The Blinders talk Politics, For The Many Tour and Playing Live.
Midway through the spontaneous For the Many tour in support of the Labour Party, The Blinders have spent the day canvassing around the streets of Newport, ahead of their first Welsh headline gig in two years. Still dressed in their winter coats, they trailed into Le Pub’s green room. Singer and guitarist Thomas Haywood slumps into the middle of a sofa, while bassist Charlie McGough inspects the coffee on offer and drummer Matty Neal, to his joy, finds a basketball. Surroundings explored, we begin the interview.
So whose idea is the ‘For the Many’ tour?
Tom: Well it actually came from the Labour Socialist Sunday gig that we got offered in Manchester, for the Ritz. Obviously it is something we feel very passionate about, we’ve always been Labour supporters ever since we had the opportunity to vote, so we took it upon ourselves to set it up and once the ball got rolling it became a bit more of a reality and lots of bands were interested in doing it with us. I think it was about 300 bands that applied, our management picked the best ones out of that. We made sure we went for the marginal constituencies instead of safe labour seats, hence why we’re doing places like Stourbridge, Newport and Lincoln. So that’s how it all started.
So I guess it’s been a really busy few weeks.
Charlie: Our manager took control over it really
Mat: Spotted a few greys
Charlie: Yeah I think he’s sent a LOT of emails in the last three weeks.
Mat: Three weeks? It’s only been like twelve days.
Charlie: What is supposed to be a quiet end of the year has become a manic one, all for the cause though.
Tom: We can’t fucking thank the management crew enough, like they’ve all been doing it for absolutely nothing, they’ve just been working tirelessly to pull it all together.I suppose that’s all in the spirit of what it is that we’re doing, so it’s sort of all sat nicely really. Everything is being donated to the labour party, including merch, so it’s straight up all for it, no loopholes or anything like that at all, what you see it what it is.
Were there any problems with having to jump straight into tour and not being able to prepare?
Tom: It’s a nightmare trying to get a tour on the road in less than two weeks but that’s the nature of it. No one knew that this election was coming around. Once we saw the opportunity to jump on it, we did just that.
Charlie: We’ve been very lucky with venues, places like this have been great, they’ve stepped up and let us put our political event on that’s obviously not everyone’s cup of tea. That was a difficulty but also we are only able to do this through the good faith of people, like this venue.
Mat: Big up Sam Dabb. [Owner of Le Pub]
How was canvassing today, for Ruth Jones [Newport West] and Jessica Mordan [Newport East]?
Tom: We didn’t see Ruth Jones but we did it on behalf of her, and then we went out with Jessica Mordan earlier this afternoon. It was great, didn’t get too many people telling us to fuck off, so really positive and definitely something we’re going to continue to do on the rest of the tour. We are trying to get to the venues and towns pretty early so we can go out and do exactly that and still leave us time to get a bit of a dishevelled soundcheck in. Should all go to plan.
Have the shows been bringing support from more labour supporters? Or bringing awareness to your fans?
Tom: I think social media sort of did that, there was straight away a division of people who like our music but were not interested in the message that we were trying to give off. To be honest I don’t know how you can listen to our music and not already see that. I think we hold no secrets and we’ve always been quite politically bias, so to have people lose a temper and flail their arms about in uproar is bizarre. But some of the arguments are understandable, I think one was about the idea that we were meant to be an anti-establishment band, and that’s fair enough, but with the whole Corbyn leadership and the shape the Labour party is taking at the moment, I don’t know how you can argue that that’s not anti-establishment. We’ve had ten years of a very pro-establishment government who has been infiltrating the media and has been in the pockets of millionaires and the Rupert Murdocs of the world, so I think Jeremy Corbyn is everything against that, and it’s good to see the majority of the Labour party and the majority of the MP’s have stood behind him, and almost took a leap of faith really. We’re quite on the socialist side of things so for us Corbyn is the best thing that’s happened to the Labour party in a long time, and it’s something we can really get behind, and I imagine a lot of people our age have felt the exact same way. At the beginning of it all we’re three 22 year olds, so why would we not support something like this, especially when we feel so passionately about it.
It’s a bit mad how people have been calling you hypocrites, telling you to stick to music, especially when you go out to gigs with ‘Fuck the tories’ written everywhere.
Tom: Yeah, back in the day! I think that one must have slipped them by. It’s not subtle in the slightest. Each to their own, and we don’t hold any grudges against those types. Everyone’s welcome down to these gigs, if you just want to come down for the music then fair enough, but just know that your tenners gonna go to the Labour party.
Mat: We always seem to end up touring somehow or the other when it’s really fucking cold. Can we not have an election next time in July?
Tom: Yeah who the fuck called an election in December. We were out there canvassing, fucking hands are turning blue.
Mat: That’s why they have done it. Done it purposefully so no one leaves.
