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U.K. trio The Molotovs prove that rock is alive and well with teenage generation

The London-based teenage trio discuss style, songwriting, politics, live performance and other topics in this wide-ranging Q&A.
The Molotovs are (left to right) drummer Ice, vocalist/guitarist Mathew and bassist/vocalist Issey Carts. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

The Molotovs are (left to right) drummer Ice, vocalist/guitarist Mathew and bassist/vocalist Issey Carts. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

By John Curley

I first became acquainted with the young London-based three-piece band The Molotovs when I saw them perform at the This Is The Modern World exhibition at Valley Gardens in Brighton, England on Monday, August 29th, and I spoke with each of the three band members before and after that performance. I found them all to be interesting, introspective, engaging and very focused and determined to make their band a success. I came away being quite impressed with drummer Ice, vocalist/guitarist Mathew and bassist/vocalist Issey Carts as people as well as performers. I believe that Goldmine’s readers will feel similarly after reading the exclusive Q&A with the band that follows.

  

GOLDMINE: How long have each of you been playing your instrument? And is there a musician who has influenced your playing style?
MATHEW: I’ve been practicing guitar for about eight years, but I first got really into playing when I started listening to Green Day. I began to hold my guitar low like Billie Joe Armstrong, but as I got older, I’d watch and listen to a broader range of music and bands and was influenced by the playing styles of Paul Weller, Wilko Johnson from Dr. Feelgood and The Who’s Pete Townshend.
ISSEY CARTS: I started learning guitar at school about eight years ago and took up playing the bass when I joined a band at school. I was influenced musically by The Libertines, The Smiths and Arctic Monkeys. Mathew introduced me to many other bands and when we finally started rehearsing together, I became influenced by the playing styles of the bassists in many of the bands we were covering.
ICE: I’ve been playing drums for almost 10 years now and always quite liked Taylor Hawkins. It’s sad now that I’ll never see him play live.

GOLDMINE: How did the band come together?
ICE:
We were all in different bands before getting together but because of the COVID pandemic, all the bands stopped playing or rehearsing together. I knew Mathew was actively getting himself out there busking and Issey Carts had started to join him when he went out and played. As busking was technically still allowed during lockdown in the U.K. and I knew that Issey and Mathew were still performing around London, I thought I’d drop Issey a message to ask if she and Mathew wanted a drummer. I quickly learnt some of the cover songs they were doing and soon was regularly out busking on the streets with them.

GOLDMINE: Are you all still attending school?
MATHEW:
Under sufferance, yes! Few more years to go. Our number one priority will always be the band.

GOLDMINE: Since you are siblings, Mathew and Issey, did you play together a lot during the pandemic lockdown period? And did you write any songs during that time?
ISSEY CARTS: Mentally, lockdown was really hard for me, so playing music with Mathew helped. We’d also listen to a lot of music together such as The Libertines, Smiths, Cure, Arctics, Blur, Oasis, etc. My dad always had music on in the car and some of the sounds from the 60s and 70s also influenced us. We jammed on many of those bands’ songs together and Mathew certainly used much of his down time writing new material. We had plenty of time to develop new stuff together.
MATHEW: Remote schooling was difficult, and I thought it a waste of time for most subjects. As the online teaching was so poor, I basically logged out and spent my time doing what I enjoyed: skateboarding and playing/writing music. It felt like the lockdowns would never end and as a new band, it was really frustrating as we’d been starting to get venue gigs booked which kept being cancelled. As a band we did firmly exercise our right to keep working during lockdown by continuing to busk. We had a few run-ins with the police, but we were determined we weren’t going to be bullied into not being able to exercise our right to work and perform. What we really wanted, though, was to get back to playing venues. “Newsflash” is a song I wrote about lockdown and the government’s response to the situation. It really felt like the needs of young people had been forgotten and many people I knew were struggling with their mental health. Young people didn’t seem to have a voice and I thought that any dissent was being suppressed.

