One of my favorite things of running Music Dies Here is the number of bands that cross my path that we otherwise might have never heard about. Take Character Actors, who found us and emailed us so often about their upcoming singles that last December we caved in and reviewed some of those. With their upcoming release happening next week, we are excited to see what the future brings for those guys. I fully expect to see their name on a Manchester Punk Fest, Hamburg Booze Cruise or even Punk Rock Holiday in the coming years.
Then there is When the Walls fell, a straight-forward punk-rock band with fast and angry melodies and politically charged lyrics. This duo is pretty much hidden in obscurity since they do not tour. Their new record came out last week and is worth a listen. If they would tour, this is the kind of band made for Rebellion.
What do those two bands have in common besides being within a punk subgenre and a February release? They both England based, with one member living abroad. Having a band has enough hurdles and challenges as it is, adding time zones and border crossings to the list opens a whole different can of worms.
We decided to get the guys together on a call to ask them some questions about the upcoming releases, living far away from the band members, and hopefully answer the question that has been on no one’s mind: who is the best newer punk-adjacent band in the UK with a February 2023 release and one member living abroad?
This is how I found myself yawning and begrudgingly opening my laptop at 8:30am Eastern Time. Obviously, When the Walls Fell is already the worst band for volunteering me to wake up early on my Saturday just so that people can watch the EPL games after.
They are also the first to arrive. I hadn’t talked to Ross Sutcliffe before, who is located in southern England and known there for taking up the singing and screaming in the Mistakes. We do some quick introductions and after complaining that I really, really hate his band member for volunteering the early morning, said band member Jim Rundle – located in Long Island, New York and locally known as the bassist of the Brooklyn funcore band Something Bitter – makes an appearance to complete the When the Walls Fell line-up.
The first of the Character Actors to join is Alex Rijpma, all the way from the Netherlands. Originally from Wageningen, he is now finishing his master’s degree in the Hague. We’re still waiting for one more Character Actor, as we talk about life in the Hague (my city of birth) and discuss which venues are still around. Fifteen minutes later, Character Actor and most recent member of Bear Away, Josh Booths, finally joins us as well, checking in from their homebase in Leeds.
Ross mentions he has to leave at two, his time, for important things cannot talk about yet. With the time creeping up on us, I start recording – it’s too early to make notes. Zoom shakes us all up with the creepiest This meeting is being recorded message and we all have a laugh about it. It’s off to a good start.
Arbitrary best band points incredibly fairly scored (really, totally fair):
When the Walls Fell: -50 for volunteering me to do anything before noon.
Character Actors: +10 for having a band member located in my city of birth.
Music Dies Here: All right, let’s get this started. We’ve got four people in two bands with a great split, each band has one member in the UK and one non-UK here. Anyway, I am going to score this. We’re going to assign points, to see who is the best band. When the Walls Fell starts with minus points for making me do this at this time.
MDH: I could give Character Actors plus points, since they have someone located in my city of birth.
Ross: We might as well step out now.
MDH: “Well, you did already release you’re record, you’re ahead on that. How was the response?”
Jim and Ross at the same time: It is, we did.
MDH: How has the response been so far?
Jim: Good! We made at least fifteen dollars over Bandcamp. That’s good.
MDH: Is that including or excluding us?
Jim: “Okay yeah, the bulk of it is you”
Ross: The problem with the business model is saying, here’s a record, it’s free, and then going ‘well, you can give us money if you want’ a bit later. That doesn’t stack up
Jim: I think we took this, let’s put as little effort in this as possible a bit too far.
Ross: Yeahhh, I mean, it’s very, very punk of us. It’s also quite stupid.
Josh, laughing in the background: “I don’t think any of us are doing this to make money though, right? I don’t even break even making money”
Jim: I mean, we all have day jobs for that stuff. We thought, let’s just throw it out there.
Ross: “When the Walls Fell is a nice bit on the side for us. A dalliance we started up in lockdown, and we ended up with two records a year and a half later, which is pretty good. It can never be the main event because, well, we can’t gig. We’re in too many different countries, it’s impractical. As a band, we’ll never tour, which is a shame”
Jim: So Character Actors, you’re probably got like +10 points for being a band.
Josh: I think a lot of the people who’ve seen us would wish we never toured as well.
Jim: Often how people feel about Something Bitter as well, so…
MDH: And Character Actors, your record is out within two weeks right? How has the response been from all the media outlets you have been bothering?
Josh, laughing: Including yourselves huh? So yeah, it’s been pretty good. I’d ask Alex, but I’m kind of the, what would you call it, band whore? I just reach out to people! So yeah, the response has been pretty good. Ross and Jim, I don’t know if you have one person in your band who does basically the same thing, but you know probably you get like a 10% response rate from all the people you’ve been pestering.
