Meet Bristol's apocalyptic (that's their own definition) art punks Erotic Secrets of Pompeii comprised of Thomas Hawtin (vocals), Sean Jones (guitar), Tom Hackwell (guitar/keys), Jools Port (bass) and Alex Auld (drums).
Providing us with their own mix of post-punk and experimental art rock, their songs are inhabited by grotesque characters with symbols and slogans, holding a mirror up to both society and the self.
The band’s debut album ‘Witness in the House of Pox’ was released in 2019.
2020 has seen a dramatic line-up change within the band, injecting new energy which can be heard in their most recent single releases.
Please give our readers a little into of you who are / How are things at the Erotic Secrets of Pompeii camp?
Thomas: We’re a five-piece band from Bristol, that play existential wonky rock filled with angular sounds.
Tom: Things have been good here in the ESOP camp. We’re obviously not gigging due to the pandemic, so we’ve focussed our time on writing and recording new material.
How did you come up with your band name as it's very unique to say the least.
Thomas: The name is taken from the title of a book given to me by my late Grandad. Although essentially a historical picture book, my fifteen-year-old self was quite disappointed to find all the photos were of mosaics.
What inspires you? / Do you have any hobbies that you turn to to rejuvenate your creativity?
Thomas: Reading, walking, watching films or interesting videos on YouTube - I think you can find inspiration in anything, you just have to be open to it. One way we keep things fresh and interesting for the songwriting process is experimentation: rolling dice to determine which book/page/sentence to read from my bookshelf, implementing various cut-up techniques, using conceptual starting points (“The guitar is a worm that can no longer be stretched”), looking at other mediums for inspiration (“what would a ‘Cubist drumbeat’ sound like?”).
Tom: Listening to music that is totally different to the music I'm working on, to cleanse the palette, so to speak.
Sean: I'd say going to gigs inspires me. Boring answer but it's true.
Jools: Big fan of going for a walk and listening to podcasts. Adam Buxton is a staple. I think if I need to get my joie de vivre back, I’ll tend to listen to motivational stuff, or pick up the bass and play some lines I always enjoy playing.
Alex: Scale model building and heroically undercooking food.
What artists or genres had the biggest influence on you?
Thomas: The big styles that feed into ESOP from my side are: 70’s art rock (Bowie, Roxy Music, Peter Gabriel); 80’s New Wave (Devo, Talking Heads, Oingo Boingo); abrasive types (The Fall, The Birthday Party); and weirdos (Beefheart, Primus, The Residents).
Tom: Depends on my mood – I do have a soft spot for classic songwriters – Springsteen, Waits, Bowie. I also enjoy ambient, electronic and experimental music. If it’s got an interesting production element, I’m there. I’m the producer and textures man in the band so it all feeds into that.
Sean: Punk rock mainly. The Clash and Ramones being the big two influence-wise. Also a big fan of hip hop. Both have appealed to me from a young age. But I listen to anything from 80s hair metal to Motown.
Jools: Definitely funk and soul. Unusual for a bass player in a rock band, I know. At a young age I was surrounded by records of Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Brecker Brothers, Tower of Power.... It's all about the groove playing for me.
Alex: New Wave/Post Punk. Direct influences include Punishment of Luxury, The Young Knives, The Screamers, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Electric Six – a band greatly misperceived.
You released your fourth single ‘The End of Love’ on 27th November – What's it about? What was the process for writing and producing it?
Thomas: The lyric idea started off with the first line (“The end of love is a kind of death”), and has been knocking around for years. I ended up writing the full lyrics as a stand-alone idea without music. I also had a version of the main bass figure in the vault. One day I brought the two together. We usually work from demos I put together on Ableton, but for this track I brought the bassline and lyrics, and the guys wrote their parts around that at a rehearsal session.
Tom: Production-wise, we recorded it at Coach House Studio, in Clifton, Bristol – the studio I ran for seven years (which I’ve now moved into my basement). We recorded the main bulk over a weekend at the end of 2019 along with our other 2020 singles. The session was engineered by Ruben Mesa Garcias, and the song was mixed remotely by Sam Blighe (Unlucky XII) - both good friends of ours and exceptionally talented at what they do.
What makes Bristol special for you? What are your thoughts about the Bristol music scene?
Tom: The city is a cultural melting pot. Anything and everything is happening here. There is a selection of truly amazing music venues which is vital to nurturing a crazy fertile music scene.
Thomas: I particularly enjoy the community of great local bands we’ve become part of over the last couple of years, artists including Beefywink, Martyrials, Francis Pylons, Droogs, John Vistic, Joy, Birdman Cult, The New America, Polemics… the list goes on. It’s inspiring to play alongside and get involved with such talented bodies.
Jools: Bristol was the retreat from London I needed after six years of slogging it out in the capital. It was also a chance to work again with Thomas, as we’ve been writing together on and off for about 14 years now. It’s way less cut throat here than in London, and I really love the collaborative nature here.
Sean: The music scene is fantastic and everyone seems willing to get along and help each other out. In Bristol I think we get the benefits of being in a city without the hustle and bustle of places like London.
The dreaded subject “Covid” - how are you staying motivated through all of this as it's not the best time to be a musician or for the music biz in general?
Thomas: Writing music mainly. We’re currently working on five new demos remotely. A lot of reading too – I’ve just started ‘A Year With Swollen Appendices’, Brian Eno’s diary from 1995.
Tom: I built a subterranean studio in my basement, which is now fully functional. Thankfully I could salvage a lot of parts from Coach House.
Jools: I’ve been releasing my own lo-fi music through a small label called Vine Swing Records. There’ll be a noisy ambient EP I’ll be releasing next year with B. Rupp, a friend and talented musician also based in Bristol.
Alex: Scale model building and heroically undercooking food.
Give us one fact each that no one knows about you....
Thomas: I used to sing in a church choir… my Nan hoped I’d become a vicar.
Tom: I once flew down the face of Mt. Kilimanjaro in an upturned turtle's shell which I bought from a hard-selling Austrian with an unforgettable name whose name eludes me.
Sean: (The actor who plays) Phil Mitchell hit on my mum once.
Jools: I got wasted at a jazz gig once and blathered on to Pete Waterman about model train collecting before walking away in utter shame.
Alex: I once super glued my finger back together after slicing a chunk out of it with a butter knife.
What’s the best/worst advice you ever received?
Thomas: “Stand back and get a better view.”
Tom: You can twist the truth when providing answers to interview questions.
Jools: Best advice was to always prepare yourself before rehearsals. Worst advice... hmmm... probably something from the voices in my head.
What’s next? Plans for 2021?
Thomas: We’re working on a new collaborative track with Beefywink which is sounding insane. Should be out this Spring!
Tom: We've got another four tracks in the works, one of which will be released June/July time as a shared 7” double A-side alongside The Byker Hill Fan Club. We’ve got plans for a full album this year too.
Sean: Would be nice to play some gigs again too!
Check out the video for 'Chaos in the Rigorous Form' (w/ MARTYRIALS) here:​​​​​​​
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