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15th September 2023

86TVs: “We came back as different people”

Felix White and Jamie Morrison from 86TVs sit down with The Mancunion to talk about new beginnings, growing the project, and Manchester
86TVs: “We came back as different people”
Credit: Jono White

“Those bands you fall in love with when you’re a teenager always stay with you,” Felix White tells me from Hebden Bridge’s Trades Club green room, the idyllic lounge of a detached house next to the venue. He recalls being at the front of I Am Kloot gigs with his brothers in his mid-teens, recalling the band’s ability to turn any space into a different world, and how this impacted himself, Hugo, and Will White. Now they perform together in a band 20 years on, and it’s apt that they’re named after an I Am Kloot song: 86TVs.

Felix and Hugo White made up two-fifths of the Maccabees, and since they disbanded in 2017, their time has been occupied with other projects. Felix is now a cricket journalist and host of the Tailenders podcast, with Greg James, James Anderson, and Matt Horan, and also co-runs the record label Yala!, with Willie J Healey, Cathy Jain, and Egyptian Blue on their roster. Hugo produced Jamie T’s triumphant return to the studio in 2022 with The Theory of Whatever and has also worked with Matt Maltese and Ten Tonnes. Will White pursued the solo project BLANc

Yet secretly across all these projects, the three brothers found time to jam with each other. The nebulous group, complete with ex-Noisettes and Stereophonics drummer Jamie Morrison, is finally working together after sporadic interactions over a decade. Seven years later, the world finally gets to see 86TVs.

“While all those things were happening in all our lives, we were just growing this thing,” Felix White tells me. “It was sort like a full circle moment, it felt like accidentally going back to being a teenager. There was no expectations of what the band might be.”

“When you’ve been in bands all your life, you almost get institutionalized into thinking ‘this is the only thing I can do.’ When you’re young, it’s almost a necessity to make it happen. It’s saying, ‘there’s no other option, this is all I’m going to do, and what I want to do, and what I’m put on this earth to do.’ So when the Maccabees ended, I had that running around my head for a long time. In getting out of that, I had this moment of realisation that I might be given a second chance at all the other opportunities in another life that I could do. […] 86TVs, in a strange way, has always been the focus.”

Jamie Morrison agrees. “It was about enjoying the process as well. Not having to release something, not telling anyone, being able to do everything behind closed doors. It’s such a privilege especially since you’ve been established.” Morrison has been a member of Stereophonics since 2012, and appreciates the difference of being in 86TVs too. “It’s a different thing completely, a different world. […] I knew the [Stereophonics] music from a very young age, and you hear it a lot. It’s sort of inside me so to speak. It’s in my blood. And I guess this music is in my blood as well, because we started from the beginning […] that’s something that’s a big tree and we’re just a sapling.”

The genesis of 86TVs being so organic has meant that the music has arrived very naturally. However, there are some eerie coincidences within the life of the band. The Maccabees ended their career with a three-night, emotionally charged residency at Alexandra Palace. When 86TVs supported Jamie T last year, it was a return to the Ally Pally stage. “The Maccabees ended there, and we were starting,” White tells me. “It felt like definitive chapters. In terms of shedding your skin, at the same venue, it was a significant moment at Alexandra Palace. We came back as different people in lots of ways, and you kind of felt like you left a different part of yourself there.” It’s almost like a match cut in a film.

The support shows, with no released music, led the band to hone their sound and get to a point where they were ready to do everything around the music. “It was really good for the music and establishing a sound,” says Morrison. “Jamie’s tour is what solidified the sound and we went back and re-recorded certain things to make it fit. […] We’ve only had a record deal for six months. We didn’t even have a team. The Jamie T tour really solidified when we got a manager, when we got a booking agent, and from then we solidified the recording and what would be the first single. There was no point in talking any sooner. It was all about timing and organically we just got to the point where now we’ve released something and it makes sense to speak.”

White and Morrison recall playing in Manchester over their careers. “It felt like there were hundreds of venues,” Morrison says. “You’d go back there and play a different place every single time. I remember one on the roof, one underground, just forever venues. I’ve always personally loved playing Manchester.”

“The first time The Maccabees played outside of Brighton or London was to go and do In the City festival in Manchester,” White remembers. “It feels so mad now, but it was like going to another universe. […] We played the show and slept in the van, and I remember hearing the Manchester nightlife outside. It felt like you were in Jurassic Park, when the T Rex is rocking the car, with all the nightlife disturbing you.” Trying to sleep in the middle of the Northern Quarter feels like a futile practice.

The phrase I keep coming back to when describing 86TVs is that it feels like a culmination of every member’s lives, and speaks to the core principles of why people make music. In Felix White’s book, It’s Always Summer Somewhere, he recounts him and his brothers always performing growing up; whether that be bursting into rooms with ghetto blasters at family gatherings, or Will and Hugo’s juvenile band Good Samaritans, performing songs about “slippers and sandwiches” at their grandmother’s birthday party. Felix was not invited, nor requested to be in Good Samaritans; it was not mentioned in the book. “I’d use the word audacity,” White ponders. “It was audacious of them to attempt it.”

All jokes aside, it is beautiful that the brothers have found a way back to working with each other. “It seems strange to me that we haven’t done this until later in life,” White says. “But that’s part of the coincidence of meeting Jamie which has brought that out of us. It’s that quite sweet thing of siblings trying to re-get to know each other as adults and not as kids.” 

“I think any siblings, or even friends that have known each other for a long time, you start to pigeonhole who people are and that’s where resentments grow. So when you have to start again in a band, and do all the nitty-gritty of getting on with the day-to-day, you have to sort of remould how you know someone and give people to grow, and meet them as adults rather than the kid you used to know.” After such a poignant thought, White brings us back down to earth with a classic brotherly jibe. “You’ll have to come back and interview us in two years. I might say it was the f*cking worst thing in the whole world.” This cements the central wonder of the band; the brothers are appreciative of growing and dovetailing with each other, but the bond between them is still one that has been fostered over a lifetime. They’ll always be brothers, no matter the circumstances or set of events. As Karen O once sang, “My kind’s your kind, I’ll stay the same.”

“It’s certainly a lovely thing to watch from my perspective,” Morrison affirms. “Seeing the brothers not reconnect, but interacting with each other like that, it’s a lovely thing to be a part of.” Morrison’s view on stage from the drumkit, situated behind the three brothers in a line, poetically captures the bond between them. “I like to overview the whole thing, and I like to keep tabs on what everyone’s doing, offstage as well. It’s a lovely thing.” 

This is what I see at the gig that evening at The Trades Club. They have Beatles-style symmetry, with left-handed and right-handed guitar silhouettes across the stage. Each member of 86TVs has their own idiosyncrasies, time to shine, and contributes to the greater good of the band. The music is punchy and euphoric, affirming and poignant. After hiding away from the world for so long, it feels like such a privilege to see the fruits of their labour of love.

86TVs are on tour until September 23rd. Tickets here.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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