Boston Manor is not from Boston. Rather, it’s a pop punk band from Blackpool, England—one that’s just as bold and unrelenting live as it is on the record. In 2016, the group made a splash with its first LP, the existentially titled Be Nothing. The next year, it traveled across America with Warped Tour. Recently, it’s been on the road again—first as a supporting act for Knuckle Puck, and now as a headliner.
We got the chance to catch up with a few of the Boston Manor guys before they opened for Knuckle Puck at D.C.’s Union Stage. We started the conversation with lead guitarist Mike Cunniff and rhythm guitarist Ash Wilson; then lead vocalist Henry Cox joined in. Read on for their stories about everything from Warped Tour to dwarf rabbits.
The Young Folks: You guys have been on this tour for a little while now. Has anything particularly funny, memorable, or interesting happened?
Mike Cunniff: I think every single show we play, someone falls on their face in front of everybody. And I try not to laugh—I do feel for ‘em; I really hope they are okay—but a lot of the time, the position they end up in is quite funny. (Laughs)
TYF: Has it ever been either of you?
Cunniff: Ehhmm… Close.
Ash Wilson: Yeah, very close. I almost fall over every show as well. I don’t know if we want to talk about that. (Laughs)
Cunniff: I’m trying to think of anything more memorable… We’ve met a lot of dogs on this tour. I’m stoked ‘cause we love dogs. (Laughs) We stayed in Kev [Kevin Garcia] from Free Throw’s parents’ place in Connecticut, and he has literally the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It’s a Labrador crossover with a golden retriever. It’s so unbelievably wide, it just blows your mind. And the day after that, we stayed in a house where the dog was, like, the size of my hand. (Laughs)
TYF: Do you guys have any dogs?
Cunniff: My mum has a Chihuahua which yaps and hates everything and is super protective over all of her toys and stuff, so you can’t get near her. Also a Frenchy. She’s adorable. Bit of a bulldog. Basically just tries to hit you with her head. Literally runs at you. But I have three cats, so I’m more of a cat person, really.
Wilson: We used to have a dog a long time ago, but we can’t anymore. Basically, my brother’s allergic. We had to keep it outside ‘cause we used to live in the country, where you could have dogs outside but not indoors.
TYF: You guys just released a new song, “Drowned in Gold.” Would you like to talk about the meaning behind that? It’s got some pretty cool lyrics.
Cunniff: Sure. I guess it’s a lot to do with social inequities, especially where we live, and how poor people have virtually nothing, but some spend their money on drugs and alcohol and stuff like that. That’s the basis of the song, but you can kind of read into the lyrics any way you want. I think all of us don’t normally like revealing the nature of a song because it’s always more fun when people work it out, interpret it for themselves.
Wilson: You can apply your own meaning to it, as well, which is always nice.
Cunniff: When I listen to a song and I find out what it actually is about, sometimes it’s quite disappointing. D’you know what I mean?
Wilson: It’s kind of got a Trainspotting feel to it, as well, you know? Especially if you look at a blurb of Trainspotting, the very famous “Choose this,” “Choose that.”
TYF: You also have another song called “Fossa.” A fossa’s a type of cat, if I’m correct?
Cunniff: Yeah, it’s a little animal. It also means a shallow indent or depression. We just like the word. We think it’s pretty cool.
Wilson: It fit the vibe of the song, as well.
Cunniff: Yeah, it’s really weird, actually. I feel like we named that song before there were even any lyrics on it, and then it just so happened that the lyrics mashed up with the name.
Wilson: The name just floated around for a while, didn’t it?
TYF: That’s pretty cool. And you guys played Warped Tour last summer.
Cunniff: We did.
TYF: What was your favorite memory from that?
Cunniff: So we were in Texas.
Wilson: Where was it in Texas? San Antonio?
Cunniff: Probably. So basically, you pay… I think it was like, 12 dollars? And you each get a little [inflatable] ring and you get on a school bus and drive all the way to the top of this river, and then you just float all the way down it, and you just have beers. It was Microwave, Movements, and Knocked Loose, and we all just got very drunk and had a lot of fun.
Wilson: Yeah. When you arrive there, there’s a massive mountain of these tubes—these rings. It’s like, almost as big as this ceiling. And you can just grab one.
Cunniff: You have to pick your own one. Test ‘em all out. And you can grab one for your cooler as well. So you’re floating down the river with everyone, and you’ve got your cooler tethered to your ring. It’s amazing.
Wilson: And then if you don’t want to lose anyone, you can tie everyone together, so there’s just an insane amount of you all grouped together. There was some crazy college party that was happening, and they were only a couple minutes behind us, and every time we’d end up stopping, they would always catch up and they’d be like, “Oh, yo, it’s the English dudes! Do you wanna shotgun a beer? Do you wanna shotgun a beer? Here’s a beer.” And we’d be like, “All right.” (Laughs)
Cunniff: We were floating down the river for five hours.
TYF: Five hours!
Cunniff: We got so sunburnt and nice and tan.
Wilson: Also, on the way down there, we saw a cooler abandoned on the rocks, and we were like, “Ah, there’s probably nothing in there, but we should go check it.” And we went in there, and there was a shit-ton of buried treasure.
Cunniff: [When we first saw the cooler], we started screaming out, and everybody was watching. Was it Henry [who walked up to it]? I can’t remember. [After opening it], he just turns around and reaches up and he’s like, “Yeah!” And the entire group, all fifty of us, was like, “Yeah!”
Wilson: Very strange day.
Cunniff: Good fun, yeah.
Wilson: Probably one of our favorite days ever, actually. It was very much a cool day.
TYF: So if it was a five-hour trip, does that mean you were going across state lines?
Wilson: No, it was just very slow, very gradual. And then we stopped a bunch of times to use the rope swings and stuff as well.
Cunniff: You can literally make it last as long as you want, or you can whiz down as fast as possible.
TYF: That sounds like a lot of fun.
Wilson: It was a lot of fun.
Cunniff: Really, really cheap, as well, so if you’re ever around—I think it’s San Antonio—try and find what it’s called. I can’t remember what it’s called.
TYF: That’s a good ways out.
Cunniff: Probably a while from here, isn’t it?
TYF: A long while from here.
Cunniff: I actually don’t know where it is, in comparison to here.
TYF: If you were to drive there, it would take, like, five days.
Cunniff: Really? Geez.
TYF: By flight, maybe 5 hours. That’s pretty cool, though. What are your thoughts on Warped Tour ending?
Cunniff: Warped Tour ending. I think it’s the end of an era, really. There were a lot of kids who really wanted to go, and most kids in the scene did go when they were younger. Obviously for us, it was different, since we didn’t really have a Warped Tour in the U.K. For us, it wasn’t really as huge of a deal.
Wilson: I didn’t even know that much about it, to be honest.
Cunniff: Yeah. We saw some old Warped sets from from Blink and people like that, but it was never really that huge of a deal for us. But yeah, it’s gonna be a shame to see another touring… It’s basically like a carnival, isn’t it? Picking up and setting up in a different parking lot every day. It’s gonna be a shame.
TYF: Were there a few bands that you were closest to when you had time to just hang out on the road?
Cunniff: Trophy Eyes, absolutely. They’re some of our best friends now. It was them, Microwave…
Wilson: Microwave. Absolute best friends, as well, Great band, too.
Cunniff: …And Knocked Loose and Movements, as well.
Wilson: All of those were on our stage. I think all of them, bar Microwave, were on our stage. It’s a very cool sense of community. I’m sure you’ve seen the layout, but a lot of our tents would be surrounding that stage. We got to spend a lot of time with those people.
TYF: If you could pick up any new instruments, what instruments would you learn?
Cunniff: I would learn the saxophone. Because it’s sick. And I feel like I could probably just take it into a bar and just be like, “Yo,” and sit there and play for a bit and do some improv sax. We actually have a friend who does that. He just randomly gets emails like “Come to this bar, there’s food and stuff. You can just literally play saxophone for a couple of hours, and we’ll pay you, like, $200.” And he’s just like, “Sure, let’s go!”
TYF: That’s really cool.
