I don’t really know where to begin with The Dauntless Elite. I was a massive fan of Joe and Steve’s previous band Fig 4.0 so was so happy when they followed that up with The Dauntless Elite’s first EP “Security” in 2004. I remember reading a review in Artcore fanzine and ordering it right away. It’s an incredible slab of socio-political punk and whilst their style has developed and matured over the last 15 years that really set the groundwork for dual vocal led,melodic punk with insightful memorable lyrics and clever arrangements. Over the years they’ve remained one of my favourite bands and I’ve had the pleasure of putting them on many times when I lived in Brighton and it’s always a total joy to see them live. I cannot recommend all of their releases enough and you can still get them all from Bombed Out Records (another Leeds institution which I would also suggest you check out).
Could you introduce yourselves alongside an interesting fact about yourself?
Steve (Drums): My arms are over 4ft long.
Joe (Guitar and singing): Inside my head is a perfectly formed minature version of me, operating my body with buttons, dials and levers. One time I sneezed and his jumper came out of my nose.
Lee plays guitar and sings. Andrew plays bass. They are both far too interesting to answer these questions.
Didn’t the Dauntless Elite go on a permanent vacation recently? What brought you back?
JOE: Yes, we sacked off Dauntless a few years ago. We were bored of playing those songs and kept running into dead ends when we tried to evolve it. For a couple of years we did a totally new band called The Party Kills. It was still the four of us, but I didn’t play guitar. To be honest, it wasn’t exactly a huge change in musical direction but it freed us up to write some new stuff. We played a few fun gigs but started missing the old Dauntless songs.
It was the Out Of Spite fest that made us start doing Dauntless again. We didn’t want to have to pay to get in so we offered to reform. Since then we’ve been doing a handful of gigs a year. I’m not sure we’re ‘back’ because we’re not writing anything new. What used to be a weekly practice has evolved into a quartlerly men’s health and wellbeing forum. We has a great session on colonoscopies last time.
Tell us how Andrew’s bass came to be played by a robot on the BBC proms a couple of years back. How many robots will be in the band on April 28th?
Ask Andrew. Maybe he’ll answer in person at the gig.
Top pudding choices of The Dauntless Elite?
ANDREW: Pecan pie
JOE: Mango sticky rice.
LEE: Ice cream
Steve didn’t answer. Maybe he’s still thinking about it.
You’ve probably got the best overview of the changing Leeds music scene than any other band we’ve had. Give us a potted history and what do you think the future looks like for Leeds and the DIY scene?
JOE: What a lovely way of saying that we’re old! A potted history as I see it is as follows…
Pop-punk blew up all over the world in the mid-90s and the Crackle folks were already putting on touring bands at the Dutchess when the Out of Spite kids moved down from Teesside. Obviously there was plenty going on before that too, but that was the point where we and lot of other people came together.
By the turn of the millenium, Leeds had probably the most thriving punk scene in the country. There’d be a gig at Joseph’s Well once a month and it wasn’t uncommon to see over 200 people there. Local bands (like our old bands Joe Ninety and Fig.4.0) would play nearly every week in the Packhorse or the Fenton. Andrew’s brother Steve started Bombed Out Records with a couple of other people and started putting out ace records, which in turn drew more people to the gigs.
We formed Dauntless during that time and the momentum carried us right through the 2000s. It was mint, but it started getting a bit samey… to the point where every band seemed to be four beardy white lads in mesh caps singing about roadtrips and whiskey over stolen Hot Water Music riffs. By – it were crap!
It would be wrong to say that the next decade had no lineage with the one before, but it felt like a rapid shift. Kids became more politicised again, line-ups became more diverse, crucially venues changed – from carving out a space in pub function rooms to autonamous spaces like Common Place (now Worf’s Chamber) Chunk, Boom etc. Meanwhile we got older, started families, got proper jobs and became less enthusiastic about being up past 11pm abusing our eardrums.
We’re not part of the Leeds punk scene today – and that’s absolutely fine. As far as I can tell it’s in better health than ever. It’s certainly way more inclusive, to the point where I sometimes wonder if we could have gotten out of the way sooner. As for the scene’s future, it looks like it’s in pretty safe hands for the time being… at least until the killer robots come.
What was the idea for the band when you started and to what extent do you think you’ve been able to maintain that?
JOE: The idea was to hang out more. We had toured together in previous bands and Lee and I wanted to try collaborating. Andrew and Steve got on board with minimal resistance. There was no grand vision for it, other than to be authentic – something I’d like to think we’ve been able to maintain. We’ve never put too much pressure on ourselves (other than the eve of recording our second album when Lee still hadn’t written lyrics for some songs) and we haven’t done too many gruelling tours. We knocked back the brief bit of major label interest we had.
I suppose one thing that changed over time is that we became less overtly political in our lyrics, especially in the songs I wrote. This wasn’t because I cared any less about the issues our early songs covered; I just don’t like to write about the same thing twice. With the big issues crossed off the list, my lyrics became more personal or more esoteric. You know your punk days are numbered when most of your lyrics read like speculative fiction!
What bands are you all listening to now?
JOE: I’m not listening to much at the moment. I just moved house so all my records are in boxes. The MP3s on my phone include Black Sabbath, loads of 90s bleepy techno, a compliation of 70s Ghanaian funk and Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys’ solo album.
If someone wanted to explore the roots of the Dauntless Elite, what bands, books and films should they be seeking out?
JOE: Anybody wanting to explore the roots of The Dauntless Elite needs to have a word with themselves! I’ve only typed these answers in so much depth because I’m putting off doing something at work. Come and chat to us at the gig though, especially Lee. His memory is so broken that every conversation is like meeting him for the first time. It’s fascinating.
What’s next? More recording planned?|
JOE: Never say never, but I’d be surprised if Dauntless record anything ever again. It’s hard enough getting us to answer a few interview questions! Me and Lee are in a band called The Lentil Institute now though, with a singer who is capable of finishing more than one set of lyrics per year. We’re just putting the finishing touches to some songs we recorded. It’s a good laugh.