After a fast paced year that has seen them performing their fight-pop sound everywhere from Australia to the South by South West festival in Texas, I met up with singer John and bassist Ryan prior to their rocking out of the Bodega Social Club on Thursday night.
Firstly I’ve got ask, just how good South by South West?
John: Really really good, we recorded our album there so going back is always kind of exciting, South by South West is like a Disneyland for music. The Americans react really well to our music because a lot of our influences are American.
Second album coming out, how different is it going to be from the first?
John: A little, I think it’s going to end up on the whole pretty different. It’s a bit more focused, it’s perhaps a little more poppy. We are trying to make the heavy bit a bit heavier and the poppy bits a bit more poppy and cut out whatever was in the middle. But definitely a natural progression from the first.
How do you guys write your songs, is it music first and then lyrics or vice versa?
Ryan: Basically the way it’s working at the moment is that David, the guitarist, writes his riffs and structures out into a rough track and Calum and I will have lyrics which we then match up. We then send a demo round each member of the band who will write their own part and then we bash it out from there. It’s a really organic process.
What music were you listening to when you first started the band?
John: There was quite a range of influences; David and Duncan were really into the ‘90s hardcore scene, bands like Fugazi. Myself, Ryan and Calum all grew up listening to bands like At the Drive-in so our sound is really a marriage of that.
How did you guys come together in the first place?
John: Well David asked around to see if anyone wanted to join a band and it was just a group of mates having fun really. We didn’t really take it too seriously. As you can tell from our band name we didn’t think we would be playing outside Glasgow even.
So do you still reel from the fact that you’re now on your second album, you’re touring America, you’re doing very well?
Ryan: I think it’s amazing really that people are willing to fly us to places in America and Europe just based on the fact that we’re friends and musicians. It really does still surprises me on a daily basis.
If you could only do one more gig in your career where would you play?
John: Probably Portugal. We did the Kaiser Chiefs tour from Oslo to Portugal and everywhere we went we were going on only half an hour after the doors opened, basically playing to a cold room. But in Portugal the doors would open at 7 and we would go on at 9 so you had 5000 people getting drunk and staring at an empty stage for two hours so when we went on it was huge. Plus in Portugal the room is much hotter. Although London stages are pretty cool too.
Have you played Nottingham before?
John: Yeah a few times. I make dance music as well and I always find that the dance scene is better than the indie scene. We played Liars Club here a few years ago and a guy tried to fight Callum when we were playing. So that was the initial reaction but we shook that off and have played here with Johnny Foreigner.
Speaking of which, I actually saw Johnny Foreigner here a few weeks ago and they were having some pretty major technical issues, have you ever had a gig where everything just falls to pieces?
John: We’ve always been fighting against shit gear to be honest. When I used to play drums the drum kits I used were literally falling apart and our tour manager Scott would have to be standing next to me screwing things in and catching them as they fell. But we’re slowly phasing that shit gear out.
Ryan: But it’s not only the gear though, even yesterday though a song was being counted down and I was basically just staring off into space. The good thing about being a guitar band is that it’s a pretty basic set up, it’s usually just things like pedals that go wrong. If we were playing a sort of acoustic type set up where you can hear every note then it might be a bit different but we really just get on with it if things go wrong.
What’s it like headlining a tour?
John: I think I might actually prefer being a supporting act. Although when you’re headlining it’s your rules, you get to play for longer and you know the crowd are there to see you. But there’s something quite nice about touring with a band like the Kaiser Chiefs whose fans are usually casual music fans and who didn’t even know that our type of music existed. I like messing with people’s heads a bit. And we didn’t get booed much so that has to be positive. I think they like the energy.
How did you actually end up getting the Kaiser Chief gig? It doesn’t seem like an obvious pairing.
John: It was one of those things that came through management and the label, someone somewhere was working hard to get it for us.
Ryan: Initially there were lots of different bands who were working to get the gig, a sort of Gladiators type showdown. And we were the first to get to the top of the Travelator.
So when you guys are not recording or on tour how do you rewind? Sorry unwind?
John: (Laughs) rewind is probably better actually we pretty much regress. Because of my dance music stuff I usually spend most of my time with music, but every now and again I get time off and I sit around in my pants enjoying not having to get up early.
Ryan: And there’s a lot of getting up late and Xbox live as well.
Pretty similar to the student lifestyle then?
John: Yeah definitely. Don’t get me wrong touring is a lot of fun but I don’t think people really consider the hours that going into it.
Ryan: It’s physically demanding as well. It’s the equivalent of people who go off and work on the oil rigs and do crazy hours and then when they’re home they spend time trying to re-adjust.
What kind of music are you guys listening to at the moment?
John: I’ve been listening to Panda Bear, the guy from Animal Collective quite a bit. Also Dirty Projectors and The Salvo who are this crazy band from Glasgow.
Ryan: I’ve actually been revisiting the late ‘90s, I’ve been listening to a lot of Korn and Incubus for some reason, and some of The Makebelieves too.
One of the reasons that I enjoy your album so much is that it’s all slightly tongue-in-cheek, is that something that is really written into the bands DNA?
Ryan: Yeah definitely, we really don’t take ourselves very seriously. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t take the opportunity that you are given when on tour to have the most fun that you could possibly have. Instead of being some sort of dark poser.
And finally, what’s going to be going down in 2010?
John: Well we’ve got the new album, two songs of which we’re going to be playing tonight and seeing how they work out. We’re going back to Australia at some point and really just doing our thing.
Ryan: I can also see the end of the credit crunch at some point in 2010, about the 15th June it’s all going to sort itself out. What I don’t get is why don’t they just make more money?! Hitler did that and I can’t see any problems there…