Lupacante have been together for almost three years in their current form. Or four, if we’re including the time before the flute and vocals arrived. Now all the band members are in their final year at University, ‘real life’ is fast approaching and there’s even rumour of their first ever EP, so I caught up with them one wet and windy February evening and had a chat with them about, well, everything.
“Lupacante’s first ever name,” 22-year-old Sports Science student and Lupacante drummer Joel Shopland tells me enthusiastically, “was in fact The Five-Tone Brogue.” Exactly why they chose ‘The Five-Tone Brogues’ was never really made clear during our chat, but the story of how they eventually came to be Lupacante sums up the spontaneity of the band. Marco Gorelli, lead guitarist, mathematics student, and all-round crazy guy explained that the name Lupacante actually means lobster in Italian. Lupacante was first used as a username on SoundCloud for a demo track he sent to bassist Jay Singh, who responded with “Oh that sounds like a rocking band name!”
Joel concluded that the name was adopted at the very last minute before a gig on Brunel’s Quad, saying that “the guy who was announcing us at the back thought we were still The Five-Tone Brogues, and he didn’t really know how to pronounce that as it was, and then Jay, last minute, turned around and declared ‘No, we’re now called Lupacante!’”
Getting the make-up of the band right was something they put a huge amount of importance on. Despite being very different people, “If we weren’t in a band, we wouldn’t be friends!” Georgia laughs, for the most part, all six of them slotted in quite nicely. Jono, resident saxophonist, tells me that the moment Jay decided to become the band’s full time bassist was perhaps their biggest turning point as a band. Jay admits they trialled other bass players who were technically so much better than him, but says “I think me and Joel in particular were very musically in sync and were able to set a really strong foundation for the band,”. It echoed Joel’s statement that “Jay worked simply because he was with the band from the beginning; he knew what worked and what didn’t.”
I asked them how they prepare for a gig, and the answer was almost immediate: “We come up with our playlist last second,” vocalist Christine blurts out. “Very often a couple of people just say ‘Do that one!’ and then we go on stage and we’re like ‘Oh! We’re doing that song now! Okay!’”.
Surely that leaves a huge amount of room for things to go wrong, I ask? “If something does go wrong,” Georgia Cooke, the band’s flautist and youngest member, chimes in, “we just laugh at the fact that it has gone wrong, carry on, and then rip the piss out of each other until the next gig.”. “I forget the words all the time,” Christine admits, to chimes of laughter from the rest of the band, adding that she likes to invent words whenever she forgets the real ones.
There are occasions where things going wrong aren’t the band’s fault, however. “Do you remember when that guy jumped on stage at Portobello Market and we had to kick him off?” Georgia asks. Acklam Village Market, which is off of Portobello Market, appears to be the band’s spiritual home, with some of their best gigs taking place there and inspiring some of their strangest stories – “like that one time where my brother got on stage,” Jay reminisces, “and Christine forgot his name”
Our conversation eventually reaches the topic of how music is taught in the education system and one of the things that strike me about the energy of the band is that not only are they passionate about what they do, they’re people who have all gone through the education system and tried to make it work for them. “I think they should make music as important as subjects like Maths and English,” says Jono, “I spent loads of time learning classically, and with an instrument like the sax, I kind of felt like I was missing out a bit.” Georgia, a final year music student herself, says that music education needs to encourage playing as a group. “And not just formally playing with other people,” she adds. “Playing in brass bands and orchestras, or just having a jam.”
That’s not to say that the band don’t discourage solo performance. With lots of their material being heavily improvised, there’s a required understanding of the way in which music works at a fundamental and theoretical level, something which the band feel the education system at the moment doesn’t cater for.
“I didn’t come from a classical background,” Jay tells me. “I think I would have liked to know a little bit more about how it works, rather than picking up an instrument with just four strings, strumming it and hoping for the best.” Jay feels that academia in music has become too strict and formulaic, adding that it is subject to creative ideas “There’s no right or wrong answer, like there is in subjects like maths. There are so many ways music can be expressed, so why should you have to learn it in just one way?”
It’s clear that the band is not short of ambition either. They’ve just spent a few days in a recording studio and look set to be releasing an EP before the band comes to a natural end when they go their separate ways at the end of this academic year. I asked them whether there was anything that could still keep the band together, and all of them enthusiastically told me that if they were approached by the right people and asked to go on tour or sign a record deal, they would do so in a heartbeat. But they’re all realists, and they understand that if such an offer were to be made, they’d be asked to change things about them or their music to make them commercially viable. “We do this for fun,” Jay says, with Georgia adding that they’d reject any change they’re asked to make if it affected their chemistry, musicality or the enjoyment of what they do.
Sadly, though, the band have yet to receive a record deal of any description, so it does look like the end is nigh. “We’ll do a reunion gig!” Jay reassures me, but thankfully they’re giving their all right up until the very end. Despite the demands of their various university courses, they have several more gigs lined up in and around Uxbridge, as well as in Central London. It will be a shame to see such a unique and interesting group of musicians disband, but with the experience of the past three years under their belts, they say they would encourage more individuals to get together with any combination of instruments and make it work, even if it is just for fun.