Sweet Unrest will play Three Wise Monkeys in Colchester this Wednesday, 19th June. I caught up with the band and Owen Bennett to chat ahead of the show.

Sweet Unrest. Your music has been described as exhilarating, energetic, emotional, and entertaining. What drives this intense passion and energy in your performances?

It’s not something we can control. Music just affects us very viscerally. We only make tunes that excite us and light coals under our feet, and when you combine that with the energy from the audience, it fans the flames until it all becomes one great big and beautiful bonfire. The lines between the band and the audience become blurred, sometimes literally, as people storm the stage or we invade the audience.  And yeah, they’re emotional, too. Music pretty much serves two purposes in our book: to tug at your heartstrings or get you banging your head so hard you forget you have any.

Your first Essex show is at Three Wise Monkeys on Wednesday, 19th June, as part of your tour to promote your debut vinyl release. How are you feeling about coming to play Colchester, and what are you most looking forward to?

It’s always exciting playing in a new place. Apparently, there’s a cool scene in Colchester, a bit of a well-kept secret, so we’re especially excited this time. Also a little apprehensive. Playing to new people in a new place sometimes feels like it’s your first gig all over again. But I think that’s a good thing. In fact, it’s a magical thing. It’s like losing your virginity all over again, or it’s like seeing your favourite film again for the first time. Bring it on. 

Your new single, “Falling For You,” is receiving acclaim. Can you tell us about the song?

Ha! Is it? Cool. It was a slow brewer of a song, which is usually something we don’t believe in (most of the time, the best songs come instantly). Something about this one just worked, though. Marlo was jamming the intro riff with us for months before we knew what to do with it. We knew it was good, though. My old housemate, who is a lesbian, said she’d go straight for that riff. One day, I (Jack) was dreaming about it, and the chorus melody came to me. I rushed to my phone to record a voice memo, and a few days later, the rest of the chords and the lyrics came to me. Marlo suggested changing the second half of the verse melody. When I first heard that, I said I’d rather quit music forever than have that melody. A day later, I conceded it was brilliant. Not sure what changed. Our friend Miranda took the tune to a whole new level when she jammed violin to it at the Old Dispensary, and we swiftly got her on the record. 

Your label, No Distance Records, is run by Owen Bennett, who has a strong connection to Colchester. How has his support shaped your journey so far?

Oh, does he? Yeah, I think he mentioned it, actually. Owen has been invaluable. He’s believed in us from the early days and, been a friend and confidant and has put the wind in our sails. It’s been really touching to have someone believe in us and share the journey. He’s worked tirelessly to get us this gig and many others. He’s organised the vinyl, got it sold in record shops including Rough Trade, sorted us press like this, and so much more. We will always hold Owen very dear for the rest of our career and hope he will us. We’re honoured and humbled to know him. Other than that, he’s a total loser.

I’m looking forward to your gig at Three Wise Monkeys. What can we expect from this performance?

It’s impossible to say; we never really know what’s going to happen. But you can expect tunes that punch you in the face and then stay stuck in your head for days. There may even be some tears shed (because the songs are beautiful, not because they’re shit – but tears are tears, I suppose). Jack will probably nip off somewhere for a bit during Riverside and bang the tambourine in a room on his own for some reason (don’t ask why, but he does do that). 

With the release of your debut vinyl, what’s next for Sweet Unrest? Can you share any insights into your future projects or tours?

The next gig will be underwater in scuba gear to a bunch of dolphins and anyone else bad enough to join them. Other than that, with any luck, we’ll be playing some festivals next year and possibly a cheeky tour of Spain. We’ll be sticking to a single every 6 weeks, and let us tell you, the tunes are getting better and better. You ain’t seen nothing yet. Somehow, the tunes are getting more experimental and more timeless at the same time. We’re only making tunes that are undeniably brilliant, and we won’t settle for anything less. Even your Nan would agree. We’re making tunes for your Nan, is what we’re saying. 

What message do you hope to convey to your listeners through your music?

Big beats are the best, get high all the time.  It depends on the song, man. For us, a truly good song is about communicating some deep feeling you’ve had or something you’ve noticed and then packaging that in a way that can be experienced by other people. It’s taking a slice of beauty that you’ve seen and putting it on a plate for others to enjoy. But with all the songs, it’s about playing. It’s not an accident it’s called ‘playing’ music. As we get older, we forget how to play, and quite quickly, our lives can become very boring, pragmatic, and bereft of any kind of childlike joy or wonder. Music is one of the few places that survives, and it’s crucial we honour that gift. We need it more than we consciously know. There’s your answer.

Owen, it’s going to be great seeing you again in Colchester at this gig. I checked my records, and it’s nearly 14 years since I booked your old band, The Overwrought, to play one of My Keep Colchester Cool nights! What have you been up to music-wise since then?

Oh man, that takes me back. The Overwrought was great fun; I think we played everywhere in Colchester with our particular brand of unfocused anger! After The Overwrought, I was in another Essex band called Heavy Loaded Dice, which was a bit more Britpop, but then I sort of stopped doing anything for quite a few years. I’ve got a really good mate who releases stuff under the name Dr Peel who kept bugging me to do music again, and I kept sending him rough demos, and that turned into me doing an album – Float, which I released under the name Solitude Sometimes Is. 

It will be good to see your Solitude Sometimes project on the night, and I’m delighted that Colchester’s Butterfly Handshake and Combat Sports are supporting Sweet Unrest at Three Wise Monkeys. Have you kept an eye on the Colchester music scene since you left, and if so, what are your thoughts on the current music here compared to when you were last actively involved?

I’ve still got some great mates in Colchester, so I pop back fairly often. The scene seems great, and it feels like there’s just the same enthusiasm for creating as there was when I was here many years ago, putting on bands at Tin Pan Alley on Queen Street. I’ve always loved that Colchester just gets on with things. I’ve lived in a few places, and Colchester is definitely the most ‘can do’ when it comes to music and the arts in general. 

What are your hopes and expectations for the future of No Distance Records and Sweet Unrest?

Sweet Unrest are going to be huge. That’s a fact. That’s not even up for debate. So I hope that they remember No Distance Records when they are headlining Glastonbury and get me a VIP Access All Areas ticket. As for No Distance Records, I’m very much in the Tony Wilson zone of just doubling down on everything. Make everything as beautiful as possible, and if that’s the last thing you do, then that’s enough. The other focus is getting bands from Colchester and other places, gigs in London and vice versa. No one is coming to save the music industry; we have to save it ourselves.

Owen, Sweet Unrest, thank you so much for your time. I look forward to the gig and can’t wait to see what you do next!

Tickets are available via No Distance Records.