GOLDMINE: The playing style of all three of you is quite demonstrative. Did that develop over time?
ISSEY CARTS: Again, we were influenced by the bands and artists whose music we were covering. The vast majority of those bands were pretty energetic, and they played with real passion. We are all pretty lively ourselves, so it was almost inevitable that we’d end up playing with real intensity. The female lead singer from The Courettes has had a major impact on me and they are certainly a band to watch in the near future. Ice often stands up while she plays drums and swings herself around as much as she can. She’s not quite as mad as Keith Moon, though!
ICE: To a certain extent the number of gigs we’ve played has helped develop our style – so far, we’ve played over 140 gigs since forming in July 2020 and there has been a load of rehearsals on top of that! Over time you become more confident and become braver at trying out new things on stage.
I’d like to think I'm pretty demonstrative when I play as I feel I'm totally immersed onstage.
MATHEW: Our stagecraft has definitely improved and developed and we’re each always thinking about how we can visually improve our performance. The high tempo and energetic songs we play make us perform the way we do, too. We like to surprise each other with what we do onstage, to make it fun for us and the audience. I like jumping in ways I’ve seen from Paul Weller when he was in The Jam and Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. Issey is starting to enjoy walking into the crowd or standing on tables when she plays the bass and she’s picked that up from going out to see other bands play live.

The Molotovs are seen here performing at the final day of the This Is The Modern World exhibition in Brighton, England on Monday, August 29th. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

The Molotovs are seen here performing at the final day of the This Is The Modern World exhibition in Brighton, England on Monday, August 29th. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

GOLDMINE: I first became aware of the band through the social media posts of the photographer Derek D’Souza that featured shots of the band at live gigs as well as images from photo shoots that he’s done with the band. Given Derek’s background, having photographed The Jam and many other bands, what does the support of Derek mean to the band?
ISSEY CARTS: We love having Derek take photos of us at gigs. We’ve got to know him so well; he now seems to be a real part of the band. He’s really smiley and funny, and it’s great having him as part of our ‘crowd’ — especially as we had heard about him before he knew us as our dad is a massive Jam fan and he’s had Derek’s books in pride of place on our coffee table since we were young.
MATHEW: Also, having someone who is as good as Derek interested in us is really special. He loves live music and has always taken photos because he loves that, too. When we see the photos that he’s taken of other famous bands, we feel lucky that he thinks us good enough for him to give us his time. I have now built up a real rapport with Derek, so much so that he more or less knows when I’m going to do one of my jumps. He seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to his timing of a good shot.

GOLDMINE: One of the photo shoots that Derek did with the band was at The Modfather clothing store in Camden Market. And the band often wears Mod gear during live performances. What does the Mod aesthetic mean to each of you?
MATHEW: When we started busking, we wanted to stand out from the crowd. Most buskers look like . . . well, buskers! We wanted people to take us seriously almost from the off, as we were ambitious and wanted to be playing LIVE venues. As we were younger than most, it was important for us to look sharp and professional. Almost all successful bands have a decent image, and we want people to remember us. We like a mix of Mod, Britpop, post-punk looks, and we try to mix it up. We don’t necessarily want to be just pigeon-holed as a Mod or post-punk band. Obviously, those bands have influenced us massively, but we’d like to think given time, we’ll be developing the look along with our music.
ISSEY CARTS: When I think of Mod, I think of clothes that are clean cut and sharp — they stand out. Photos of Twiggy in the 60s are on my Pinterest mood board. I am constantly on the lookout for ideas and shops such as Modfather and Sherry’s in Soho have been invaluable in helping us with our style. At present, we feel our music is very hard-edged, sharp and minimal. We feel our aesthetic reflects that.
ICE: I've always been pretty relaxed about the image side of things, but it was great doing the photoshoot with Derek and the team from Modfather. We’ve had a lot of fun playing with different clothes and footwear. Many people we meet at gigs comment upon our styling. I guess it pays off as we constantly get recognized when we’re out and about.

GOLDMINE: Could you discuss the band’s songwriting process?
MATHEW: I’ve been writing songs for years before we were a band together. Usually, it’s a chord progression or a riff that really interests me and then the lyrics tend to follow. Melodies come into my head and the song follows, sometimes using lyrics from a songwriting book I’ve been jotting ideas down in for years. Sometimes, I start a new song from the beginning. When I think I have enough to work with, I show the song to the band, and we rehearse it. I’m really proud of the songs I’ve written so far, like “Newsflash” and “Victims of a Ballroom Dance” but I’m now really excited by our new songs like “Jack In The Box” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” I have loads more, too, it’s just finding time to expand on the lyrics and develop the sound. We have road tested most of the songs I’ve written LIVE and so far, they’ve been very well received.
ISSEY CARTS: Mathew’s always writing and constantly brings new ideas to the table. Ice and I work hard in the studio with him in order to get them gig ready. Mathew is usually pretty clear about what he wants and as a rhythm section, it’s our job to make sure we do the song justice.

GOLDMINE: I listened to the four demo tracks on the band’s SoundCloud page – “Party on the Weekend,” “Victims of a Ballroom Dance,” “Newsflash” and “More More More” — and they brought to mind ‘90s alt rock. “More More More,” in particular, sounds like it could be a track on Green Day’s Dookie album. Were you influenced by the alt-rock bands of the 1990s?
MATHEW: Sure was! Green Day was my first love in music and got me interested in learning to play electric guitar – I’d mainly played acoustic before that. They even helped encourage me to read more when I was younger because I wanted to know all about the band and all the words to their songs. Dookie, I loved and bought it on both vinyl and CD. From being a Green Day fan, I started listening to bands like Sum 41 and then bands that Green Day were influenced by, such as The Clash, Pistols, Ramones, Operation Ivy, etc. I was also put onto bands like Blink182 and The Offspring. I guess I’ve always liked that kind of thing.
ISSEY CARTS: I used to listen to quite a bit of Green Day as Mathew was playing their albums constantly when he was younger. His early songwriting was certainly influenced by them. I guess Mathew and I have similar tastes music wise and we’re always introducing each other to new bands.
ICE: We do a cover of “American Idiot” in our set which always goes down well. I really like the drums on that track, so it’s a particular favorite of mine.

GOLDMINE: Speaking of Green Day, I saw your social media post that you attended Green Day’s show at the London Stadium and that Billie Joe Armstrong gave The Molotovs a shout out from the stage. How did that come to pass?
ISSEY CARTS: We couldn’t believe that! We had no idea how that happened? Mathew and I had tickets right at the back of the stadium, but we thought we might as well try to blag our way into the mosh pit and fortunately for us, it worked! Mathew made a “pick me” sign for the concert because we’ve watched so many Green Day videos online and knew that Billie Joe often picks someone out of the audience to go up on stage and play a song with him.
MATHEW: We were almost right up the front and I had my sign held up for a lot of the concert. I guess that he saw it or someone from the road crew saw it and recognized me and Issey. We don’t really know, but I was so gutted when he was speaking to me and then someone else was brought onstage by the security guards. I can’t even watch the video of it —I was so close and missed out! I knew all the songs that he picked to play!

GOLDMINE: You supported The Libertines at London’s Kentish Town Forum in December of last year and have posted several videos from that gig to YouTube. How did you land that support slot?
MATHEW: We are all Libertines fans and when the second lockdown was over, we went and stayed in The Libertines’ hotel — The Albion Rooms — in Margate, which is also their HQ. We were going to busk on the promenade but got chatting with the manager who was also massively into his music. He told us that the recording studio in the hotel was available, and we were free to use it to rehearse if we wanted? Of course, we jumped at the chance and as it happened, Carl Barat was passing by with his wife and kids and they came in to listen to us playing some of our original songs. From there, we got chatting to him in the bar and he asked if we’d like a support slot on their Giddy Up A Ding-Dong tour.
ICE: We couldn’t believe he was serious! Of course, we said yes and kept our fingers crossed it would happen, which fortunately it did.

GOLDMINE: How would each of you describe the band’s style?
MATHEW:
Up and at ‘em!
ISSEY CARTS: Short, sharp sets with blistering guitar, rumbling bass and driving drums.
ICE: Fast and furious, with big drums!

