Mixing punk and politics
Corby band Flash Peasants style themselves as a ‘two man protest’ making songs that ask the listener to consider modern day life
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By Sarah Ward
“The live performance became our version of activism. Some people go down to a protest, some people sign a petition, we like to write a song and air our frustrations that way.”
For Stephen Crook, one half of Corby band Flash Peasants, his band’s music is a means through which to have a say about the state of the world, both global and local.
Songs such as Three Day Week and Do This lay out what it’s like to live in today’s England, working to make ends meet and wondering how change can be made.
Embracing their small town roots and working class origins, Crooks and long time friend Shaun Flynn, began Flash Peasants in 2017 and have since released two EPs.
Their style is a combination of hip hop and punk - the pair both rap the lyrics - and they perform on stage without instruments with their mate DJ OP1 playing their music on the decks.
Crook tells me when we sit down at Corby cafe the Hungry Hossee how their ‘two man protest’ evolved.
“It kind of started out Shaun and I just venting and trying to figure out our own opinions.
“For us it does have a local focus, but there are the national and global issues as well, but we just do it in a typical Corby way, I guess.”
The culture wars, the class system and the grind of daily life are all embedded in the lyrics. The band’s name also has political origins and is a comment on modern day society.
“Long story short, we’d been somewhere and had a few beers and we were putting the world to rights and then someone said it [flash peasants] as a throwaway comment. We were talking about society now - basically it boiled down to there is still that hierarchy and the peasantry is much better off now than we were, but essentially we are still kept in our place by the structures of society.”
Flash Peasants is not the first band the friends have been in together.
Crook and Flynn went to the same Catholic secondary in Corby, before becoming band mates in Corby rock group Acoda.
Started in the late 2000s, the band went on to have reasonable success, touring the country, playing large festivals and releasing a well received album.
But it came to an end and the experience has taught them that it’s not the acclaim but their own enjoyment of the music that is important.
“You could say we are making a name for ourselves, but it is not something I pay much attention to. When I was younger, all I wanted was for people to know about our band, but that is a lot less important to us now.
“It is not a full time project and we’re really patient with it.
“We were in a rock band together - which we dedicated a lot of time to. Lots of touring round the country and sleeping in a van.
“But when that ended we still wanted to make music together, but we were growing older and we had other responsibilities in life, so as and when we get time or when we feel compelled to, Flash Peasants is there for us to enjoy.”
Crook has been playing music since a young age, he plays drums, bass guitar and was taught to play the piano by nuns. He now works in schools (including the primary he went to) teaching kids music.
The band makes music in a variety of ways, collaborating with both local musicians and those from further afield.
“We have a few different methods when it comes to making the music.
“We’ve had collaborative efforts with people, who will make a beat and they will send it to us and we will put the words on top and then other instances where Shaun has written the drum beat, the base, the guitars and puts it onto his computer as a demo and we put the words on top of that.
“And then we’ve had songs where I’ve got an idea and I explain it to somebody else and they make some music and I say ‘I like this but can you change that’ and then we will put the words on it. So there is not one set way of doing it. But we can write and perform music.
“But when we perform live we are not playing instruments - it is just a microphone and our DJ on the turntables.”
They put a lot of creative energy into the visuals to go with their music. The video for Three Day Week, filmed and produced by Michael Pheasant, won best video in December at the first ever Northamptonshire Local Music Awards. Styled as an Anchorman pastiche, it has production values any music act would be proud of with Crook and Flynn showing they can lip sync with the best of them.
Anyone who wants to hear the band’s music will have the chance next weekend at a gig at the Raven Hotel, Rockingham Road, Corby, at the Mayday Mayhem II event on April 30.
“It’s such an amazing venue. It’s where ourselves and our musical peers cut our teeth. It is where we played some of our first gigs, so it is cool to be going back there for that show.”