Dead Naked Hippies are that band who provide the perfect soundtrack for coming-of-age. Their slow-burning, contemplative sound consumes you, enveloping you in a perfect dichotomy of raging riffs and thoughtful lyricism that both empowers and sedates you. Lucy Jowett’s honeyed vocals purr over Joe Clarke’s meditative guitar hooks while Jacob Marston’s steady drums drive with graceful temper, before the trio let loose and release all inhibition. They’re the party and the come-down, rolled into one raging release of emotion. Having formed in 2016, they’ve caused a whirlwind, and their limitless potential is at the eye of the storm.
“We started this band [in 2016] because we wanted to have a lot of fun, and ironically it spiralled and got quite busy quite quickly,” admits frontwoman Lucy in response to their immediate success. There’s no doubt that being in the spotlight brings with it a pressure to succeed, and together with the inevitable ups and downs of life, it’s easy to let yourself burn out. Yet, the band channelled their personal struggles back into their music. Speaking of stand-out track ‘Guillotine’, Lucy explains how the song came from a dark place; “The song is just about life and things we were all going through. I suffer with anxiety and depression and things like that, and the song was written at a time where I was feeling pretty low really. It was just about setting myself free from that.”
It’s refreshing how open the band are about their feelings. The way they allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other hushes the stigma that anxiety is a liability or a fault, and instead transforms that vulnerability into power. “[Songwriting] is the way we deal with things going on. We’re all really open with each other, and when we perform we just put it all out there. It’s a release to write the song, then every time we perform its very intense and important for us.” In an age where we’re often discouraged to appear vulnerable, bands like Dead Naked Hippies are those close friends that tell you it’s ok; “recently, people have come up to me after and have said how the vocals connected to them and that’s number 1 for me,” expresses Lucy. “A few years back, when I was just starting up and stuff, I didn’t really think about it that much; but as we’ve done it more it feels really important for me to carry a message and to help people.” Drummer Jacob adds, “I think we didn’t realise how much that [connection] was going to be part of us. Recently with ‘Guillotine’, there’s this real energy we feel when playing. When we did our single launch for it, it was almost goose-bumpy; there was just this feeling of connection. We were all taken by surprise by that.”
Emerging in 2016, the trio attracted a wave of deserved recognition and quickly became a fixture of Leeds’ seemingly unstoppable music scene. Attracting attention from the likes of BBC Introducing, Dork Magazine and Clash, Dead Naked Hippies turned heads from the onset. Earning themselves supportive crowds and rightful slots on festival stages, the band were caught in a whirlwind of impressive debut success. “There was a point early this year where we weren’t doing as much,” admits Jacob. “We weren’t playing as much and I think it just fucked us so bad. Personally for me it was like the worst period of my life, I don’t know quite how it happened. I didn’t realise how important it was for me to perform, so that period was an eye-opener for me.”
Live, the three play let go of all inhibitions and perform as if it’s the last chance they’ll get to play. Joe and Jacob’s riveting rhythm seem to possess Lucy, as she stomps about the stage with an all-consuming magnetism. The emotional progression of their songs is beautiful to witness live, as they navigate from a vulnerable sway into a swirling moshpit of emotion. “We’re all about that loud quiet,” jokes Lucy. “We want to capture the intimate moments. It’s really important for us to capture the soft moments, but also the raging kind of vibe.”
Sitting with the band at Brudenell Social Club, the band gush about how supportive and special the music community in Leeds is. “We went to uni here and we have lots of close relationships with different musicians around Leeds,” elaborates Lucy. “Just knowing people are going through the same as you is massively important. Say if we were just doing this band and we didn’t have anyone else to chat to about it, it could feel so isolating.” Temple
of Boom, where the band practice and one Leeds’ most underated venues, has played a huge part in Dead Naked Hippies’ lives; “The guys who run it, Si and Lecky, have always been really supportive, and it feels like we’re part of their weird family. It’s like our bedroom there, we’re there all the time.” The venue, tucked away on the edge of the city centre, is a hidden gem that would go unnoticed to the average passer-by. Yet, inside, punters of all backgrounds gather and let loose to some of the country’s finest upcoming bands. “The room’s literally like a cupboard,” laughs Lucy. “People just walk by and probably don’t think that there’s that much going on, but anyone who practices there knows something special happening.” Jacob adds, “Whenever we play Temple Of Boom it’s the best feeling, because it literally feels like we’re playing in our living room. It’s great, like everyone’s coming round ours for a party but we don’t have to clean up.”
“I think you can always tell when a band is from Leeds because, even across genres, there’s always this work ethic involved,” says Josh with an irrepressible smile. “Like we went to Glasgow, and the sound guy was talking about Post War Glamour Girls - who were one of his favourite bands - and he was just like, ‘all my favourite bands seems to be from Leeds.’ He was saying that he hadn’t seen a bad Leeds band. I think because there’s so much going on in Leeds, bands only really leave if they’ve hit that point.” That’s certainly true of Dead Naked Hippies. The band seem to be on an upwards trajectory towards great success and opportunity, and just like most other Leeds bands, they’re putting in the hard work and effort to get there. It’s undeniable that they are set to achieve more wonderful things, and boy do they deserve it.
Words and Images by Meg Firth