Biters hit the road across the UK as part of their mission to deliver real rock n’ roll to the masses
Biters, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, have been wowing crowds across the UK as part of the Kerrang! Tour.
Planet Rock has nominated the band as one of their best new bands in this yearâ€™s The Rocks awards. Anyone who has witnessed the band live will understand why PR has bestowed the honor.
The band, who’s roots are deeply set in the golden age of rock n’ roll, released their critically acclaimed debut album Electric Blood in August 2015.
National Rock Review recently caught up with the band’s frontman Tuk Smith whilst on tour to talk about life on the road, their love of Thin Lizzy and Biters new video for “1975.”
NRR: Thank you for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it.
Tuk: Of course.
NRR: So you’ve been out on the road on the Kerrang! Tour for about a week now. How has it been going so far?
Tuk: The tour is good man. I’m excited to be playing in front of large crowds of kids because we are really trying to turn teenagers on to rock and roll, so that’s great, it’s my job to be an ambassador. So we are definitely the underdog and I got out there and we fuckin’ have to whoop ass every night. So hopefully, we are definitely turning some heads out here.
NRR: What’s been the highlight of the tour so far?
Tuk: The highlight of the tour….I want to think of something really exciting, but the highlight of the tour is like getting fed every day and we have two TV’s in the van, we have a tour manager because we usually tour like fuckin’ animals. The last tour was basically a Mad Max situation it was fuckin’ awful. So this one is just like having a crew, and being around stuff is great.
NRR: Obviously with four bands on the bill it means you guys get a shorter set. How do you go about picking your setlist for a gig like this?
Tuk: It’s really difficult because you want to play your biggest choruses, but you also want to play a set that you can really step down on, so I try to do a mixture of the biggest hooks and some kind of like visceral type energy. We thought about putting some of our more poppy stuff in there, and everyone was like fuck no, we just want to play what we want to. You know sometimes you can play to the crowd, but I just feel like I should do whatever I want no matter what.
NRR: What’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Tuk: “Dreams Don’t Die”, we had to cut it from the set because we keep running over, but it’s less rock than what rock is, it’s got a good Replacements, Tom Petty kind of feel. You know being from the South, and kind of coming from a weird fucked up childhood, I like some of the more serious songs you know. So it’s good to kind of step back, lower it down for a minute and just sing some real shit you know.
NRR: Where do you find the inspiration for your songwriting?
Tuk: I usually write about my past, how I’m feeling now, my friends, you know people that I see around me and kind of what’s going in my views of the world, but for some reason a lot of people think we are a party band, but I don’t have one song about partying, so it’s weird how people interpret stuff.
A song like “Loose from the Noose” is about my friends dying from heroin …you know, so for me I’ve never really glamourized the partying, drug use because I’ve been trying really hard not to do drugs, I’m trying to you know to get myself straight. Our guitar player just recently quit drinking because he had a problem, so we are not trying to push the contrived party boy agenda.
A lot of the lyrics in my songs on Electric Blood are more like social commentary. “Low Lives in Hi-Definition” is talking about vanity, and being famous, and the music and the TV and corporate pop culture. Girls pumping their ass full of collagen and then taking pictures of it and putting it on Instagram to get likes and then that’s how they feel self-worth. It’s talking about people worshiping these false idols that don’t really stand for shit but materialism and just vanity and narcissism and all these qualities that are supposed to be viewed as negative traits, they are being herald on a pedestal and especially in American pop culture.
In “The Kid’s Ain’t Alright” that’s about them being brainwashed by whatever bullshit corporate mainstream radio and TV is feeding them. They don’t have a choice they’re just on their phones scrolling. So I try to say something you know ..and everything is tongue in cheek. Myself I say like …kind of like the movie “They Live” you’re digging deep with a toy shovel, you know I don’t want to get too serious, but I want to say some things. Over here we have been labelled as a party band which is weird, but yeah.
I love punk rock and the lyrics of Joe Strummer, and stuff like that. I always try to have that kind of element in there, because you know the rebellion and anti-establishment feelings I had as a teenager growing up have never left, they feel as strong as ever, so I still continue to wave that kind of flag.
NRR: You recently released your new video for “1975”, which is really cool. It’s got a kind of Tarantino vibe going on. Could you tell us a little bit about that and the concept behind the video?
Tuk: Quentin Tarantino, he loved the old grindhouse movies and I pulled from a movie called “Switchblade Sisters,” which he was inspired by. I love those movies like “The Warriors” and “Switchblade Sisters” is kind of like a girl version of it, and I always thought it would be so badass to do a video for that and it came out in “1975,” which was perfect.