Charlie: I think it might be a good thing. I think a sprinkle of snow on the 12th…
Mat, laughing: sprinkling of snow
Charlie: Sprinkling of snow, you know those old brexit voters?
Mat: Can’t get out their house
Charlie: Can’t get out their house! Us young folk can march to the election polls, put ticks in those boxes.
Tom: So are you 16?
Tom: This is a really interesting thing because I was talking to Sam earlier, she mentioned you were under the voting age. At the Manchester show there was a LOT of 16/17 year olds. It was quite sad actually, they had such a powerful impact on the atmosphere and vibe of the show, but they’re not allowed to vote.
Charlie: We had the same situation really or the Miliband election. 2015 we’rent it? I was turning 18 in July, so I was in the same situation where I was three months off.
You’re in a great position now though, because you can vote and use your platform to preach.
Tom: Absolutely. This is something that we thought about, I think come December 12th, if we hadn’t done something like this, given how politics and society as a whole as influenced our lyrics, you’ve sort of gotta act on that. We would always give a bit of stick to bands who had a platform, but wouldn’t really use it, who’d shy away from it. You can see now why theyd shy away from it, because you get the flock of, ‘you’re never gunna get signed, forget the record deal’, well actually we’re already signed so fuck you. But you can see why bands would shy away from that. Now we’ve got some sort of platform, however big or small it is, why not give it a pop.
Mat: Shout from the rooftops.
Tom: As I was saying, It’s quite sad that the majority of the good vibrations were coming from the young kids but yet they are not able to vote. People have this argument that,’ Oh, they’re only 16/17, they’re not old enough to form rational opinions’, and they are met with blatant insults and maybe trolling from people maybe 40/50 years over their age…
Mat: Trolling? Where are you from?
Charlie: Social media!
Tom, ignoring them: … and just get fucking shot down. They’re the ones with the rational opinion.
Mat: I’m a little undecided on the whole lower it to 16.
Tom: Well that’s in the manifesto isn’t it.
Mat: Yeah, I know a multitude of 17 year old who are switched on, but then I know 22 year olds who don’t have a clue.
Charlie: If you’re old enough to pay taxes, you’re old enough to vote.
Tom: Can you pay taxes at 16?
Charlie: Course you can
Tom: Oh yeah, I remember getting a big fat paycheck, from working flipping burgers
Mat: For a week!
Tom: They took the tax off of me, but obviously I wasn’t earning enough so I got it all back.
Mat: Your last job wasn’t it?
Tom: Yeah, it’s the only proper job I’ve had. Flipping burgers.
Mat: How long did you have it for?
Tom: About four months. I thought fuck this, proper job isn’t for me, I’m gunna go make music about tories. But yeah that’s where we stand really, bring on lowering the voting age.
Mat: Your for it, yeah?
Tom: Yeah! I think it should of been bought in a long time ago. Especially with the amount of kids who are going to sixth form now, and getting that education about politics.
Mat: I think just generally this generation is much more switched on than those in the past.
The Power of social media.
Mat: Yeah, social media, I think that is it.
Tom: The void where there was so little information on it, has now been filled by social media. But that can be sort of dangerous as well.
Mat: Sort of, but I do think it’s more in favour then it isn’t, especially for 16 year olds.
Tom: Well what do you think, you’re the 17 year old?
I think there’s a problem with fan culture and young audiences. I myself would blindly agree with idols I admired, because I was naive. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realised I can respect their opinions, and maybe agree with them, but I also have the free thought to form my own.
Tom: I think that’s the same with Jeremy Corbyn, don’t just follow him blindly, still hold him to scrutiny and still hold him to account. The bottom line is we’re given two choices really, and if you can look me in the eye and say that Boris Johnson is a better candidate for the Prime Minister of the country, then I’m sorry but I can’t agree.
At this point in the interview, stagehand Tommy tried to sneak around looking for something amongst the storage, but gets roped into joining us.
Charlie: Tommy had his first day canvassing today, loved it, was Tigger bouncing between houses.
Tommy: I gave away a poster and everything. She asked for a sign too, she was a bit nuts. She was happy to see me anyway.
Mat: I was canvassing with some dude, and the woman at the door was like, ‘I’m unsure what I’m going to vote for’, and the dude went,’ Do you want to fuck over the disabled?’’ She said no, he went ‘Vote Labour!’
Tom: At a time like this, with an election like this, it’s so divisive, I think it’s really important just to talk to people, don’t shout in their faces, actually talk to them. What I can’t understand is that people won’t give Labour and Jeremy Corbyn’s government a chance to prove themselves, to try and change the country and try and move it forward. People are just blinded by hatred and more so by the media.
Mat: For the many!
A few hours later, The Blinders took to the stage, their performing personas adorned. Spitting, staring and stalking their way around, they captured and clutched onto the attention of fans and Labour supporters alike. Message sent and memorable gig complete, and it’s back to the road and off to the next spot as the fight for the many continues.