Firing up the post-punk game, black country duo, BIG SPECIAL, talk their musical firsts: from being starstruck by Pete Doherty to listening to mournful Irish folk.

BIG SPECIAL have something to say. Not only is their sound a cocktail of barbed post-punk and ferociously soulful crooning, the two-piece aren’t afraid to plunge themselves into the world of political hypocrisy and social injustice. They could be some of the last real punks left. No subject is too taboo for the duo, and their honesty is everything—refreshing, we know. Themes of desperation, struggle and decline are brought to the fore by the brimstone-fired voice of Joe Hicklin, as he and drummer Callum Moloney narrate their working-class frustrations atop ground-shaking beats and anthemic blasts of riffage.


As the saying goes: all roads lead to Rome. For BIG SPECIAL their Rome is their debut album, POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES, which drops this May. Though we can expect a flurry of skull-crunching guitars and head-wobbling synths, remember that music is more than just mere sounds to the duo, as they see their songs as markers for social change. The project had to top anything they’ve done before, and from the snippets we’ve heard, it sounds like they’ve done exactly that.


Weaving in their honest expressions of the working-class English experience, BIG SPECIAL study ill mental health, the pursuit of art and political disenchantment and how this ultimately creates “a story of rumination, realisation and reaction.” On tracks like  ‘DUST OFF/ START AGAIN’, we hear this narrative as the duo talk about the disregard for the common man through barrages of biting spoken words atop hulking guitars.

And then there’s ‘BLACK DOG/ WHITE HORSE’, which stands as a haunting exploration of fear and redemption. It’s wrought, raw and angry, unflinching the truth, acting as a stark reminder of the harsh realities faced by many across the country, laid bare for all to see.


But the album is just the beginning of BIG SPECIAL’s upward trajectory. Amidst their busting schedule, the duo is touring around the UK and will do until May. After, they make their way over to Europe to play a flock of headline shows until festival season arrives and they’ll grace the stages of Reading and Leeds, as well as Green Man and Latitude.


As they continue to rewrite the rules with their blend of social commentary, satire, post-punk flair and a touch of anarchy, we catch up with the pair before they embark on their shows around the UK. Here, BIG SPECIAL talk their musical firsts: from being starstruck by Pete Doherty to listening to mournful Irish folk.

First time you fell in love with music?

Cal: The classic, my dad’s record collection. Plenty of Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, Fun Lovin’ Criminals. It was a good education for the early years, getting the ball rolling.

First song you were infatuated with?

Joe: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. I remember it coming on Top of the Pops 2, whilst my mum was cutting my toenails. That kicked it all off. I had Queen’s Greatest Hits on a recorded tape. That was all I listened to for about five years. It knocked my Early Learning Centre dinosaur tape off the top spot.

First gig you ever played?

Cal: My breakout performance was at the school talent show in year four, where I performed, ‘Be the First to Believe’ by A1. It turned into an a cappella solo performance after my dance partner, Jurran, chickened out last minute. He will never be forgiven.

First time you worked with someone who you admired?

Joe: When I started out gigging 16 years ago as a solo acoustic warrior, a guy called Kevin James Hadley took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. It would’ve been a rougher road without him. He is still one of my favourite songwriters and was always a source of inspiration and admiration for me. Look him up on Bandcamp.

First person you’d recruit as an extra band member?

Joe: To quote our heroes A1, “One on one is how we do it baby,” but if we were to drag anyone in at the moment, it would be John Francis Flynn. We’re obsessed with his latest album and I loved his show in Birmingham. There’s a folk spirit to BIG SPECIAL and he’d bring that out.

First time you felt starstruck?

Cal: I went to see Pete Doherty do an acoustic show at the HMV Institute in Birmingham. I was having a fag out the back when he walked past. I saw my opportunity to meet one of my fave poets and musicians and clammy-handed grabbed him by the shoulder and said, “Pete, you’re unreal!” His vacant gaze still haunts me.

First thing on your rider?

Guinness, Twix’s and a blood sacrifice of a local woodland critter bathed in the tears of an innocent.

First track you play when handed the aux?

Most the time it’s mournful Irish folk, so probably something about a dead sailor, but if we want some hype…

Joe: ‘3tearz’ by Danny Brown and Run the Jewels

Cal: ‘Weak Become Heroes’ by The Streets

First artist you’d add to your dream festival line up?

We’d have Lankum. Best band in the world at the moment and Radie Peat’s voice is a wonder of the world. They sound like a surprising beauty at the gates of hell.

First purchase after a major music cheque?

Cal: Not had a major cheque yet, but after our first decent payment I bought a ring and asked my girlfriend to marry me.

Joe: I got an ounce and a chain.

Listen to 'BLACK DOG/ WHITE HORSE' now: