Bruising on touring, Berlin, and I Don't Mind
Between years abroad and prestigious tours, Leeds indiepop foursome Bruising are doing everything on their own terms, as frontwoman Naomi Baguley explains
If Bruising’s progression to date has felt like a slow burn to the listener, just imagine how the band themselves felt. It sounds terribly cliched to attribute their level of output – which we’ll generously term less than industrious – to the old chestnut of 'life getting in the way', but that’s pretty much exactly what happened back in the summer of 2015 when singer Naomi Baguley decamped to Berlin for a year studying abroad, just days after the group had wrapped up their first headline tour of the UK.
Bruising found a way to use the situation to their advantage, however. The core group consists of just Baguley and guitarist Ben Lewis, who met and began writing together after the former spotted the latter sporting a Perfect Pussy t-shirt at Leeds’ now-defunct Cockpit venue and decided she liked the cut of his jib. They were never sticklers for co-operative creativity anyway, usually bringing their own ideas to sessions and then doing their level best to chisel them into shape, so the process remained the same between Berlin and Yorkshire; Lewis on guitar duty, Baguley handling lyrics and melodies.
“We never did sit in a room together,” says Baguley on the eve of the band’s second headline tour. “It was always a case of swapping voice memos, so it didn’t feel like it made that big of a difference, being apart. I mean, we did try things that didn’t come off – like a Skype band practice, which was a disaster – but the truth is, I had a lot of time and space in Berlin to read, write and play guitar. It was frustrating not to have anything coming out, but there was no point at which we weren’t working.”
Plus, there was another benefit to Baguley’s student status – the generous holidays made touring possible, and accordingly Bruising were able to hop on a couple of seriously prestigious bills. “If anything,” she explains, “going on tour with Los Campesinos! and Diet Cig felt like more than enough progress for us. I think if you just recorded all the time and never played live, you could easily become very self-satisfied and comfortable. The fear that comes with playing to an audience pushes you to become better, and it’s definitely improved us as a band.
“That’s especially true when you support somebody like Los Campesinos!, who are just so tight on stage. When you see Gareth singing about very personal things to a room of a thousand people, and yet he’s still connecting with everybody individually, you just want to try to emulate that.”
If nothing else, said tours afforded Baguley the opportunity to escape the insular life she’d been living in Berlin, where a combination of loneliness and an alien environment had meant she’d been falling more and more into introspection – a double-edged sword in creative terms. “I was in a long-distance relationship while I was away, so that was a hard thing. It becomes something that occupies a lot of your time and your mind. I was never off my phone, honestly, and you realise you’re living in this in-between space, somewhere between where I physically was and where my boyfriend physically was.
"It was a good experience, and I’m glad I did it, but I think the main benefit for the band was that it provided me with the space to think and develop myself without any pressure to come up with something that we could release straight away.”
The time out of the limelight has allowed Baguley and Lewis to stockpile songs, but there’s apparently no rush to record; they’ll do so as and when it feels right. For now, we have a gloriously poppy new single entitled I Don’t Mind; the guitars nod to Pavement and the vocals land just the right side of the bubblegum border. It comes with a rough-and-ready B-side in the shape of Rest in Peace Kurt Donald Cobain (1967-1994), and the video for the first track is similarly tongue-in-cheek: an off-kilter takedown of self-proclaimed ‘lifestyle bloggers’.
“I think an album’s a long way off yet,” says Baguley of the group’s future plans. “We’ve talked about maybe getting enough songs together to put an EP out, but we’re taking it slow, and having as much fun as we possibly can now that I’m back home and we’re all together again. The thing that Ben and I kind of figured out a while back was that if we just keep writing, we’ll eventually have loads of songs to choose from for a record. We’ll be able to cut things here and improve bits there, and we just feel like all of that will come together in its own time. For now, we just want to focus on playing live – we’ve got some lost time to make up for.”
I Don’t Mind is out now via Beech Coma – available for download, with a 7" to be released on 15 Jan