If you’re a regular frequenter of any of Liverpool’s darker, dingier gig venues, you are sure to have set eyes on OHMNS – and it’s probably not an experience you’ve forgotten. They’re a band who have managed to smash through the ever-repeating increasing circles of landfill indie and Coral tribute acts which have bloated Liverpool gig line-ups in recent years. Lurking in the gloomiest realms, places where even the best photographers haven’t even been able to catch their full glory, Ohmns have become the city’s best-kept secret, cultivating a devoted following. Within a relatively short period of time, the quartet have become cult heroes with a ferocious tenacity on stage twinned with a fierce blend of fuzzed-up, distortion-driven anarchic rock. In pursuit of the group we meet them in the car park of Edge Lane Retail Park, a place where you can find all the tools to dispose of a dead body before catching the latest Adam Sandler film with the kids. The band are sat basking in the last of the day’s fading sunshine atop the bonnet of their car, fags in hand, whilst drummer Kingy sups on a warm tinny wrapped in a polythene bag.
Stood outside the rather archaic Hollywood Bowl with its garish pink ‘H’ standing out like a pre-emptive tombstone of glory days now passed, lead guitarist Kendall tells us, “We like it here. There’s something in the way it’s just a decaying place; a sort of Americana-in-the-middle-of-Old-Swan thing. Bowling just seems a bit out of place in the middle of Wavertree.” This is something that seems to have inspired the musical output of the fearsome foursome, whose formative years were spent playing covers of garage and punk bands from the US. “We started out by just playing Gories and No Age covers and jamming. It was something else to do then,” bassist Ali tells us. There seems to be something in the slightly tarnished glamour of the bowling alley, in the multi-coloured carpets, the bright flashing lights and faded spirit which holds something of the Gories’ hometown, Baltimore. Ali continues: “We all used to just sit in Kingy’s and listen to records: The B52’s, The Fall, Nirvana, etc., etc. We’d all been in bands when we were dead young and jibbed it in when we got to 16. We just thought, ‘Fuck it, why don’t we start up again?’”
Amidst this talk, Kendall swoops and delivers a stunningly athletic kick that sends Kingy’s can flying into the air in a fountain of mid-strength booze, the still half-full can landing inches away from the bonnet of a rather shiny Audi. Almost like a firing gun, the Chun-Li-esque Spinning Bird Kick signals the start of a hefty bowling tournament (where I play abysmally). It appears that the band are built on the friendship that ties them together. Their close-knit nature becomes apparent with a cryptic set of bowling nicknames: DADHUG (lead guitarist Kendall), MUMKISS (drummer Kingy), KRAZZ (bassist Ali) and BRISKET (guitarist and singer Quinlan). With the names originating from a series of teenage antics and MSN nicknames, the group have obviously known each other for a long time. There’s a great deal of camaraderie between the lads and it’s pretty obvious that they’re all in it for the fun. “We’ve made a pact that as soon as it isn’t fun we’ll pack it in,” Ali tells us. “There are no real egos in the band. No-one who dominates. We like to see each other as equals and that’s the best way to be. I know it sounds clichéd but we’re all in it for the love of music, y’know,” adds Quinlan.
Twisting mundane aspects of normal life into well-written, raucous garage rock smashers, the band seem to have found their lyrical capability in a series of in-jokes in which they revel whilst the audience looks on, slightly lost but distracted by the fast-paced, riotous live show. Take track Boil D Rice for example: an ever-speeding, bass heavy and largely instrumental track which kicks into overdrive in the last minute with primal screams of “BOIL D RICE / IT’S TWICE AS NICE”. Slightly reluctantly the band reveal the track’s origins: “It’s just about how Mike [Quinlan] was always late because he was always cooking some rice!”
Liverpool is yet another key influence on the group. “It’s just full of some of the weirdest and best characters, and that’s exactly what we love,” Quinlan tells us, with Ali adding, “We wouldn’t live anywhere else.” Such frenetic characters include the likes of local legends Craig Charles and Purple Aki. “Try explaining to a London audience who Purple Aki is, ha!” They have also gone about writing a full seven-minute epic around Craig Charles, entitled Keshi Heads, which combines themes of cult Japanese game show Takeshi’s Castle (for which Charles used to provide the English voiceover) and recollections of how the Red Dwarf star sat in the back of a taxi smoking crack and reading porn on what he called ‘naughty Fridays’. The track is a ballad to the man, drug-fuelled and in constant state of flux, flicking between punky riffs right through to doom-laden thrash. “We definitely want to sort out a show with him. It’d be boss,” laughs Kendall.
