“Evoking the noir, paranoid imagery captured within the spirit of early post-punk.” is how Manchester based outfit, Document introduce themselves; and with a dark, somewhat sinister guise to match, boxes are ticked before they even play a note. When it comes to performing, frontman Alex Evans expresses an intuitive anger over heavily layered, heavily driven instrumentation – reminiscent of the genre that is on its way back, seemingly in rebuke at the times which can test, pressurise and quite simply bore the life out of many of us. These, amongst other social & personal issues appear to serve as catalysts for the “Modern Punk Revival” as suggested in the five-piece’s biography.
Amidst daily news stories of political and social hardship, it is exciting to see artists challenging the narrative, both directly & (in Document’s case) indirectly. But the sceptic’s amongst us, however, can’t help suspecting that a bandwagon built on virtue signals has taken shape.
If you were to look at current trends of modern day punk inclined success, and the scores that replicate, it poses the question towards relative upstarts: movement innovators, or masqueraders? Are they reaching out for the next trend that once passed will leave them clawing for relevance in an abyss of appropriation? Or are they the genuine article, carving their respective niche within an increasingly busy movement (or market for some?). Document, it appears, revel in the latter.
Their rasping debut single ‘Pity’ follows a figure who exudes frustration towards day-to-day monotony, which is so relatable that it’s as hyperreal a piece as it is character-driven. It’s a strong first take which appears to lay the building blocks of a catalogue bound to assert Document’s place within a scene that can be as primal as it is essential.
When speaking to them however, they are the polar opposites of what you’d assume from their angry, sinister & paranoid theatrics; as they warmly introduce themselves as singer Alex, guitarist Charlie, bassist Max & drummer Will (Other guitarist, Josh, couldn’t make it) and propose a cheers of glasses before beginning the interview.
Early on it is clear that they share an in depth understanding of the music they want to be making, and are aware of how to navigate their way around industrial pitfalls. This is testament to how well travelled they are outside of Document, as they pool in their vast array of experience (from touring/roadying in respective bands, even playing Manchester arena) that has ultimately formed the unit that they are today.
I wanted to start by getting your take on Manchester’s ‘modern punk revival’ as described by yourselves. What would you say are some of the key elements of this?
Max: I think the key elements lie in the original punk scene. Not just the punk scene, but in bands like Joy Division & The Fall who influence it, because it’s not just really punk is it? It’s quite atmospheric. You look at current Manchester bands like Bleach Boy who are punk inclined- they’re quite American with it but still hit the emotional and a little bit angry vibe of Manchester.
But there are so many other bands that are doing it as well.
So what made you want to do it?
Will: We’re huge fans of post punk. We’ve all grown up on similar music tastes so it just sort of made sense if anything.
Charlie: There seems to be a lot of bands getting a lot of traction from it at the minute as well. We didn’t do it because of that though – we obviously like the music too.
Alex: People are angry at the minute, politically & socially, so it makes sense to make angry music.
Max: I wouldn’t say our music is particularly rooted in the anger that people are feeling though. I think people can channel the anger that is being made in the music – but is not necessarily political – into the anger that they have at the world and the system so to speak. Especially in the modern punk revival.
You say Manchester’s modern punk revival, but would you not say that it’s a nationwide movement too?
Will: Oh, definitely. Bristol has a big scene.
Alex: It stretches around the world really – Germany too.
Max: It stretches all around the world, from Germany to Bristol!
Charlie: We do take a lot of influence from American post punk bands to be fair.
Will: Preoccupations, Protomartyr & Bambara.
The debut single ‘Pity’ rides quite heavily along the lines of existential self-destruction. Is this a personal account of the songwriter or more an observational critique of others?
Alex: It’s somewhat a mixture of both. I guess that it’s my own existentialism & paranoia felt towards a lot of stuff that’s going on – if not politically then for more personal reasons. But it looks like a lot of people feel like this & deal with it in different ways. The whole thought of just being here and not knowing what to do within this monotonous life we all lead. It can be quite shit.
It’s almost as if you’re observing other people & how they navigate said monotony in the song.
Alex: Yeah definitely. And trying to understand how to lead my own way through it I guess. I try to write as observationalist as I can.