Jim: Ha, yes, but that’s a pretty good response rate, 10%. Maybe take a zero of that and that’s pretty much what we get.
Josh: We’re hoping that when it’s out we’re getting even more.
Alex: The other thing is, Leeds is where we operate – I’m the only one not in or around Leeds, so it makes sense for Josh to do this. I bother people here when I see them at shows, I promote as much as I can, but it makes the most sense to have the main promotion from our homebase. It’s been the only place we really played so far and they play there every so often without me, Josh knows the people there.
MDH: Wait, you’re saying they’re doing tours without you every so often?
Alex: Not so much tours…
Josh: We played some gigs. Genuinely… Alex writes and plays the songs that are nice. The songs people want to hear. So people come to us and ask “Hey, can you do hungover/heartbroken tonight” and I go “nope, I can’t”
Jim: Is JD Salinger of the new record?
Josh: It is!
Jim: It’s good, it fucking rips.
Alex: I know eh? I like that one!
At this point, I’m realizing I am going to have a hell of a time going through this video and figuring out Jim, who keeps cutting in and out on the feed. Of course, his Wi-Fi is out, yet he made it anyway on the mobile network. Ross believes in him.
When the Walls Fell: -30 (They gained some points for making it through Wi-Fi issues and having listened to the other band)
Character Actors: +20 (Jim added those ten points, not me, for them being an actual band.)
MDH: How do you guys even practice? I understand that When the Walls Fell doesn’t practice, but how does that work with members internationally?
Josh: Alex, maybe you can answer this?
Alex: It depends. These guys do practice. Sometimes, these guys practice, record full practices and send it to me so I can play along to those. After that, I come over maybe once a month, once every two months, and we book a few practices before a show. That is what we’re going to do before our release show. I literally go from the airport to band practice. In those cases, I’ll stay over for a few weeks and we do that every few weeks.
When we do practice, we do long practices. We go through the whole record, the old stuff and a bunch of covers. By the time we start playing, we’re in pretty good shape. These guys are practicing consistently, it’s really up to me. It’s easier than you imagine – and we haven’t introduced a whole lot of new songs since recording the album, and we wrote those songs pretty much a year and a half ago.
We have a setlist of songs that we go through, and we know them all pretty well. But the onus is really on me to get my shit together.
Josh: Yeah, pretty much.
Jim: Before Build Back Better, our very first practice, since I play guitar, bass and drums, it’s a really complicated system of levers and pulleys and strings, so…
Ross: I don’t remember that band practice man. I thought we just played the demo’s, had a few beers and then just threw it together the studio.
It’s been a really, really relaxed approach to making this album, the most relaxed approach ever. Sorry Jim, I only had a really vague idea of what the songs were really supposed to sound like before recording. It’s been a quite a distracting time man, there has been a lot of stuff going on, we got it together in the room, the record turned out great.
Yeah, it wasn’t what you might call a professional production, or not on the way up – what we ended up with, it’s brilliant. But it was a job.
Alex: How long did it take to do that?
Jim: Let’s get back to this, but Ross, you changed the lyrics somehow like literally on the spot. I was: What is this?
Ross: Improved them, perhaps?
Jim: Maybe we should practice!
Ross: Well, I guess, but where does that leave us? Then we have to do gigs and all sorts, it’d become a real thing.
MDH: You’ll run into each other one day again!
Ross: I reckon our paths will cross one day in the future, it does sound like the sort of thing likely to happen.
MDH: But that was a good question Alex just had, how long did the writing and recording actually take?
Jim: It was kind of done in bits and spurts. I wrote the bulk of the record about a year and a bit ago, we added some new ones a few months ago. But since it’s just me and Ross making the songs, we don’t have the entire design by committee thing that other bands have. I could write something, send it over and Ross would be “yeah, that’s cool, let’s write some lyrics”
Ross: For the timeline, it took about a year or so. In the sense of how much of that year we spent working on the record, I don’t know, we probably did the entire thing in a couple of weeks, just very spread out.
When the Walls Fell: 0 points (Extra points for being relaxed which we need more of in music)
Character Actors: +30 points (Points for Alex working as hard as all his bandmates together)
MDH: So I’m talking to the laziest band and the hardest working band here?
Jim: I think the busiest band, in our personal lives. Ross had a newborn kid. During the lockdown, we had time since no one was at work obviously, but then we were all back at work. This was supposed to be an earlier release about *unintelligible, mentions Liz Truss and government*, but when we finally got around to it, the government had actually fallen by the time we got the lyrics, so it was a long, drawn-out process.
Josh: It’s incredibly that you had a record be about that, we were in the studio the day that Liz Truss was forced to resign, so we had it on our phones, watching and waiting around with joy, hoping this was finally the downfall of the conservative government, but we never quite get that.
