Change is good. Change is important. Change is the enemy of stagnation, a vital means to keep things fresh, innovative and exciting. For TAX THE HEAT, ‘change’ means something else too. The title track of the acclaimed British band’s stunning new album, »Change Your Position«, sees them addressing the turbulent state of the world right now and the very real impact it is having on people. “It’s looking at division in society and people using it as an excuse to do wrong and say wrong,” says singer and guitarist Alex Veale. “It’s saying, ‘Look, change your position.’ It’s holding up a mirror to things.” Fittingly, »Change Your Position« - recorded once again with maverick producerEvansson - represents a huge leap forward for TAX THE HEAT, who are completed by guitarist JP Jacyshyn, bassistAntonio Angotti and drummer Jack Taylor.
The Bristol band’s brilliantly received debut album, 2016’s »Fed To The Lions«, established them as one of the most electrifying new bands in the country. »Change Your Position« does more than just build what they achieved with that record. It pushes the TAX THE HEAT sound to the next level, adding a razor-sharp modern edge to their rock ’n’ roll approach. “In my mind, this is what a modern guitar band would sound like,” says Alex. “We’re influenced by so many different genres. It’s no secret that guitar music is struggling generally. We’re on a mission to help keep it alive and well.”
On that front, they’ve more than succeeded. Stellar new songs such as electrifying album opener 'Money In The Bank', 'All That Medicine', the instant classic title track and epic closer 'The Symphony Has Begun' showcase a band brimming with confidence, humour and A-list songwriting skills. The band put this evolution down to the intensive touring that followed the release of »Fed To The Lions«. As well as further honing their musical instincts, the road-work also brought them even closer as a band.
“That always was the case,” adds Alex, “but time and touring has made our understanding of each other even stronger. Anyone’s first record is created over time. With this one, the four of us went into a room with a vision of what we wanted to create.” The influences they have drawn on - from groundbreaking modern icons QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and WHITE DENIM to such eternal visionaries as DAVID BOWIE and PRINCE - were uniformly contemporary, though the end result is uniquely TAX THE HEAT.
The new songs came surprisingly easily, and the band sent a handful of rough demos to producer Evansson. Alexadmits that he fully expected the producer to be hyper-critical but the opposite happened. “He phoned me up and said, ‘These are brilliant’,” says Alex. “And as soon as he said that, we felt so relieved. That’s when we started writing all kinds of stuff, sending ideas back and forth to him. It was the song 'All That Medicine' that really made us realise we were on to something special. It has a quirky riff but still has a big chorus. It felt like things were moving forward.”
The band recorded the new album at The Chairworks Studio in Castleford, West Yorkshire, with extra work done atEvansson’s own studio in Wiltshire. The bond that was initially forged with the producer on »Fed To The Lions«remains so strong that Alex and Jack call him “the extra member of TAX THE HEAT.” “We know we can rely on him, we know he brings such great energy to the table,” says Jack. TAX THE HEAT had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve with »Change Your Position«. The most important thing was that it captured the incendiary energy of their live shows. They insisted on recording it with all four members standing in one room, playing their instruments together, looking each other in the eye. “We primarily see ourselves as a live band,” says Jack. “That’s what we write the music for - to get out and play all these shows. That gives us a clear idea of how we want our songs to sound. And these songs were designed to be played live.”
That energy and the sense of joyous camaraderie that fuels it runs deep through »Change Your Position«. It’s one of the things which links the muscular, gut-level punch of 'Money In The Bank', the pedal-to-the-floor rush of 'On The Run', the glam rock-esque stomp of 'My Headspace' and the uplifting 'Cut Your Chains', which possesses the sort of anthemic chorus that wouldn’t have sounded out of place during the Britpop era. While TAX THE HEAT haven’t completely jettisoned their old sound, »Change Your Position« has its eyes resolutely fixed forward.
Alex and Jack cite the sudden and unexpected deaths of DAVID BOWIE and PRINCE as partial catalysts for the new album. Both had an undoubted musical influence on TAX THE HEAT - Alex says that he immersed himself inBOWIE’s »Young Americans« after his passing, while the band covered PRINCE’s 'Bambi'. But it was those legendary figures’ single-minded artistic vision that proved an even bigger inspiration.
“It’s utterly inspiring when you see how they built these amazing careers purely by going against the grain,” says Alex.“It does make you think, ‘Let’s do what we want to do, not what we’re expected to do.’ I took the approach in my head, what would we do if we’re only going to make one more album? It’s kind of not really giving a shit about anything other making it as good as it possibly could be.”
While TAX THE HEAT insist they’re a non-political band, it’s impossible to separate any album from what is happening in the wider world. The world is in turmoil, politically and socially, and that turbulence has inevitably found its way onto»Change Your Position«, from the title downwards. “There are a crazy amount of things going on, and it’s definitely inspired us in a weird way,” says Alex. “I was at the gym, of all places, where Donald Trump’s inauguration was on the TV, and literally the first two verses of »Change Your Position« came into my head. I thought, ‘I’ve got to write that down.’ Stuff like that and Brexit and the divisions in society are hard to ignore.”
The flipside of that is 'On The Run', an outlaw anthem that crackles with a kind of escapist romance and features such lyrics as: “Now the fuzz are on our tracks, eating razorblades for snacks.” Another song, 'Cut Your Chains', came from a more personal place. It was inspired by a friend of the band who had opted to live a gender-neutral lifestyle. “We went to the pub with them, and they were telling us how they had been feeling about all of this stuff and all these battles in their head,” says Alex. “I came home and started scribbling stuff down, and it turned into this cool song. To anybody else, 'Cut Your Chains' is just about being free and doing your own thing, but it came from somewhere deeper.”
For TAX THE HEAT, everything they do - the songs, the choruses, the style that gives them the kind of striking visual dimension every great band requires - comes down to one thing: the live experience. “The best part about music is seeing bands play live,” says Jack. “It’s what THE BEATLES and the STONES and those other great bands were doing back in the 60s. It’s what THE HIVES and THE BRONX and other electrifying live bands which inspired us more recently were doing. We’re creating music for people who want to go and experience that.” These aren’t just hollow words and empty gestures. With »Change Your Position«, TAX THE HEAT have delivered one of the greatest albums of the year. The future is safe in their hands.