The crowd outside The Old Blue Last do not want me to catch up with Harry Fanshawe and Rob Hollamby from Modern Rituals. Over the course of a short interview there are sirens, pushy doormen and multiple people seeking hostels and directions. As we move from pillar to post, dodging punters and picking up band members circling the venue, the guys gamely fill me in on their upcoming release, signing to Holy Roar, and one gory disaster with a dessert.
“There was blood everywhere,” bassist Rob states, retelling the events which led up to guitarist, Hef’s short stay in A&E.
“I was at Hef’s house, just hanging out, and he pokes his head round the door to ask if anyone fancies some ice cream? Of course we did, we love us some ice cream; so he goes into the kitchen. About a minute later, we hear a scream of pain and a clatter on the floor. I go in to see if he’s alright and when I get there he’s stood over the sink, blood absolutely everywhere. He’d basically been trying to scoop out the ice cream with a ceramic soup spoon and it had shattered completely, going straight into his thumb.”
“I like to think it sounds like one big demented circus train ride.”
“Yeah he sort of spooned out his own thumb,” Harry says with a chuckle. Clearly a severely spooned digit isn’t ideal for a guitarist about to record a debut LP. “You can definitely hear the anguish on-record though, so that’s good.”
For the uninitiated, Modern Rituals make the kind of racket Swain would muster if they beefed up their low end and took a deeper dive into the existential crises of man in their lyrical content. In one moment earnest punk, the next a heavy-hearted, heavier-booted brand of shoegaze (bootgaze?), Modern Rituals are already pushing their sound into darker territory. But with The Light That Leaks In about to drop on Holy Roar Records, this could just be the beginning of the next sonic shift.
“We’ve tried to keep it mixed on the new album, with some lighter indie stuff, acoustic tracks too,” Harry says. “Then there’s some doomier, heavier stuff.”
“‘Nebulon’, which is out ahead of the album, is probably the weirdest track on it,” Rob adds. “It’s really heavy. There’s some saxophone on there but then it’s also got its super-poppy moments too. I like to think it sounds like one big demented circus train ride.”
“I mean, Rob’s been on plenty of demented circus train rides in his life, so it makes sense it would find its way into the music eventually!” Harry laughs.
As I catch up with Harry and Rob, Modern Rituals are prepping to play their set at the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch. The day before, the band had delivered a triumphant set at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton, playing the Big Break Showcase alongside such bright lights in the scene as Demob Happy, Pijn and Gender Roles. This is something of a hype-building week, then, before a cosy return home to Bristol for an intimate set in the sweaty confines of the Crofters Rights.
“I think the most important thing to us was getting The Light That Leaks In out on vinyl, and we’re happy with how they’ve turned out. One pressing looks a lot like a kiwi, which is pleasing!” Harry says. “My girlfriend Jess has helped to sort a lot of the designs, but Archie Fitzgerald, who’s an illustrator in Bristol, has made us a bunch of stuff. It gets pretty full-on but we absolutely love his artwork. It’s cool that we’re able to get so many friends and family members involved in what we do.”
Modern Rituals play the Crofters Rights on 23rd June, with their debut out this month on Holy Roar.