Following their break up in 1999, much loved and seminal alternative UK hardcore band Understand are now back, and finally set to release a brand new album ‘Real Food At Last’ – a collection of unreleased recordings from 1998 – on April 7th via Rise Records. The journey from the original writing and recording sessions to this moment is quite something, and very much goes hand in hand with this brilliant release.
“Around the beginning of ‘96, once our relationship with East/West records had dissolved” explains vocalist Dom Anderson, “We were still writing and recording demos as we had a lot of promises from other labels to sign the band. John (Hannon, guitars), Rob (Coleman, guitars) and I had all dabbled in recording & producing with some other bands in the scene, so after some advice and guidance from Chris Sheldon (who produced the ‘Burning Bushes…’ album) we rented a bunch of decent microphones and a second ADAT machine to link with ours and set about recording the ten songs we had settled on from recent demo and writing sessions at what was then “Mushroom Studios” – basically a shed on a Mushroom Farm in Hullbridge, Essex.”
“The sessions went well and although we felt like we had some great recorded sounds, attempts at mixing the tracks never seemed to get them to a place any of us were happy with We continued to play a few shows over the course of the next two years, but work commitments for all of us started making that harder and harder and eventually, on (I think) 31st October 1998 at Bedford Esquires, we played our last show.”
Dom continues: “Fast forward 20+ years and John had established himself as a studio engineer and producer, working with hundreds of bands, across multiple genres in basically the same studio, that he had refined and developed over the years into what was now NO Recordings. For no particular reason, spurred on by some healthy banter on an Understand group WhatsApp, we had a go at converting the ADAT files to digital and getting the mixes to a better place. The songs were sounding good, so I started shopping the idea of a release around a few labels and was happily surprised when Rise came on board and said they were interested. I hadn’t really considered a label of that magnitude for the release before and it made me wonder if perhaps the songs might still not quite be fulfilling their potential so I called in a favour with my friend Rich Costey and cheekily asked him if he would have a go at running a couple of the tracks through his rig and polishing them up a bit. The results were amazing.”
“John had the rest of the tracks converted to digital files and Rich had agreed to do all ten tracks as long as we weren’t in a hurry – it was mid-Covid and nothing much was happening anywhere and then, without warning, on the 5th May 2021, we suffered the sudden, tragic loss of our friend, bandmate, and guitarist John Hannon. Obviously, this stunned and shocked our whole camp, but it also inspired us to really make a go of this release and make it something special in John’s memory. To us, John was the original influencer. Every decision about music, artwork, or the way the band was presented, was influenced by him, so putting this release together has been an exercise in constantly asking “what would John do?”
“I think he would be proud of how it sounds, how it looks & how it represents the band & a moment in time that was the time of our lives.”
‘Real Food At Last’ tracklist:
01. Real Food At Last
02. Screwtop Milkshake
03. You Want The News?… Well Here’s The Blues
04. Long Driving Contest
05. (Intro) Small Boy
08. I Can Get You In
10. Lightweight (Outro)
The band was known in the ’90s as a shaper of the modern hardcore sound, having played Reading & Leeds Festival, and toured with the likes of Shelter, Helmet, Civ, and more. Formed in Southend, Essex, England, in 1992, Understand are Dom Anderson (vocals), John Hannon (guitar), Rob Coleman (guitar), Stuart Quinnell (bass), and Andy Shepherd (drums). They released a self-titled EP recorded with Don Fury (Quicksand, Sick Of It All, GG Allin) back in 1994, and then their much acclaimed but very much underground classic debut album for East West Records, ‘Burning Bushes And Burning Bridges.’ Produced by Chris Sheldon (Foo Fighters, Biffy Clyro, Pixies), this truly became one of those records that people who found it, loved and adored it, and it has since grown to an almost god-like cult status.