Having just released their second album Severance (reviewed ) Manchester’s Guilt Trip are very much on an upward curve. The band are currently on the road with heavyweights Malevolence and it seems the world’s their oyster. So we decided it was high time The Midlands Rocks caught up with guitarist Jak Maden and drummer Tom Aimson (who comprise the band along with vocalist Jay Valentine and guitarist Sam Baker) to get the full low down.
Can you give me a brief history of the group?
Jak: I’ve been best friends with Tom since I was four years old. We went to school together, and when we turned 18 years old we decided to form the band. I went to music college and found a few members there, over the years the members changed and we arrived where we are today.
Tom: I Joined in 2019 and we’ve had a couple of member changes since then, and it’s been a long road, 10 years of the band.
Jak: 10 long years, Guilt Trip’s been going since 2016, but we were the same band before then, only under a different name.
And what made you decide to play this music rather than heavy metal or punk?
Tom: It’s probably through live shows, from going to shows since a kid, you get attached to it pretty quickly. It’s more than going to gigs, it becomes a lifestyle and you end up going to those sorts of gigs all the time, then you pull different sorts of influences into it, and I guess that’s what makes our sound really.
Jak: I don’t consider Guilt Trip a genre or a style of sound, it’s more a lifestyle.
What’s going on in the north of England? There’s such a big hardcore scene, especially in places like Leeds and Manchester.
Tom: I think it’s historical, especially in Leeds, it has always had a really big punk scene. Henry Rollins from Black Flag lived there for a while, so it has always had a beating heart and people are drawn to there to start bands, and it’s the same with Manchester as well.
Guilt Trip have a very harsh and heavy sound. Do you think you’re a product of your environment?
Jak: Yes, but it’s not purposeful, it’s being in those surroundings; Manchester can be quite dismal in terms of the weather, so maybe that rubs off on the sound, unintentionally. As you travel from the south to the north of England, the sound does change. Rough Justice are from the north and we have a similar vibe to them, and they’ve probably had a similar upbringing to us.
Tom: I think it rubs off on everybody, no matter what what style of music you play, who you are and where you come from will always play a part in it.
It’s pertinent that you mention Manchester’s climate; both The Smiths and Joy Division have a gloomy sound, yet Guilt Trip strike me as more positive.
Jak: It can be, but we just write the best riffs we can and then it’s up to Jay [Valentine, vocalist] to set the tone of the song. A lot of his lyrics are about his own experiences and people can relate to it in any way they want. There’s no direct message; it’s down to personal interpretation, and we’ve heard all sorts of different meanings.
You are now signed to Malevolence’s label (MLVTLD). How did that come about, and are they an inspiration to you?
Tom: Definitely. The first time I saw the lads was in 2012, going back years and growing up in the scene along with Jak, we’ve watched them grow, so it must rub off in some way.
Jak: Every single member of this band was into Malevolence and we’d travel to Sheffield to see them when we were young. I think they’ve paved the path for us; they’ve crawled so we can walk. It has made it a lot easier for us, they’ve knocked down a lot of barriers; they’ve come from the hardcore scene and now they’re conquering the metal scene, and that doesn’t happen often. Bringing us on this tour shows how much they care about us, and shows us how it is done.
Malevolence have risen to the top on their own terms, they haven’t pandered to any record company. Have you taken that D.I.Y. ethic on?
Tom: We’ve always been D.I.Y., we’ve always wanted to be in control of everything.
Jak: Every thing we can do, we will do ourselves. Obviously there’s limits to that, especially if you want to grow, you can’t be the best at every sector in the music world; things like album artwork for example; you’ve got to look outside for that.
Your new album Severance has been out in the world for a couple of months. Have you been happy with its reception?
Tom: Amazing. We’ve been blown away by it to be honest.
Jak: Especially finally playing it live, these shows are the first time we’ve played those songs; everyone at the merch desk has said that they love the album. It’s nice to get out and play it and see how it goes down live.
And how are those songs going down live?