I really wanted us to play characters and you know do something fun. The video was awesome, it was so much fun to make. All the girls in there for the girl gang I got to cast, and we had our Biters patches and I sewed them on all their jackets. I had such a support team in Atlanta of people that wanted to help me out because we don’t have very big budgets. So I pulled my friends and she got us some vintage clothes and we were the disco transexuals, which I think people just think we dress like the New York Dolls but we were trying to look like disco transexuals.
NRR: Speaking of videos I know last year you also did a cameo in the Blackberry Smoke “Rock and Roll Again” video. How did that come about?
Tuk: Well I love acting, and sometimes in Atlanta, it’s a big movie industry, I try to get extra roles and I love characters. I grew up with a bunch of fucking characters, so those are always in my blood and the guy who did our videos did Blackberry Smoke’s videos. They said if you want to have a cameo Tuk you can be in it because Blackberry Smoke are my friends, Brit is my friend he helps us out a lot, he kind of took me under his wing, he’s great, but this was before I knew him.
I told the director, I said only if you let me play my own character. So I had this guy named Bartha Bullet Sprayberry and they didn’t even really see me act, they had other shit to do and I was left there to my own accord. It was fucking funny, I loved it.
NRR: It’s a great video.
Tuk: You’ve got to see the outtakes of me doing that kung fu shit.
NRR: I know you guys love Thin Lizzy, and you play “The Cowboy Song” in your set sometimes. What’s your favourite Thin Lizzy lineup and album?
Tuk: Well it includes the lineup … I love Gary Moore. My favourite Thin Lizzy album is “Black Rose” which I think people skip over, it’s got the best songs to me and his lyrics are just dark, I love them. “Black Rose” is like one of my favourite albums …there’s a couple of clunkers on there, Thin Lizzy always had a couple of clunkers on their records for the most part you know, definitely my favourite “Black Rose.” Number one favourite album.
NRR: Being on the road, and being in a band, do you listen to much music yourself and if so which bands are you listening to at the moment?
Tuk: On this tour we don’t listen to music because we are in the back everybody has been watching movies because we have a TV. On tour, I get really inspired, but I do love to listen to music. While I’m driving in the U.S. because we drive ourselves, I listen to a lot of 70’s country David Allen Coe, Waylon Jennings, you know I love Dolly Parton, all that stuff. I love the storytelling aspect of the old country, real country, you know. Hopefully, that wears off on the next record, because I would love to have that kind of storytelling on this one.
I drive to a lot of Tom Petty as well, he’s probably my favourite songwriter to listen to. He grew up listening to that kind of country stuff too, yeah I love it.
NRR: If you could collaborate with anyone in particular who would be your dream collaboration?
Tuk: I get this stuff all the time. It’s weird because do you want to collaborate with somebody that you really, really love but they aren’t as relevant today or do you want to collaborate with somebody who is more relevant now that could help your career. You know in a perfect world, for some reason I tell people this, I’m obsessed with music that came out way before I was born, I don’t know why I’m so attracted to 60’s/70’s music, I might have been a rockstar in the 70’s that died and then reincarnated, I don’t know but you know.
I love 70’s Stevie Nicks, I would love to collaborate with her, Phil, Tom Petty, fuckin’ Bonn Scott, I would love to do a track with Marc Bolan, you know. It would nice to do a track with Axl because I’m just as redneck and I think in Axl’s prime, which I would call my prime I could probably take him in a street fight. I’m just kidding (laughing).
NRR: Do you have any plans to do a full headline Biters tour this year?
Tuk: I think the plans are in the works, but you know man it’s a little difficult breaking us over here. We are getting heavy press, a lot of magazine responses, and we are building a little following but you know we want to come back, but I don’t know just what we are doing is not a big market, it’s not cool.
A lot of the people like the heritage bands but as far as new rock and roll bands, dudes that are you know not in their 40’s it’s a limited market so I’m going to try and come back as much as possible like a Viking and just keep coming and pillaging and pillaging. I think we are trying to come back in September, and we are trying to shoot for some festivals this summer. Again, man costs accumulate, and if the numbers don’t add up, unfortunately, sometimes it comes down to the business.
NRR: What else does the band have in store for the rest of this year?
Tuk: Well, we have a Buckcherry Tour in May in the States, which I think will be a good crowd for us. We might have some festivals, they are in the works, I can’t say whether they are booked or not and that would be June and July maybe. We are looking for new management right now, and I’m writing the next record, I’m almost half way done. Just more touring and the same shit, you know like we are doing.
NRR: We wish you all the best with that, thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review.