Credit: Phil Drury

Birmingham based indie-punks The Novus release new track ‘I Serve Not’

Consisting of vocalist Connor Hill, guitarist Thomas Rhodes, Bassist Tyla Challenger and drummer Euan Woodman, the four boys were born in Stourbridge in the year 2000.

Having grown up making music together at high school, they followed each other to college and made the collective decision to move in together in their musical home of Birmingham during the UK lockdown.

We chatted to Tyla about their new single, touring and more.

How did you guys first meet? Who came up with the band name?

Tyla – We’ve been best friends for years, the 3 of us born in the same hospital & meeting at high school bonding over being some of the only people in the music department (or basement) whilst everyone else was out playing football at lunch. We ended up following each other to the same college in Stourbridge & forming The Novus. It wasn’t perfect at the start as with most things, but we met Euan through gigging a few years & when he joined something just clicked and it’s felt right ever since. So much so that we all live together now. 

The name, I wish had a magical story haha. I named the band but as with everything it was a collective decision. Myself, Connor & Tom had been playing in various bands for years growing up & we just wanted to do something “new” to what we always had before, a new formula, a new vision & philosophy – something more than just a band, you know. So honestly, we just sat there sifting through google translate finding the best alternative to “The New” and the Latin one just stuck out the most. It’s a silly story really but now it’s part of our identity as people & still fits nicely with everything we’re about – we’re constantly trying to push boundaries and do the new thing, trying not to be just another boyband. 

Tell us about your new single ‘I Serve Not’. What inspired it?

Tyla – I Serve Not was written around the time of the 2019 UK elections & is an ode to our dilapidated high streets, struggling small businesses & the idea of working-class community withering away. The hook “I serve not he who feeds me, but he who’s sure I am fed” was very much a reflection of the idea that the potential ‘leaders’ at the time & especially now, may provide just about enough shelter & resources to tick boxes but they don’t care if you’re provided for – food banks ran by people like us from council estates need to do that & why? Food banks shouldn’t even need to exist in the 3rd richest country in the world. The song screams that we have to look out for each other & come together because this is a very strange time – if we don’t then the age-old ‘divide & conquer’ will do its job more than it already is. The longer the song has been waiting to come out, the more relevant it has unfortunately become. Musically it was the start of our experimentation with synthesis & samples and a real turning point in us crafting a sound that we can confidently call ours.

How would you describe your sound?

Tyla – This is always a tough one & we try to leave it to everyone but us because it’s ever-changing & we aim never to put ourselves in a box.

It’s simultaneously a culmination of everything we enjoy whilst also being driven by us trying to do something completely new.

If we had to put ourselves under an umbrella it would probably be art-punk / post-punk but that’s such a huge umbrella nowadays that almost anything could worm its way in. We always tend to stray around that punk genre though because of our background being so heavily working-class/council-estate & that comes through in our lyrics a lot I think.

What can you tell us about your debut EP ‘Thaleia Standing’?

Tyla – Thaleia Standing is a 5-track EP, and we’ve never been so proud of a body of work as we are of this.

It’s a journey through many of our mental health issues, social struggles of class that are very present on I Serve Not & somewhat an attempt to combat the stereotypical toxic masculinity that we are all no stranger to, especially on Castaway. The whole EP is a commentary on these issues & the title stems from the fact that in everybody’s daily lives we are forced to wear a mask in one way or another, i.e Thaleia: the comedy mask, in an attempt to meet other people’s expectations of you & exploring how unhealthy that can be – with people often becoming an embodiment of their mask rather than being their true self, sometimes because they have to.

We’re not trying to change the world, we’re just saying “this is how we see things, think about it”

Is there one track from the EP you hope will be a fan favourite?

Tyla – For me personally, I love them all but “Journey (With No End” the closing track on the EP is a special one. From the day of recording that one even to now, it feels like a real milestone for us & the perfect bridge for what’s to come after this from us.

We spent a good half of our recording day with our producers (and now great friends/family) Gav & Liam, helping them install an analogue desk last used by Martin Hannett (Joy Division, John Cooper Clarke, U2) used to record Joy Division’s Closer & so many other iconic albums & tracks. When it was finally installed, we were the first people to record through it since MH had used it – I think you can definitely hear that on the track. There was a certain energy about the place that I can’t describe. We just kept saying things to each other like “one of the last voices to go through this was IAN CURTIS!” & like “that’s MARTIN. HANNETT’S. Desk!” I’m a bit of a production nerd too so just to even be in the same place as it was insane, let alone being the first people to record through it since Hannett – so yeah Journey: that one’s special for a few reasons.

Once things return back to some normality, what would be your dream venue to perform at?

Tyla – I know we’d all love to play the O2 Institute main room in our hometown Birmingham. It’s a beautiful venue & for me that alone would be a dream, but we all believe we’ll get there for sure. So much so that we’ve made a pact to get stupid tattoos as soon as that day comes.

In terms of a bigger dream venue that may seem less realistic to some, we’d kill to be playing arenas, and the iconic places like Ally Pally & The Electric. I’m sure the pyramid stage at Glastonbury wouldn’t go amiss either haha.

Is there one artist and/or band you’d love to support on tour and why?

Tyla – Now, I know this would be different for all of us. I couldn’t get it down to a singular one but some I know we’d all adore are the likes of The Cure, Nick Cave & Jehnny Beth; all absolute icons & pioneers in their genres, instantly recognisable & never disappoint with stage shows/production – something we always pine for visually as it’s just as important as the sound when it comes to live.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know if it would come as a surprise but something a lot of people don’t know is how DIY we actually are. Almost everything we can do in-house, we do. And when we have to get other people involved we always make sure they understand our DIY ethos too. I think it really helps that creatively we cover so many bases collectively, from Connor’s stage production knowledge that helps us put on our own DIY shows where we build stages, lighting rigs and sound systems into empty spaces to give our shows a real DIY feel where we can. Myself visually with graphics, artwork & video ideas, Tom business-wise & Euan bringing influence to us through the most diverse music taste I have ever known – along with the other guys in the house always contributing too, we’re a proper little unit.

Aside from tooting our own horns, an actual one that might surprise people is that we’re huge hip-hop fans & probably take a lot of influence from it without trying to. A couple of our current favourites being Kendrick & Brockhampton – their songwriting & production is on another level.

What would be the theme tune to your life?

Lately, it’d probably have to be the Instrumental from Black Country, New Road’s new record because of how constant but simultaneously chaotic it is, that’s our heads lately hahaha. Amazing record though lyrically & musically.

What’s next for ‘The Novus’?

Lots is all we can say haha. Touring for sure, getting lots booked in at the mo. A few festivals, some we’ve already announced if anyone wants to check out where we’re playing just head to any of our socials. And we’re just constantly writing & creating so there’s always new music on the horizon, especially from now on. We filmed a lot on an old film video camera when we recorded the EP & touched upon a lot of what it’s about so we’re hoping to craft that into a documentary to release alongside the EP. And yeah, as ever just constantly trying to out-do ourselves as much as we can.

Catch The Novus on their 2021 tour

  • 30th May – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham (SOLD OUT)
  • 31st May – The Water Rats, London
  • 21st July – Jam On The Farm. Sussex
  • 14th August – Sonic Gun Weekender, Birmingham
  • 27th – 29th August – Camper Calling Festival, Warwickshire
  • 29th August – Test Fest, Doncaster
  • 4th September – Soma Fest, London
  • 17th September – The Boulevard, Wigan