Ross: It never seems to be man, it never quite seems to be
Josh: It’s amazing that in such a short administration there was such a moment of inspiration.
Jim: Forty-five days. I think I remember texting Ross “well fuck, we have to change the lyrics now, somehow”
Ross: As it turns out, I didn’t have to change them that much
Josh: There is one thing to be said for the British government, it’ll always be on hold
Ross: It’s good for material, it’s never not good for material
MDH: You just need a government that keeps falling down so things have to happen, as opposed to America, where you have the same shit for four years.
Jim: On the one hand you get consistency, on the other hand you get Trump
MDH: It’s a trade-off. Consistency for Trump. It doesn’t create as much good material, because it’s four years of the same
Alex: Consistency and Trump could be a hardcore band name
Jim: You’d have to think hard about what kind of hardcore band you’d be.
Ross: I’m checking the time and Jim, you’ve got to run solo for this competition, which I’m really, really, sure we’re winning.
MDH: Leaving early, that is going to matter!
Ross: Sorry guys, I’ve got a load of stuff going on I can’t really talk about but that are going to be very exciting very soon. One of those things is happening now. But uh, good luck with the competition, we did a great job!
When the Walls Fell: +10 points (Caring about politics is cool)
Character Actors: +40 points (Caring about politics is cool)
Josh: The first time ever that someone in a band says “big things coming soon” and I am actually excited!
Jim: That band, the Mistakes, they’re going places man. They’ve got loads of shit coming up. You should actually play with them, they’re good!
Josh: I’ll keep an eye on it!
MDH: Hey Character Actors, are any of you in other bands? Or does all this energy go to just this one band?
Alex: Well Josh…
Josh laughs at this: Well, there is this band, they’re called Bear Away, they’re from Scarborough, which is slightly off the coast, they’re on Engineer Records, you might have heard of them? So I did a solo/support slot for them back in October, and they liked it so much, it was “hey man, you should be in that band.” So now I also do guitar and backing vocals for them, so that’s cool!
And Alex did play in other bands, but I’m not sure if he’s keen to talk about it.
Alex: You should listen to that Bear Away record, it’s really good!
MDH: So what bands did you play in Alex, if you’re not keen to talk about it?
Alex: I was in bands over here in the Hague, but that sort of didn’t work out. Character Actors is my main thing now, but I still play solo regularly around here. Do some covers, some originals, some Character Actors songs, some unreleased stuff that might become Character Actors songs.
At this point, I get stuck on the Hague and wonder if a venue that closed in 2014 is still around. We discuss some local venues and go back to the subject of touring and Brexit affecting tours.
Josh: I’m supposed to play in Germany soon, let’s see how that goes.
Jim: Oh, you should talk to Ross. He’s touring there with the Mistakes soon, he can probably give advice.
Alex: Let me know, I can probably take a train down.
Josh: I’m sure we’ll open some shows, you and me.
MDH: Character Actors acoustic?
Josh: That is kind of how we started!
Alex: We always threaten the rhythm section that we can go back to that, haha.
Josh: If they don’t fall in line!
MDH: Hey Jim, if When the Walls Fell would be touring, where would you like to tour? Besides Albany.
Jim: Ha Albany was interesting when we played there with Bitter. We spent fifteen minutes at our hotel collectively before we ran out and booked another one; the moment an ambulance pulled up we knew we made the right decision on that one.
But I don’t know, I always sensed that Europe is a different experience as a band, you’re treated well and looked after, as opposed to the UK and the US where you get treated with mild scorn. I think if Ross and I would tour… we were thinking about submitting to Rebellion festival, we might even play a show this year. But yeah, Europe. I think the sound will go over pretty well there, as supposed to here, where we’re still too much punx with an x. Also, we sing about British politics, I don’t know how well that’d go over here.
MDH: You also play three instruments. Would you get other members in or do it as a duo if you’d play?
Jim: Last year we were going to recruit a couple of people to fill in, but the practically was not really possible. The songs aren’t that easy to learn and with me being in New York and Ross in Bournemouth, one of us would have to come over for a few weeks and hit it hard.
When the Walls Fell: +30 points (I wanted to give minus points for saying “my music is so complicated”, but I’ll give plus points instead for sort of maybe eventually planning on paying)
Character Actors: +40 points (They’re trying to bank on the success of Bear Away, zero added points here)
MDH: Like you mentioned earlier, each country has their own intricacies. Venues treat you differently, getting to know the right people depends on where you are, the crowds are different.
Jim: We found that with Something Bitter last week. Playing in Philadelphia is way different from New York, Pittsburgh is different, Albany is… yeah, it varies per place.
MDH: Character Actors, do you notice these differences in England as well?