Cunniff: My dad plays piano. I play piano as well, but he really wanted to learn saxophone, so if I could learn it, I could teach him. That’d be good.
Wilson: Probably the Theremin. (Laughs)
TYF: Theremin. That’s a good choice.
Wilson: But I don’t think you can learn how to play that because it’s one of the most unpredictable… I don’t even know if you can call it an instrument. It’s trial and error, basically.
Cunniff: I’ve seen videos of cats playing the theremin. It’s so much fun. So it can’t be that hard. (Laughs) I don’t know.
TYF: Since you just released one single, do you have a new EP or album coming up soon?
(Cunniff and Wilson repeat the word “Yeah” until they break down laughing.)
TYF: Can you tell us about that right now?
Cunniff: Yeah! We just finished recording it. Just before this tour, we spent a month in the studio in New Jersey, and yeah, we recorded a new album.
Wilson: We’ve been in America for a while now.
Cunniff: Yeah. And we’re still doing the mixing process and stuff like that. And it’s obviously one of the best things we’ve ever done. And we’re super proud of it, super happy about it.
Wilson: It’s definitely what people are going to make of it, ’cause it’s vastly different from everything else, even including the “Drowned in Gold” single. So we hope they like it. But even if they don’t, we’re super stoked about it.
Cunniff: Pretty selfish. (Laughs)
Wilson: We’re very satisfied with it. Hopefully people get it.
TYF: What would you say are the biggest differences?
Cunniff: I don’t really want to say anything; I kind of just want to throw it out there and see what people think about it, let them figure it out for themselves.
TYF: If you guys were making a Boston Manor yearbook and each of you had to have a superlative, what would yours be?
Wilson: I’m terrible with these kinds of questions, on-the-spot questions. I’ll be like, “Oh, I’m gonna say something funny,” and then I’m not funny. So I’ll pass that one.
Cunniff: Mine would be something really boring. I like cats. (Laughs)
TYF: So you’d be “Most Love for Cats.”
Cunniff: “Most Love for Cats”! Yeah. In the entire school. (Laughs)
TYF: What would you say is the best movie soundtrack, if you had to choose one?
Cunniff: Mmm. I really like the soundtrack for The Assassination of Jesse James [by the Coward Robert Ford].
TYF: I have not seen that film.
Cunniff: Well, that is a very good soundtrack. Even if you haven’t seen that, the whole soundtrack’s on Spotify, so give it a listen. It’s really cool. Also Interstellar. Great soundtrack. Have you seen that film before?
TYF: I have not. Not the whole thing.
Cunniff: Oh, wow. You’re in for a treat.
Wilson: You’re in for a real treat. It’s really, really good. I’m almost jealous because you get to watch it for the first time.
Cunniff: You get to appreciate it.
Wilson: My brother came back from watching it, and he came back bleary-eyed, and he was like, “I’ve just seen the best film I’ve ever seen in my life.” And it was really late at night, as well. He was like, “You’ve got to see it,” and we were just like, “Okay, let’s go,” and we caught a super-late showing. It was crazy.
TYF: What’s the best movie that each of you guys have seen recently?
Cunniff: Recently? I really liked Three Billboards [Outside Ebbing, Missouri]. That was a really, really good film.
TYF: That won a lot of awards.
Wilson: Yeah. It was insanely depressing.
Cunniff: It really was, wasn’t it? But it was great.
Wilson: I loved it. It was a very cool vibe. Also, for the first time, I saw True Romance. I had never seen that film before, and I kind of knew it was going to be amazing, and I kind of purposely didn’t watch it because I wanted to save it. I saw it on tour. It’s one of my favorite films now.
Henry Cox, the band’s vocalist, walks into the green room. Introductions are made, and Cunniff invites him to join in. He gladly sits down and jumps into the conversation.
TYF: This is actually perfect timing, because I have a question specifically for you.
Cox: I knew that. Telepathically. That’s why I came in at this time.
Cunniff: Yeah, that sounds definitely true.
TYF: So, I saw on your Twitter that you had a dwarf rabbit named Godzilla…
Cox: (Laughs) Yeah! I did, yeah.
