England’s Eagulls offer edgy echoes of postpunk’s past

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Their names are similar—and are, in fact, pronounced exactly the same—but don’t mistake U.K. upstarts Eagulls for those ’70s survivors known as the Eagles. Just as it’s a long way from the Hotel California to a West Yorkshire council flat, the younger band’s brand of grey-skies postpunk couldn’t be farther away from the Eagles’ catalogue of middle-of-the-road hits.

“We don’t get confused with them a lot, surprisingly,” says Eagulls bassist Tom Kelly, reached on the road somewhere in Texas. “I think the last time we played in Brooklyn, in January, there was some woman at the door who’d brought her 15-year-old daughter, because she thought it was an Eagles tribute band. And she was at the door demanding her money back, I think. It doesn’t happen in England a lot, or at all. That’s the only time I’ve heard of it confusing someone, to be honest.”

Kelly and his Leeds-based bandmates might never be quite as famous as Don Henley and Glenn Frey, but they are getting their share of attention on this side of the Atlantic thanks to incendiary performances at South by Southwest and on The Late Show With David Letterman, and on the strength of their self-titled debut album, released in March.

Eagulls showcases a band that knows how to balance an assaultive sound with an accessible approach to songwriting. While astute (and, uh, old) listeners will hear echoes of Killing Joke and the Chameleons, there’s clearly an original sen-sibility emerging in these smouldering tracks.

Kelly and drummer Henry Ruddel keep things ticking along with their taut and wiry rhythms, while guitarists Mark Goldsworthy and Liam Matthews employ their chorus and flanger pedals in the construction of a hanging garden of darkwave tones. Frontman George Mitchell’s insistent yelp isn’t likely to win over any Timothy B. Schmit fans, but “Tough Luck” and “Possessed” provide proof that he knows how to write a vocal hook.

Kelly reveals that Mitchell was the last to join, but not for lack of trying on the group’s part. “They asked George to sing in the band even before I was in the band, I think,” the bassist says. “But I think he said no at first because he had some other stuff on at the time. He was doing some illustration work and putting all his creativity into that kind of thing.”

After several lesser candidates came and went, Eagulls reached out to Mitchell again, and this time they got a yes.

“He was living in Darby at the time,” Kelly remembers. “We sent him some tapes we’d recorded really roughly, and then he came to the first practice with the lyrics of ‘Council Flat Blues’, I think it was.”

Now all that’s left is for lawyers representing those other Eagles to send our boys in Leeds a cease-and-desist order.

“Unfortunately, they haven’t been in touch yet, but we were kind of hoping,” Kelly jokes. “When we named the band that we thought it’d be a bit funny. But no, thank fuck, they haven’t.”

Eagulls play the Media Club on Tuesday (June 3).

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