Triptych: Glaswegian ‘scrunge’, soaked in fuzz
It’s laundry day, and flapping around outside on my washing line is a visual representation of the kind of music I identify with the most. An array of unbodied, vintage plaid shirts, a selection of worn-in denim jeans, complete with knee-windows and a couple of band T-shirts,. The only item missing from my uniform are the Chuck Taylors… obviously, it would be sacrilege to clean those.
As with many grunge relics; the music collections have likely diversified over the years, though the wardrobe will have remained largely unchanged since the mid ‘90s which, given the recent resurgence of ‘grunge aesthetic’, must mean we’re finally (begrudgingly) in fashion! But whether our threads are ‘on fleek’ or not is beside the point. The point is that there’s a whiff in the air that… smells like grunge, (great news for Converse and Dr Martens).
I’m not going to debate the origins of the term – whether it’s ‘grunge’, ‘pure-grunge’ or other labels we could sew on it… it’s just terribly exciting that there’s a fresh spawning of noisy, ‘90s-esque, devil-may-care type bands coming through with just the right ingredients, at just the right time to cause a bit of a stir for those who are (as my esteemed IAMUR colleague Rick said this week) “tired of plastic soulless music, and crave dirty amps and real drummers hitting actual snares and toms and kicks.”
We’re well accustomed to death and rebirth within popular culture, and to quote author Stephen King, “sooner or later, everything old is new again.” If I believed in God, I’d be waiting for the second coming. I believe in grunge… and my prayers have been answered, for which Grunge Pop Records deserves much credit, not least for hiring Sub Pop Records co-founder, Bruce Pavitt!
They’re a label with an incredible roster, an unswerving determination to put sounds of the Seattle grunge scene back into the ears of the unbathed, and one that champions bands aligned with that goal – such as Triptych, a three-piece ‘scrunge’ (more on that later) band founded in Glasgow by school friends Finn Hennessy (vocals and guitar), Jake Bhattacharyya (bass), and Matt Cunningham (drums).
Self-styled as “the new rock sound of Glasgow”, Triptych take inspiration from fellow Scots Biffy Clyro, along with the likes of Police Club, Delta Sleep, Fugazi and Nirvana. They describe their style as a fusion of “off-time rhythmic meters and progressive math rock ideals” to merge new alt-indie and post-alt grunge, which punches through in their March release ‘It’s Lonely Being An Astronauts Cat’, with At The Drive In meets My Vitriol vibes evidenced in their debut single, ‘You Say Jump, I Say How High’ from the beginning of the year, and ‘I Made Too Much Pasta’ released in May.
With just four single releases to date, each delivering ferocious uppercuts soaked in fuzz, and well-tanned hides, the energy and chemistry between Finn, Jake and Matt is palpable, and the unrelenting pace undoubtedly makes for epic live performances, something I’m absolutely looking forward to this year.
With a multi-album deal in the bag with Grunge Pop Records, their debut album on the way, and a slew of live shows under their belt, including their stint supporting Fangclub a few years back, Triptych are starting to see all the hard graft pay off. We caught up with the band to talk about how they arrived at their ‘scrunge’ musical style, how they’ve developed as a band over the years, and whether there’s scope for an MTV Unplugged revival, amongst other things… let’s get into it.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to IAMUR guys. For readers who may not have stumbled across your music… can you tell us a bit about yourselves; how you guys met, and how on earth you’ve managed to keep it together for so long (ten years is a long time!)?
First of all, Hello and thank you for having us! The three of us met in school. Pretty much as soon as me (Finn) and Jake were friends we knew we were going to be in a band because became friends due to our shared interest in music. We arranged with some other friends to start a band and that’s when met Matt (who initially lied about his ability to play the drums). Over the past 10 years, we’ve had a variety of line-up changes but we’ve always been the core of the band. On how we’ve kept it together for this long we’re all best friends and always will be that and we’re too far gone to stop now.
We’re only now just getting to hear the fruits of your labour – and it’s been a busy year for you with four single releases so far. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey over the past few years, and what has driven the sudden surge in activity this year?
We’ve been releasing music together since 2015 but in 2019 we became a three-piece (again) and tightened our focus on writing and producing music. That culminated in the songs that formed our first album “Sundown” which subsequently caught the attention of Grunge Pop Records which we’re in the process of releasing! (You’ll hear it soon).
Very much looking forward to that! And, for someone that hasn’t yet heard your music, how would you go about describing Triptych’s sound?
We’ve labeled ourselves “Scrunge” which started as Scot grunge but eventually morphed into Scrunge and so much more. We’re a loud distorted band taking influence from Math rock, Grunge, Shoegaze, and post-hardcore. The nice thing about defining your own genre is no one can argue with you! We used to define ourselves as fraggle rock but didn’t want to have a run in with the mouse.
‘Fraggle Rock’… that brings back memories. Mostly the traumatic kind… Although Uncle Travelling Matt was a dude! Anyway… a leisurely swipe through your Instagram posts suggests gigging has been a big thing for Triptych over the years, including acting as support for Fangclub in Glasgow back in 2017. Of course, the recent weirdness brought about by Covid scuppered those activities for a while. What have you learned about yourselves as a band from playing live, and what impact did the pandemic have on your hopes and plans?
