To speak to Joe Appleford, you would think that he had been releasing records all his life. His laid back, conversational tone is suggestive of someone that is both comfortable with interviews, and experienced in releasing albums and dealing with the pressure around it. While the former may be true, the latter certainly isn’t, as the Bad Sign frontman has only just put out his debut record, Live & Learn.
“Bad Sign is about blending all of those different sounds and styles to create something that sounds like us.”
This is likely in-part down to having dealt with personally placed pressures in the months before the record was made. ‘We were spinning too many plates really,’ Appleford admits. ‘We wanted the album to be produced, but playing live shows is our favourite part of what we do. We played a couple shows last year where our hearts weren’t fully involved and we were fuming with ourselves, because we pride ourselves on being such a strong live band.’
This led to the band’s decision to ‘stop playing for a couple of months, get the record sorted, and then kick back into touring.’ It actually goes a long way towards explaining his current calm demeanour. For Bad Sign, the hard part is over. Live & Learn is out, and they can get straight back into what they love the most about being a band, playing their music for fans.
That isn’t to say that they didn’t put thought into the record. Live & Learn is a deeply intense and well-thought out production, even more so than their acclaimed, riff-tastic debut EP, Destroy. Live & Learn still has its fair share of riffs, but Appleford is keen to let us know that Bad Sign are more than just a catchy hook.
‘We’ve got such varied tastes as a band, we all love such different things,’ he explains. ‘Bad Sign is about blending all of those different sounds and styles to create something that sounds like us.’ It’s certainly refreshing to hear. Far too many bands right now are focused on sounding enough like some other popular band that they can appeal to their audience and get some recognition. Bad Sign don’t want that. ‘We try to push ourselves forward,’ Appleford goes on to say. ‘You don’t know if people are going to gravitate towards something new. We were quite nervous; like any band, you want people to like what you do. We don’t want to just be known as “that riff-band from Croydon”, but we know people like our hard-hitting riffs.’
“We don’t want to just be known as ‘that riff-band from Croydon’.”
Instead of letting this hold them back, Bad Sign embraced both sides of the coin and worked their hardest to innovate, while keeping some of that sound that had drawn people to them in the first place. ‘We wanted more of a pop sensibility for Live & Learn. We brought on Robin Schmidt for the mastering who’s worked with bands like The 1975 and Wolf Alice, and has that kind of pop sensibility we were looking for.’
Many would shy away from such a risk, but Bad Sign took it and were pleased with the results. ‘Because we tried to bring the song writing through more on the record, we were worried there wouldn’t be enough riffs for the fans of Destroy, but when we listened back to it we were like “oh fuck yeah there’s nothing to worry about there” and we think the album really pops out at you. People have responded brilliantly so far.’
‘We’re not a finished article by any stretch, we’re going to improve with every release. That’s the plan.’ You can’t help but admire Appleford’s determination, and his passion towards what he is doing is evident. Bad Sign are a band that exemplify writing music for the simple love of doing it, which really shines through in their performances.
Now that they’ve worked out a way to not push themselves past their limits, Appleford is eager to make it clear that Bad Sign will not be showing any signs of stopping soon. ‘We’re getting right back in. We had a little break after the record, but we’ve been writing nonstop, and we’re aiming to announce a few things. We’re going to be a bit secretive with it but we’ll be back in the studio soon enough.’
Live & Learn is out now via Basick Records.
WORDS: JOSHUA SOUTHERN
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