Cabbage have split opinion across the board, broadcasting their idiosyncratic, satirical attack in the form of discordant neo post-punk from Tameside. I caught up with Lee and Joe backstage at Kendal Calling before their headline set in the House Party tent. They’re chuffed to be here, as they each crack open a bottle of lager and push one over to me, I ask them what they think of the festival…
Joe responds, “Well, this is my first time, Lee’s played here before though haven’t you?”
“Yeah, 2009/2010 I think. Reckon this is my fourth year,” he replies.
They are the co-front men of Cabbage, they and Kendal Calling’s House Party tent are a perfect fit; Lee explains he’s never played outside of it as part of different projects over the years.
“Yeah it’s a good mix of people here at Kendal,” Joe says, “I was walking through the campsite earlier and I met this lad from Beat-Herder, he’s from Barrow and I believe we’ve got a few fans in Barrow so I think that’ll add to our Kendal Calling experience.”
It’s clear the band are growing from Moseley outwards, but there remains plenty people sceptical about the name of the band.
“It sets the tone doesn’t it, the best tone possible,” says Lee.
I recall it was Eoghan that said in a previous interview that someone has commented, “How the fuck can a band called Cabbage play at Old Trafford?” I wondered if they thought opinions had changed.
Joe says, “Yeah, that was sort of the idea to be honest, to provoke that reaction in the first place. We did believe it’d take on its own entity as a word and such and I think it has. I mean, if you hear a band name and you think, “oh they’re alright them”, then what’s the point? We wanted people to think it was either a profoundly shit name or that they love it; that was the idea behind it really. We don’t really do middle ground.”
It was Joe’s spoken word poetry that inspired a lot of the bands early releases. But who’s idea was the combination of that and music?
Joe explains: “Well on that Le Chou EP you’ve got obviously ‘Dinner Lady’ and ‘Contactless Payment’ then ‘Kevin’ that Lee wrote as well as ‘White Noise’. So it’s a collaboration of all our ideas really. Basically it went from none of us being able to write anything for about 6 or 7 years and then the three of us have been able to write enough music to make an EP with. Then me and Lee hadn’t written a song before, and we had to sort of bash heads to write ‘Fickle’ one night.”
Their latest release is called ‘The Extended Play of Cruelty’; one song that particularly caught my attention was ‘A Network Betrayal’, a criticism of Northern train networks. I assumed that’s something the lads are particularly passionate about.
“We’re on them all the time!” says Lee, “well annoying.”
I was right to assume, Joe isn’t a fan either: “Yeah, we spend a lot of time on them, it’s a daily struggle. I mean, in my brothers words I “should buy a fucking ticket” and there would be no struggle, which is kind of true.”
“They’re fucking overpriced though!” says Lee.
“Yeah they are and the petty rules that come with it like, you pay £30 to have a railcard but then if you’ve got a busy schedule and have to just jump on, then you’re not entitled to use this thing that you pay for. It’s just the fact that you’re often made to feel like a criminal. You know, I just generally disagree with the privatisation of a public service which is so imperative to us, the economy and working life.”
Political affairs run through the veins of Cabbage’s music, but they’re no political commentators, their music is instead a representation of them personally.
“The train thing, it personally affects us really” says Lee, “Joe lived further away so he was doing Leeds to Moseley but even on a small scale it costs me £20 a week just to be on the horrible things.”
Joe adds the details, “I got some PRS money, £160, and I spent just about all of it on train fares. Saying that though I jumped it all the way to London the other day so it makes up for it. We just think we should be singing to give a genuine portrayal of who we are, you can ramble on about something like a girl or whatever but it’s contrived and it’s not who we are. Surely it’s more interesting when it’s about who we actually are, stuff we actually deal with.”
Another tune on the EP is less political, an ode to the band’s drummer ‘Asa Morley’ and his occupations. “What’s that all about then?” I asked, “What football team is he managing at the minute?”