Max: When I read Alex’s lyrics I imagine that they’re through the eyes of a character. Which is what we’re trying to do with the songs, keep them quite character driven, especially within one’s we’re releasing as singles.
We’re trying to portray these two characters, one of them is built on social paranoia (Pity) whilst the other is on a kind of Cold War paranoia.
Like a concept kind of thing?
Charlie: It was unintentional if it is.
Max: I’m not sure if it’s a concept, but there’s definitely a thematic link between the two tunes to do with characters.
You recorded at The Nave in Leeds. Why did you choose to go there?
Alex: I recorded every time prior with my other band Lumer, and we built a nice working relationship with Alex Greaves (Producer).
When Document started, we wanted to get in the studio as soon as possible and that just seemed like the best idea. The place is lovely, Greaves is a great producer & wants to be as involved in it as he can. He definitely put his own creative spin on the songs too.
It’s good when you’ve already built a relationship with a producer, because they become part of the band in a sense.
Will: Yeah, you could tell he wasn’t just in there to get it over and done with.
Alex: A lot of the bands he’d worked with such as Eagulls, Working Men’s Club & Heavy Lungs suited the sound we were going for. And ultimately he did a great job of making it translate well on record.
Max: Even just having it translate well on record changed the way that we play it live as well. Working with him really influenced us beyond just recording.
How does your typical songwriting process go? Is there a main songwriter within the band or do you all chip in?
Max: It’s usually just an initial idea, then we’ll all just flesh it out in the practice room. Sometimes it’s us just jamming and realising that we’ve written a tune.
There’s no principal songwriter, but Alex is the only lyricist.
Alex: I’m quite precious about that. I just don’t think that I could sing somebody else’s lyrics and mean it or understand it in the same way.
Max: You can tell when you’re playing live because you have such an energy and that you’re feeling what you’re saying, which you wouldn’t have if it was somebody else’s lyrics.
Alex: When you’re on stage I guess that you become the character you wanna be.
Are there any ideas brought forward that you had been sitting on before Document?
Charlie: A lot of the earlier stuff were ideas that I’d recorded in my room and not used, but I’ve always wanted to play with a band like this, so we took my songs and turned them into our songs essentially. But more so now we write as a unit.
Max: I think it has to be with a band like us, because we all crave the creative side of writing. None of us want to stand there and be told what to do, we want to write our own parts and that’s something we’ve always had the freedom to do. It’s necessary for everyone to believe in the parts that they’re playing.
For example in ‘Pity’, it started with a driven single note on bass and then Will came in with a really good drum beat, then Charlie & Josh started hitting their guitars really hard and before we knew it we had a tune. It was probably the hardest tune to work out the dynamics of because we were just playing G.
Name a song(s) each as a direct influence for you within Document.
Will: Memory by Preoccupations.
Max: Beautiful Blue Sky by Ought.
Alex: The North Will Rise Again or Pay Your Rates by The Fall.
Charlie: Cruisers Creek by The Fall or Airbag by Radiohead.
Alex: Josh who isn’t here’s is ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yello – he told me that earlier.
Tell us about your first headline show at Gulliver’s, Manchester on 27th March.
Charlie: It’s gonna be great.
Max: Ballamona & Alex’s little brother’s band Autosuggestion are supporting who are fucking wicked.
Will: We’re very happy to have them both on board.
Max: We want to make it something special being our first headliner. We’ve held off it for nearly a year now because we didn’t want to put something on that’s half arsed.
Alex: Gulliver’s is the perfect venue for it too. I love the high ceiling and how narrow it is.
Max: We’ll have our EP out by then as well, so it’ll be nice to play a show where people will know the tunes.
What else do you have planned for 2020?
Max: We’re gonna be gigging mainly throughout 2020.
We’re also releasing a single on the 28th of this month called ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’.
Alex: It’s named after a book by John Le Carre, and follows the narrative whilst including certain words & phrases from parts of it. It’s sort of spoken word too which I’ve never really done before.
Max: It’s really good.
Buy tickets for Document’s headline show on 27th March at Gullivers, Manchester here: https://www.seetickets.com/event/document/gullivers/1461554
Cover Image: Sam Joyce