Watching Glastonbury highlights on TV is always bittersweet. You get to see the best new bands from the comfort of your living room, but you can't help but feel envious of those there experiencing it live - the music, the camping, the drinking...
This year, however, it wasn't a bloke off his tits in the crowd that caught my eye, but rather a red and white scarf tied around a guitar amplifier. 'Could they be a Sunderland fan?' I thought, somewhat arrogantly given how many teams play in red and white. When I saw the guitarist's face, however, I realised that my suspicions were completely justified.
'Hold on, didn't he used to write for ALS?'
Joe Martin is a guitarist and vocalist in the band CABBAGE, who were described as 'Manchester's most exciting new band' by Vice in 2015, and have since done more festivals than your average burger van. Above that, though, he's a massive Lads fan and spent a large portion of his life in the ALS office making tea for us. We caught up with Joe to find out what it's like being a billy big bollocks, and whether Billy Jones has any bollocks.
Tell us about the band, how it came about and what you have achieved so far.
The group started in June 2015 as a collaboration with two of my best pals, Eoghan (lead guitarist) and Lee (the other lead vocalist, guitarist and master synth lad). Bassist Stephen, had his own bedroom record label and offered to record an EP, Le Chou. We were extraordinarily pleased with the outcome and naturally began rehearsing. Drummer-wise, Eog and I ended up at Asa Morely's student gaff one night, drinking with one of his pals. In the morning, our current drummer informed us he couldn't attend practice, so we brought Asa with us, and it's been that way since. His rise has been meteoric, a character so unique that there's a song named after him on our latest release, 'The EP of Cruelty'.
We did our first gig in November 2015, and released the full EP in February. Our single 'Kevin' got picked up by BBC 6 Music pretty quickly, and 'Dinner Lady' later won Steve Lemacq's round table. We've released 24 songs, and technically haven't got 'round to our debut album yet. 'Young Dumb and Full of" was a compilation of three EPs we recorded during a frenzied two-week period in July 2016, working with the legendary Simon Ding Archer. He joined The Fall in 2003, playing on ‘The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click)’, one of my favourite modern Fall records. He's been heavily involved in all aspects of the group since, so hearing various stories about Mark's escapades was a real treat.
I've heard your gigs can get quite mental. What kind of people turn up?
Our gigs steadily improved as our back catalogue increased and became more familiar to folk. The 2016 festival season was triumphant and chaotic in equal measures. We began 2017 with a headline tour that was entirely sold out, meeting an incredibly varied group of people who had all interpreted our music in different ways.
The gigs consisted of young rapscallions down the front, and elder post-punk fans towards the back. Some (but not all) have a facial piercing that represents former anarchist tendencies; they're nearly always donning a post-punk band T-shirt, a blazer of some sort, battered jeans and Doc Martens. Receiving a nod of recognition from someone who has literally seen it all before, is the worthiest compliment of all.
You’ve just come off the back of an amazing run of summer festivals. How was that?
We conquered two extremely important shows at Glastonbury, the politically virtuous Billy Bragg asked us to perform at the Leftfield, which was brilliant. The following day, having got stuck firmly into our surroundings, we played the prestigious John Peel tent and embraced every minute of it. Considering we clashed with Jeremy Corbyn, who's bigger than the Beatles at present, we pulled a decent crowd and ensured it was a life affirming experience.
Tell us about the Sunderland scarf tied around your amp at Glastonbury...
A lad approached me at Tramlines festival and asked if it was a Sunderland scarf. When I replied "Yes indeed" he punched the air, in the same manner our beautifully passionate away fans do, as we cling on to the slightest scrap of hope and optimism.
What are the future plans for the band and will they stop you going to as many Sunderland games?
To continue fighting for the cause in the face of adversity, as well as releasing a debut album that is true to us as individuals, one that we're immensely proud of. I’ve missed some games over the past few years, yeah, simply because we've been gigging nearly every Saturday and a shed load of Sundays too. I'm keen to push forward with a new initiative though, entitled the 'Cabij band Sunderland supporters’ branch'. Two mad Mackem cousins, Jack and Danny Lynn, have travelled to the likes of Dublin, London, Leeds, Glasgow and obviously, Newcastle, to watch us, meaning I always end up yelling 'Lee Howey' down the microphone.
I had an eventful trip to Turf Moor with them last season, but will endeavour to attend more games this season. As chairman of this exclusively cool new supporters’ branch, I'm hereby appealing for new members (someone who'll take us to the match). Can I also say a warm hello to James Kent, who was wearing the '73 FA Cup winners jacket at a gig a while back, we spent the entire night singing Sunlun’ songs and have been pals ever since.
How did you come to start supporting the Lads and how much time have you dedicated to following us, despite never living in the North East?
I was around ten years old during the Peter Reid seventh-place finish glory years. Also, despite growing up in Yorkshire, my Dad bought me the strip and in no uncertain terms, gave me no other choice. It was Sunderland or Sunderland. In truth though, my actual Sunderland obsession came during the 15-point season.
As my glory-hunting friends would argue over their favoured top four clubs, I enjoyed the fact that our hopelessness was making a mockery of football in general. And the more buoyant I was at minor victories, the more perturbed my classmates seemed to be, annoyed that I was impossible to wind up. I'd always supported Sunderland, but that season I became entirely obsessed, infatuated, in love, and when you fall in love for the first time, the birds in the sky sing your name and because I was so engrossed by this newfound, deep-routed obsession, the result was the least of my worries.
Tell us about your time working at ALS and how it paved your way to stardom!
I was lucky enough to be locked in your storage cupboard for an entire two years, it scarred me for life and I've been drinking my way out of the mental turmoil for ten years now. Aha!
All jokes aside, I remember being overwhelmingly excited, if a little nervous, but very content. I'd never experienced fully-grown blokes tearing shreds out of each other, before rolling about laughing. As a spotty teenager, I was experiencing male adult camaraderie for the first time and it was beyond fun. Being trusted with writing about Sunderland every day filled me with immense pride and a real sense of achievement. It hugely inspired me to continue writing, later about music, before studying journalism at University of Salford, and forging my way as a music journalist for a few years (which is how I got to know my current bandmates).
I stayed at my Nana and Grandad's and genuinely didn't want to go home. Due to growing up in the arse end of rural North Yorkshire, little things like getting the bus from Shields to Sunderland every morning were terribly exciting. The office was an Aladdin's Cave of SAFC memorabilia, which was mouth-watering at the time. Prior to getting a girlfriend, learning the guitar, and generally growing up, it was the happiest, most exciting time of my life.