Lee and Joe both laugh.
“Who is he managing at the minute? He’s managing a German team I think, oh no actually it’s Inter Milan, he got the job the other day.” Lee expands on one of the lyrics in the track.
“He’s basically our half-human, half-goat drummer, I don’t know what he is to be honest but he’s a very special human being so we had to focus all our attention on him at some point.”
Joe agrees, “Yeah, he’s a unique character; it’s completely coincidental how he even came to be in a band.”
“Steve Coogan and Stewart Lee couldn’t even write a person like that into a sketch, they really fucking couldn’t.” Lee is laughing again; I suggest they might be able to have a go post-Cabbage.
“That’s the beauty of it though,” says Joe, he has no idea how fucking hilarious he is but to him the stuff that’s coming out of his gob is perfectly normal.”
Lee interrupts, “He’s pretty annoying though as well.”
Joe continues: “I mean, we’re in a beautiful Deer Park today, there’s bands on everywhere and you can socialise with all sorts of people and he’s literally sat there in his pyjamas playing FIFA. He pops his head out of the bus and there’s like this pale face…”
“Errr, what’s going on?” impersonates Lee.
“He’ll go, “ah yeah it’s too muddy mate, not going out there” I’d be surprised if he even comes on to be honest, these are the pitfalls of having a comfortable sleeper-bus,” says Joe. “That’s more of a worry than someone getting drunk and not turning up to be honest.”
“Oh for fuck sake we’ve gotta’ go on stage!” It’s clear Asa Morley is one of Joe’s favourite characters.
Kendal Calling is a festival with major strength in depth, it can be hard for bands to get out themselves but Joe was keen to know who I’d been watching, I mentioned Hello Operator, who’d played the same stage earlier in the day.
“Oh, they’re brilliant!” Lee is a fan. “Good friends of ours, fantastic band, yeah we really like them.”
“Thomas Turgoose is doing some DJ sets as well I think,” says Joe.
“Tell you what, on the back of the last question, Asa Morley and Thomas Turgoose come from the same planet, they both flew down here together!” Lee is sure of it.
The big question then, what’s next for Cabbage?
“Debut album!” says Lee.
“We’re recording it in September so if everything goes to plan hopefully February/March time, enough time for all the festivals next year and to sell albums all summer, proper audio prostitutes. It’ll pretty much all be fresh stuff, but I can guarantee there’ll be two you’ve heard before.”
I know what they mean about their busy schedules now; they’re heading out on tour, including a date back in Cumbria in Barrow in October. The time they find in between will be dedicated to recording.
“It’s strange though,” Joe says, “that we’ve released 24 songs and we’re only just going to be putting a debut album out now though.”
I get his point, but an album without a fan base is all too often a wasted opportunity. Surely they’ve given themselves a great foundation for it to go down well?
Joe develops: “Well yeah, I get that, there are bands that I won’t name but they’ve released next to fuck all and you really question why it is that they’re doing this job. I mean, when they’ve been around for 2 years and all they’re living off is hype, articles and questionable outfits then what the fuck are they in this game for, really?”
More than anywhere else, festivals open up bands to new fans, so for anyone listening to Cabbage for the first time, I wondered what they would tell them to expect.
“High frequencies and low mids,” Lee says.
“If you’re doing something full time with your best mates it’s very hard to see it from an outside perspective.” Joe admits.
“People have very different interpretations of us, which is good, and you get such a range of people but we can only do what’s genuine to us. Obviously you get into bands you like and you’re gonna’ perceive them differently to anyone else, last few years I’ve loved so much new music and you can put a finger on why you like them but I really don’t know how I’d describe us.
I’m probably too emotionally attached to say anything really.”
An album in the pipeline, live dates in the UK and Europe, the Cabbage train is not one suffering from cancellations and delays. ‘The Extended Play of Cruelty’ is out now digitally and available in physical format on August 25th.