Not too far in the future, people will read about bands like October Drift in history books and ask, people really did this for a living? Play their favourite music with their best friends?
As bands battle the streaming giants for a living wage while treasured venues around the world shut the doors for good in their droves, the economics of being in a rock band have mostly been written in red recently, however passion and love for music, shows, creativity and togetherness still fire bands to keep doing what they believe in today despite whatever is thrown at them.
October Drift are four best friends from Taunton, Alex Bispham (bass), Chris Holmes (drums/vocals), Dan Young (guitar) and Kiran Roy (vocals/guitar). They’ve been in the game for long enough – half their entire lives – to know that the odds may be against them. But, if they’re among the last of their kind, they’re determined to win.
Taking inspiration from the work ethic of artists like Tyler, the Creator and Stormzy, October Drift forge on with side hustles and creative workarounds. It’s the fiery, DIY spirit that’s burned in the quartet since they started making music together, back in the mid-Noughties, aged just 13.
Back then Kiran and Dan wrote songs together, then Alex joined aged 14, the trio playing Jack Johnson, Ben Harper type surfer rock. Chris, who had been at nursery with Alex and was friends with Dan from primary days, was last to join two years later, with the band bonding over skateboarding as much as music at first.
As with most debuts, 2020’s Forever Whatever represented 5-10 years’ work, but they wrote its 2022 follow-up I Don’t Belong Anywhere in a much shorter, more intense time. Recording enough music for two albums, one more ethereal, the other more rock, they went with the latter. It’s a taut, visceral album, a step forward for the band into an even more powerful, brutal sound.
The album title is borrowed from an unfinished song, but its meaning resonates through every track. “A feeling of not belonging is something everyone feels or has felt,” explains Kiran. When the band couldn’t rehearse during lockdown, he wrote on acoustic guitar, assembling lyrics from scraps of conversations and various threads of thought. It wasn’t always easy when they did get back together, as they were producing themselves for the first time, without Justin Lockey (Editors) overseeing.
“We’re outsiders in terms of where we’re from,” Kiran points out. “We don’t have trouble fitting in, but we’ve never been part of any scene, we’re not really in the indie or the rock crowd, we’ve just built our fanbase organically.” Part of that means working the social media gulag, which the band have always bridled against, originally shunning it all together. Now they recognise it as a necessary part of promoting their work, while side-eyeing its effect on us all. The album lead single ‘Airborne Panic Attack’ particularly weighs up the deleterious, numbing weirdness of a world where cat videos and memes jostle for space on the TL with wars and climate crises. Kiran explains, “It’s an emotional, kneejerk reaction to climate change, social divisions, social media and the modern-day hardships of working people.”
Lyric writer Kiran feels strongly about it all, as a left-wing vegan who tries to keep the band’s merch as ethically sourced as possible, and thinks deeply about society, genealogy and history. Much of this comes through in the themes for the new album. Far less introspective than their debut, I Don’t Belong Anywhere is October Drift’s totem for bringing us all together again. The band bottle some of the wild lightning they find onstage communing with the fans and set it loose in the studio.
‘Webcam Funerals’ is one new song that mixes the personal and universal to devastating effect. Kiran wrote it about a good friend of his who died from cancer during lockdown. “This song was written at the time of losing a friend during the height of the pandemic and lockdown,” he remembers quietly. “She passed after a long battle with cancer. Her son, a very close friend of mine, was living with me at the time of the funeral. I watched online from my front room, while many others did the same from their homes. This song was a response to the strangeness and sadness of friends and family members not being able to be at the funeral or there for each other at that time."
The dark grungy single ‘Insects’ tackles belonging and growing up through life’s struggles. “It’s a coming-of-age song, about feeling life pull you in different directions,” says Kiran. “It’s about growing up but finding yourself smaller and more up against it than ever. I wrote the lyrics after visiting the Kelvingrove museum in Glasgow and seeing all the Victorian butterflies and beetles pinned up on display.”
The latter is reflected in lyrics of the powerful chorus as Kiran sings, “We’re still insects pinned to walls, trying to crawl, trying to crawl”.
Alienation and connection recur throughout the album. Kiran’s girlfriend lives hundreds of miles away, in Glasgow, and ‘Lost Without You’ wrestles with the difficulties and doubts of long-distance relationships. But where there may be bleak, self-scouring lyrics during songs like ‘Parasite’, about “feeling numb and being a burden”, they’re balanced both by the cathartic joy of October Drift’s muscular music, and more optimistic moments on ‘Ever After’, addressing “the powers of human connection”, and ‘Feels Like I’m Home’ about “keeping going even when it’s hard, about being there for each other,” Kiran points out about the track. “It takes the dark for us to see the stars.”
‘Bleed’ is the song that has spent longest in creation for I Don’t Belong Anywhere. A sombre atmospheric track playing like a cross between Interpol and alt-J, with haunting harmonies, cavernous guitars, sparse drums and bass, all building into a huge rock crescendo. The opening line is taken from Alice In Wonderland – everybody has won and all must have prizes.
“I think it’s about the process of opening yourself to others through music,” explains Kiran. “I’ve not always been very good at being open and expressing myself in person or in speech, always being the “I don’t mind” guy in most aspects of my life - until I’m on stage really. And it’s also about the comedown you can get with that.”
Self-managed and self-produced, they make their own videos, do their own art direction, drive themselves to as many gigs as their schedule allows. You suspect they’d press their own vinyl, if they could squeeze a pressing plant in the back of the van. Working in bowling alleys, bars, pubs, kitchens, supermarkets to support their main hustle, the band invested in an industrial estate studio of their own, which has started to pay for itself through time booked by other local bands. They’re planning to release an October Drift brew with the artisan coffee place next door and are thinking about opening a Taunton music venue too.
With nowhere suitable to play in Taunton, the band would end up on the road constantly. In the UK they’d play a gig for free, sleep in the van, wake up, drive, and repeat. At first there wasn’t even a van. Chris shudders to remember driving Kiran’s parents’ Peugeot back from a late show in Grimsby, only for his work alarm to go off on the M5, telling him it was time to get ready for his shift at Asda.
Through their hard graft however, October Drift now reap the rewards. Tours of Europe followed, a Glastonbury appearance, an Editors support tour. “Playing live is one area of the band we’ve got nailed,” says Alex. “People like us live and then get into the record after,” agrees Dan.
And now, as they prepare to release I Don’t Belong Anywhere, their ever-increasing live fanbase, coupled with the critical acclaim that they enjoyed with their debut album, means October Drift are poised to explode across 2022. It’s an album about connection, an album that’s truly from the heart, and rich with added layers of meaning.