Birmingham based punk reggae band, Lobster, formed back in 2009. Lead vocalist Spud, and bassist Charlie are brothers, who both grew up with trumpet player Elmo (or Adam, to his parents) and drummer Joe.
The four of them played around as teens, starting different bands revolving around their love for punk, ska and reggae. Though none of them worked out.
Enter 16 year old Nathan, and welcome the birth of Lobster.
Three years after forming, Big Al came in to play lead guitar after meeting Joe and Nathan at university in Derby.
With a love for Jamaican music styles such as dub, reggae, roots, dancehall and ska, they mixed it up with hip hop and their signature punk and rock sensibilities. Lobster’s sound system was born, and they became a welcomed addition to Birmingham’s underground music scene.
“One of the best dub infused bands I have seen in a long long time. So fun, so sincere, so young! I tripped out listening to them. Feeling every word and every note!” The Retinal Circus
Starting by supporting friend’s shows at iconic venues like The Rainbow and The Hare & Hounds, they quickly made a name for themselves.
“From playing in a mate's back garden to playing at Birmingham's HMV Institute and O2 Academy, the five piece band have shown how ska and reggae music can once again be popular.” Megan Tolley - ModernAgeMusic
Right from the start the boys passionately carried the ethos of taking a DIY route to making their music.
In 2010 they self-released their first EP, recorded at Hockley Street studios, and distributed it for free at their own shows.
The following year, a second EP was recorded at Toolshop Records alongside Birmingham ska band, Mr Shankly. Coincidentally, Lobster played their first show opening for Mr Shankly. Then Spud went on to work under the front man’s management!
2011 also saw Lobster in the regional final of Surface Unsigned Battle of the Bands, and opening up for Drongos for Europe, Smoke Like a Fish, China Shop Bull… as well as playing sold out headline shows.
Branching out to cities including Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Derby, Lobster’s live show began touring. Noted for its infectious vibe and party atmosphere.
Throwing a party with their musician friends for their new DIY EP ‘Not for a Cause’, in 2012 Lobster also played their first festival. As well as sharing a stage with The Beat, Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels, and Subhumans.
“Big respect to all the Lobster fam for last night, almost started a riot!”
Robin Giorno - Jam Jah Sound/Friendly Fire Band
In 2013 Lobster were the only non-tribute band to play the Big Top stage at Glastonbudget Festival. Then they released DIY mini album ‘Babby Inna Babylon’, again with another party!
Spring 2015 birthed mini EP ‘Blotto’d’. Highlighting their attitude towards their DIY music, lead single ‘Queens Head Hunter’ discusses the problems with selfish promoters, and more Birmingham lyrics weave into the track.
‘Blotto’d’ was released on a pay-what-you-feel basis, and payments have ranged from 1p to £50 for the two tracks!
In November of this year, the boys hosted their first ‘Lobster Shack’ in Kings Heath. Putting on local reggae inspired acts for an evening of underground music with friends. As part of the promotion for the gig, Lobster took over Birmingham in a big busking event to capture the feel of reggae on a gloomy Saturday afternoon!
Viva la lobster!
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Answers to q's (from bassist Charlie)
1. When did you first start singing (or playing your instrument)?
I was originally a drummer but a bass guitar has been in my house since I was 10 when my dad bought himself one for his 50th birthday in hopes of learning to play it. Around when I was 15 all of mates were starting bands but already had drummers, so I borrowed my dad’s bass to jam with them and as clichéd as it sounds, I fell in love with playing it and wanted to improve.
2. What was the first song you recall singing (or playing)?
When I was teaching myself how to play bass I would spend hours listening to songs with cool basslines and try to work out how they were actually played. Other than the likes of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Seven Nation Army’, I think the first song I really remember learning was the intro the intro to ‘Journey to the East Bay’ by Rancid. I spent hours upon hours trying to get it right and I think that bassline was actually a really helpful one to learn in the early days in terms of getting my head around scales and all that technical music stuff I had no idea about. But mainly it’s just a sick song and I liked listening and playing along to it!
3. Who are your musical inspirations?
I grew up predominately on punk and 2 tone/3rd wave ska really. Bands such as Sublime, Capdown, Descendents, The King Blues and Dead Kennedys to name a few. If I had to name actual bassists it would have to be Matt Freeman of Rancid and Jon Doyle of The Skints. The things Matt Freeman can do with a bass silence anyone who says that bass is an easy instrument to play and Jon Doyle’s groove and feel are second to none.
