Northern Ireland’s music scene contains plenty of short lived bands and projects, falling at the wayside due to personal circumstances, rocky relationships and far too often the difficulty of breaking through. Active since 2011, Belfast trio Empty Lungs are one of the shining lights of longevity. From 2013’s six track ‘Stand Up’ through to 2015’s ‘Medicine/Bernadette’, the band have put out a smattering of releases. They returned last month with ‘Don’t Get It’. Across the EP’s three tracks the trio prove they’ve lost none of their drive or creativity.
Vocalist and guitarist Kev Jones talks us through some of the biggest influences on the band’s sound, from music to lyrics and their outlook on tolerance and politics.
Against Me! – Cliche Guevarra
Without Against Me! there would be no Empty Lungs. I fell in love with this band as a teenager in the early 2000’s and they have been with me ever since continually putting out amazing records. This is one of my (many) favourite tracks. The raw energy and passion oozing from this song still hits me as hard as it did 14 years ago.
The Clash – Clampdown
For me the greatest album of all time. Their knack for blending so many different styles with punk rock is a massive influence on us. This album is the perfect example of why I love punk. It shouldn’t have a boring set of rules musically or otherwise. Such diverse songs on this record, it still excites me every time I put it on! The politics of The Clash and this song are also a big influence on us. This track has a few layers; it deals with racism, hostility towards immigrants and the exploitation of wage slavery. Sadly just as relevant today as it was in 1979.
Pixies – Wave Of Mutilation
Pretty hard to narrow this down to one track. I came kind of late to the Pixies, I only fell completely in love with them about 3 or 4 years ago. Joey Santiago’s guitar work is a massive influence on me. The way he uses simple riffs to bring a song to life is unbelievable. Such hooks! The whole surf-indie-punk vibe in his playing stands out so much for me. I love Black’s lyrics and this song is really dark. It’s inspired by Japanese businessmen who would commit suicide by driving their cars off a cliff and into the ocean but has such a feel good vibe at the same time haha. Love it.
Jawbreaker – Kiss The Bottle
This song has been giving me goosebumps for about 15 years now. Jawbreaker was the first punk band to make me realise that things can be gruff, angry and beautiful at the same time. Blake’s writing is breathtaking. He has a special talent for telling a story and painting a picture in such a poetic way. A massive influence (maybe the biggest) on every emo band from the late 90’s onwards but for me Jawbreaker are still the masters of the sad and beautiful. Nothing quite like them.
Alvvays – Archie, Marry Me
Such a cliche but the first time I heard this song I was stunned. The beauty in the vocal melody was the first thing to grab me but the guitar work is unreal too. As previously discussed i’m a sucker for hooks and this song is full of them. Surfy, verby, fuzzy guitars are also my bag. This kind of hook driven indie rock has been a big influence on my writing in recent years. Sometimes in punk people look down on the catchy side of things. I say fuck that, if you have a message you’re passionate about then what better way to embed it in someones head than wrap it around some massive pop hooks!
Pwr Bttm – Big Beautiful Day
A new band but a really important one. It’s so important to have songs written from all perspectives that represent all people. PWR BTTM are amazing outspoken song writers from the LGBTQ community and that’s a voice that, unfortunately, isn’t equally represented in music currently. That’s changing though and bands like this are going a big ways to pushing things forward. This song is new so obviously not technically an influence on our EP but I love it! It’s punk as fuck. It’s an amazing fuck you to narrow minded people and it’s got pop melodies, punk rock attitude and even some noodly riffage. What a hit! Up the Queer punx!
Weezer – Say It Ain’t So
Em, Weezer. Enough said!
Vince Staples – Lift Me up
As ridiculous as it sounds, hip hop is a huge influence on me. Obviously not a musical influence on our band but hip-hop is pushing the boundaries of art and expression more than any other genre in recent years. Vince is one of my favourite rappers at the minute. Such insightful lyrics at such a young age. Hip-Hop and punk rock are two sides of the same coin if you ask me. They both stem from a place of protest and they both champion honesty and realness above all else.
Japandroids – Adrenaline Nightshift
We opened for Japandroids in Belfast on the Celebration Rock tour and after that I fell deeply in love with this record and this band. This song couldn’t be anymore relatable to me if it tried. An ode to the rock show and touring life. Massive guitars with a unique tone, more energy than I thought was possible to cram into a track and anthemic as fuck to top it off! Makes me want to drink beer and jump around on a stage or in a sweaty basement gig with my mates. YES!
Bikini Kill – Reject All American
What a game changer of a band. Punk music for me is about lending a voice to the marginalized and Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill did just that when they pioneered the riot grrl movement. Stemming from DIY culture it was so vital in influencing women to get involved in music and feminism. Also vital in teaching young men how not be simple minded misogynists. Such an important band!
Hot Water Music – Wayfarer
I love this band more than you can imagine. This track is one of their more catchy numbers but still has clever arrangements and amazingly heartfelt lyrics. Find me a rock band with more passion crammed into their music and in particular their live set and I’ll call you a liar haha. The first time we played in the U.S. was at FEST in Gainesville. It was Hot Water Music’s 20th anniversary show in their hometown and we had the pleasure of watching them headline the main stage before playing our own show. That was a life changing experience for me.
Sugar – A Good Idea
Possibly the most underrated rock band of the 90’s. Bob Mould is a song writing genius. They should have been as big as the Foo Fighters in my opinion. I even think Dave Grohl would agree.