We were so lucky to get those first three support gigs with Editors. We did Clapham Grand, then Birmingham Town Hall and Manchester Cathedral. On the back of that they invited us to onto their European tour with them, so we did a couple of weeks out there with them. Then after that Justin invited us to record the album and wanted to put it out on his label. So much came from those three initial gigs, so they were really important to our trajectory.
It was weird as we’d been fans since we were teenagers. We used to listen to them when we were at college. It was really surreal, but they were really nice. We were on the same festival bill as them in Holland earlier this summer. They played in Birmingham a couple of nights after and said they hadn’t got a support band, so on the drive back they asked if we’d join them, so we ended up playing with them there.
When it came to our second album, we sent Justin all the tracks we had demoed and he thought there were two different albums there. There was a kind of ethereal, epic album and there was also a darker, heavier rock album. I Don’t Belong Anywhere is the grungier, darker rock record. We’ve at least finished demoing the third record so we’ll start thinking about recording that next year.
Why did you choose to go with the rockier album? Was it because you wanted an album that would really connect with people when you get back out playing live?
Yeah, I think it felt right to do that for the second record and then to use the more expansive tracks a bit further down the line. We didn’t have a full album whichever way we went, so it was a case of writing some more songs either like this, or more songs in that vein. It took a little while, but we’ve got something we’re really happy with.
It’s still got that youthful energy to it. The songs we’ve written for the third album still have that energy, but maybe they’ve got a more grown-up sound. I guess it just made sense to do it in this order.
Did you find yourself growing as a band and learning new skills by recording I Don’t Belong Anywhere yourselves?
Yeah, definitely. As well as recording the new album ourselves, we’ve also done the artwork and then we’ve filmed the videos ourselves as well. We’ve gone from being four guys just playing in a band to winging it with all these new skills which has been quite cool. It’s been a big learning curve, but the four of us are all into it equally. We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses, but between us we can wing our way through. We have so far anyway!
Presumably having access to your own studio space must have been a blessing.
We used to use a place our old college tutor had. It was a little studio out in the middle of nowhere, but it got broken into. I had a guitar nicked and another band had an amp nicked. We thought someone clearly knew there was a whole studio there, but nothing was done to reinforce the security or anything like that, so we started looking for somewhere to have our own space.
Having the studio has been an absolute blessing. Especially when we could meet up after lockdown. We ended up recording the second album there ourselves. Although coronavirus stopped us from playing gigs, it meant we had all this time to write and record. But yeah, we like to keep busy. As much for our own sanity when we were able to meet up.
It’s worked out amazingly. We’ve got a few local bands that come and use it as a rehearsal space which has pretty much covered the rent. It’s just meant we’ve got somewhere to record and demo and rehearse. It’s been really helpful for us.
It’s fair to say you’re not a band that’s scared of hard work. I know you used to drive all over the country to play gigs for free. I heard that Chris (drummer, Chris Holmes) was once driving everyone back to Somerset from a gig in Grimsby when his alarm went off telling him it was time to get up for a shift at Asda. Is October Drift a labour of love?
It is. We’ve never been ones to rely on anyone else. Between us we’ve done it for a long time, but we absolutely love it. I think one of the biggest miracles is that we’ve remained friends throughout. Also, being from where we are there’s not much of a scene. From really early on we were travelling all over the UK, playing whatever gig we could get at the time.
It’s had its pros and cons, but it’s meant that we’ve grown across loads of different places in the UK instead of being stuck in one place. It’s also meant we’ve got to know loads of different bands and promoters all across the country.
I don’t see being where we’re from as a complete negative though. It’s a bit of a slower pace of life where we are. A lot of the time growing up we’d be bored, but I look at it completely differently now. Without wanting to sound too cheesy, it’s actually space and time to daydream and create.
Are you looking forward to getting back on the road to play songs from I Don’t Belong Anywhere live?
Our drummer Chris is having a baby, so we did the last three festivals as a three-piece with me, Dan and our friend Nick who played the drums, which was great. We kind of did it a bit more stripped back. It worked really well, but it will be nice to get back out in October with Chris and Alex (bassist, Alex Bispham) as well and smash it as we always have.
How is Alex after he missed those festival gigs?
Yeah, he came off his bike. He’s doing okay. It was quite nasty. He broke his nose and his eye socket and his cheekbone, so he was out of action for a little bit, but he’s alright.
We’re just really excited to get the new album out. It feels like a bit of a long time coming, but these things always take longer than you think. Especially with the industry slowing down and then getting things back up and running again. We’re definitely excited to get the album out and then to play it live.
The first album, because it was full of songs we’d played live and written over a long time, it was tried and tested. But because we’ve written and recorded this album ourselves there’s something a bit more nerve-wracking about it.
I think we’ve got a few ideas and we’ll be playing a bunch of the songs from the new album that we haven’t played live before. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to be great.
I Don’t Belong Anywhere is out on Physical Education Recordings on 14 October. The new single “Waltzer” is out now.
October Drift will tour the UK later this year.
Visit October Drift’s website for dates. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.