Gaz Roberts of the Warrington four-piece says they might have a traditional set-up but they make music their own way. Find out how on their self-titled debut album, released last week, and at their live show at the Soup Kitchen, Manchester, 23 Nov.
What informs your music and songwriting?
Often it’s what I’m reading rather than what I’m listening to. When I was writing the lyrics for our album I was reading a lot about places and the personality of spaces. I wanted to write something that fitted where I’m from but I didn’t want to go over ground that had already been covered by other northern songwriters. So as well as reading stuff set in the landscapes I am familiar with, I read writers like George Perec, Roland Barthes and Gaston Bachelard, and tried to apply the things I read to my own experiences. I’m not necessarily mining books for song ideas as much as I am for particular phrases that I can steal or adapt. Fush (Joe Forshaw, bassist) and I write the music between us, and we’re both constantly changing what we’re listening to so we don’t really really keep to a style. As musicians we try to emulate bands like The Blockheads or The Smiths – bands who had a fairly trad set-up but who made music their own way, and bands where every member is a proper player.
How has the band evolved over the years?
We’ve gone through a few name changes and a few line-up changes over the years. I think you have to keep changing what you’re doing in order to stay creatively fulfilled. I’m never satisfied that there’s a particular way of doing things but we’re in a pretty comfortable routine in terms of how we write and arrange stuff in the set-up we have now. I don’t think we consciously set out to evolve as a band – we just try to make each new song better than the last one we did and it sort of happens organically.
What are you up to at the moment artistically?
Our first album has just come out on 1965 Records so we’re working on the live shows to go around the release. We’re playing some launch shows in Manchester and London this month and then we’ll be touring in the new year ahead of the festival season. We’ve also tentatively started writing our second but that’s some way off.
What’s it like to operate in the music industry today?
There are fewer and fewer bands from working-class backgrounds getting any exposure and that’s frustrating because I tend to think middle-class people don’t really have an awful lot to say about anything, especially in a medium like pop music. For too many people the music industry is a bit of a hobby, a gap year thing. We can’t afford to bum around pretending to be bohemian, because we don’t have anything waiting for us if we decide to jack this in, but that certainly isn’t the case for a lot of people in the industry. Ultimately I think there’s probably less investment in new artists now, because the industry doesn’t generate as much money as it used to. No one buys music anymore and it’s the artists that pay. When you sign a record deal like us, you get your recording paid for, which is great, but you still need the day job. That puts us at a disadvantage to the posh kids who can miraculously live in London and get by on two shifts a week in a bar. But that kind of spurs us on a bit as well – the feeling that we weren’t supposed to get this far.
What’s on your rider?
We tend to just get what we’re given. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to bring myself to actually ask for something specific – I’d feel like an absolute prick. It’s usually beer and water. I’ll tell you what a lot of them do – they give you crisps and humous. I keep saying to promoters that that’s not a thing. They wanna save their money – it knocks me sick.
Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
Surreal was getting a phone call from Billy Bragg asking me to play his stage at Glastonbury whilst I was at work. Embarrassing, probably drinking too much too early and falling asleep in public somewhere. I’ve done that a lot.
What’s your worst lyric?
I think “Baby, if you ever go to Bury / Don’t go to the market / It’d break my heart” is probably up there.