Josh: I don’t know, we’ve never played outside the north of England. I’m trying to think of any distinctions between Sheffield and Leeds which are the only places we played consistently. Uh, but yeah, there’s definitely been some gigs where we actively scared people off.
Especially on record, it’s on the relatively approachable end of the punk spectrum. Then people come see us live and, it’s basically me, I just tend to yell. Maybe they don’t take to that that well. But we have a decent and reliable crowd in Leeds.
I do want to go to the Netherlands, see how different the crowd is there. What I read about the Dutch people, and heard, is that they’re pretty much the most stony-faced, you really have to impress me, kind of crowd.
MDH: Maybe that’s why I like New York so much, it’s similar to the Netherlands in that regard.
The conversation derails again at this point, once again mostly because of me. I make the same jokes I made fifty times before, Jim doesn’t appreciate them anymore. It was very funny though how Jim was absolutely in love with his bass guitar the last time I ran into him. It’s just me thinking so and the everyone looks at me as if wanting me to shut up.
MDH: Okay, back to the point. What is your absolute favorite song on your current record? The song you know that when you get big ten years from now, all the fans are going to be calling for?
b: I think for us, what the three fans – including you – are going to ask us to play, it’s probably Failed State or Into the Tempest. I think it would be Into the Tempest.
Alex: That’s a cool song man, I was listening to that just today even. I really liked that one. The record sounds awesome as well.
Jim: I appreciate it! We work with such a good guy, his name is Marvin, he runs Tide studio in London. He’s really good, really recommended.
Josh: Yeah, it sounded really, really tight, really professional. I was thinking, like, bands like Rise Against.
Jim: Ha, I’ll take it. Marvin is fucking amazing and I would recommend him to anyone in DIY. He’s such a good guy
Josh: I’ll write the name down!
MDH: How about you, Character Actors?
Josh: They’re all so bad, how do you choose?
Alex: I think JD Salinger has hit material all over. It’s such a different song for us, but I am really happy with how it turned out, it sounds great and it’s a lot of fun.
Jim: It’s cool!
Alex: For the songs I have written, I am really proud of the last song on the record, Centerpiece. I don’t know if it’s going to be a big crowd please, but I am really happy with that one.
Right now, we get a lot of response to Hungover/Heartbroken. People actually sing along live, I noticed, maybe that might be the crowd pleaser. I like and am really proud of all of our songs.
There’s another one we released on our first record, Josh and I wrote it before this, just the two of us. We took the best songs and put it on a EP. There’s one song called the Moon and My Friends and I think that is our signature song, that’s who we want to be as a band. It would be so much better if we recorded it with the full band, but that one would be on our setlist.
Josh: Yeah, with the Moon and My Friends I kind of was our bands Jim, I played all the instruments, I just didn’t play them to as high of a standard. Of the upcoming one, I agree with Alex, Hungover/Heartbroken is the obvious one. I really like Centerpiece, that’s the one I’m most curious about on how people receive it. It’s different, sad is not the right word, but more emotional.
We played a few songs live and the third song of the record is a bit more bouncy, when we play that live, people seem to respond really well.
MDH: One thing When the Walls Fell did when they met me and learned I am very annoying about this, is make sure to put the lyrics online. I’ve been missing them for JD Salinger.
Josh: I submitted them to Spotify, but it might take a while. I mean, it’s on Bandcamp? They’ll all be on Bandcamp eventually… when the record comes out.
MDH: I’ll take it! I see you’re wearing a Menzingers shirt by the way?
Josh: Oh, yes!
Jim: I wore that exact shirt yesterday.
MDH: So next Menzingers tour, you’re supporting them?
Josh: That’d be the dream
Jim: That would be.
Alex: I almost wore my Martha shirt today, we tried to get as their support, but it didn’t work out.
MDH: Next time! There are so many good bands on that Specialist Subject crowd. Anyway, I am exhausted and have no idea what to say. I think I ran out of things to bother you about. Unless you all want to bother each other about things?
Jim: I want to come to the UK with Something Bitter. We should definitely do a show together!
Josh: Yeah, and if When the Walls Fell makes it to Rebellion, that’d be a great one as well, would love to play.
Jim: If that doesn’t work out, I also want to do something in Germany, definitely with Bitter. And if you guys ever come over, let me know and we’d get you a show!
MDH: Yeah, I’m out of things to say.
Jim: Thank you Maaike for doing this! I’ll accept a draw. Looking forward to the album guys, it’ll be fucking rad!
Josh: Thanks! And congrats on your album, it is great!
When the Walls Fell: +999 points (Give them what they want!)
Character Actors: +999 points (Give them what the others want)
Support these bands!
Help When the Walls Fell have more than $15 for their next adventures here: https://wtwfband.bandcamp.com/album/build-back-better
Keep an eye on Character Actors new release (out 02/17) here: https://characteractors.bandcamp.com