Heavy Load are the perfect punk band. A brilliant old school, foot on monitor Ramones-esque outfit, their sets and albums are a mix of abstract shouty choruses of their own and chaotic, ‘crucified’ versions of pop hits. That three of the group have learning disabilities is beside the point, as shown by the award-winning documentary of the same name. The film has helped highlight the Brighton band’s campaign Stay Up Late, encouraging those with learning difficulties to fight for their right to party beyond 9pm. Bassist Paul is the glue that holds it all together, while the charmingly random singer Simon supplies the rock’n’roll.
James: So Heavy Load isn’t just a great film, it’s award winning then.
Paul: It won at BritDoc last year, and we won Best In Show in Texas – which we thought was only a dog thing. It’s won a few. Doing the film definitely changed things for the band – we went to New York and have been offered a gig in St Petersburg. I don’t know if we can afford it. We’ve been offered bigger and bigger gigs.
Simon: Do you know Michael? He’s our drummer.
JK: I know him from the film, but I’ve never met him. Is he back into being in the band? At the end of the film it looked like he might leave.
P: I saw him last week – we did some interviews and he was really into it, talking about getting a new drum kit. You never know but at the moment he’s enjoying it. We’ve been trying to get him to realise that not many bands get documentaries made about them or have all this good stuff happen.
J: The film is pretty eventful, with plenty of ego and difficulties. It must have been a worry that it could have portrayed you badly.
P: I was really nervous because they shot 150 hours of film and they could pick any bit to make you look really bad. It’s a lot less tow curling than I thought. You seem pretty cool in the film, Simon.
S: Yeah! [Sings] George Michael is dead! That bit was good.
P: Me, Michael and Jimmy watched a version at the edit suite and I asked them what they thought and Michael said, “I thought I was the best one in it.” He pretty much takes over the film.
JK: He is a massive character throughout. As well as giving the world Michael and Heavy Load the film has been great launch pad for your Stay Up Late campaign.
P: Mencap have taken it on nationally and we’re launching it in Wales in June. Someone has asked about launching the Finnish chapter. It’s really taken off. One of the major festivals was thinking about sponsoring it, but it didn’t come off. Download wanted to get involved.
J: Is it making a difference?
P: Yeah, I think so. It’s anecdotal at the moment. We’re hearing from disabled nightclubs around the country that there are people staying up late. There are still people going home early. I don’t think anything will change over night. There’s no extra money so it’s difficult. Getting Mencap behind it will make a huge difference. Apparently it the first campaign that they’ve got behind that they haven’t started.
J: Is that the best thing that come out of the film, for the guys in the band?
P: The feedback from the film when it was broadcast in America was that some people really appreciated it as a positive portrayal of people with disabilities doing something, but a lot of people emailed about loving the music. That’s one of the most exciting things. Simon you’re a great frontman, aren’t you, really charismatic?
S: Pants! I saw some Heavy Load pants, in the pound shop.
P: Yeah, we should have sold them at gigs with the t-shirts.
S: Sometimes I have a seizure on stage. So we wrote a song Flashing Lights Hurt My Eyes.
P: We have a formula where we have a catchy chorus that are more freeform.
S: I shout out the name of photographers and tell them where to shove their cameras! Shut your knickers!
P: Erm, thanks Simon.