TYF: Would you like to tell us more about this rabbit?
Cox: He was fucking sick. He would beat the shit out of all the cats in the neighborhood. He was about this big. (Extends hands) He was really tiny. We didn’t name him; he was called that when we got him. That’s about it, really.
Cunniff: Wait. He was called Godzilla when you got him?
Cox: Yeah. We bought him when he was called Godzilla.
Cunniff: What? I thought you named him Godzilla.
Cox: No. We were like, “No, no, no, this is too good a name. We’re not changing it.” And then we moved into a house and we found out that the rabbit’s sister—they make loads of them at once, rabbits—was next door. They were part of the same litter. They would hang out together and stuff.
Cunniff: Best pals.
TYF: Amazing. And before you were walking in, we were talking about best movie soundtracks, and then we were talking about, “What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?”
Wilson: Oh, I’ve got one for the soundtrack one. Have you seen the series Les Revenants? Mogwai did the soundtrack for that, and it’s amazing. So sick.
Cox: I’m a big fan of anything Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all that kind of stuff. We went to see Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri recently.
TYF: Yeah, we were talking about that.
Cox: That’s definitely the best one I’ve seen in recent times, for sure. I’m really lazy. I just rewatch films I know I already like.
TYF: I do that as well. What are some of those films that you rewatch a lot?
Cox: Me and Jordan watched The Matrix 3 the other day. It was fucking sick. Snatch. Anything Guy Ritchie’s always easy. Space Jam, one of my favorite films. The Matrix. The Matrix 3.
Wilson: The Matrix 2, as well.
Cunniff: The Mask.
Cox: Dude, The Mask is one of the best films ever made. (Laughs)
Cunniff: The Mask is better than all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Cox: All right, let’s not be crazy. (Laughs)
TYF: Earlier, we were talking about favorite tour memories. Do you have any stories you’d like to share?
Cox: It’s so hard, this question, ’cause I have, like, a million. And it’s always when you’re in the shower that you’re like, “That was really funny,” but when you’re put on the spot you can’t remember. Come back to me on that one. I’ll try and think.
TYF: Mike and Ash were also saying it’s your first time in D.C.
Cox: Yeah! We had a little mosey around the White House earlier on. I think we’re going to the Lincoln Memorial this evening, ‘cause it’ll be quieter.
TYF: The monuments are open all night, which is pretty cool.
Cox: That’s sick! All lit up and stuff, but not super touristy and busy.
TYF: It’s awesome when you’re driving past it around midnight and nobody’s really there, but it’s still standing and you can still check it out.
Cox: Yeah, it’s sick. That’s the move, I think. That’s the plan.
TYF: Out of all of your Boston Manor songs, does each of you have a favorite?
Cox: I think I speak for everyone when I say that all our favorite songs are the ones on the new album.
Wilson: I like “Broken Glass.” I think it’s cool. It tells a little story.
Cox: I like playing and listening to “Burn You Up.” I always really enjoy that song. It’s a good start to our set, as well. Honestly, I haven’t listened to our album in so long. I haven’t actually sat down to listen to it in a long, long time. You kind of change and tweak little bits of how you play guitar, and melody, and sing over the course of two years playing it live. And then you hear the record, and you’re like, “Oh yeah, it’s like that on the record. I forgot that’s how it used to be!”
Wilson: We change it up quite a bit live. I personally really like “Copper”—“Cu.” Just ‘cause it’s so hectic and really fun to play.
Cunniff: I like just changing it up every show. We pretty much do that, which is fun.
Wilson: Yeah, we never play anything exactly how we recorded it, ’cause it’s more fun changing it up.
Cox: Ooh! Tour story—I thought of one. Okay, all right, this is a funny one. It was on the last tour we did. And we were staying with a friend of ours in Colorado, in Denver.
(Cunniff and Wilson laugh)
Henry: (Laughs) It’s a good one, right? We had driven overnight to Denver, and the plan was to stay at our friend’s place when we got there in the morning. We got [to Denver] probably around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. [We went to our friend’s coffee shop] and he got us some coffee and we chilled out, and he said, “Look, if you wanna shower and sleep for a few hours, here are the keys to my apartment, and this is the number of the house. But it should be open, so just go in.” It was a series of condos, I guess. Would you call ’em condos? That’s the right word, when they’re all sort of attached? We call ’em semi-attached houses. They’re all in a row. We got there and we were super sleep-deprived, and everyone walked into this place and we started laying out our air mattresses and stuff.
Wilson: A couple of people got showers.
Cox: And I was in the shower at the time…
Wilson: So was I.
Cox: We weren’t in the shower together.
Wilson: Just to clear that up. (Laughs)
Cox: So I was in the shower, and Griffin, our tour manager, storms in and he’s like, “Dude, we gotta go.” I’m like, “Why?” He’s like, “We’re in the wrong house.” We just walked into the neighbor’s house, I think, by accident.
Wilson: Someone was playing with the dog… There were family photos on the wall…
Cunniff: When we [first] took a look at what was in the house, there was kids’ toys and stuff everywhere, and we were just like, “Ohhh…”
Cox: “…I didn’t know he lived with kids.”
Cunniff: And when we got the news, it was like in a movie when they realize something and all these little flashbacks happen. I remember I was in the shower and there was loads of children’s toys and rubber ducks and stuff like that, and I was just like, “Oh, this is weird. Didn’t know Josh was into all this kind of stuff.”
Wilson: The house we were meant to stay in was directly across from it, so we just threw our clothes on and dashed over there.
TYF: Did you ever have a conversation with the owner of the house about all this?
Wilson: They were out. Very luckily.
Cox: You can get shot in this country for being in the wrong house, so I’m glad we figured it out.
TYF: What a story. That’s pretty great.
Cox: I did it! I told a good tour story for once in an interview.
Wilson: Yeah. The thing is, we were like, “We need to tell that one if anyone asks us that question,” and then we’d always forget about it.
Cox: We have loads to say. It always just comes to me when I don’t need to remember it.
TYF: Your shirt says “Nothing from No One.” Is that a quote from something?
Cox: No, it’s just something I saw online, and I liked it. Don’t know what it means.
Wilson: I believe mine says Gildan.
(The band laughs, finding the name of this shirt brand amusing.)
TYF: Earlier, I was talking to Mike and Ash about Warped Tour, and if you have any favorite Warped Tour memories, how you feel about Warped Tour ending…
Cox: Well, they told you that story about the river, and that’s definitely one of the best. That was sick. Me and Pacsun [Kaine, of Knocked Loose] located that cooler. Every day was great. We had a blast. I feel like we spent a lot of time in the water. Every off day, you could find us swimming somewhere. But yeah, it was a fantastic summer. A lot of people told us, especially the British bands, “Oh yeah, you’ll have a shit time. It’s really hard work and it’s gonna be really difficult.” But we had the best, best time. And it’s a shame it’s ending. I do feel that it’s about time, in a sense. Not because there’s anything wrong with Warped Tour—Warped Tour’s awesome. But I just think it’s been going for such a long time. It feels about the right time to do something different. I don’t know, that’s just my feelings on it. But it’s been such an important thing for rock music, especially in this country. We grew up watching videos of blink-182 at Warped Tour and seeing all this kind of shit, so it was an honor that we actually got to play it, and I feel really privileged to have been able to do so. Best summer we’ve ever had. It was sick. I know you’ll probably never listen to this, but thank you, Kevin Lyman and anyone that’s involved, because it was great.
TYF: What songs by other artists have you guys been listening to lately?
Cunniff: Do you know that song “Paranoia” by Liza Anne? Our tour manager actually showed us it, and it’s actually been on repeat in the band for a long time. Also a band called Cash Basket.
TYF: I’m not familiar with them.
Cunniff: What’s the album called? (Laughs) A Tisk Tasket?
Wilson: It’s like, Tisk, Tisk, and a Tasket or something. [Note: the album is A Tisket, A Tasket]
Cunniff: And the album before that is called Bash Casket. I feel like they’re bringing out these weird album titles just to mess with people. But both of those are great. Go check those out. (Laughs)
Wilson: We’ve been saying [the album names] all the way to D.C.
Cunniff: Mind blown.
TYF: I definitely will check that out. [to Wilson] How about you?
Wilson: Probably “Shout” from Tears for Fears. I always liked that one. I have a playlist on my Spotify—I think the playlist is literally called “The Best Songs in the World.” One of them is “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” One of them is “Shout” by Tears for Fears. Another one is “Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak.
Cox: I like that band—they’re American—Teenage Wrist. They’ve got a really cool album that they just dropped, Chrome Neon Jesus. Which, first of all, is an amazing name. I really like that record. But I just listen to Nine Inch Nails and Travis Scott. That’s about all I listen to. And Mastodon. That’s my entire playlist, basically. I’ve not listened to much new music in a while, really. I’m just discovering old stuff for the first time, which is cool.
Wilson: That cover album, the Deftones cover album, was really cool. The Deftones covered loads of old songs like The Smiths and The Cure and stuff.
Cox: Mike put it on during a drive the other day, and it’s fucking sick.
Cunniff: It’s completely reimagined in their styles.
Wilson: The Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” is in it.
Cox: I kind of wish that they had done an album that sounded like these covers, ’cause it sounds a little different.
Cunniff: “Savory,” as well, by Jawbox is so sick.
Cox: “Savory,” “Simple Man”…
Cunniff: “The Chauffeur” by Duran Duran.
Cox: Ah, “The Chauffeur”‘s sick! The sun’s come out again, so Oasis is always good. I was walking down there by… what is this place? Where are we?
Cunniff: The Wharf.
Cox: The Wharf! It’s called the Wharf. I had a walk down there and listened to Oasis, which was nice.
TYF: So are you more of an Oasis person than a Blur person?
Cox: Hundred percent.
Wilson: We’re from Manchester, as well.
Cox: Fuck Blur!
TYF: Okay, I am a massive Blur fan.
Cox: Really? You’re the first one I’ve met. (Laughs)
TYF: Really? Oh my gosh. Well, you guys are from Manchester, so makes sense. (Laughs) Oasis does have a lot of good songs.
Wilson: Blur has Song 2, but isn’t that just a Nirvana song again?
TYF: That was kind of intentional, though. They were trying to make a spoof of it.
Wilson: I just wish they wrote more stuff like that, ’cause that song is actually badass.
TYF: It is.
Cunniff: I really like the music video for “Song 2.” The music video’s sick. He’s singing, and then he just gets pulled to the wall… It’s so sick!
TYF: It’s really intense, yeah. You guys should do something like that someday.
Cunniff: I wish we had these kinds of ideas. It’s insane, isn’t it?
Cox: What’s that video? The “Turn Down for What” video? (singing) “Turn down for what!”
TYF: I haven’t seen the “Turn Down for What” video.
Cunniff: They start on top of an apartment, and a guy starts dancing, and somehow he ends up falling to the next floor.
Cox: And everybody’s controlled by their groins, basically, and it’s, like, super trash. And they just start fucking twerking and dancing. And then they smash through the floor. It’s this guy and this girl. Next, they smash into this family’s apartment. It’s so fucking insane. And they keep going down level by level in this massive apartment.
TYF: Sounds wild. What’s your favorite music video that you guys have done?
Cox: That we’ve done? The most recent video, “Drowned in Gold.”
TYF: If each of you were to choose a cover song for the band to do in the future, hypothetically, what would you say?
Cox: We’ve kind of been talking about that, actually. Just hypothetically. What are you saying, boys?
Wilson: Probably “My Own Summer” by Deftones.
Cox: That, or maybe one of the early Nine Inch Nails songs like “Terrible Lie.”
Wilson: Oh, yeah. “Closer” would be cool, as well.
Cox: “Closer” would be sick. We’ve never even talked about that, but that would be a cool fucking cover to do. Make it a bit faster, maybe.
TYF: All right. Do you guys have anything else you’d like to say to the readers before we wrap things up?
Cox: I just spent ten quid on a fucking Guinness at that bar upstairs.
Cunniff: Is this what you really want to go out to the readers?
Cox: Yes! That’s perfect. End the interview on that bombshell.