4. What genre of music do you listen to today?
I still listen to all the bands I listened to when I was younger but I’ve branched out further into listening to more dub, roots reggae and hip-hop. But to be honest with you, I love surfing through YouTube and finding bands and artists. A few bands I’m really into at the moment came from friends showing me one of their songs and then spending hours listening to all the related videos.
5. What embarrassing songs might I find on your MP3 player?
I’ve got some pretty whiny sounding pop punk on there that I always skip if I’ve got my phone plugged into speakers at parties if that answers your question. But hey, you like what you like I suppose!
6. Where would you most like to perform?
There are tons of festivals I would love to play. I can’t imagine anything better than being able to go to say Boomtown for free and actually being able to play it! There’s also a load of cities I’d love to play that need ticking off the bucket list.
7. If you weren't a musician, what would you be doing?
I work in an office all the week. If I didn’t have to do that I’d be a full-time musician! But to answer your question I’ve also got a passion for acting that I don’t do as much of as I’d like to because of gig commitments etc. If I had the time it’d be awesome to do both, but I’m happy with being able to use music as my creative outlet. It really gives you something to look forward to on a Monday morning when you know you’re going to playing a show on the Friday or Saturday night and it helps you get through the week.
8. What instruments do you play?
As I mentioned earlier I used to play the drums a lot, but I haven’t played properly in years. I dabble with a bit of guitar and ukulele but the bass is my main instrument of choice. It would be great to be able to play more guitar and drums in other projects in the future, but right now I couldn’t be happier with playing bass in Lobster.
9. If you could dabble in another genre of music, what would it be?
To be honest with you, one of my favourite things about playing in Lobster is that we don’t restrict ourselves to just one genre and we take a lot of inspiration from many of my favourite genres. For example, in some songs we’ll have dancehall sections that run into dubbier parts and in other tracks we’ll play around with hip-hop beats and punky break downs. In one song we even attempt a dubstep-esque drop. We’re a sort of jack of all trades, master of none band! However saying all of that, I’m open to the idea of playing in more soul and jazz orientated projects one day.
10. What other talents do you have?
I can make pretty good scrambled eggs!
11. What is your favorite song to belt out at the bar/in the car/for karaoke?
I don’t do karaoke that much but me and my mate love belting out ‘Heaven On Their Minds’ from Jesus Christ Superstar to each other!
12. If you could sing a duet with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
For me it’d have to be Bradley Nowell from Sublime. His voice was as close to perfect as it gets, so I’d probably let him do more of the singing in the duet. Also from what I’ve seen from documentaries and old videos of Sublime gigs, it would be a pretty wild show!
13. What is the hardest thing about being in the music business?
I would say the hardest thing about being a musician, and especially being a musician without a manager, is dealing with dodgy promotors. We’ve been lucky to meet some great people in the 6 years we’ve been a band who have shown us nothing but love, compassion and hospitality; but there have also been a lot of dishonest people we’ve had to put up with. People who are incredibly eager to have you play for them, until you have the audacity of asking for petrol money! It’s like they think they’re doing us a huge favour for letting us play for free to an empty pub in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention promoters who expect us to do all the promoting for them. Don’t get me wrong, as a band you have to promote your gigs via your social media accounts etc., but when a promotor turns around and asks for you to provide a poster for their gig (which has actually happened!), you start to wonder what they’re role in the show is and why they’re taking a profit from it. We’re certainly not making music for the money and have happily played shows for free when the show’s in aid of a charitable cause or someone’s been honest about their budget from the start. The honest people more often than not provide you with food or drink or have even on occasion gone around the venue with a donation bucket and asked the audience to donate anything they can for the bands. It’s when you’re expected to play for the “exposure” and be grateful for it; you start to lose your patience with some people.
14. What has been the best advice you have ever been given?
Recently we had the opportunity to play with OPM, the band that wrote Heaven is a Halfpipe! I’ve met some arrogant musicians from the midlands circuit in my time and the guys from OPM, considering they released one of the best known songs of my generation, were some of the most humble and lovely people I’ve ever played with. They even got a few of the guys from the band to join them on stage and jam a couple of songs! We got chatting to the singer, John and me and the lads told him his band were the coolest guys we’d played with and so much nicer than other bands we’d met and he turned around and said something along the lines of “When did it become cool to be an Asshole?”. It’s always been important to us to never become an “asshole” band, so to meet someone who has hit the “big time” and come out of it a well-rounded guy who still gets a buzz from playing shows and meeting other musicians, it was a really important lesson to learn and I suppose in a way the best advice I’ve ever taken on-board.
What does tomorrow bring?
Tune in to find out!