It’s all going on for punk three-piece Grade 2, a band celebrating a significant anniversary in 2023 and with a clear trajectory to punk superstardom.
It certainly looks set to be a good year for Isle of Wight trio Grade 2. With a new album just released (to rave early reviews) there’s a tour starting in March and some exciting shows planned across the Summer including dates with Rancid and an extensive European tour. But the band- comprised of Sid Ryan (vocals, bass), Jack Chatfield (guitar and vocals) and Jacob Hull (drums)- are no overnight success. This has all been 10 years in the making. Punktuation caught up with Sid and Jack to talk about breaking out of a small town, lugging equipment to Edinburgh on public transport and punk rock solidarity…..
Maybe it’s the fact they started at such a young tender age, but it is quite something to contemplate that Grade 2 have been going for a decade. Looking back over their achievements is impressive- they have gone from playing the local pub circuit on their native Isle of Wight, to recording sessions with the bearded legend that is Tim Armstrong and the release of their self-titled fourth album. How does it feel to look back over such an epic punk rock journey?
Sid: “We’re playing in our hometown of Ryde on 18th February as our 10-year anniversary gig and when we discussed it we were like ‘bloody hell- 10 years’! It is all we’ve been doing since high school- we’ve been gigging, touring and writing since our GCSEs.”
The band pretty much formed (in principle at least!) in a school music room and began to write their own stuff pretty quickly, heavily influenced in those early days by oi punk and with no clear plan, but certainly a willingness to grab opportunities when they came their way. And from that classic punk band origin story, we’re now at the point of the release of some of their strongest material to date.
Jack: “In our opinion, this is the best record we’ve ever made. We’ve matured as musicians and as people now. Where we did start out as kids, every record was a learning experience (and it still is) but we feel like real musicians now who know how to write an album! This is definitely one we are most confident with and we feel represents us the best.”
And that maturity comes from a combination of exposure to a different type of recording process and the forced lockdown meaning the band had to slow down and take their time to get the perfect balance of songs.
Jack: “Historically, we have been over eager and super excited to make records. As soon as we had 10 songs, we would be like ‘we have an album’! And we would want to crack on and record it. We couldn’t do that this time [due to the pandemic]. This is what separates this album from the rest- we sat down and thought about everything and you can hear that in the music.”
And the recording process for this and their previous album ‘Graveyard Island‘ (2019), has also equipped the band with new knowledge and skills when it comes to pulling everything together in the studio. An education with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong as the teacher.
Jack: “We got lucky with Tim because we gel really well, it is a really nice atmosphere in the studio. The way he works is really clever. We were a bit more immature during ‘Graveyard Island‘, we had never worked with a producer before so we had to learn how to manage relationships in the studio so we’ve really enjoyed this whole experience and everything we’ve learnt”.
Jetting over to LA for a recording rendezvous with the best in the business is a pretty decent development for three lads from a small island in the English Channel (that makes it sound more exotic than it is). But boy have they earned it. Starting off in a small town with a very limited music scene proved to be a logistical nightmare but one the band adapted to in order to take any opportunities they could.
Sid: “We used to tour only travelling via public transport and at the time we thought it was the norm. Jacob would have cymbals and snare, a personal bag and we would all be carrying 3 bags, our instruments, bags of merch! We were getting on National Express coaches all over the country, lugging all our stuff on rush hour trains and tubes. Looking back on it, it was nuts! We would have something like a 16 hour coach journey to Edinburgh, just to play 1 gig!”
And all of these early formative experiences feed into songs that are simultaneously fun and worldly wise- serious life events but with a relatable twist. For this release, the band have pulled on their various influences, not just in terms of sound but in terms of song writing approach, wanting to reflect lived experiences and pepper in little details that speak to very specific British culture.
Sid: “I was listening a lot to the first two records by the Arctic Monkeys as we were writing the last two albums. I like the sense of storytelling and British charm, it is something I’ve always really liked, certain words or phrases that not everyone understands but is quite quintessentially British”.
And one thing that might be quintessentially British right now is being skint and fed up. Something we perhaps all have in common at the moment!
Sid: “A lot of my lyrics are personal stories of my own experiences so if someone says they understand that or have been in that position too, that is good to hear.
We have a song on ‘Graveyard Island‘ called ‘JSA‘- me and Jacob had to sign on a couple of years ago and I remember talking about it before we played it one night. This guy came up to me afterwards and said that he felt the speech I gave before the song was really empowering and made him think it wasn’t actually anything to be embarrassed about. So that’s cool when people understand it and think ‘yeah that’s me’.”
Jack: “We always try and take a dire topic and put a positive spin on it, and the main thing we can convey with that is we are all in it together, we’re in the same boat. In ‘Brassic‘,the main hook is ‘I’m brassic with you’. We’re all skint together don’t worry about it! We do try and find a way to make it feel less painful. That is why the punk community is so amazing- it’s all about solidarity and even if you don’t have much at home, if you’re part of the punk community, you’ve got a family and I think that’s really important.”
You can read Punktuation’s full review of the album here but to give you the headlines- the album is an absolute banger and if we get to the end of the year and it is not top of everyone’s ‘album of the year’ polls, then I will eat my hat. So, with that in mind, how excited are the band for all they have coming up in 2023? Answer: very.
Jack: “It feels weird because we haven’t played a gig since August, it’s one of the longest times we’ve gone without a show. And we’re building a new set with new songs. But that is really exciting and we can’t wait! We’ll be debuting six new songs from the record!
And as the album is out before the tour, you’ve got time to listen to it and learn the songs. We’ve given people a few weeks to do their homework!”
Sid: “We really feel like we want to back what we’ve done and we’re super proud and we’re waiting to see if people are gonna agree! We’re really excited to get out there”.
But once that dam breaks, the band go from 0-100mph with a pretty packed few months ahead of them.
Jack: “The calendar is pretty full until July. We’ve got Europe in April, US in May and then Rancid in June and festivals and club shows… a pretty hectic 4 months. The rest of the year we also have plans, nothing concrete, but definitely lots going on.
It’s our biggest year so far!”
Main Photo Credit: Ryan MacFall
17.02 | The Fighting Cocks | Kingston
18.02 | Blacksheep | Ryde
03.03 | Vortex | Wakefield *
04.03 | The Cab | Newport *
05.03 | Mama Lizs Voodoo Lounge | Stamford *
06.03 | The Waterfront Studio | Norwich *
07.03 | The Lexington | London *
08.03 | Joiners | Southampton *#
09.03 | Cavern | Exeter *#
10.03 | Louisiana | Bristol *#
11.03 | Latest Music Bar | Brighton *#
12.03 | The Hairy Dog | Derby *#
13.03 | Redrum | Stafford *^
14.03 | The Lubber Fiend | Newcastle *^
15.03 | Yellow Arch | Sheffield *^
16.03 | The Grand Social | Dublin
17.03 | Voodoo | Belfast
18.03 | Classic Grand | Glasgow *^
19.03 | Star & Garter | Manchester *^
* = Clobber
^ = Gyp
# = Rats Nest
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