Jak: We haven’t played gigs for five months, so give us a few weeks and we’ll probably be nailing it, but it’s harder to play than our older material.
Tom: We’ve practically changed our whole set to new material as well, so it’s been a big step after playing the same set for six years, to then change it all completely.
Jak: It has been a big shock, there’s not really been any time to breathe.
You’re currently on tour with three other great bands. Is it a bit daunting, and in a way has it made you up your game?
Jak: Yeah, we knew we had to get some good practice in, we know how good Malevolence are live, we’ve seen it plenty of times over the years.
Tom: I suppose on every tour you see how other people do things and you think ‘I could learn a bit of that’.
Jak: I think both Malevolence and Sylosis have more production than us, but it doesn’t worry us; we’re proud to be a bit more D.I.Y., I’m sure over the years we’ll start adding a bit more production into our set but it’s nothing to be ashamed of, at the moment we’re proud to be a stripped-back live band with just a couple of samples between songs.
A good live set should ebb and flow, so how do you get that ululation in your show?
Tom: With samples I suppose, like Jak just said they’re a bit mellow, and then we’ve got a few lighter parts in some tracks which we put in at certain places just so it levels things out, and the samples tend to help things blend into each other…
Jak: Instead of just stopping and introducing the next song, that’s our next goal is to up the production. For years it was just us and the songs, introduce it and then go. But now, like you say, we’re trying to make it flow smoothly. We want to create an atmosphere by introducing some eerie sounds to build a bit of tension.
And this is the third night of the tour. How’s it been going?
Tom: Amazing. I’m sure that will see us through the next 30 days.
Jak: Last night was one of the best gigs we’d ever played. It was Manchester, our home town and that’ll carry us through the next few days. I’m sure tonight will be amazing, we’ve not played Birmingham since 2018, so let’s see, we’ll give it all we’ve got.
You head off to Europe after the UK. For humble young lads from Manchester the big venues, tour buses, backstage passes must all be a bit mind-blowing. How do you keep your feet on the ground?
Jak: We’re all big worriers and we beat ourselves up over minor details, so that keeps us on the ground. We never get carried away with anything, take each gig as it comes and see what next year brings. We come from the ground so I think we appreciate everything we’re getting. It’s not been easy, it’s been 10 years of graft, and now it is here, we wouldn’t want to take it for granted. We’re only second on the bill, so it’s not like we’re getting a big ego or anything. We’re here to win over the crowd, to prove a point, rather than act like a big band, that’s not us.
You’ve had some real high points along your career, such as playing Hellfest and Bloodstock. What’s next on your bucket list?
Tom: I’m sure everyone knows, but it’s Download. That’s been the dream.
Jak: That’s the one for us, because it’s in the UK and we used to go as kids, we were there a few years ago, so to have gone there as a fan and then to be there on stage would be amazing. I’d never been to Bloodstock before I played it, and Hellfest obviously not, so that’s not quite the same, but I think when you’ve been as a punter and then be on stage, that’d be special.
Tom: When I was a kid I had a diary and my dream was to got to Download festival, let alone play it, and then after that the next goal is to play America.
Although your album is fresh out the oven, have you thought about where your sound might go next? Any other genres you’d incorporate?
Jak: I don’t think we’d add so much, more refine. I think we already know what we might sound like on the next record, and I think it might surprise people, we might even go back on some sections, but where we are right now, I think we’re really happy with the sound.
Tom: We enjoy writing really lighter stuff so I think take a bit of a step in that direction, we’ve got a lot on the new record.
Jak: But we won’t take away heavy to add lithe, instead on an album with 10 heavy tracks, they’ll be 12 but with two lithe. We’ll never compromise.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to a young band starting out, what’d it be?
Tom: Just be yourself. Just do what you want to do and just stick to it. Don’t ever change for anyone, do whatever you think is right for your music and your sound.
Jak: My one piece of advice would be; don’t cut corners in any way, shape or form because you’ll always regret it. But if you do regret it, don’t worry because you learn from mistakes. But don’t cut corners…and don’t put something out because you are in a rush.