WSTR – SKRWD review

When a group is signed to a major record label based on one EP, you can immediately deduce something about them – they have an awful lot of potential to make a heavy impact in the music industry. You would be correct to suss this out about WSTR – the pop punk outfit have mastered making promising first impressions, as No Sleep Records has eagerly snapped them up on just the basis of upcoming EP SKRWD.

The band open their EP with South Drive, which if it happens to be the first song a listener has the privilege of hearing by them, it will become infectious listening. With its incredibly catchy hook, I guarantee the track will remain in your head all day. A fun opening catchy song, it carries a boisterous bright spark which gives a promising start to the EP.

Fair Weather doesn’t allow itself to drop in quality; another ridiculously fun song, intricate chord changes by guitarists Danny Swift and Kieren Alder give it shape and added dimension. Although I liked all of the track’s lyrics, one line in particular defined the song for me: ‘my friends are dicks, but I would never have it any other way’. We all have people we talk to who are slightly mad and we do not know why we bother with them, but at the end of the day we wouldn’t want them to ever change, and this sentimentally of friendship adds passion to Fair Weather. My only critique is the band could have added another round of the chorus at the end, only as I felt the song ended too suddenly.

A shift in tonality of third track Graveyard Shift from the two preceding tracks ensures the EP doesn’t sound completely the same and therefore safe. Vocalist Sammy Clifford provides poignant reflective lyrics describing the low point of life when it becomes stuck in a rut, but the slightly more negative literate tone is cleverly wrapped in energetic pop guitar melodies.

There is a danger for any band that the second half of an EP or album fades out with quality, but this is not an issue for WSTR, who manage to keep the momentum going with their final three songs, thanks to the contributions of bassist Alex Tobijanski and Kieran McVeigh on drums. Brainsick is laced with summery guitar licks and pays homage beautifully to bands from pop punk’s golden years Sum 41 and Blink 182. Despite its title, penultimate track Aint Great unsurprisingly is very great, with witty and angst-ridden lyrics building a rousing song explaining a situation which clearly the band are a bit miffed off about. Finally, to end the EP on a high, Devils N Demons is an exciting concluding song that will make you wish SKRWD was actually a full album.

WSTR definitely have over-whelming talent and their EP proves this – it is a tribute to all the best parts of pop punk over the last couple of decades. The group deserve SKRWD to be the step that puts them on the path to success that recent pop-punk groups such as Neck Deep have achieved.

SKRWD is due to released on the 4th September on No Sleep Records.

You can watch the video for Fair Weather below.

News: On The Open Road announce new member

Since they began in 2012, Nottingham heavy pop-punk band On The Open Road have gone as a trio – that is until last Saturday night, when they announced on a Facebook video (here) that they were to be permanently joined by Jack Dutton as lead guitarist. We saw Jack join the three-piece on stage at their biggest show to date on Rescue Rooms’ main stage, and at Notts Pop Punk Fest last weekend, so we thought we’d get to know the newbie a bit better…

Tell us three things about yourself that even the rest of the band don’t know.
1. I have an addiction to IRN BRU
2. I love Taylor Swift
3. I have a third nipple

How did you first get into music?
The Smiths, no question!

How much did you know of On The Open Road before you joined?
I spoke to Tom about potentially playing some shows as a support act in Manchester with an old band of mine.

The announcement came way before we expected it, was it a surprise to you?
Very surprised, I was told right after our set, then went straight outside the venue and made the announcement video.

You’ve played a couple of shows with the guys already, how’s it going?
I thought they were amazing, I put my all into both shows, the Rescue Rooms show was awesome because of the huge stage and playing in front of people I’ve known out of the band, but Notts Pop Punk Fest (Hood Fest) was so much better, I felt much more confident on the smaller stage at The Maze.

You’re the youngest of the band as well as the newest, how does that feel?
It feels great to be playing songs I didn’t have a hand in writing, I’ve only ever played with bands that I wrote all the music for, so it’s good to play songs I love and have loved before I had the opportunity to join On the Open Road.

We’ve seen on stage you look like you’ve just spent a week on tour with ROAM – if On The Open Road could tour with anyone, who would you want it to be?
Thats a very difficult question with multiple answers. I think it’d have to be between Roam, WSTR and Landmarks. I’ve seen ROAM 6 times and have always thoroughly enjoyed their set every time. WSTR are my favourite band and are the coolest/nicest guys I know, and I played my first ever show with Landmarks (I’ve seen them 6 times too), plus they’re from Manchester like me.

And of course, there’s the other side of the band too – Tom, Dan and Ollie answered a few of our questions about the band over time –

Tell us about how the band came together.
It all started in the early months of 2012 when Tom and Ollie had a few spontaneous ‘jams’ in Ollie’s garage. It was nothing serious at first, we just played some songs that we liked – the first song we played was The Inbetweeners theme tune. Then we wrote our first few songs, one of which we still play today. We continued to write our own stuff and decided that we needed a bassist, so Tom asked his friend Dan from school to come to one of our rehearsals. After that we all got along really well and decided that we needed Dan onboard. We were a three piece by early 2013, we started playing our first shows and finally decided on our band name, which came from a lyric from The Downfall Of Us All by A Day To Remember; “I sold my soul to the open road”. Since then we’ve been playing a lot more shows, became a better band, recorded our music and continuously searched for a suitable fourth member.

Was there any specific deciding factor on choosing Jack?
Jack really liked our music before he got in touch about joining our band so it was clear to us that he definitely liked our band and what we were doing. He seemed very talented for his age in his Facebook videos of him playing along to some of his favourite songs, including WSTR’s “Graveyard Shift” and Landmark’s “Worse For Wear”; which are songs by bands that we all really like. Another thing about Jack that made us think ‘this could be our guy’ was his enthusiasm towards music when we were rehearsing with him, his happy and positive personality, and his amazing stage presence. Everything seemed to point in the right direction with him.

You’ve been a tight trio for a while now, how does it feel having an extra member on stage?
It feels really good to be playing shows with a fourth member because it means we can finally sound how we’ve wanted to sound live for a long time. You see, we write all our songs with lead guitar parts, which can be heard on recording but not when we played them live due to us only having one guitarist. Now that we have two guitarists, it feels like we have gained what we’ve been lacking for a long time.

You’ve played a few shows together and we expected yesterday’s announcement to come towards the end of summer, what made you bring it forward?
It was kind of a spur of the moment type thing. We were so happy with how both of the shows went that we decided to tell Jack that we wanted him to be a full time member of On The Open Road. We kind of knew that Jack was going to make it as a full time member for a while and I think he knew too, so it just felt right to just tell him there and then that he was in, rather than waiting for a few more weeks/months.

What are the plans for the rest of On The Open Road’s summer?
We’re going to be playing some more shows in August and hopefully a few in September. However, our main focus is on recording our second EP… It’s sounding really good so far and we’re massively ahead of schedule (compared to last time). That’s all we’re going to say for now!

The band released their debut EP Hold On To This in April – you can check out the review here, and video for Harm’s Way below.