It was only a few months ago that I was first exposed to the impressive debut from London trio Big Hug. Having been late to the party, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the band was about to follow-up with a new four-song EP, A Living You'll Never Know, which continues to explore an excellently mathy form of emo/indie rock that strikes the perfect balance between rhythmic quirks, textural shimmer, and fluid vocals. The material somehow feels relaxed and punchy all at once, sure to please fans of the genre's classic essence as well as those more fond of its contemporary twists.
So, of course I'm excited for the opportunity to premiere Big Hug's first new single, "Cruellemonde de la Hi Fi." Stream below, followed by a chat with the band:
I'll start with a "boring," standard question simply because I know almost nothing about Big Hug. You all followed me on Instagram at one point and I checked out your first EP and was totally into it, but I haven't really encountered any background info. How and when did the band come together, have you all been in other projects prior, etc.?
Owain: Tom and I are mates from home—we were in several bands previously back in Cardiff [Wales]. I met Henry at university, so obviously I am the LINCHPIN having introduced the other two, so all of this is down to ME.
Tom: We've all been involved in other bands in some way, shape, or form. Me and Owain kicked it off about two-and-a-half years ago. We've been friends for years and played together when we were about 20. Owain last played in a band called Royal Fisticuffs, and I played in a band called Human Heat and briefly with The Doublecross, moving to London a few years ago. Henry hadn't played for a good while, and he joined up with us a couple of months after we started.
Your style strikes me as an interesting blend of "traditional" emo/indie in that sort of classic '90s sense, but it's very mathy in terms of the subtle technicality to the rhythms and arrangements. I have some vague awareness that there's a bit of a "scene" for that, though it's not something that I could speak intelligently about. Was this a direction that you all aimed for from the start, or did the sound just fall into place?
Tom: '90s/'00s emo/indie is a huge influence, but so is the mathy stuff, too. I find that the emo/indie rock is the core of it, and the mathy stuff just builds naturally on top without feeling too forced. I think, generally speaking, emo music—and in particular post-hardcore—lends itself well to those angular and mathy flourishes and rhythms, which is probably why there's still a scene for it.
Owain: Watkins is probably better-placed to answer this, but I think that it's a natural sound that we've all been into over the years, and Big Hug has largely just refined that. I think the formula of our songs comprises big hooks and then interesting instrumental parts that speak to the influences described above—there's definitely a scene growing around that where we are (e.g. Lakes, Yacht Club).
A Living You'll Never Know represents your second time working with Tom Hill at Bookhouse Studios. The new material feels a touch brighter and clearer, though slightly more restrained in terms of guitar textures. You all being a trio is great because it really lets each instrument—and the vocal harmonies—breathe. What was the recording experience like this time around, and what kinds of changes did you have in mind compared to your debut?
Henry: So, with the first EP, we recorded it across two sessions five months apart, which I think definitely informed how the EP ended up sounding. But this time around we got everything done within a month, and I think we had a clearer idea of how we wanted it to sound. Plus, we had played a bunch of shows with Tom [Hill]'s band, Muttering (who you should definitely check out), in between recording the two EPs, which I think helped us to relax a little bit more.
Owain: It felt very fluid. Tom's always great to work with, but this one felt more seamless, really. I think we wanted this one to sound a bit bigger given the nature of the tracks, and that's definitely what Tom has delivered. Definitely agree with the point around instrumentation—feels more "spacious," certainly.
Tom: There was definitely an effort to vary the guitars a bit more this time, with additional guitar lines and overdubs. Whereas for the first EP the guitar lines were just doubled up, and weren't really expanded beyond that too much. The recording of the first EP was the first time in a long time for us all in the studio, and we also recorded it in chunks, so there was definitely a sense of blowing off cobwebs a bit. This time around, we were back in with Tom, had a really similar approach, but were just all around more comfortable and ready to go, and so I think because of that it sounds a bit more natural and focused than the first EP.
The song we'll be premiering is "Cruellemonde de la Hi Fi," which is a great representation of Big Hug's overall approach. Share a bit about this track in particular.
Owain: I think this is the apotheosis of the Big Hug sound: big riffs, slightly angular but poppy, and with some interesting guitar features.
Tom: I think, as mentioned above, it's got a '90s emo/indie vibe, as well as a bit of an angular/math rock thing. It was definitely a conscious effort to blend those two together. When I went to write the lyrics, I had just read a book called Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, where he argues that something like 50% of all jobs bring absolutely no value to society, and speaks to people who think their jobs are utterly pointless. I just found it both sad and funny that not only do plenty of people hate their jobs, but many of us think they are utterly pointless and shouldn't exist. Maybe more sad than funny, then.
The first EP was digital-only, will the same be true for this forthcoming EP; or have any plans taken shape for a tangible, physical release at some point in the future?
Henry: We don't have any plans for anything physical for this EP, but it's definitely something we'd like to explore in the future—whether it's vinyl or cassettes.
Owain: Thoroughly agree. Would love to be able to put out a vinyl offering!
Tom: As above!
A Living You'll Never Know is coming out pretty much exactly one year after Don't Threaten Me With a Good Time. Will we have to wait another 12 months for your next set of new tunes?
Henry: I think 12 months between releases was frankly torture, so I'd love it if we could get something out in the second half of the year. I'm really keen to explore doing a split of some kind, but with like four bands: maybe two bands from the U.K. and a couple from the U.S.—the transatlantic emo mega-split the world didn't realize it needed.
Tom: That would be the coolest. The more bands the better!