There’s more to Peckham than Del Boy and Rodney would have you believe. Just 12 months ago, gig-goers were spilling from the basement of London record store Rye Wax after attending new music night on the block, Cultural Treason – among them, one Felix White, formerly of The Maccabees, who saw a performance by a band he knew would become part of his Yala! Records family; the city’s newest noisemakers Talk Show.
Their initiation to Yala! would be the ruthless new-wave stomp of debut single ‘Fast & Loud.’ Unleashing their track upon unsuspecting ears only once the band had become regulars at the label’s Bermondsey Social Club nights, they’ve since spent hours on the road playing shows wherever they can and growing their fanbase organically. Posting no music online until the single was officially released, the only way to hear them was to show up. “Having people come up to us after our shows saying, ‘I’ve no idea who you are but I loved it,’ is one of the best compliments,” singer Harrison Swann tells. “It shows that making music goes beyond social media… it can still work the ‘old-fashioned’ way.”
“Making music goes beyond social media… it can still work the ‘old-fashioned’ way.”
With a ferocious live set as taut as their turn-ups, drummer Chloe McGregor sets the pace, smashing out beats with yelps like a frustrated goalkeeper. The agitation of Tom Holmes’ unravelling guitars could bring down walls and the thunder of momentum from George Sullivan’s bass bounces with start-stop vigour. Then there’s Talk Show’s host Harrison; a fist-clenching mass of combustible energy, exploding with 111mph yarns. Eyeballing audiences and delivering each vein-popping verse right to his fingertips, it’s unsurprising he cites theatrical Belgian songwriter, actor, and director Jacques Brel as an influence. “I’ve no idea how came across him,” Harrison says, “probably mindlessly searching on YouTube. I came across “Ces gens-là” and was hooked. I was gripped by his performance; you can’t take your eyes off him. You can see the emotions he’s going through whilst performing, you can see him embody the song.”
“I’ve always loved stuff that blurs the line between reality and ridiculousness” – Harrison Swann
With impeccable attention to detail, as their name suggests, Talk Show’s powerful dark-wave is conversational and captures their unwillingness to stay quiet. Discussion is celebrated and every phrase unfurls like a poetic Hans Christian Anderson fable or a comic book world with a dystopian sense of reality. “I’ve always loved stuff that blurs the line between reality and ridiculousness,” Harrison says. It’s probably why I discovered and love John Cooper Clarke. It’s relatable and bleak, but comical and light-hearted. Getting that balance right is really difficult.”
Skilfully balanced, latest single ‘Ankle Deep (In A Warm Glass Of Water)’ – released on Council Records and produced by Black Futures member Space – is a call to arms, its deadpan mantra chiming to a funk groove and marching drumbeat. “When writing our lyrics, it depends how off-piste I want to go and whether the subject/topic is clear from the start but I try to give myself something enabling me to perform the song or words, rather than just a nonsensical ramble,” tells Harrison.
This is why Talk Show’s audience has grown well-beyond their New Cross and Deptford dwellings. Spending more time in motorway service stations than Max and Paddy’s AA Road Atlas, they’ve played Independent Venue Week, toured with Just Mustard, and even took a particularly memorable trip to Europe; “We played a festival in Zurich at 1am in this huge hollowed-out ex-Army horse stables; it was packed and as soon as we came on everyone hit the ceiling! It was crazy watching it from the stage. That, along with our show at The Great Escape, have been real highlights so far.”
Four best mates on the journey of their lives, Talk Show are making the most of it, even if that does mean getting a bit of much-needed shuteye when the opportunity presents itself. “We’re learning you can’t party each night. Me and Tom have got into Classic FM. It sounds pompous but spending so long on the road you need to mix up the tunes, otherwise we’d drive ourselves insane,” Harrison says.
2020 looks to be a vital year for Talk Show whose new EP will land at any moment. Do they have any resolutions? “To take this band as far as we can. More gigs, festivals, new cities, new countries…. oh and I promised my mum I’d quit smoking,” Harrison grins. Time will tell whether they succeed, but if one thing is clear right now, it’s that Talk Show are ready to light things up. He who dares Rodney…
This feature appears as a beautiful printed article, in issue 2 of New Sounds magazine, published October 2020.