Let's put it simply: Courting is currently one of the best bands in the United Kingdom. And let's hope they will be for a long time to come. Amongst other well-known and triumphant major bands, Courting do ‘the now’ like no other. Expect riffs, big chords, electronic production, and unexpected sonic ‘u-turns’ that make their debut album, Guitar Music, extremely exciting. And the best thing: now you can dance to a brilliant song while protesting against gentrification. There's only one quibble: the album is still impressive but too short (which can be a good thing too, to be fair). 
Their approach is the most interesting we've seen in years from any male band, to deconstruct rock. It is possible to make fun and really good music, in fact, it is possible to be able to create an album full of fantastic songs, put the struggles and attitude that young people manifest nowadays, and also have the ability to write beautiful and caring love songs.
“Why aren't people writing about paypigs?,” they certainly brought it to the table when asked about the traditional masculinity we tend to find in male bands. The album, Guitar Music, follows their recent critically acclaimed singles Loaded, Tennis and Jumper, as well as a string of festival appearances, including a sell-out performance on the Festival Republic stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, where the band threw several branded tennis balls into the audience.
While Tennis provided an early taste of this new musical evolution, Loaded (with an amazing music video directed by Thomas Harrington Rawle) and Jumper exemplify how the band is deconstructing their sonic template to playfully rebuild it while playing with new sounds, textures and compositional techniques. As for the latest single, Famous, they’re combining heavily affected guitars, electronic idiosyncrasies, anthemic choruses and sardonic lyrics about the tropes of modern life and growing up. The result is a song that portrays the band's musical direction and their focus on seeking to redefine what has come to be expected of modern guitar-based music. The whole album recreates a beautiful picture in which younger generations and their circumstances are cleverly represented by their innovative sound.
"We're writing a pop record and not trying to produce another bland indie record. I'd say it's a pop record," says Murphy-O'Neill. From Sophie to David Berman as major influences on the album, the most rock'n'roll thing you can do now is exactly that; to understand that pop music, like rock, is about attitude and emotion. Courting completely succeed in this respect; so, taking their sound, and their style to pop, they are as rock 'n' roll as you can be today. We had the chance to chat with Sean Murphy O’Neill and discussed all this, the process behind their best songs, being the answer to the current post-punk scene, and more. Enjoy! 
Hi Sean, how are you? You have been together with Josh, Connor and Sean as a band since 2018. Your first album, Guitar Music, has been out for a month now. How do you feel now that it's out in the world? 
So glad. I think the worst part of making a piece of art is having to sit on it. When we heard the masters back for the first time, we felt incredibly proud, but when you’ve then got to wait a year to see if other people like it as much as you do, that can prove difficult. It’s good to know that people see it in the same way that we do. 
"Our plan was to record a rock album and then ruin it.” You mentioned that in the press release of the album. I think you've done it and you've become even more rock in doing it. Congratulations. 
Thanks! I think we had a lot of fun saying we wanted to ‘ruin’ the record when we made it but in reality, we all just knew that it was more a case of reconstruction and making it feel more unique and enhanced. It was the ‘ruined’ version we pictured in our heads from the start of the writing process as how the record should sound. 
As it usually happens, when describing your work, many comparisons with other bands have been written, or the formula ‘another band meets this other band sound’ is often used. Is it true that when it comes to writing about music, comparisons are useful for the reader to get an idea of the music you’re talking about is. But they are useless and unfair, especially for new bands. That's why I didn't want to do it in the first place (you've been very clear about that on Twitter), but I can't help myself and I think of Late of The Pier or The Horrors (sorry). But not in the sense that you're similar to these bands, but more in the sense that your album reminded me of some of their work, as it really channels indie music and indie bands and the idea we have of them. So, more in the way you’ve created such a concept album. Is that fair enough?  
I’ve got no issue with drawing comparisons and contrasts between different bands. I only find it strange when people seem to suggest that our sound is only inspired by very current bands because people criticising m us can’t be bothered to search back for more interesting reference points. The idea that modern musicians only search back into the past 2 years for inspiration is silly. The idea that multiple new bands can’t be influenced by the same band from 30 years ago is also silly.
I think that all we are doing as a band is combining pop/modern technological influences with rock music. Bands that are inspired by older post-punk and no wave bands have a genuine limit to the amount of content and art they can be inspired by on a surface level as that era / scene has passed. Whereas in our case, being inspired by modern and constantly changing technology gives us a genuinely unlimited supply of influences. I feel like Late of the Pier did the same thing with the production techniques and electronic influences of 2008 when they released Fantasy Black Channel.