The pandemic gave us time for Matt to recover from a wrist injury he suffered at the end of 2019. It also gave us time to record and produce our album. We wanted to make up for lost time and hit the ground running playing as many live shows as possible as soon as we could and surpassing our old gigging schedule.
We’ve learned a lot about playing together and creating a whole, especially as a three-piece. From playing live with four of us to three it involved us realigning how we connected with each other on stage. We’ve also learned so much from playing with so many other bands both about what we like and what we want the experience of seeing our band to be.
Which of the shows that you’ve performed so far have been the most memorable would you say?
Finn: My most memorable show is when played in Whitchurch in May of this year. It’s memorable to me because I feel we played the best we ever have and just the adrenaline rush of playing that gig was amazing. It was also great to be playing with new friends from bands on our label.
Matt: Supporting Fangclub was a big deal for me. I had been listening to their debut album ‘Fangclub’ on repeat all summer and had given up part of my holiday to play the show that led to us getting that support, it just felt like a dream as well as reassuring me in the music we made.
Jake: When we were just getting started back in high school we were finding it really difficult to play shows, both as kids and as kids that lived in the middle of nowhere. In 2016 we decided we’d just put on our own shows if people wouldn’t give us ones and hired out our village hall, put on some other bands from school and made a night of it. That was our first show playing original songs (most of which were no good), and even though we’re a far better band now, I still view it as a fond memory, and where we sort of properly started. We gave the village cops some excitement as well – they were adamant that ‘somebody’s getting locked up’ but invariably nobody did. We also won’t talk about my stage dive.
Funny you should mention stage dives… I expect if we were to ask Dave Grohl the same question, there’d be a tonne of stories with a bunch of different reasons… obviously one being the time he fell off stage in Sweden, breaking his leg in the process. Aside from Jake’s stage dive (which must not be mentioned), have there been any major malfunctions or epic fails over the years that you’d like to mention (purely for our pleasure of course)?
Beyond a few string break incidents, we’ve been relatively lucky on stage. We’ve had a few drum-related malfunctions, like the time Matt had to fetch his hi-hats mid-song from across the stage or when he hit his snare so hard the skin popped out. We played a house show at our labelmate’s house (Tommy from Minatore) last year where the microphone shocked you when you got too close. That’s about it!
You’re from Glasgow and, for me, that brings to mind stacks of incredible bands and artists, such as The Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Belle and Sebastian, Dananananaykroyd, Franz Ferdinand, The Fratellis, Twin Atlantic… Mogwai of course, and so many more – what impact has the Glaswegian music culture had on you as a band, if at all?
Glaswegian music culture has had a massive impact on us and has shaped the band we’ve become. We’ve taken influence from so many bands around Glasgow from our peers (Heyup, Frantic Megalomatic etc) and from Glasgow heavy hitters such as Mogwai, Frightened Rabbit, and of course, we would be remiss not to include Biffy Clyro. In a nutshell, the big bands get you playing music and the local bands keep you playing.
Soaking up those influences and manifesting it as ‘scrunge’ as landed you a multi-album deal with Grunge Pop Records, who prominently reference the ‘Seattle grunge sound’ on their website. You also reference one of the world’s most iconic (originally) three-piece bands from the grunge era as having influenced you. For oldies (like me) who grew up with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, AIC, Soundgarden and bands of that ilk, it’s incredibly exciting to see murmurings that hark back to the Sub Pop era. What is it about the grunge movement, and that style of music, that is relevant to your identity as a band/ what was it that drew you in, and how has it influenced the kind of music you’re making?
We started off as teenagers playing in a garage with little to no resources so we naturally gravitated to the DIY approach that we’d like to keep. Grunge has a level of independence to it that we align with so it was a natural fit. Grunge is an overlap in our differing music tastes so that also drew us to this label. As for it influences the music we make, Grunge is defined by its ethos rather than sound necessarily which is how we approach making our music. We make what we make.
It can be a pretty big deal for an independent band to sign up with a label. How did you come to the decision to sign with Grunge Pop – was it a mutual decision within the band, did you have any initial reservations? And also, what does the signing mean for you as a band?
We had some initial reservations because we’ve never worked with someone in that capacity and it was a big step but ultimately we came to the conclusion this was a step in the right direction for our band. The signing to us means joining a community of other bands that are allowing us more opportunities to grow as people and as a band.
It’s a fantastic community by the look of it too! My first encounter with Triptych came only a couple of months ago, following the release of your single ‘I Made Too Much Pasta’, a fierce, fast-paced riffgasm, the likes of which I’ve not experienced since first hearing My Vitriol’s ‘Always Your Way’ (great band) or At The Drive In’s ‘One Arm Scissor’. Can you talk us through the coming together, the motivation and the inspiration for this track?
