11th June 2018

Gorilla Riot: blues, booze and broken bones

Being a member of Gorilla Riot should come with a health warning. The self-proclaimed “dirty rock n’ roll blues machine from Manchester” have seen three members hospitalised in the past few weeks.

There’s guitarist Liam Henry, who got drunk and split his head open. More bizarrely, bassist James Payne was thrown down a hill by friends and crocked his back. And then there’s frontman Arjun Bhishma who, well… we’ll let him explain.

“I fell through the stage when we were playing a gig,” says the laidback Arjun, who recently posted shots of himself on Facebook with his leg in plaster. “The stage was built in two parts and there was a gap. So my foot went through it twice and I snapped my ligaments. I’ve done a few sit down gigs since then. But I’ll be fine for Ramblin’ Man.”

Whether this litany of hurt is related to the fact that Gorilla Riot take their name from a brand of whiskey isn’t clear. But the five-piece – who make their Ramblin’ debut on the Rising Stage on – promise live action, big tunes and health’n’safety-defying peril.

Arjun formed Gorilla Riot – completed by guitarist Charly T. and drummer David Thomas – in Manchester in 2014. “It’s a rubbish place for a rock band,” he says. “It’s all indie and dance. We had to work hard to get a name for ourselves there. The only way to make a real name for yourself is to play around the country.”
Hard work it might be, but it’s paying off. Armed with a triple-guitar attack, Gorilla Riot are one of the best new rock bands in the country right now, mixing throaty, soulful rock’n’roll with a gritty AC/DC edge and classic acoustic songs inspired by GN’R Lies-era Guns N’ Roses.

“Our main thing is electric, but the acoustic stuff is a big part of our sound as well,” says Arjun. “All of our favourite bands have done acoustic stuff – Guns N’ Roses, the grunge bands. But we’re not just doing electric songs on an acoustic guitar. We arrange them properly, they stand alone.”

The one album and two EPS they’ve released to date – 2014’s self-titled full-length debut, 2016’s Six Shots Down and this year’s stripped-down American Honey – show off both sides of the band. The American Honey EP also features an image of the very beverage the band take borrowed their name from on its cover.

“Gorilla Riot is our favourite whiskey,” says Arjun. “We don’t have a sponsorship deal or anything, we just really like it. Booze isn’t essential to what we do, but it is a big part of it.”

Good news for fans of rock’n’roll and Ramblin’ Man. But better have a stretcher on call just in case.

Gorilla Riot play Ramblin Man’s Rising Stage on Saturday June 30