I remember that Pitchfork described that album by saying “Nu-rave may be over, but Late of the Pier make for a very compelling after-party band.” I feel like we are the similar answer to the current post-punk scene. Maybe slightly too late for the party but in this case we’re ready to take it somewhere else.   
Does the fact that you come from Liverpool intimidate or stimulate you? 
If I’m being honest, I feel as though it hardly affects me anymore. I love Liverpool, the city itself inspires me more than the music that has been released here in more recent years. We are inspired by wanting to create something genuinely timeless.  
I love that you were influenced by Sophie to do some of the songs on this record. I feel like her work was never acknowledged enough. But it's really interesting to see a band take inspiration from her work and create something so great. Were there any of her songs that were key to this for you? Did you get a chance to meet her? 
I love Sophie so much. I think in a time where people get bored listening to traditional song structures you need to keep an audience on their toes and Sophie achieved this by pushing every noise and sound as far as they could go, creating songs that could morph and shapeshift instead of simply flow. The perfect example of this for me is Hard, it is impossible to lose engagement with the track as it constantly flips the script. You can tell in her music that there is such a deep genuine love for pop music being fun and joyful. 
Similarly, I think that capital R ‘rock’ music should be bombastic and fun, and solicit an instant reaction from listeners. I think Sophie achieved that a lot better than most modern bands and we wanted to capture that same feeling.  
Unfortunately, we never got the chance to meet Sophie. When I was younger, I was at Reading Festival and unfortunately left a tent before she played as I was unaware of her music at the time. This decision has come to haunt me slightly as an adult. 
Guitar Music is about realising that you really love the music you hated when you were 13.” This is taken from their press release, and I think it's brilliant. It sort of captures the feeling that a lot of young people feel today about different things, but it's also such a poetic line. Has pop music become more respectable nowadays? Do you feel like you have come to terms with your teenage-selves? 
When I was 12, I loved Skrillex. When I was 15, I loved Arctic Monkeys and could’ve sworn that I had never liked Skrillex – now I can respect both artists. I think being a teenager, you try endlessly hard to make your musical taste nuanced and clever, but there's no real fun in that when you’re not in school anymore. Music should move you in some way in my opinion and I think any reaction is worth the same - regardless of whether or not the artist is wordy and arty or loud and fun. It is okay to change your mind on things and love a lot of different types of music.
I remember a study saying at one point you stop attempting to find new music and just listen to what you already know and love. I think when you’ve passed the ‘nuanced and clever’ era you then have a choice of whether to stay in that lane or try and expand your taste and appreciate more music. Obviously, both of these paths are fine but as a musician I think it’s definitely preferable to try and be constantly finding new music to love.  
The title of the album is a very interesting choice, as it questions the concept of bands making and playing ‘guitar music.’ At the same time, there have been a considerable number of years in which most music critics have held up the concept of guitar music as the most valid criteria for assessing music. It seems to me that one of the layers of meaning we can find in your work is this cultural commentary as part of the ideas and lyrics of your music. How did you decide to name the album this way? Had you recorded the music before or was it really a turning point in creating the album? 
Yeah, exactly. Honestly, I can’t remember where the name came from, but it stuck instantly and the songs and album were then sculpted around this name and concept. 
Guitar music is also a big heteronormative concept; pop music has always been much more inclusive, and this is probably one of the reasons why people and (male) critics are sometimes a bit harsh and don't take it seriously. Also, most of the bands that make guitar music have traditionally been boys and men. Why do you think it's hard for straight young men to like (or admit to liking) and enjoy some fun pop music? 
Maybe, yeah. I just think bands should feel exciting without feeling inaccessible and that’s what we’re trying to do. A lot of people who make guitar music in the boring sense are pulling inspirations from about 3 bands who most likely consist of all men and write very heteronormative songs about drinking, smoking and fucking. Why aren’t people writing about paypigs etc? I think you’ve got to push yourself to enjoy more music if you want to write exciting music. 
