Though Welsh sextet The Blackout may have called it a day a few years ago now, frontman Sean Smith and guitarist James “Bob” Davies are giving it another crack with their new outfit, Raiders.
Completed by bassist Ryan Lewis and drummer Chris ‘Stixx’ Davies, the quartet only have the one recorded song ‘Wasting Away’ out in the world at the moment, but there are plans to thrust themselves forward through 2020.
We had a little chinwag with Sean Smith about being in a band again, new material, playlist culture, a couple of his lesser known projects, and what’s planned for the year.
DP!: Day two of this tour with Cutting Teeth. How does it feel being back on the road again?
SS: Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. I fucking love it. Everything in my being tells me that this is where I should be, and where I need to be. I think I’ve come to the conclusion lately that I am a stand-up comedian trapped in a frontman’s body, so I’m trying to work the transition now to being a stand-up comedian, but that does involve writing down jokes which is my worst trait. When it comes to stuff like that I’m so lazy. I won’t even sound record stuff.
But, last night’s show, I was just fucking happy to be onstage, I was happy that people were looking at me, and it genuinely doesn’t bother me if nobody turns up. Even if the other bands don’t turn up to play, I’ll just play to my band. I just love these songs, I love playing them, and I love fucking moving. It’s the most exercise I’ve done for months as well. I should’ve really done a lot of cardio before, because by the third song last night I was absolutely knackered and nearly spewing. I’m running around and screaming so I barely have time to breath, so it’s dreadful but I fucking love it. I love seeing Bob playing onstage again playing ‘cause he’s an animal, and doing it with three boys from back home that I’m friends with that I love and we get to have a bash at this again and see how it goes.
DP!: You’ve played with Cutting Teeth in the past when you both supported Continents for their farewell show. How did this tour come together?
SS: We played that show with them and we hung out with them a bit that day, and I can’t remember where but they were supporting somebody else somewhere when I was doing an episode of my podcast. I hung out with them then and they’re just super lovely boys. They gave me one of their CDs and I checked it out and loved it.
Their manager Dean Whittaker got in touch with us a short while after, who’s working for Future History Management at the moment. I wanted to get involved where I could so started helping out with Junior, and then Dean was like “Do you want to go on tour with Cutting Teeth?” and I said “Yes, yes, as long as we don’t have to headline”, because our premise at the moment for Raiders at the moment is to support as many bands as we can. I just wanna nick fans basically. We’re raiding tours to raid fans. But, yeah, the ideas is to play to other peoples’ crowds, and I genuinely think we could support most bands; Reel Big Fish, Slayer, Lewis Capaldi. I reckon Lewis would well be up for it. I reckon we’ve got the chops, stage presence, possibly songs, and the banter to make most people take interest in us in one way or another. I want people to love us or to hate us – I don’t want people in the middle thinking that we’re just alright because that doesn’t cause a reaction. I said last night, “If you hate us, please go and tell people that you hate us.”
DP!: You’ve got just the one song out at the moment, ‘Wasting Away’. What’s the plan with some new material?
SS: Basically, we recorded ‘Wasting Away’ last February in the hopes to have it out a couple of weeks later just so we could get summer festivals last year. We didn’t hear from Romesh, we didn’t get it back quick enough, it took him nine weeks, so we missed festival season. We went to go and record in August with Rob Thomas, who is Romesh’s assistant, and we had it pulled from under us two days before so we couldn’t do that.
So, we literally haven’t had the time or the money to go into the studio, but, at the end of February we’re going in with Todd Campbell of Stompbox Studios, who is the guitarist for Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, and his dad is one of Motorhead. That’ll be really cool. We’ve got more coming. There are definitely more songs coming. We’re recording four or five songs with him that are all going to be high energy and a bit yell-y – they have to be yell-y ‘cause I can’t sing – and I can’t fucking wait.
DP!: I know you talk a lot about playlist culture and singles on your podcast. Do you think you’ll be doing that or putting them out as an EP?
SS: I think we’re going to try the playlist culture thing. I think we’ll try these four or five songs as the test of if that works. So, either monthly or bi-monthly we’ll put a new song out to gauge if that works better than an album. I think if you put out an EP or an album out nowadays, people listen to two or three songs then ditch it and go to a playlist.
DP!: You recently supported, and also played onstage alongside Funeral For A Friend. How was that?
SS: It was literally the three best days of my life last year. Basically, Funeral For A Friend announced that they were doing two shows, Cardiff and London. They sold out really quick so they added another Cardiff date before the two dates where we were playing. I went down early that Sunday like a proper fan boy, turned up early, got in there, saw them all on stage and I thought everyone was going to be miserable because of the reason we were all there. It’s good that they’re back, but also because we’re doing it for our friend who died and we’re trying to raise money for his family and kids.
