WARGASM: “We like chaos and blood and nudity and violence”

We joined Milkie Way and Sam Matlock on the road with Neck Deep to feel their intense carnage first-hand, and watch WARGASM continue to stake their claim as one of Britain’s hottest bands…

WARGASM: “We like chaos and blood and nudity and violence”
Emma Wilkes
Gobinder Jhitta

Milkie Way remembers being asked to open for Neck Deep very vividly. Not for the excitement of the opportunity, but for the particularly poor timing with which the band’s manager had called her to make the offer.

“I was in the park on shrooms,” she says matter-of-factly. She got excited, accepted, and rushed to end the call as soon as possible… for obvious reasons.

As Milkie shares this, she and bandmate Sam Matlock are squashed onto a small leather couch in their dressing room at the O2 Academy Birmingham. “One of the nicer ones we’ve had on this tour,” Milkie observes of the sleek room’s mood lighting and small fridge filled with beer, over the sound of Neck Deep soundchecking spilling in.

It’s an eclectic line-up. Young openers happydaze are the closest in musical genealogy to the headliners, but with a breezier, poppier sound. They’re followed by Leeds’ Higher Power, who have stolen some of the sunshine from pop-punk to add to the crunchiness of hardcore in a way that Turnstile fans would lap up. With their proudly incandescent electro-punk-nu-metal-bit-of-everything sound, sonically, WARGASM are the outliers, but that doesn’t mean they’re failing to resonate with Neck Deep’s fanbase.

“We get crowdsurfers falling over the barrier, we had giant fucking circle-pits in Glasgow,” Sam grins. “There are girls on the barrier saying ‘Sign my leg!’”

“All the people in the pit are having a great time,” Milkie adds. “A lot of them are wearing WARGASM T-shirts!”

Later onstage, when the band ask who has heard of them before and who hasn’t, the cheer for the former option dwarfs that for the latter. “They might have listened to something [of ours] but haven’t truly checked us out or embraced us yet,” Sam reckons. WARGASM’s live show, he believes, becomes the deciding factor in whether gig-goers become a fan or not. Bringing new converts into the fold, however, is never what they have in mind as an objective when they sign up to a tour. “We do it because they want to do it. Simple as that.”

It’s hardly a surprise that the crowds on this tour know of WARGASM. It’s not a name to forget in a hurry – especially not when it’s everywhere. Only a couple of years in, and without a debut album or even an EP to their name, they’ve nevertheless got a rather extensive touring CV. Last summer saw them making their first festival appearances at Download Pilot, Bloodstock and Slam Dunk, while they’ve already supported Creeper, YUNGBLUD and While She Sleeps live. A headline run of shows in the autumn completely sold out, and opened with the duo planting a flag at London’s legendary Camden Underworld.

WARGASM’s success is something of a homegrown one. They built their own team: their manager is a friend as much as a manager, who eats food and watches anime with them, while Milkie met their publicist through 5 Seconds Of Summer stan communities on Twitter. And the pair are equally happy to spend time with them away from tour as they are on the road, conveniently helped by the fact they all live within a two-mile radius of each other.

“It’s testament to the strength of the team when everyone wants to spend all their free time together,” smiles Sam. “Nobody in our team comes from a professional background – it’s all waifs and strays and people we found on the way.”

He is very much aware of the ‘industry plant’ accusations thrown around in relation to his band. But the way WARGASM work is nothing if not organic and a graft.

“A lot of people think there’s some sort of big industry fucking conveyor belt mechanism turning in the background,” Sam says. Regardless, he is unfazed. “It’s fine. Sometimes a project has good songs, it’s good live and people like it. Every now and again the time is right and the stars align for an artist, and we’re just one of those artists that got a fluke. There were a lot of bands, especially towards the end of the pandemic, who liked to wave the flag, being like, ‘We’ve done all of this on our own with our fans,’ like it’s some sort of battle standard. But they did have a label and they did have funding, and fans just sucked it up.”

It’s safe to say, then, that Sam and Milkie are doing alright. They’ve got a rider for this tour, although it’s missing milk, candles and an ashtray. They’re eating square meals (“If you can [afford to] eat on the road, you’re one of the lucky bands,” Sam says). There are fewer “shitty sound guys”, in their own words, who patronise Milkie just because she’s a woman playing a guitar – because they know who she is now, it happens less often.

“Don’t touch my shit!” she mock-yells, illustrating her point.

“There was one guy in a venue in Scotland who decided that Milkie had done all of her pedal-boards wrong because she was female,” Sam recalls. “But I believe I’d fiddled with it as well. His thing wasn’t about the pedal-board being wrong; it was about a girl touching it. We argued with him and eventually he saw our point of view, but we really should have smacked the shit out of him.”

There’s plenty of that fighting spirit to be seen when WARGASM arrive onstage a few hours later. Kicking off with the spiky nu-metal of Rage All Over, Milkie catapults herself around with frenzied energy, using every inch of the expansive space she has while Sam stations himself at the front as he roars into his mic. Heads are banging and fists are raised within seconds, and the room fizzes with energy as the duo charge into Salma Hayek, which feels fuller and heavier in a room of this size. It’s easy to imagine how their show could be scaled up into a headline set this venue could very well play host to one day.

“By the end of the set, you’re going to be afraid of how much you love me,” Milkie purrs to the crowd. It’s a brassy statement, but that’s what makes her so compelling to watch. She proceeds to practically charm a mosh-pit out of her audience, flirtatiously asking them, “Who wants a lapdance?” to introduce the N*E*R*D cover that’s become such a live staple for WARGASM. What says it all, perhaps, is a comment made in earshot of the stage by a fan who has clearly never encountered her before.

“She’s awesome,” they murmur. “She’s a breath of fresh air.”

When WARGASM come backstage afterwards, Sam feels calm. Now the show is out the way, there’s nothing lingering on his mind anymore. “I like to pace in circles for ages [before going onstage],” he says. “I start freaking out and think that everything’s going to suck right up until the first 10 seconds [of the show]. I will always find something to overthink and panic about.”

Milkie, meanwhile, is understandably very sweaty – after all, by her own admission, that’s the price you pay for wearing a full latex skirt under the punishing heat of the lights. “It’s always a bad idea, but it looks so good that I do it anyway,” she acknowledges. Now she’s offstage though, she’s not keen on keeping it on any longer that she has to. She rummages through the large pink suitcase beside her and swiftly changes out of it, while her bemused bandmate tells her: “Put your arse away!”

They’re fairly accustomed to a bit of nudity at their own gigs, mind. “Our fanbase likes to be shirtless,” Sam beams. “You know the video for Duality by Slipknot? It’s like that.”

“But hotter,” Milkie adds. “Everyone’s sexier. There are nipples from all genders.” There isn’t quite so much nudity tonight when they have, for the most part, another band’s fanbase in front of them, but nevertheless, in Milkie’s eyes, “I feel like they wanted to be naked.”

They’re pleased, at least, with the “massive” mosh-pit that broke out in the middle of the room. After all, they’re here for the mayhem, and if they can create that, then job done.

“We like chaos and blood and nudity and violence,” Sam declares. “We’re called fucking WARGASM, for God’s sake. What do you expect?”

Catch WARGASM at Download Festival this summer. Get your tickets here.

This article was originally printed in the March issue of Kerrang!.

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