Loaded is one of those striking songs. You sing “And yeah, somewhere, yeah, yeah, somewhere in the Northern Quarter I picture piles of money falling from the sky,” and you talk about gentrification and the changing of cities and their identities. I can't think of a concept more relatable to so many cities around the world. Musically, the riff stands out, it's very cool but it also reminds me of a riff I've probably heard before in a Franz Ferdinand song (not sure if that was intentional). And also, your Spanish “Set your money on fire to see me, see me” is spot on. How did this song come about? 
This song took a while to happen but is mainly just the desire to actually create that ‘big’ rock song. I don't think it's intentional. I love bilingual call and response choruses and just thought it would be a lot of fun. The lyrics and the music are pretty separate in my head but I just wanted to write about what I was observing as I commuted constantly from Liverpool and London. The identities of cities, boroughs and streets is really interesting to me. I am really interested in car parks as a visual storytelling device and I'm not sure why. 
I love the David Berman/David Beckham juxtaposition in Famous – were you fans of the first David? 
I love his music and his poetry. There is quite a genuine earnestness to that line in my opinion. The hope that someone who’s art you love would love your art back feels akin to parental approval in some way. Rest in peace. 
Is Jumper the love song of the album? I feel like Uncanny Valley Forever is such a beautiful song and has its great moment on the record, but this one feels especially tender. “I'd do the dishes. You could kiss me while I do the dishes,” captures a very intimate, very domestic moment, and the rest of the song talks a lot about things like watching a movie with the one you love, going for a walk at night or even imagining scenarios together. 
Jumper is definitely the love song of the album. We wanted to walk the line of cheesy but be clever enough for it to still be good. The answer to the question “what if Busted were self-referential and pretentious?” We wanted to try and make the mundane seem very lovely. 
“I want you in analogue format forever” is a very enthralling line. Uncanny Valley Forever seems like a very emotional song, a tale influenced by dystopian times, almost like a Black Mirror chapter. And the production is quite hypnotic. I love the fact that we played it first without knowing its length. It's a delight. Can you tell us a little bit about the story behind the song? 
The narrative is about somebody falling deeply in love with a CGI influencer, or a drawing on some level. In a near-fatal car accident, the protagonist realises in some form of a breakdown that they were alone the whole time and that no real love could ever compare to what they felt in this situation. Chilling stuff. I think conceptually it’s a little bit silly really, so the challenge was to try and make it feel genuinely beautiful and heartfelt. I had to really try and method act the vocal performance. 
Crass is another highlight of the album. I wonder why it's the only song you've released before Guitar Music that you've included on the album, even though it's a new version. The beginning reminds me of some of the most popular poems in British literature, it's very folkloric. But somehow you bring it into the present and use references like “I think me and Kanye might still have sex” or the funny “Robbie's gone and I'm more than just the Jason from your damned Take That cover band.” Why did you decide to keep it on the album, and do you remember when and why you wrote it? 
In 2019, we used to call ourselves a Take That cover band and I’m not too sure why. The lyrics mainly came from excerpts from YouTube comments and forum posts and were cannibalised into crass. We felt that on our EP we were too scared to take it to the level of weird it is currently sat at. So, we felt to accomplish our mission statement that Crass would need a ‘do-over.’ I’m really proud of the Kanye line. 
You've talked about how you deconstruct your songs. How do you approach this process as a four-piece band? Is it difficult to reach the same point of satisfaction with the result of all the members deconstructing a song? 
These days we write all the songs together and I take on the role of an art director in some ways and work out how we should pull things together into a package. It has yet to feel difficult, but I think everyone has accepted I bring a level of control freak to the project. 
In recent years, Dry Cleaning, Sports Team, Black Country, New Road and of course Courting, have appeared. Is the UK indie scene really shaping up to have a generational moment?  
I hope so. I love all these bands so much. 
Lizz Truss is gone, so what now, how do you feel about the current political climate in the UK? 
Fuck the Tories. 
For a band whose debut album came out a month ago, I guess the pandemic may have affected the timing or even the process of making the record. It has definitely affected the music industry in many ways (live is becoming a real struggle for many bands) but I wonder what it was like for you guys to experience this when you were about to create the band's first album. 
It was surprisingly nice that we had time away from shows and working on live to actually just write the album that we wanted to make. I felt there was less pressure as we weren’t doing anything. Writing the second record whilst being this busy is proving hard. 
What are your plans for the immediate future, is there more music on the way? 
Lp2 as soon as it’s good and ready.
Alex Bex Courting Press Photos Jpg 18.jpg