Nostalgia is a potent substance. Regardless of the experiences that shape us and the decisions that make us who we are, sometimes all we need is one minute and ten seconds of music to transport us back to the naïve bliss of our formative years. No matter where you go or what you do, somehow the music that you consume during your teenage years seems to stick with you. Perhaps it’s the lack of responsibility or the endless possibilities you casually imagine for your future that make music at this age so much more than just an interest. Lyrics are about you, the music you listen to defines you. But somewhere along the line we all get a job, a dog or just a sense of perspective. We change our clothes, our tastes and our drinking habits. But we never quite kick the music.
Bad Meds’ guitarist and frontman Paul Rafferty is fiddling with some guitar pedals in the band’s practice space, laughing bemusedly as his dog chews carelessly on a drum stick. “I’ve been thinking about what the point of doing it is,” he says, pausing to contemplate before continuing, “I wouldn’t say it’s a mid-life crisis per se but it’s just the need to be in a band that is just fun.” It’s an understandable sentiment from a man who’s spent the last six years living on the somewhat unreliable income that being a musician affords, as one third of Merseyside’s alternative indie heroes, Hot Club De Paris.
Asked about how this new project – a collaboration with Paul Thompson (Nowhere Fast) on bass and Dave Kelly (Vasco Da Gama) on drums – came about, Rafferty replies, “It’s just friends forming a band really; I’d been recording Vasco’s EP so I just chatted to Dave about whether he’d like to try playing some hardcore.” It sounds simple because it is: “We’re just having fun writing songs and hanging out with some beers,” straight-forward and without pretence. The story behind the birth of Bad Meds is almost as uncomplicated as their writing process, as Paul openly reveals: “We spend seconds on the material, it’s probably writing itself whilst we’re not looking.” And as for recording? “I recorded it all here in the Hot Club practice room… Dave was done in two hours,” he says casually.
Even when it came time to reveal the fruits of their labour, the band was once again understated. There was no fanfare when the band’s first five tracks were uploaded to SoundCloud a mere month or so ago, no social network campaign to promote the band, no website proclaiming the band’s endless talent. Paul laughs as he tells me, “If you look for it online all you really find is links to bad medicine.” Perhaps that’s the point. The band’s apparent disinterest in the aspects of band life that make a band a business leaves no room for any of the now customary bluster and bravado that traditionally surrounds emerging artists, instead leaving the music to speak for itself.
And when it does? It’s fast, unrelenting and to the point. Fuzz-laden riffs and pounding drums accompanied by raucous, discordant vocals squeezed into under two minutes on Rainbow Unicorns and City Against Itself, whilst elsewhere layers of feedback and dark, brooding guitars build gradually before the three-piece unleash chaos on Chewing Gum (With My Mouth Wide Open). Clear reference points could be Minor Threat, Neckromantix and Cerebral Ballzy. This could be the early nineties, four wheels and a plank of wood under your feet and Bad Meds’ scowling hardcore punishing your ear drums, were it not for the sense of knowing self-deprecation that permeates the lyrics. “It’s kind of a homage to all the music I was listening to when I was a teenager. I guess it’s just a teenage punk band from the perspective of a thirty year old,” laughs Rafferty. It’s a contradiction of sorts; teenage punk, built on a sense of naïve self importance, injustice and outsider status, in this case spewing from the mouth of an all too wise thirty-something musician, with absurd twists, the angrily repeated refrain of Hoax Apocalypse slyly poking fun at the hyperbole of self-centred punk lyricism, whilst Rainbow Unicorns is a testament to the band’s willingness not to take themselves too seriously. The singer seems all too aware that the picture doesn’t quite compute. “I like going to hardcore gigs,” he protests before conceding, “but I don’t like going to them every day”. In a strange way, Bad Meds could be more accurately described as outsiders than any of their predecessors, stoically playing the type of music typically reserved for those caught in-between pre-pubescence and adulthood.
When it comes to what’s next the band’s frontman is typically vague: “I think we’d all like to put out an LP… it’s just about working out whether we can find someone to put it out or whether we can do it ourselves.” There’s no rush: having only formed weeks before releasing five tracks to the world and playing their first gig just weeks later, the band is still enjoying that new car smell, the excitement of being in a band without the pressure of global domination ambitions. Asked what Bad Meds means for the band’s other projects, Paul says assertively, “Whatever it is you do it’s always fun to have a hobby and I think some of the best work comes out of that attitude.” He chuckles before continuing, “The only project it’s eating into at the moment is looking after my dog.” His desire to keep the band as casual as possible is telling for a man whose life has revolved around making music for the better part of a decade. Paul Rafferty is certainly not alone in holding a strong sense of nostalgia for a time when life was simple and music was for fun. Perhaps, on this occasion, Bad Meds are just what the doctor ordered.