Interview: Bristol’s Erotic Secrets of Pompeii

Interview: Bristol’s Erotic Secrets of Pompeii

By Sam Wise. 

The Erotic Secrets of Pompeii are an apocalyptic art rock band from Bristol. If you’re not sure what that means, don’t worry, all will become clear.

I spoke to the whole band ahead of their gig at Southampton’s Joiners earlier this week, but much of the talking was done by lead singer Thomas Hawtin, which is what singers do, isn’t it?

It’s the most obvious of questions, but I have to ask about the name. “We wanted something that brought together our lyrical themes of sex and death” he says, “our love of epic historical events, and our nihilism”. He then admits that it’s somewhat adapted from a book title, ‘Pompeii. The Erotic Secrets’.

I ask about the nihilism, and  the apocalyptic edge referenced in their self-description.

“There’s a playfulness to that” he says,  “but the lyrics have started to open up to being less nihilistic and hedonistic, but instead looking towards love in dark places. We call it art rock, and the lyrics and the music tie up our different interests – we’re into music art, history etc.” 

Based on video evidence, an Erotic Secrets of Pompeii show is quite an experience, and it’s just that, a show.

“Our friend Alex has been making us incredible outfits, which allows us to inhabit a really big, shambolic (but tight) stage persona. We’ve put a lot of effort into making friends and connections all over the place, with the kind of people who are really embedded in the arts, and will show up to gigs with their friends. Our MO is to give people a real experience live; it’s a show, it’s not just a series of songs; it’s a crafter 45 minutes of people. We’re inspired by people like Bowie, who would put on a real show, and it’s something we want to grow as we grow, better lighting, better costumes, make it even more immersive.”

Thomas himself is always made up, increasingly so as far as I can tell. Face painted might be a more appropriate description, kohled eyes, black lipstick, impenetrable markings on his forehead and cheeks. An embroidered suit, an extraordinary neckpiece made of beads over a bare chest, Thomas is taking no prisoners on stage; the image unmistakeably screams “LOOK AT ME”. When the band play, he appears almost possessed, dancing like a madman, fixing the crowd with a maniacal stare. 

I ask about the bands’ history, as there’s little on their site about it. “We’re more mystery than history, aren’t we?” Thomas chuckles, “We started in about 2018, but in the last couple of years we have really found ourselves. The original project was just some demos I made, we got some people together, some friends, but have gradually added more people and arrived at a great lineup. Over the past two years we have really refined the sound, got to know each other, and created something which feels really really special. We released an EP in 2022, and did a tour around the country at that time, and this is, like, the second attempt at touring our album.”

Thomas mentions that Covid stopped them in their tracks, but actually turned out to be a great opportunity to reflect, refocus, and come back stronger with a powerful vision. I opine that the headspace was a positive experience for a lot of people.

“On a selfish, personal level, I look back at Covid as one of the best times of my life. A lot of pressure was taken off, no chance to gig, rehears, record, feel guilty about not doing it so the creative energy went elsewhere.”

The topic of their national tour leads me to wonder how a band makes the transition from local to national level, in the context of the current music industry. Do they have support behind them? In Southampton,they were booked at The Joiners, where the likes of Oasis and Manic Street Preachers passed through on their way to iconic status. How does a band from Bristol get that show?

“We have a booking agent, Stuart, who has been booking our shows for us. Our style transfers well to a larger audience, we’ve been upping our game. Our fans are spreading the word for us, and while this tour is uncharted territory for us, we’re getting people show up and say “my friend told me I MUST see you, and you didn’t disappoint”. I think just answering the phone, being friendly, being nice to people goes a long way. Another great supporter of ours has been from Louder than War; we love the quote they gave us, ‘they’re going to be as adored and revered as cult bands the Cardiacs and Virgin Prunes whilst having the potential to be Muse or Queen.’ “

So, I wonder, do they make enough to support themselves? Touring the country is a big commitment. Thomas sounds, for the first time, a little vulnerable as he talks about it.

“We still have day jobs, and we’re hoping to get to that point where we’re making enough money to not do that anymore. We need to sell a LOT more merch; we’re touring, and there are costs associated – petrol, accommodation etc. Work have let us book the time off, because we’ve wangled jobs with a level of flexibility, but we should hopefully come off this tour with a bit of money in our pockets, the last tour just broke even. There’s not loads of money out there, it’s a brutal existence if you’re not loving it. The dream is to make enough to be able to devote your work time to it, so that we can improve. We’re often putting 15 hours a week each into band work, and it’s heavy going, but we’re still working hard at the art.”

That captures these lads for me, really. The stage persona is one of wild, untrammelled narcissistic party animals, a pack of Dionisians with nothing on their mind but how to care even less. The reality is a collection of young lads with a dream, and the courage to really pursue it despite the risks. I asked them ahead of their Southampton show, which took place on Tuesday 21st May, how they felt about the gig.

“We’re really excited about playing at the Joiners. We recently signed an artist pledge for the Music Venues Trust. There are a lot of venues stopping live music, or focussing on tribute acts. Ticket receipts have never been so big, but it’s all Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and there’s a huge divide between them and up and coming acts. We are the second biggest exporter of music after the USA, and that’s something we’re proud to be part of. We just want to be out there making music and making connections, and this is our best shot at that.” 

  • Look out for our review of The Erotic Secrets of Pompeii coming soon.
  • In Common is not for profit. We rely on donations from readers to keep the site running. Could you help to support us for as little as 25p a week? Please help us to carry on offering independent grass roots media. Visit:

You may also like:

Review: Erotic Secrets of Pompeii, Joiners, Southampton

Review: Jah Wobble, Lighthouse, Poole

Review and pictures: Paloma Faith – Bournemouth International Centre

Only The Poets reschedule Southampton date & offer low price tickets to make music accessible

Interview: Dea Matrona