Johnny Lloyd never had a Machiavellian plan in mind when he formed his chart-topping U.K. outfit Tribes three years ago; the Londoner merely studied his native club-dotted Camden district to see what was lacking.
“Camden was really saturated with post-Libertines guitar bands, and they’d changed the scene into jingly-jangly soft rock,” he says. “But we wanted to make a heavier band, maybe influenced by ’70s retro stuff like the Stones and Led Zeppelin, as well as more ’90s groups like R.E.M. and Blur. We just wanted to make music that was simple and fun.”
Tribes — appearing in San Francisco on Friday — has concocted one of the most refreshing records of 2012 with their debut, “Baby,” and its scruffy Mott the Hoople-ish anthems “Sappho,” “Nightdriving” and “We Were Children,” all delivered in Lloyd’s cracked, glam-punk wail.
The group recorded the live-to-analog set last summer with Arctic Monkeys producer Mike Crossey, but purposely waited until recently to release it — in January overseas, and next week in the U.S.
“There are so many bands in the U.K., we wanted to give ‘Baby’ the best shot we could, and that’s always January in England,” Lloyd says.
Lloyd, 26, set himself apart from the hometown pack in other clever ways as well. He constantly recorded eight-track demos, then handed them out to Camden chums, just for fun.
“But I didn’t realize that anybody would actually like the songs,” he says. “So I was blown away in the first two weeks, when my friends started playing my crappy acoustic demos at parties. Then everybody got behind us and wanted to see us do well, so we’ve always been like a community thing in London.”
The demos took on a life of their own.
“We found it quite strange that people from Russia were really getting into our stuff,” says Lloyd, still stunned that one of his scratchy tracks made its way to Frank Black, who invited Tribes to open for his legendary Pixies quartet.
“It was such an exciting thing hearing them play ‘Debaser’ live, and also seeing that the Pixies were watching our set,” he says. “Up until then, we’d just been playing in pubs. After that, things started moving really fast.”
So there’s no Tribes trade secret — just a well-crafted tune, says Lloyd, who already has penned more than 150.
“That’s why we’re going to release a 20-track demos album after ‘Baby’ has run its course,” he says. “To let fans see how the songs have matured, and show them it’s possible to write your own material and start a band without having to go on ‘X-Factor’!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $8 to $10
Contact: (415) 546-6300, www.ticketfly.com