“Possibly we now understand how everything isn’t so straight forward and easy as it seemed when we were young with the debut single.”
What Have You Got To Prove?’ is the latest single to be released by Pioneers, Southampton’s current finest indie rock group. Written during lockdown and recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouth – birthplace of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, Bohemian Rhapsody, Coldplay’s Parachutes and subject of the recent BBC documentary, it’s a single in the vein of Two Door Cinema Club, Bloc Party, Editors and has been blasting out of Edge of Arcady’s headphones since we caught wind of it.
After the madness of lockdown livestreams, recording the single, and rocking Isle of Wight festival this summer, the boys agreed to take some time out to answer a few questions for us. We opened up the floor to them, discovering more about their latest single, the inside scoop on the Southampton scene, the highs and lows of life in Pioneers, as well as managing to uncover a loud, proud and unashamed love of country music in the process…
Tell me about What Have You Got To Prove?
WHYGTP was written in the first lockdown. It was such a weird time for everyone as we lost the ability to do so many things. I think this is where the idea of the song came from; we were stripped away from so much, but I think it gave me the time to appreciate the here and now. It’s great to look and strive for things, but I also think it’s so important to face your flaws and appreciate who and what’s around you now.
From listening to the song’s lyrics, it’s evident you value authenticity. Has there been a time in your life where you’ve had to fight for that in yourself? What advice would you give your younger self or anyone else who is battling to remain or become their authentic self?
I think when you grow older you start to care less about how you’re perceived. I think when you’re just turning into an adult there’s an expectation of what you should be into and what you should be doing. I think once you begin to grow you begin to find your individuality and instead welcome your differences a lot more. I think this runs alongside our songs; at first we maybe thought what our songs should be, rather than what they naturally are.
What was it like recording at Rockfield Studios?
Rockfield was surreal, it was amazing being able to record in the same room as some of our favourite artists. The location is so lovely but the drive there wasn’t – we have a thing for coffee so it probably took a bit longer than it should after stopping at every Starbucks available. We recorded 2 singles over 2 days: ‘What Have You Got to Prove?’ and other one which you will get to hear in the near future.
You also played at Isle of Wight Festival this year. What was performing there like? Any stories to tell?
It’s still weird to think we played a major festival this year, especially after the couple years the music industry has had. We had initially planned to stay for the entire weekend, which we really really wanted to do, but we had to get back to the mainland not long after our set. There were a couple of bands that had pulled out of the festival due to COVID reasons, meaning we got asked to play another set on the Friday night, but were already back home and working again. It was an honour to play and we hope to be back in the future – all our thanks go to This Feeling for letting us open their stage!
How did the band begin?
It’s weird to look back now and realise we formed back in late 2017. Myself (Sam W) knew the other three band members individually and when deciding to start a band, we knew that we all shared the same influences and interests. Toby could play Guitar, Charlie was learning Drums and Bailey picked up a Bass after joining the band! Since then, Bailey has gone onto other ventures but we now have Sam O with us that has enhanced us musically for sure.
Your music has changed a bit and has progressed since Take Time. Has this been intentional? How do you feel as a band now compared to when you began?
I think that’s fair to say and I think it’s for a few reasons really. Firstly, it’s just time. With Take Time we were very young around 17/18 years old and that song and flow reflected who we were then. We were experiencing things for the first time and going out for the first time and things like that, this influenced the writing of Take Time as well as the fast-paced lyrical flow. However, as we’ve grown older and reflected, we’ve started to explore different components when writing. Now, as adults, our day-to-day life and experiences are different to what they were back then. Possibly we now understand how everything isn’t so straight forward and easy as it seemed when we were young with
the debut single.
Which bands and artists are you into and what inspires you?
We’re all into slightly different stuff weirdly enough. Sam W is into early 2000s indie which I think you can hear in our tracks. Artists like Jamie T and The Strokes have definitely influenced our tracks heavily in the past. Apart from that we all like different bands and even different genres. The only genre which we all seem to agree on is country music so that is what gets played if we’re on the road and when we’re altogether.
What is the Southampton music scene like? I’ve read that you play at the 1865 venue?
The Southampton music scene is thriving at the moment, and it’s great to see. People like Gavin Foord and Tyrone have done a lot to put Southampton’s music scene on the map. It really is our favourite place to play, whether it’s Heartbreakers, Engine Rooms, The Joiners, The 1865 or The Loft, every venue seems unique to one another with its own history and characteristics. If you’re planning on touring, make sure you come here.
Which other bands from Southampton or elsewhere do you admire and feel close to and why, if any?
We have always admired Djuno, who also played Isle of Wight Festival this year. Courtney’s voice is iconic, and they always put out top-drawer tracks. On a slightly bigger scale, Band of Skulls – we’re a sucker for a good riff and they provide us with plenty.
You wrote ‘What Have You Got To Prove’ during lockdown, how did you find lockdown and did you and the band come away from it with any personal insights?
I think lockdown helped us comeback with a different point of view and that is just to enjoy what we’re doing. It can be quite stressful and a lot of pressure, being in a band. It taught us to appreciate the little things like all meeting up and rehearsing, not to mention playing live. Some of our strongest tracks so far came as a result of it too which is nice. It also allowed us to just focus on our own instruments a lot more and play stuff which we wouldn’t have done otherwise. When you have other stuff going on in life, sitting down at or pick up your instrument can be hard so when you do it tends to be for stuff revolved around the band. It allowed us to play and learn other stuff which is different to Pioneers and come back to our music refreshed.
How was taking part in a lockdown livestream?
It kept us going! Ideally, we wanted to be touring toward the end of last year, so we were understandably frustrated (like every other band). The livestreams gave us an opportunity to get close to playing live again and were useful to keep our content up. We also think they were exceptional to boost morale and give people something to look forward to.
How has lockdown affected Pioneers as a band?
It has and it goes back to what we said about finding lockdown in general. I feel like we appreciate it for what it is as opposed to looking at streams and ticket sales all the time. I just hope we hold onto that going forward as we didn’t start it to get streams etc, we started it just because we loved music and thought it’d be fun to play it ourselves.
What has been your highlight of being in Pioneers so far?
This is going to seem a bit hypocritical after saying we’re now not watching ticket sales so much but the highlight is always sold out hometown shows. We’ve done a few big ones now like Engine Rooms and The 1865 and they are just unreal.
What has been your worst experience being in Pioneers so far?
There’s been a few which could have been really bad, but we tend to laugh it off when we’re all together. There’s been the typical playing to one man and his dog scenarios but not many to be honest. For that reason, I would have to say one of our first gigs we played at a bigger venue. We supported someone at The 1865 and everything what could have went wrong did. We had a broken drum pedal and broken guitar by the end. We got through it, but it was and is such a big venue for us that we built it up so much only to ruin it by drinking a bit too much before.
What plans do Pioneers have for the near future?
We’ve been working hard recently to get our tour rescheduled; There are so many places we want to visit up and down the country, starting up in Scotland and hopefully finishing down south with a hometown show. We’re also preparing for our next huge show at The 1865 on 19 November, alongside releasing some more music before the new year, if you’re lucky…
Buy tickets to see Pioneers at The 1865, Southampton – Friday 19th November 2021 – click here.