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Every element of Egyptian Blue’s fierce, uncompromising sound feels like hypnotism fuelled by psychosis. Their grinding riffs achieve a mesmeric power through brute repetition, while their rhythm section produces taut, nervous energy and intense post-punk grooves in equal measure.
If you discovered them through their recent track ‘To Be Felt’, which was supported by Huw Stephens, Jack Saunders, Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy and Tom Ravenscroft, you’ll connect with the dark mania that pulsates throughout their debut EP ‘Collateral Damage’. It’s under a new deal with Yala! Records, the label co-founded by former Maccabee Felix White and home to the likes of The Magic Gang and Willie J Healey.
Dual frontmen Andy Buss and Leith Ambrose first bonded over early Foals and The Maccabees and have played music together ever since. They’re the type of people you expect to find in an essential new band: two lifelong friends who share a seemingly telepathic connection.
They formed Egyptian Blue in their late teens, with Luke Phelps on bass. Initially practicing above a jewellery shop in their hometown of Colchester, they were the epitome of a band reacting to the mundanity of their surroundings. Early jams often devolved into marathon sessions of fourteen hours or more, made all the more chaotic by the amount of whisky they’d share.
“We got raided by the police a couple of times because we were playing ridiculously loud music at five am above a jewellers in the centre of town,” summarises Andy, as if it’s a rite of passage that everyone goes through.
“Our rehearsals were a joke,” sighs Leith, “but we thought we were taking it seriously.”
With life in Colchester growing stale, Egyptian Blue moved to Brighton – a place they agree was exciting because “it had a lot more to offer us as people and as musicians.” Another big moment came at a King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard gig. Seeing a band that well-drilled made them rethink the work ethic that their own project required.
Released late in 2017, their debut single ‘Cut Me A Hole’ was the first calling card for Egyptian Blue’s growing talents. Yet they’d soon be following a different path to that track’s psyche-tinged punk attack. When they returned almost a year later with ‘To Be Felt’, they sounded like a modernist take on Gang of Four’s seminal ‘Entertainment’ album filtered through Canadian post-punks Preoccupations.
They credit much of that recent transition in their sound to new drummer Isaac Ide. Not only has he allowed the band to push forwards by freshening up their dynamic, but he’s also formed a powerhouse partnership with Luke.
That direction continues on the ‘Collateral Damage’ EP, which was produced by Theo Verney (FUR, TRAAMS). Anxious, angsty and foreboding, the lead track and new single ‘Collateral’ is driven by Luke’s propulsive bass combined with tight percussion. Meanwhile Andy and Leith trade lyrics which explode with vitriol and recriminatory aggression.
Andy wrote the song after visiting a friend who suffers from severe social anxiety. “He told me he’d fallen in love with someone he met online,” he recalls,” but he was coming to terms with the realisation that they’d never be able to meet it person due to his anxiety. It kind of broke my heart.” In contrast, Leith’s verse explores the idea of letting someone down, but not wanting to hurt them in the process.
‘Collateral’ and another new song, the Birthday Party flavoured ‘Adderall’, were written in the same day and both simmer with barely controlled chaos. The EP is completed with by ‘Contain It’ and ‘To Be Felt’, both tracks which pick up that Gang of Four baton of driving bass and jagged guitars. Like the artwork that accompanies it, the EP is a magnetising collage of sounds.
The four songs are also inspired by snapshots of conversations heard during a night out. Or, as Ambrose notes, “The bitter end of the evening where people say something interesting. Or when someone says something that triggers negative thoughts in your head.”
“And the sort of thing you say and immediately regret,” interjects Andy.
Egyptian Blue’s connection with Yala! started when they supported Willie J Healey at Yala! club nights in Manchester and London. They’re now also confirmed to play the label’s stage at this summer’s All Points East festival. IDLES’ frontman Joe Talbot has also fallen under their spell, describing them as “fucking sick.”