Working Men's Club interview
We speak with Working Men's Club's Syd Minsky-Sargeant to find out more about the Yorkshire band's forthcoming second album, Fear Fear
Syd Minsky-Sargeant is an enigmatic presence. The Working Men’s Club leader heads up one of the most curious band dynamics in Britain. Officially a four-piece along with Liam Ogburn, Hannah Cobb and Mairead O’Connor, Minsky-Sargeant is the only one playing on the group’s desolate synth-pop second album Fear Fear, an ambitious advancement on their self-titled debut that sounds as if Giorgio Moroder had a lovechild with New Order.
Refusing to be drawn too deeply into the inner workings of the group, Minsky-Sargeant says firmly: “No one else plays on the record. Not to be dismissive of the band, because they inspire me in other walks of life, but the recording process is just me.” Following the acrimony around the first release that saw two original members of the band depart in less than pleasant circumstances, Minsky-Sargeant is much happier now with the lineup, and how the current crop have accepted their role is to gravitate around his creative force: “It works well the way it does.”
The prodigal 20-year-old started working on Fear Fear not long after the 2020 release of their self-titled debut during the peaks of the pandemic. On the surface, it’s a piece of work that, while undoubtedly personal, reflects the milieu of anxiety, restlessness and division that has permeated through society over the last two years. It is of course a time where there is a lot to be fearful of; whether that be COVID’s sustainability or the renewed threat of nuclear war or rampaging inflation, Fear Fear is a sign of the times.
While Minsky-Sargeant admits the unprecedented events of recent times influenced him “definitely up to a point”, he says the inspiration for the gloomy material on Fear Fear is coming from his own “personal perspective”. He adds: “Not to dismiss the big things going on but it’s more my own thoughts in relation to what I’ve suffered with, and my existential anger with what’s going on in the world.”
Fear Fear is a body of work that does confront a 21st century angst in really quite direct terms. In particular, Money Is Mine pulses with a repetitive hook about mental health but Minsky-Sargeant is evasive when it comes to how directly it was drawn from his own experiences. “It’s a song that’s not necessarily specific to me," he says, "but it’s not necessarily from anyone’s perspective. It doesn’t have to be about me.”
Fear Fear also seems to build on a central theme from the debut – disconsolate frustration at small town life. On Circumference he sings: ‘Walking around this futile place / Such a disaster uneducated’. He describes it as his “perspective on life”, that he wouldn’t want it to be “wider than my own viewpoint”, stressing that he is not putting down small towns in general, just that he didn’t always have it happy in Todmorden, the quiet market town in West Yorkshire where he grew up.
For all the downbeat lyricism, Fear Fear is an album that booms and grooves with euphoric synths and bouncing rhythms that wouldn't be out of place at a rave in the middle of an industrial estate. Minsky-Sargeant says it was deliberate to create a dissonance between the fatalistic lyrical content and the booming sonics: “I do enjoy juxtaposing lyrics and music at the same time. It’s nice. It’s quite funny in a dark way to show both sides of something in a way people wouldn’t expect.”
It's been nothing short of a whirlwind few years for the young man. Some of the tracks that made it onto Working Men’s Club’s first album were penned when he was just 16, and getting signed shortly after he experienced the chaos of the music industry at a breakneck pace without getting the opportunity to find himself and his sound with few onlookers. But he says it’s an experience he wouldn’t change for anything: “It’s been surreal but I guess there’s no right way or wrong way of doing it as it’s all I know. A lot of good stuff has come over the last two years. I’ve got to release two albums and people are listening to them. My job is to make music and I feel fortunate to do so.”
Minsky-Sargeant is a restless spirit, always creating, always tinkering, always searching for that piece of technology that can best communicate his feelings. When we speak he’s in the studio working on tunes, a process he commits to most days. Is he starting to put together the skeleton for album three? He won’t say but we can’t wait to hear what it is.
Fear Fear is released on 15 Jul via Heavenly Recordings; Working Men's Club play QMU, Glasgow, 18 Nov