QSC Aspiring Interview: Coach Party talk debut album, nihilism and mental health

Following performances at Glastonbury and supporting Queens Of The Stone Age on tour, the Isle of Wight’s Coach Party are on quite the upward trajectory as they release their debut album Killjoy. Singer/guitarist Jess Eastwood and drummer/producer Guy Page talk about forming the band on the island and then touring inland, why Killjoy is their heaviest body of work to date, and their no-holds-barred approach to the topic of mental health.

While Coach Party have sarcastically labelled themselves the ‘Other Isle of Wight band’ following the breathtaking Grammy-winning success of Wet Leg, the band are steadily building a solid claim to also putting music from the south coast island on the map. Having formed in 2016, they were signed within three years to label Chess Club, and they’ve followed the well-trodden path of relentlessly touring and performing to get their music out there. Their three EPs also had them noticed by the likes of NME and The Guardian, so the stage is set very nicely for their just-released debut album Killjoy.

Eastwood and Page form one half of Coach Party, joined by guitarists Steph Norris and Joe Perry. On growing up on the island, Eastwood says, “It was really nice, it’s very chilled and it’s known for being really safe. There’s not a lot to do here beyond going to the park or the beach. But when I was growing up, there wasn’t much of a music scene or any music venues, so I’d go over to The Joiners in Southampton a lot and watch bands there.”

“It’s a great place to start a band or a business,” Page adds. “Because there’s less pressure and expectations here. And also, once we’d played the handful of bars and venues here, it then had us questioning why not just do a full tour? Because once we’d paid the money to go over to Portsmouth, we may as well also go to London, Brighton etc.”

Coach Party are not the kind of act who are happy to merely exist online — they’d much rather be playing their songs on stage than trying to go viral on TikTok or poring over their Spotify For Artists account. But, as Eastwood has come to learn recently, touring as relentlessly as the band have can become unsustainable physically and can lead to burnout, so they’re grateful they are now in a position to find the right balance.

“Towards the end of this year, I think we’ll start saying no to a few gigs,” she says. “Just the ones that might tip us over the edge. We’ve learned this year that you really can burn the candle at both ends. I think it’s the same for a lot of touring bands, where we feel going on tour is a way we can beat the Spotify world to the side and do things the old-fashioned way, which I don’t think will ever die out. Touring is something we have full control over.”

Page also feels conflicted about life in the streaming era, adding that, “it’s so hard for us as a band to champion streaming and say ‘go stream our music’ for reasons we don’t necessarily agree with. Touring isn’t our way of ignoring all that but pushing against it a little. We’ve accepted we might not get the same streaming numbers as people who we don’t see on the road, which is weird. But we can go out and do our tours, and have control over that.”

Prior to the huge anticipation and buildup to their debut album, 2022 saw Coach Party release their third EP, Nothing Is Real. An incredibly accomplished collection of five songs, this was a big moment for the band where people really started taking notice. In no small part thanks to the spectacular way the album blends the grunge stylings of Nirvana and Sonic Youth with the heaviest elements of contemporaries Wolf Alice, and with the slightest touch of Tame Impala’s more ambient sounds. The opening riff and singalong melodies of Weird Me Out are totally irresistible, while the title track does that very difficult job of sounding classic and contemporary at the same time.

Parasite just is what it is, and it’s there for you to shout about how pissed off you are!

Nothing Is Real is definitely a precursor to the album,” Page says. “We originally thought it would complete a trilogy of EPs and we’d give it another party-themed name (following Party Food and then After Party). But it ended up being a complete reinvention when we started writing the songs. It feels like the stepping stone between our early days and where we’re at now.”

While that EP has its heavy moments, Killjoy, which dropped on the 8th of September, takes no prisoners. They’ve done all the in-store meet and greets, seen their faces on a Clapham High Street billboard in London, and the album has hit number six, eight and nine on the UK independent albums, record store and vinyl album charts respectively. And as they are just about to head out on a huge UK, EU and US headline tour right into December, it’s not hard to imagine how blistering these new songs are going to sound live.

Take opener, What’s The Point In Life, as high-BPM, piercing snares announce Coach Party’s arrival in LP-land. The chorus is totally anthemic and singalong, despite the fact Eastwood is singing “We’re all gonna die / what’s the point in life / if we all die?” Nihilism has never been this much fun, and it’s brilliant to imagine a room of people singing along to those words as they bounce up and down.

Those lyrics might not sound fun out of context, but some may be surprised to hear Eastwood sees the song as very positive. A nice case of optimistic nihilism, a philosophy which states that if life has no exact meaning, then we are free to focus on the things that bring us the most meaning and joy in life.

“We have said to take it positively,” she says. “You can take it negatively if you want to! We actually wrote the song in a frivolous way. I can’t remember exactly what frame of mind we were in when we wrote it together, but it wasn’t negative. If you flip it on its head, it's questioning why are we paying taxes and having to do all these things, why aren’t we just free to live? But you can take the song any way you want.”

You quickly get a sense of what an unrelenting record this is as the second track Parasite packs the band’s biggest punch yet, in just one minute 37 seconds. The discordant guitar feedback that opens the song foreshadows the, albeit brief, punk savagery that follows.

Page reveals that Parasite “took as long to write as that song is, it just came out within a couple of minutes. The song encapsulates how everyone has that one person who, if you saw them walking down the high street, you’d bolt into the nearest shop to get away from them. Because you know if they see you, you’ll lose 45 minutes of your life as they talk absolute shit and leech off any good energy you had that day. And no matter how many times you change your email address or phone number, they always find you somehow. The demo version of the track is almost indistinguishable from the album version. Some of the other tracks went through a lot of growth and reinvention, but Parasite just is what it is, and it’s there for you to shout about how pissed off you are!”

Another stonking highlight on the album is Born Leader, which opens with a soaring guitar melody that immediately draws you in. It’s safe to say many of Eastwood’s lyrics are wonderfully sarcastic and sardonic, and she’s on her finest form here: “I’m a born leader / I’m good at art / I’ve got a boyfriend / He’s not very smart”.

It’s so important to us that our music is something you can connect to, believe in and sympathise with.

“That song is very playful,” she says. “It’s about when everything on the outside looks good and you want to feel good and be the coolest, but you’re actually an insecure bitch on the inside.” As Eastwood later talks about how “we’ve all accepted social media and influencer culture, and the huge impact it’s had on people’s mental health”, there’s certainly a chance that is what she’s swiping at on this song.

“Since influencer culture started, we’re constantly being shown these beautiful lives, so for me, it’s important to be honest about the fact that sometimes life is really good, but sometimes life is shit. Everyone has bad days and everyone has something going on — what really helps me is remembering that, and that we’re all in it together.”

“It’s so important to the four of us that our music is something you can connect to, believe in and sympathise with,” Page says. “We don’t want to insult our listeners by saying ‘it’s all fine really, you’ll get through it!’ Because we don’t know what they’re going through. They might be going through an even worse time than what we’re singing about. We’re basically saying to people who are having a shit time, ‘We love you!’” 

It’s a safe bet that Killjoy will shake off the shackles of the ‘up and coming’ label that has been plastered onto Coach Party, and see them deservedly being regarded as one of the UK’s best and most established acts in the indie-rock genre and beyond. Make sure to go to one of their 2023 tour dates, as the Coach Party live experience is scintillating. Meanwhile, Killjoy is out now and conversely could give you a much-needed shot of joy.

Listen to the full interview with Coach Party on Headliner Radio, here: