After over a year without live music, most bands think that travelling the country in a van to play for an audience is completely infeasible. This is especially pertinent amongst the heavy music market, which seems to be the bottom priority for funding and support in general. The difference with UK punk duo Glitchers is that they aren’t afraid to rock up with no warning in city centres and blast the unsuspecting public with political hardcore. Armed with a beat-up amp, a donation bucket and a megaphone held together with parcel tape, Glitchers are bringing punk back to the general public’s ears, whether they like it or not.
“I had a really bad breakup, ended up being kicked out of my house,” explains singer and guitarist Jake, “So I messaged a friend and was like, ‘I had a mad idea, What if we just busk punk music on the street for donations?’”’
Sophie, who originally acted as the roadie, overtook drum duties soon after. “Jake’s a good teacher, he taught me everything, but if you ask me to play anything other than Glitchers songs, not a clue,” She laughs, “But It’s a lot easier than I thought. If anyone reading this is thinking of picking up drums, just do it!”
When running into Glitchers set on your way to Primark, it’s impossible to act indifferent. Some folks wince and cover their ears, power-walking in the opposite direction, some pick up their phones and start filming the sheer absurdity, and a few start shamelessly headbanging like a pavlovian response to hearing raw guitar crunch for the first time in one and a half years. A bespectacled man from Berry’s Jewelers stomps outside before the set begins, and stammers for a while, struggling to justify telling the band to move on. Only three songs in and two security guards arrived to calm the so-called noise pollution, only to be met with boos from the already sizable crowd of people gathered around.
According to Sophie, it’s roughly a 50/50 chance that this happens. Jake added: “It’s probably just because we’re loud, and you can’t play punk quiet. It’s difficult because everyone will try and stop you and if you haven’t just got the balls to carry on, it can be really intimidating.”
One of the problems with punk music in general, is the fact that a lot of bands who claim to have a political agenda will end up playing to a 1000 cap venue of people who already agree with their liberal views. A song like Fuck The Tories hits a lot harder when it’s being heard by an unsuspecting public that’s presumably littered with conservatives. But this comes with a number of pre-show nerves beyond most other touring bands. “When you’re on a stage, you’re relatively safe,” Jake explains, “but on the street literally anything can happen. It’s not usually the police, it’s normally just a shop, or security or just someone who feels like they have authority. We just tell them, ‘If it’s really a hassle, just call the police’, and our set will be over by the time they get here.”
“There was a time in Peterborough, a guy came over and just shouted and shouted,” Sophie recalls, “I thought he was gonna go straight to Jake, but he comes to me while I’m playing, starts shouting down my ear, his dog mounted me and started trying to bite me! That’s probably the only really negative experience I’ve had.”
Despite the challenges, Sophie and Jake manage to play with the ferocity and stage moves of the grimiest club gig, packing more thrashing energy into their ten minutes than most bands manage in a headline set. Jake laughs, “I close my eyes a lot and just pretend I’m in a venue. I fall to the floor thinking it’ll be a nice carpeted stage floor, hit the concrete and go ‘Agh my knees!’”
Not long ago, Glitchers lived entirely out of their touring van. With more and more young alternative people moving into vehicles and finding new ways to live, bands could take a leaf from Glitchers book. Jake looks back fondly on van life. “We absolutely loved it. In the winters it got tough and the van leaked and loads of other stuff, but before all that, it was so freeing! You just wake up in the morning in an entirely new place. You think: How am I gonna make money today? We’ll play a few songs here, and if we haven’t made enough we’ll play a few songs there. The van broke down a while ago, while we were touring in Germany with another band. We had to get a house, which I still hate!”
With smaller venues going under the hammer increasingly, and the gap between big bands and small bands growing ever larger, Glitchers’ entirely DIY attitude seems oddly sensible. If you need evidence that alternative music doesn’t need record deals, safety nets, or even venues, Glitchers will probably rock up in your local town to prove that very soon, and it’ll be one of the most punk things you’ve ever seen.
Follow Glitchers on Instagram @glitchersband