I got in there and I was expecting them to be miserable, but I walked in and everyone was fucking beaming. They started sound checking and the full lights were on, and it’s not a gig yet but I’m in the pit dancing and singing away. I was over the moon. They came to me and said that they’re doing ‘The Art Of American Football’ and ’10:45 Amsterdam Conversations’ with some of the old members, and the original screamer on them could only make the London show and one of the Cardiff shows, so I ended up doing it for the other. It was a dream come true. I enjoyed myself so much that I kept watching the footage of me doing it, and I went back and found an old video from 2004 in Cardiff of Funeral For A Friend doing ‘The Art Of American Football’, and there’s a bit where Matt is standing on the crowd, and at the bit where he says “Tune in, tune out”, he sticks the microphone in the crowd and it’s my giant head sticking out. I was like, it’s come full circle. Here I am 15 years later, singing that song onstage with them. Their first EP blew my mind, getting to see them was amazing, and they’re doing Download too which is brilliant for them. It was so good to see them back together and how happy they were.
DP!: Obviously, back in The Blackout you handled vocals with Gav and with Raiders you’re doing it on your own. How’s it feel handling it all yourself this time around?
SS: It’s hard. It turns out that it’s 50% more work and he was doing all the hard parts. It turns out he was the one with the bloody talent, haha, but yeah, it’s interesting. The best bit about it is that I get to speak more between songs, because we don’t have to do it where he’s the sensible one and I’m the bad guy. It’s not good cop and bad cop anymore, just all bad cop. We should’ve actually called ourselves Bad Cop. Fuck.
We have to be Raiders UK on Spotify, and if you google “raiders sean smith” there’s a Los Angeles Raiders player called Sean Smith. It’s the top answer, so we fucked it big time. Really, we should’ve google the name beforehand.
DP!: Some fans might not be aware, but during your time in The Blackout you also had two other projects. You had Dirty Love which was your EDM project, and you also had another band called You Are Dead Meat. What happened to those two projects?
SS: Basically, with Dirty Love I love DJing all genres, and I was very much into my dance music at the time. I got offered to be main support for 3OH!3, but I said “No, I’d rather be in-between real bands.” I’m not worthy of a main support. But yeah, I got into dance DJing and stuff like that, and then I turned that it into a clothing kind of thing for a little bit and that did okay.
You Are Dead Meat came about because there was a surge in pop-punk at the time, and we were like “How hard is it to write a pop-punk song? It can’t be that fucking hard, can it?” So me and four friends got together and did that. Funnily enough, we recorded them with Todd Campbell, and just made them for a laugh. We didn’t do any shows unfortunately, just put a few songs up on MySpace. I don’t even know if you can get any of them anymore. I know one was called ‘Baby, Baby’ but I don’t even know how they go, which is a mad thing.
DP!: Obviously the music industry has changed quite dramatically since you emerged as part of The Blackout to where you are today in Raiders. What would you say is the biggest difference now from then in trying to establish a name?
SS: I had a conversation with my friend earlier, and he was saying that as perfectly on time as we were with MySpace, if we had been us ten years later then we would’ve been influencers and that it seemed like we were so far ahead with how we were online, communities, what you were doing, and the way that we talked to people. He was like “What I would’ve done is signed you to a management deal, got a content creator to just come and video you all of the time and then they can put stuff out like that and we would’ve been huge.”
I think we were perfectly on time with MySpace, but also early to the the point of influencers. Influencers didn’t exist when I was in The Blackout and now they’re everywhere, but we’d have those numbers where we would’ve been considered influencers. With my Twitter and Instagram I’ve been lucky to amass enough followers that now I’d be considered an influencer.
But, yeah, I don’t know. I just think people just expect music for basically free now, and that’s heart breaking. People pay £10 a month to have the ability to listen to all of the songs, and some people don’t even pay that and just listen to the adverts. Something needs to change. If you’re being entertained by music then support it. Find a way. I don’t think Raiders can do this, but if I was a young band then I’d do what While She Sleeps are doing and copy that. They create and use their own production, they have their own warehouse and studio, which they build themselves. They learnt brick laying, sound proofing, panelling, and everything else themselves from YouTube. The way they’re doing it is the best way to do it.
DP!: Music aside, fans also know you from your podcast. With the conversations you have with them, do you feel what they discuss and their experience aid you in Raiders or reflect on The Blackout?
SS: Well, it’s done a few things really. It’s rekindled my love for music, because when The Blackout split up it was as if all music stopped for me, and then through the podcast I spoke to Lucas of Holding Absence and stuff, and seeing their passion for it was fantastic. I also had a really depressing week one week, and I went on Instagram and saw Yungblud smiling away and doing well, and I was like “I remember that.” I saw a lot of myself in him, so I might start calling myself Oldblud and claiming to be his real dad, haha. It inspired me and I met him in Reading, and told him about that experience and thanked him and we had a chat.
It’s done that but it has aged me too, because on that same episode with Lucas he told me that his first ever gig was seeing The Blackout and he showed me a photo. Then when we did those Funeral For A Friend shows I went outside and was speaking with Woody from Polar, and he said “You’re the reason that I’m doing what I’m doing” and I was like “Oh good, you cheeky cunt. Take us on tour. You owe me, don’t you?” He said he will, but we’ll see.
DP!: I know it’s still early, but what’s planned for the moment in 2020 for Raiders?
SS: Well, recording at the end of February and planning to put a new song out in April. I’m thinking April 1st for April Fools, but I think people will be like “I’m not clicking that link, it’s probably a picture of his bum hole or coronavirus”. We’ll be playing more shows hopefully, and 2000 Trees Festival too.
The band’s debut single, ‘Wasting Away’, is out now.