2016, what a fucking horrific year. Before you prudes out there question the usefulness in swearing, I would suggest that you take a long hard look at this year, and tell me it’s not entirely necessary. Here are a few more of the English dictionary’s finest to describe this year: shit, wank, cunt, fucking awful. That’s that out of the way. Alas, thank god we have The Bulletproof Bomb. 

Whilst mainstream music, and the pop charts, are determined to name anything with a guitar in punk these days, I find it quite distressing that the answer is The Bulletproof Bomb, but nobody seems to understand why. The Bulletproof Bomb dropped an EP this year, it was called This Ain’t Rebellion. It was a year in the making, but seemed to come out, bang on at the right time.

The themes throughout the EP were so fucking dead on, that it’s hard not to find it one of the most insightful pieces of music – no scrap that – art, of this year. These lads are all pretty young, yet seemed to have such a finger on the pulse, that they’ve managed to release an EP that describes everything in real-time. Starts with the commentary in opening track, ‘Sportswear Punk’, and finished with what seems to be the painting of a mid-life crisis in, ‘This Is It’.

Jesus christ, hallelujah, these are things you’ll think after hearing the EP. So what did I do? I sent an email Q&A to 2016’s unsung heroes, to get their views on what has been a really bad year. The bass player, Thomas Butler, humoured me.

See what he had to say below:

Hello The Bulletproof Bomb,

What a year 2016 has been, eh? Been a bit terrible don’t you think?

T: Errrrrr, yeah and no. At certain times, it’s certainly felt like there have been cataclysmic disasters on facebook news feeds. It’s so easy to get lost in the dark depths of Armageddon predictions but a silver lining can be found in the fact that political and world events have forced themselves the forefront of our minds. Other than that, we’ve been alright. Me (Tom), Joel and George have moved in together and the London backdrop and freedom have been a welcome change to the boring, suburban mud we’ve been marinating in all our lives.

Let’s start off in the deep end, what do you think of Brexit?

T: Brexit actually shocked me because I didn’t think Britain had the guts to do something so bold. It made me realise my ignorance to the half of the country who had voted for something that was so against the trajectory British politicians were taking us on towards “globalisation” (whatever that means). The referendum made me prick up my ears to those forgotten by new liberal ideals, and I am glad that has happened.

Like many young people, however, I didn’t agree that Brexit was the best course of action for Britain or the world and the campaigning techniques, particularly on the Leave side, were dubious at best. To be honest, though, no-one has a bloody clue how this is gonna pan out (let alone me) so in a perverse way, I’m kinda excited to see what happens.

… And Trump?

T: We all know that Trump is an abhorrent bellend so I don’t need to go over that. Who knows how much power he will actually command over America, what he will actually be able to put through and what affects that will have on the American population. The hope is that people won’t suffer, particularly those belonging to sexual and ethnic minorities, and global warming won’t be ignored.

Comparisons to Brexit are constantly being made and that is justified in my opinion. In both, there are those fearful screams of “THIS IS THE DEATH OF THE WEST!!!” and “THE WORLD IS GONNA EXPLODE!!!” but there’s also something horribly exhilarating about the whole thing. The left and right need to engage with the Donald and Brexit and learn why they’re valuable and why they’re bad.

Not forgetting the general election, any thoughts on that?

T: 2015 seems like ages ago now and the general election seems so mild amidst the clamour of Brexit and Trump and Europe and the Middle East. Everyone in the band falls differently on the political spectrum but we’re all interested, in our own ways, to see how politics has changed, and is changing, in Britain: the Tories are gaining a foothold in Scotland; the Lib-Dems fell away but are making a bit of a comeback; Labour seems to be in a state of chaos apart from dedicated support from a strongly opinionated left-wing youth; the SNP are the sexy, new party on scene.

However, what’s more interesting, and what explains the above, is how unpredictable political alliances have become – how people’s opinions are really changing. All this is exciting because it means people are making an effort to engage politically and have their voice heard. Social relations between groups are changing and they needed to. The same old election cycle of Labour-Tory-Labour-Tory appears to be ending. Politics is getting more relevant and interesting again.

Musically, the world has been at a loss almost weekly, who do you think we’ll miss most?

T: For me, the person I was most sad at was David Bowie. I think this was made worse cos Blackstar was so good which makes you feel as though you’ve lost out on interesting music that could have been made had he not died.

How do you think the revelations of 2016 are going to work out over the course of 2017?

T: Not a Scooby-doo but hopefully for some sort of good.

Lyrically speaking, your latest EP, This Ain’t Rebellion, covers a lot about our generation. Do you think there is a line between creative people looking for a space, and people indulging in the products that creative people make?

T: The answer totally depends on the type of person you are as a creative. Some people who make art want nothing more than for people to consume it. Things like Instagram are a perfect opportunity to give such people a space to display art that is immediately accessible by the public. Others find that they don’t necessarily want anyone to indulge in the things they make and they don’t have to have a public space at all to display it – their own personal sketchpad will do.

I will add, in my silly opinion, that it’s pretty much impossible to make it commercially in the music industry (I’m not sure about others) without manipulating social media. Facebook and twitter and all that bollocks need to be used to directly communicate to fans and would-be fans what you’re about as an artist. Never before, I don’t think, has the line between “private” and public life been such a grey area in the creative’s life – it seems a personality-brand needs to come across if you wanna make it to big time. You can see this with so many artists that I love and don’t love – Mac DeMarco, Rat Boy, The fucking Hunna blah blah blah.

Personally, the whole thing makes me feel a bit weird cos it’s less focussed on the music which I think has value in itself, regardless of which ugly mug is making it. But it’s just the way it is init.

What is a Sportswear Punk? Is there a direct link to the rise in Grime, and the media claiming that it is the new punk?

T: I’m a Sportswear Punk and you’re a Sportswear Punk. It’s a sort of blanket term for being a person who feels both disillusioned with work or politics or school or society, but who also has hope for the future. A sportswear punk feels bored with life and escapes that through wearing big brands to engage with some kind of identity. He/she goes out, gets pissed, engages with art or music or books that takes them somewhere else. It’s all that but at the same time feeling a bit angry, wanting big political ideals – equality, liberty, fairness – wanting to change the world. They’re both enthused and irreverent.

In relation to Grime, you can definitely see parallels. Grime is essentially a social-commentary genre like Punk was – a channel in which a group of people can vent their frustration with the place their living in. What’s also interesting, though, is that its appeal has been so wide. White, middle-class kids are all wearing sportswear, rapping along to Krept and Konan because, I think, they want to be a part of something different, exciting and cool that’s happening in culture. We can see the similarities between a grime fan and a Sportswear Punk here: they’re angry, they’re punky, but wanting to escape into something else.

Lastly, looking over the past year, musically, what has been the band’s favourite moment personally, and what do you think 2016 will be remembered for?

T: For me, it was putting out our EP ‘this ain’t rebellion’, especially when we released the first track Sportswear Punk (the first track). The song starts with big, synthy, house-influenced keyboards which immediately sounds different to the stuff we’ve done before. It was so good to release this new material as we feel it represents what we’re about a bit more.

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Words: Sam Meaghan