GOLDMINE: What other up-and-coming London-based bands and solo artists would you recommend for Goldmine’s readers to check out?
MATHEW: Gingerella get my vote – love seeing them live!
ISSEY CARTS: I saw a band at Reading Festival called Dead Letter that are really cool – post-punk, political band.

GOLDMINE: Have you met any of your musical heroes? If so, who are they and what did that mean to you?
ISSEY CARTS:
I’m a huge Libertines fan and they were the band that drew me into music when I was younger, so meeting Carl Barat was a bit exciting. Being asked to support them on tour was unbelievable!
MATHEW: Paul Weller recognized us in Notting Hill one day when we were walking around promoting a gig we were doing that afternoon — that was pretty cool! He knew that I played the guitar and Issey the bass because someone had sent him a video of us playing a few months back at Millwall Football Club. We never would have imagined Paul Weller would have been aware of who we are!
ICE: I missed out on meeting Paul Weller, but we’ve all met The Libertines backstage when we supported them. They’re really cool guys.

The Molotovs are pictured here during their headline set at the club The Spice of Life in Soho, London on Saturday, September 3rd. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

The Molotovs are pictured here during their headline set at the club The Spice of Life in Soho, London on Saturday, September 3rd. (Photograph courtesy of ©Derek D’Souza at www.derekdsouzaphotography.com, Instagram #derekdsouza)

GOLDMINE: When I was a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I was listening to a lot of English bands that were quite political. The Jam, The Clash, The Specials and The English Beat were among those bands. Do you consider The Molotovs to be a political band? And why do you think that young English bands these days are not nearly as political as the bands that I mentioned above?
MATHEW: We love all the bands you mentioned, and we do covers of some Jam and Clash songs. I don’t think we've set out to be a political band or to be punk, but I can see why some people think we are with songs we have like “Newsflash” which is about us having our civil liberties being taken away. We also weren’t scared to keep busking during lockdown as we were allowed to do so, even though the police stopped us one day in Brixton and issued fines, which we didn’t pay as we challenged them and they were then dropped for being wrongly issued. I am more drawn to bands with political or social commentary types of lyrics. I suppose it was always going to rub off on my songwriting and I will certainly be looking to write lyrics with real substance.
ISSEY CARTS: We don’t like to be bullied and it was like we were being bullied by the police and the government during lockdown. Certain people were enjoying their power and there was a lot of social shaming going on. Our parents have always taught us to stand up for our rights, whether at school or wherever we are, and to look out for people who might not be treated fairly by people in authority. We support the U.K. human rights charity Liberty and the good work they do. As Mathew says, we are obviously influenced by the bands you’ve mentioned.
ICE: We were also really happy to be asked to play at an Extinction Rebellion afterparty in London on the final day of the recent protests. While we haven’t actively taken part in any ER protests yet, we do support the need for action to be taken on environmental issues. We hope the government takes action to ensure the environment is protected and we firmly believe in the right to protest. It all ties in with the school strikes Greta Thunburg organized around the world, which Issey and I took part in before lockdown. Maybe fewer bands are political now, but we think it’s important for young people to make their voices heard. Our generation is often accused of being too apathetic, so perhaps now’s the time to raise awareness? We also wrote to our local MP during lockdown to support a cut in VAT for the live music industry to help it recover after so long in lockdown. We felt artists were being disproportionately affected and penalized by the government’s mandates and therefore it is important for us to lobby our MP. Although we’re still at school and not yet making a living from music, we think it's important that the government takes our industry seriously. They are more than happy to tax musicians.

GOLDMINE: The band recently performed its first overseas gigs in France. What was that experience like and how did the audiences treat you there? Has Brexit made it more difficult for bands from the U.K. to perform in other European countries?
ICE: The French really got behind the energy of our gigs and were a great audience! I think they liked our British outfits, too, as they wouldn't see many of them around.
ISSEY CARTS: We played at campsites and riverside bars, so the Brexit licensing didn’t affect us. But we would like to go back to France again and also to other countries in Europe, but we’ve heard visas can make it much more difficult now. I guess we'll find out about the process once we have a European tour booked.
MATHEW Brexit is such an own goal, it seems like we’ve gone backwards. I know some older people who voted for it, now regret it. I also know some other people who wanted it and think it’s a good thing. Many are retired and they probably think things won’t affect the rest of their lives too much. For young people, though, it could have serious consequences. I have always felt more European than British. I like other cultures and I’m interested in how other countries do things. It’d be a shame if the U.K. became more isolated from Europe.

