Words: Ingrid Marie Jensen | Photos: Luis Kramer
Political stance, Luton and chart success
Formed just before the onset of lockdown, Regressive Left are a “dance punk outfit,” hailing from Luton; the band is comprised of Georgia Hardy (drums and vocals) Simon Tyrie (lead vocals and electronics) and Will Crosby (guitar and vocals.) Inspired by “Day-to-day life. The state of this country. Twitter,” they’ve moved up in the industry with impressive speed. Their first-ever live gig was at Latitude Festival, their first EP ‘On the Wrong Side of History,’ debuted on the UK Vinyl charts at #11 (ranking above artists such as The Clash, Joy Division and Wolf Alice) and this autumn, they’re touring their first headline shows.
“Regressive left,” is an epithet used to describe far-left zealots who sympathize with extremist ideologies; it’s a loaded term, but one that fits in with the band’s desire to be straight-forward about the content they intend to present to listeners. As Hardy explains, “Most of the lyrics and stuff we talk about outside of the band is political, so it made sense to just be upfront about that and have a little fun with it. A lot of people won’t know what Regressive Left is or means; Gang of Four are a good example of that. They’re named after a group of treasonous Maoist officials, but most people just see a band name.”
As perhaps the last generation to grow up in a habitable climate, we exist on a knife’s edge, with constant anxiety a basic state of being. Nervous tension is a constant in all the workings of daily life, as is the knowledge that massive political and social changes are the only viable way to slow the demise of our planet. In ‘On the Wrong Side of History,’ Regressive Left confront the anger, anxiety, fear, and bone-deep cynicism that accompany coming of age in a world torn to shreds by climate change, rampant consumerism, corporate greed, late-stage capitalism, and the horrors of the far right. The band have a knack for cutting through the bullshit, seeing through the mist shrouding current events, and playing it all back for the listener in tracks that are part history lesson, part philosophy lesson and part old-school sarcastic take-down. In an age where mainstream artists are diluting their opinions and emotions – and therefore their work – into the most inoffensive mush possible, it’s revitalizing to hear a firm stance being taken on the political issues that crowd our tenuous existence.
Hardy and Tyrie hail from Luton, while Crosby was raised in Bedford, a mere stone’s throw down the road. Despite all having lived in London while attending university (they’re now back in their hometowns) the trio knew from the start that they wanted their identity to remain uncompromised: “We felt it was important to say that we were from Luton/Bedfordshire rather than London because we wanted to make sure that young people coming from places like Luton, where there aren’t many resources or job prospects thanks to years of austerity, could feel seen. Luton gets such negative press – every year it’s in the list of worst places to live in the country which is such a disrespectful and classist thing to the people that actually have lives there. Luton has a rich multi-cultural history and we wanted to be part of showing Luton in a positive light.”
The band come from disparate musical backgrounds; Tyrie and Hardy, who initially met as teens in the music department of Luton Sixth Form College, are primarily self-taught, while Crosby was classically trained. After Tyrie and Hardy made Crosby’s acquaintance at a local music venue, in Hardy’s words they “forged a connection over the 60s garage and beat music we were into at the time. We put on a jazz club night in Luton and invited Will to DJ. We’d been making music together for a while but never released anything as our day jobs took up too much time.” The pandemic jolted them into action: “…we realized time isn’t infinite, so we decided to just stick up a recording of a track we’d done about a year before…we felt like we had more to say so we thought we better give the band a real shot.”
Hauntology and working with Ross Orton
The title track of, ‘On the Wrong Side of History,’ provides one of the best distillations of the band’s persona yet. “I started writing it years ago,” Tyrie stated in a press release. “It was more of a basic spoken word piece from a place of anger and bitterness. Over time it became more and more silly, until it became something to dance to. But on a more granular level, it’s about western imperialism, greed, capital, fear of the other… and what it means to be ‘on the wrong side of history’.”
“If you’ve ever come across the term ‘hauntology’ you might be familiar with the idea of the past repeating itself in popular culture – sort of like how it feels that we’ll never escape the second half of the 20th century. We definitely play on this idea a little – we’re always referencing the past. But the purpose of our music is definitely to try and carve a way forwards, which, the hauntological argument would suggest, requires escaping capitalism.”
The band’s sound has been described as reminiscent of everything from the Talking Heads and Suicide to Squid and LCD Soundsystem, but tracks such as ‘On the Wrong Side of History,’ and ‘Bad Faith,’ and the 2021 single release, ‘Take the Hit,’ define a space wholly their own.
The recording of the ‘On the Wrong Side of History,’ found the band making the trek up north to Sheffield, where they spent five days working intensely in the studio with producer Ross Orton (known for his work with MIA and the Arctic Monkeys among countless others.) “Before this EP, all of our music had been self-recorded and produced. Originally that was because of financial restraints but as the years went by, we got better at it and amassed more equipment. But the problem with doing everything yourself is that it’s quite easy to lose perspective and get bogged down on details that don’t matter. For the EP we were really keen to find someone that understood the project and to act as a fourth member. We didn’t want someone to just sit there and press record because we could do that ourselves. We ended up going with Ross Orton who had produced the Working Men’s Club and Amyl and The Sniffers releases that we really liked. He was really invested in the tracks, and we spent a bit of time getting to know each other before agreeing to work together. He didn’t just get the project musically but was on the same page politically. It’s really important to trust the person who is going to have a massive influence on how the finished product sounds.”
Of the band’s writing process, Hardy says, “Usually, Simon will start by building a sequence or rhythm on the electronics at home and then I’ll be around listening in and thinking of drumbeats and ideas. Then we’ll take it to the rehearsal room and jam it. We record all of our practices which we listen back to and pull bits out that we like to start forming the structure of the song. Will then usually comes over and we build the song together properly on Logic and record demo guitars. The songs tend to change once we’ve played them live and we notice the crowd reacting or not reacting to certain bits.”
Despite having a serious agenda, Regressive Left want their audiences to have fun. “We make dance-oriented music because we want people to dance and let go. We know that a lot of people are angry about the state of this country and if the lyrics connect to people, then I think singing about the problems and dancing can at least offer some catharsis for a bit.”