‘Fierce, fast-paced riffgasm’ is going right in the bio! The song started off as a song I (Finn) wrote for a side project that we started playing together to perform live as that side project and the timing was right with us becoming a three-piece. The song was one of the quickest songs I’ve ever written. I wrote it in about 15 minutes and it acted as a catharsis when I needed it most. I Made Too Much Pasta follows the lyrical themes of dealing with change. The lyrics are quite literal at times, detailing a specific time in my life – but it’s only half of the story, the other half will come with the rest of the record. Musically, I feel this song also shows half of our story as it shows the emo-tinged Alt-rock side to our sound.
I’ve not had chance to see you play live just yet, but can imagine there being an electric atmosphere, enough sweat to drown a baby elephant and some complimentary tinnitus thrown in. That said Finn, back in March last year you posted a couple of videos where you’d stripped out all the rumble and fuzz to play acoustic versions of ‘I Made Too Much Pasta’ and ‘Dying Alone’. Do you see yourselves entertaining the idea of a modern day MTV Unplugged session any time in the future?
We’ve talked about doing acoustic versions of our songs before and it’s something we’ll hopefully do in the future, it’s always a fun challenge converting our songs from loud rock songs to more stripped back songs.
In addition to your acoustic videos, you guys have also posted some content talking through your guitars, pedalboards and amps. What would you each say is the most critical piece of equipment you own (something you just can’t live without/ has sentimental value), and assuming money was no object… what would be the next thing you’d add to your set-up?
Finn: I’d say my most critical piece of equipment is either my fender strat or my Boss Metal zone pedal. The strat is a crucial part of my sound. I can’t escape the boss metal zone but not for lack of trying every time I try something else I come crawling back. Maybe one day something will beat it for me, nothing has matched its sound yet! If I was to add anything right now it would be a Strymon Deco pedal or a Fender quad reverb amp.
Jake: Ooh, gosh. Sentimental attachment is a big thing for me and I form those attachments much more readily with instruments than other equipment. I’ve got two guitars that I built as a kid which I’ve got a huge level of connection with, my stripy green machine is maybe what I’d save first in a house fire. I operate in bass-land now though and my new mainstay is a Reverend Mercalli 5 that I bought on tour (thanks Chris!). Early days with that one still, I’ve only had it a few weeks, but that’s already had a huge impact on my sound and my playing so if I had to choose one thing only for Triptych, it’d be that. Next addition if I didn’t have to front the cash for it? I’d want an old SVT head or an old Bassman head probably. I’m wanting to integrate my modular synth into my pedalboard soon though so while the module I need for that is a lot cheaper, that’s really what’s next on my list.
Matt: The most key part of my setup is a good ride that cuts enough but also has a big crash sound for the many heavy loud sections in our songs. It was a Meinl Byzance up until recently however that has now been replaced with a Zildjian 21″ sweet ride. As for new additions I have grown a large interest in adding some more electronic sounds into Triptych to fill out our sound, I’m currently experimenting to see what fits but a Roland SPD-SX and maybe some form of synth should be making it’s way onto my kit.
We love discovering new music and artists we may not have heard of before… What’s your current go-to record, and if you had to choose – what would you say are your top 3 records of all time?
Finn: A band that I’ve been listening to a lot is our friends in Dutch Wine, their song “New Jersey Sound” has already made it one of my most listened to songs of all time on Spotify in the space of two months. As for favourite records of all time mine would probably be Infinity Land by Biffy Clyro, In Utero by Nirvana, and Twin Galaxies by Delta Sleep.
Jake: Right now I’m listening to a lot of the new Ghost album, IMPERA. I saw them at the Hydro recently and they slew. I want an undead pope to play a rippin’ sax solo in one of our tunes. Top three albums is really tough. In no particular order, and in the mood I’m in today, it’d be Led Zeppelin IV (yes, cliche, and yes, I’d answer II or Houses as my favourite Zep album but come on), Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol, and probably Ghost City by Delta Sleep. Those form a lot of my go-to listening if I just want to stick an album on.
Matt: My Current go-to is the book about my idle plot on a vague anxiety- toe and my all time favourite records are Infinity Land- Biffy Clyro, Twin Galaxies- Delta Sleep and Black Sands- Bonobo.
Great! Some new ones to check out there! Are there any guilty pleasures in your Spotify or Apple music libraries/ recently played history that might surprise your friends?
Matt: I’m not sure if it’s is a guilty pleasure but I’ve been listening to Painless by Nilüfer Yanya
Jake: I’ve been listening to the Minecraft soundtrack recently, but im not guilty!
Finn: I’m not sure if it’s surprising but I’ve been listening to a lot to the new Big Theif record, especially their song “Simulation Swarm”.
I have to say, I’ve been loving what you’ve put out so far, and looking forward to whatever is next… we know there’s a multi-album deal signed off, but what (and when) can we expect to hear next from Triptych?
We’re expecting our album to be with you by the end of year (More coming on that soon) but if you want to hear some material from album two you’ll have to come down to one of our shows. We’ve got plenty of dates lined up for the rest of the year from Dunfermine to Utrecht. and we’ll be doing a launch show in Glasgow for the release of our album.
Listen to more from Triptych on Spotify:
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