Worcester Punk band The Samples played their last show in May ’86 at, of all places, Perdiswell Leisure Centre. Some half decent amateur video footage of that gig confirms what a fantastic live band they were. On record, they debuted with 1980’s self-released Vendetta EP. Picked up by Malvern based record label No Future, the track Government Downfall was included on the following year’s A Country Fit For Heroes compilation. 1982 brought the Dead Hero EP, which remains a stone-cold classic slice of hard hitting, tuneful Punk Rock. Plans for a follow up single (demos for which were recorded) and an album came to nothing, due to No Future concentrating their efforts and budget on Blitz’s poorly received second album Second Empire Justice.
Fast forward 34 years from that Perdiswell show and The Samples are back. To celebrate their much-anticipated return they’ve hooked up with SkullKing Records and released the Lavender Hill Demos EP. Recorded in January 1981, what you get are five previously unreleased tracks. At 1 minute 12 seconds Chemical Warfare comes and goes almost before it starts. A short, sharp blast of catchy street Punk. Fight Conscription and Protect And Survive are also lyrically typical early eighties diatribes against the ongoing cold war and very possible threat of World War Three. Again, they’re tightly wound slabs of basic, raw, tuneful hardcore driven forward by drummer Tony Allen’s no-nonsense attack.
However, I’d argue Agent Orange and Waste Of Time are the real gems here. Clocking in at over 4 minutes and 3 minutes respectively they’re considered and accomplished tracks. Both contain some great guitar work from Dave Evans and subtle bass thrills from Pascal Smith. Agent Orange has a simple, but effect chorus delivered by the inimitable Sean Taylor. While Waste Of Time has a double tracked vocal which yields the final verse over the chorus. The growing musical proficiency, more involved song structures and excellent use of melodic progression on these tracks certainly highlights the band’s next huge step forward.
Don’t expect anything of the calibre of the Dead Hero EP, these are demo recordings after all. Instead what you get are highly enjoyable slices of Punk from early on in a great band’s recording career. Put succinctly, the Lavender Hill Demos EP is a very worthwhile release, which effectively completes the band’s discography.
As with all SkullKing Records releases, the presentation of the EP is top notch. Limited to just 300 copies – 100 Green, 100 Black and 100 (Agent) Orange vinyl – you’ll have to be quick to secure a copy. Each seven-inch vinyl comes with a CD containing the five tracks, an eight-sided booklet and a set of unique badges.
Questions answered by The Samples’ guitarist Dave Evans.
What prompted The Samples’ return now?
We drifted apart for many years but started meeting up again in 2010 and we discussed the idea then a little. Each time we met, we talked about it but no-one was really quite up for it. In late 2018 we heard that the folks organising Rebellion would be interested in us and that was really the catalyst for a “it’s now or never” conversation. We weren’t quite ready to make the 2019 festival but when we were asked to play at this years event, it was the final push and we were off and running.
You’ve been offered slots at Rebellion Festival, Morecambe Punk Festival, Once A Punk Festival in Belgium and many other excellent gigs. Are you surprised by the response your return has garnered?
Totally! We seem to be a damn sight more popular now then we were back in the day! Just shows how people love a bit of nostalgia. I suppose we all felt that we had unfinished business with this band – we had an album inside us and we never got to do that. No Future spunked all their cash on Blitz’s second album, they ran out of cash and it all became a bit of a struggle for a while. Not too many folks got to see us first time around so I think we might be a bit of a novelty at some of these festivals. Looking forward to showing them what a great live band we are.
Who’s the new boy in the ranks? How are rehearsals going?
Johnny P is our new drummer. He has played with Paz in Take The Fifth for a few years so it made sense to go with someone we knew, and have seen playing. He hits those skins bloody hard, let me tell you! Practice was going really well up until all this Covid-19 stuff hit but really looking forward to getting started again. We’ve been playing some of the older songs that we dropped from our set, including the songs on this EP, so it’s been interesting playing those again and discovering that they aren’t too bad. In fact, one or two of the old ones (like Vendetta) has been given a new lease of life and we are really enjoying playing it.
What plans do the band have for the future?
“There is no future….”. Not sure really – our plan was to play no more than 10 shows this year, have a laugh, and then see if we fancy continuing if there is decent interest from folks in us doing so. We have been talking about/tinkering with some new material….so you never know what might happen next!