There's a malevolence to Eagulls' gazed-out punk sound. It's carnal and corroded, but evenly careening. The quintet from Leeds, England, seems sonically disgruntled and disaffected. Songs on their self-titled debut album stew and lurch with fetid rhythm and melodies that seem to come more from agitation than composition. George Mitchell's loaded, high-throated plaints sit well within the cadent angst of Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews's guitars. Henry Ruddell's steady, heavy drumming opens bomb-bay doors that hook into Tom Kelly's distorted bass lines. It's night, and Leeds is below the bomber in a blackout. In 1941, the city escaped the worst of Germany's Luftwaffe blitz bombing. Forty miles southwest of Leeds lies Manchester, and on the map, some of Eagulls' tones sprout context: a composite of Joy Division, Stone Roses, Gang of Four, and the Cure, tied off into volatile, miscreant accelerations of shoegaze. For further context, there is Eagulls' famous SXSW open letter about "beach bands sucking each other's dicks and rubbing the press's clit" and the "disgusting Afrobeat sounds," but the letter was blown out of proportion. Eagulls say a lot of shit all the time. They're playful. They're hungry. They have an edge. More important is the rotting pig brain they time-lapsed in their basement for their video for "Nerve Endings," and the police activity that followed. George Mitchell and Henry Ruddell spoke from Nashville, Tennessee. They were sitting on a porch in the sun drinking lemon-and-ginger tea. They were feeling all right.
What's been happening in Leeds lately?
Mitchell: To be honest, we've hardly been in Leeds lately because we've been away on tour so much. The last I heard on the local news, a school kid had enough and went into his school and stabbed his teacher to death with his mum's kitchen knife. That's all I have to say on Leeds at the moment. We're in the States now, seeing lots of beautiful, deranged people and wondering what it is that they actually do. Why is it so hard to get a healthy meal here without paying more than $20 for it?
I liked your performance on Late Show with David Letterman. Really good. I heard one of you kissed him on the mouth? And he slapped you. So you slapped him back. Maybe it was another band. Is Letterman like that?
Mitchell: Playing David Letterman was surreal for us. The night before, we were all getting stick-and-poke tattoos, and we forced Tom into getting Bill Murray's name tattooed on his arm. Then Bill Murray was there on-set that day, and Tom showed him the tattoo, and Bill actually grabbed Tom's arm and gave it a really sloppy kiss [laughs]. That was the only kiss that happened. The kiss of a Ghostbuster.
People think you're chaotic. What's something chaotic we can tell the people?
Mitchell: Lay off the Adderall. We're actually heavily into meditation and have participated in intensive mountaintop Vipassana meditations—we didn't speak for 30 days straight, and only ate kale. On the 30th day of not-speaking and meditating and kale, you're supposed to have a vision. I didn't have a vision. I asked for my money back. I only thought about a hamburger having sex with Prince William on a mountain. Maybe that was my vision. Total chaos.
What do you all think about the royal family? Do people over there care about that shit?
Mitchell: Prince Harry was photographed wearing a full Nazi uniform at a party. Prince William just uses our money to fly around in helicopters and cut ribbons at hospital openings. The royal family is a disgrace.
Let's get into the rotting brain real quick. At what point in the creative process for the video did you think, "Let's time-lapse a rotting brain"?
Ruddell: The lyrics to the song are fairly personal, but something that a lot of people can relate to. We thought it was important to convey the lyrics as literally as possible. Showing a brain literally decaying perfectly portrays the meaning of the lyrics, and the feeling you might have when suffering from things like anxiety. It's something that can't be helped immediately, and just feels like your brain is disappearing. "You stand till this world dies/Can't find my head/No music, no sex, no immediate out, just for my health/This cold feeling, nervous... Still nerve endings won't die." A pig brain is the only brain we could source; we didn't know anybody who could deliver a human one.
How much was the brain? Where'd you get it? Did you have any names for it?
Ruddell: No nickname, unfortunately, just the brain [laughs]. We got it from a local butcher's stall in Leeds Market—I think it was about £20. We had to buy a whole pig's head, though, and remove the brain ourselves at home, which is a harder task than you might think. The butcher was a bit scared when we asked him to take it out for us, so we had to do it ourselves.
What did it smell like?
Ruddell: Fresh, just like meat, but once it started decaying, not good. Our basement still smells to this day.
When the brain was alive, what do you think it spent the majority of its time thinking? How do you think the brain would have critiqued the song?
Ruddell: I imagine it thought a lot about grazing and sleeping. But who knows, it could have been a very intelligent pig that may have gone on to better things. We don't know about the life it led or how it ended, but we're eternally grateful it allowed us to use its brain for artistic purposes. For that reason, maybe the pig would have been happy. I wouldn't mind if someone used mine after I'm gone, as long as it's tasteful [laughs]. I think for the pig's critique, it would say it's an out-of-body experience?
And then the cops came because the gas man saw the brain in your basement?
Ruddell: Yeah, a gas man came around while we were out to put a new meter in the basement, saw the brain with lights and cameras, and just ran out screaming and phoned the police. They all came around to investigate and must have just decided it was some sort of project, not a ritual or illegal happening. We were all at work during this, but our neighbors saw everything and told us. They don't talk to us too much anymore. Some of it was even caught on camera.
What's some music from Leeds we should be listening to?
Ruddell: Have a listen to Autobahn, the Flex, Hookworms, and Perspex Flesh. Lots of good music happening in Leeds right now.