GOLDMINE: Has a release date for the EP been set yet?
MATHEW: Not yet, just making the finishing touches now. I wish it would hurry up because I want to get onto making a full album!

GOLDMINE: Do you have any long-range plans to tour in North America?
ISSEY CARTS: We’d jump and leap at the opportunity to play in America!
ICE: We were invited to play in New York this year, but we couldn’t make it out there as we were already booked. We hope next year we have the opportunity again as we’ll jump at the chance.
MATHEW: If you know any venues that would like to book us then let us know! We are open to most opportunities and the U.K. isn’t the extent of our ambitions.

GOLDMINE: What are the band’s plans for the remainder of this year and into 2023?
MATHEW: Our priority this year was to gig as much as we could to build a live following and attract fans through social media. We have been gigging at least two to three times a week and there have been some weeks when we have played as much as four to five! We love doing it and will keep it up next year and hopefully gig more further afield across the U.K. We will be putting time aside in 2023 for writing, rehearsing and developing more of our own material.

GOLDMINE: What bands and solo artists are each of you listening to at the moment?
MATHEW: Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Turnstile, Pulp, Beach Boys, Sports Team, King Nun.
ISSEY CARTS: The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, Suede, The Smiths, Black Honey, Blondie.
ICE: I'm listening to some incredible Turkish artists. My taste is pretty eclectic and wide ranging. Anything with a good drum sound, really.

GOLDMINE: Are any or all of you involved in other artistic projects outside the band?
ISSEY CARTS: Our commitment to the band takes up so much of our time that there’s very little room for anything else. We’re really lucky to live in London as we can get out to see so many live bands. There’s a great scene out there at the moment and I almost enjoy being in the audience as much as being onstage.
MATHEW: Most of my time is taken up with gigging, rehearsing and writing new material. Like Issey, my other main interest is going out to see other up-and-coming bands. We’ve got to know loads of people on the London circuit and we support each other. I suppose the band is all consuming.

GOLDMINE: The band’s logo is fantastic! Very pop art. Who designed it? And are T-shirts featuring the logo available?
Mathew:
Someone we know has a friend we only know as Tumbleweed, and he knocked up a few logos for us to choose from. With us playing more and more gigs we thought it was about time we got a logo professionally done. We wanted something bold and eye-catching and a little retro in a pop art kind way. We are sourcing merchandise – T-shirts, badges, etc., as we are being asked for them all the time. Would you like a free T-shirt when we do get them?

For additional information on The Molotovs, go to:
https://www.facebook.com/TheMolotovsLondon
https://www.instagram.com/themolotovs/

Goldmine’s live review of The Molotovs’ performances at the This Is The Modern World exhibition in Brighton, England on Monday, August 29th and at The Spice of Life in Soho, London, England on Saturday, September 3rd can be read at https://www.goldminemag.com/reviews/the-molotovs-perform-outstanding-sets-in-brighton-and-london.

Several videos of The Molotovs performing original songs live can be seen below.

“Jack In The Box” live in Margate, England in August 2022:

“Newsflash” live in London in January 2022:

“More More More” live in London in January 2022:

“Victims of a Ballroom Dance” live in London in December 2021:

Drone footage of The Molotovs’ rooftop gig in London in May 2022, soundtracked by “More More More,” can be seen below:

The Molotovs’ drummer Ice is also involved in creating electronic music. At age 14, she wrote the score for the “School’s Out” segment of the film Impact 50. She won the Best Music award for her score and received the award at the red-carpet Impact 50 Awards at the Genesis Cinema in London on May 31st. Ice’s score for "School’s Out" can be heard below:

  

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