The band do have a few quips about the city they love so much, though. “People are far too afraid to put their foot on the distortion pedal round here. The heavier scene has definitely got a lot better over the last few years, though,” quips Kingy. The predilection of a lot of bands in Merseyside for melodic folk and psych is being evened out with the emergence of Ohmns and their fellow, more rough-edged bands, Strange Collective and Bad Meds, who have an equal appreciation for pedals and fuzz. Taking influences from the likes of Thee Oh Sees, Iggy Pop and The Fall, such bands have found a home in Liverpool’s punkier, more DIY venues, such as Maguire’s and Drop the Dumbulls.
“Since the Kaz closed a void’s been left to fill and it seems that everyone’s fighting for it. To us, though, Maguire’s is just home,” says Kendall. “We love the fact that we can just put on a show spontaneously in there and just get going.” This is the appeal of Maguire’s: no security, no barriers and the ability to avoid the extortionate prices of some of the other venues in the city. Kendall continues: “Gentrification is pushing people, and good music, out of the centre – and I think that’s where it belongs, on the outskirts.” This comment rings true for some of Ohmns’ heroes too, such as Mark E. Smith’s Salford industrial-estate home or the weirdo chic of The B52’s, which brings us slightly closer to the bowling alley we find ourselves in today.
Due to the group being in the minority in the Liverpool scene, there seems to be a certain sense of camaraderie within the smaller group of heavy, garagey bands they find themselves in. “We recorded our Rice Tape EP with Paul Rafferty from Bad Meds. We didn’t have an awful lot of money to record it and the guy’s a genius,” explains Quinlan. “Then we just made all the tapes ourselves on an old 80s recorder in my bedroom. We just sat there for hours. I bought little baggys and made a stamp with our name on, and put rice in them, which we put in the box as well,” explains Ali. Such a task must’ve taken hours and shows a real love. Rather than merely releasing the tracks into hyperspace, the band show a creative flare in their beyond-the-call-of-duty ‘rice tape’. Its crackling lo-fi edge epitomises what the group are about.
This sense of humour translates well onstage, where the band really do come into their element. “We used to drink quite a lot when we first started out, out of nerves,” Kendall explains, to which Kingy adds, “And then it just became a habit, ha ha!” Having seen the band live on a number of occasions, it seems that it’s their mischievous, ballsy nature that dictates their unexpected and volatile live shows rather than alcohol consumption. Arriving at an Ohmns gig you’re never quite sure what to expect. Take the time in Maguire’s when drummer Kingy accompanied Strange Collective on stage for a recital of Super Touchy: things got a bit weird when Kingy proceeded to take his kit off, eventually dancing on an amp in just his Y-fronts. What then followed was a wigged-out, debauched and snarling psych explosion which encapsulated the volatile nature of the two bands, who feed off each other for the best possible outcome. Or when they played at FestEVOL in May of this year, running onstage doing forward-roll guitar solos while their mate ran about smashing his head with a piece of wood until it bled. “We never plan what’s going to happen,” Quinlan tells us. “It’s not planned, it’s not contrived, it just… happens!” This is perhaps what makes them so interesting, this authenticity and lack of pretension. This isn’t some act to sell records, merely four mates having fun onstage. Ohmns are probably Liverpool’s most entertaining live band: a band who keep an audience on their toes, whether that be dodging flying microphones or trying to fight off tinnitus with ear drum-trembling decibel levels.
Ohmns are exactly what Liverpool needs. They may not be reinventing the wheel but they are reaffirming what rock ‘n’ roll has always been about: a sense of rebellion and a kick against the norm. Ohmns are as heavy, dangerous and with as much of an appetite for destruction as the bowling balls they chuck tonight.
The Rice Tape is out now, available to buy from ohmns.bandcamp.com.
Ohmns play The Invisible Wind Factory on 2nd July for Strange Collective’s all-day garage party.