Interview with &U&I

 

The UK Alternative scene is arguably the most vibrant in the world,
but with so many eager bands pitted against each-other for awareness
building support and festival slots, magazine column inches and pushes
from influential Radio DJ’s, the industry conveyor belt is just as good
at churning out success stories as it is casualties – the disbanded
bands, those a member down or those coping with stress fractures and ill
feeling. The lack of funding and fiscal reward for musicians, and those
that help with all related aspects, enhances what can already be a
stressful and high pressure existence. While I am unaware of the reasons
behind their former Blakfish bandmatess departure, his decision to
leave the band midway through their Biffy Clyro support position came as
a huge blow.

But enough of the gloom, as out of this seemingly sad and dire
situation we have been gifted with an intriguing new rock band. Their
first full length album, ‘Light Bearer’, which was released on November
21st, has received some very deserved praise with many commenting on its
intricacies, complexities and unconventional song structures. I caught
up Rich to try and gauge the mood of the band as a trio and how things
have panned out for the guys in 2011… If you are yet to witness the
guys live you have a chance before the years out with their “Off the
Cuff Christmas Show” on the 16th December…  www.andyouandi.net

What bands made you want to be in band before your formation?
We met at secondary school at a pretty young age just as we were all
just discovering bands such as Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn
and others in that whole Nu Metal / alternative wave.  We were the
same as lots of other kids from that generation who wanted to play
guitar and drums and be in rock bands, we just haven’t grown out of it
yet.
I always wonder what reaction band members receive when they tell
their parents/family that they are going to try and make it as a band.
Were yours supportive or skeptical?

I think all of our parents we’re a little disappointed to begin with
that none of us went to university and thought we might have been a bit
short sighted putting all of our hopes into the band.  My parents
personally weren’t that impressed when I left my proper, well paying
office job to drive all over Europe in a knackered old transit van!
After the initial shock they all realised that it’s what we really want
to do and the amount of experiences we’ve had more than makes up for
not getting a degree in something we wouldn’t have wanted to do.
 They’re really supportive either by letting us move back home and
realising that we’re not cut out for careers just yet. Peckett’s
parents even do our merch orders for us, which is a massive help.
Do you all have backup plans in place or do you have to take a risk and just believe it will work out?
Without sounding like that lot camping in tents outside St. Pauls I
don’t really see that anyone has a plan these days as everything is so
uncertain. If we weren’t focusing on the band we’d probably just be
looking for dead end jobs with a million other people our age.  To get
anywhere as a band you’ve got put the effort in and take risks but at
the same time try and make sure you don’t burn yourselves out.  Saying
that most of the time we do just hope for the best and it always seems
to work out in the end.
From the bands you all listened to was it clear what music you were likely to make together?
Yea, we all like different types of music and bands but as I said
before growing up together meant that there are some core bands we were
all influenced by such as Biffy Clyro, Deftones, Poison the Well,
Glassjaw to name a few, so the music we came out with pretty much made
sense.
In 2010 your  EP received great reviews  and lead to a nice little
feature in extremely influential Kerrang! Did that reception give you a
boost of confidence that you were on to a winning formula?

Definitely!  The whole build up to that EP was a bit of a step into the
unknown for us.  Even though we had been playing together for years it
was the first thing written without Sam and a chance to show that
there was life after Blakfish.  The fact that it got good reviews just
confirmed that we were on the right track and the main thing is that
people seemed to really like the EP on it’s own merit.
Do you (and your loved ones) have benchmarks that signas that you
have really made it? ( playing a certain venue or festival for example)

Yea I think it’s important to have things to aim for, setting yourself
goals and all that business like you were taught at school.  When we
first started out the plan was to get an EP written and recorded then it
was a natural progression from there.  First tour, get some press
going, festivals and then on to recording the album.  I think for me
playing Two Thousand Trees festival to a packed out tent the home album
release show were massive benchmarks. Seeing a tent full of people come
to watch your band in the rain at 3pm and having your first album in
your hands sums up months of work and makes it all feel worthwhile.
You all wrote the album together. What do all members bring to the writing process?
Yea and this was quite a new thing for us.  It’s sometimes a bit
difficult for bands to do this because of egos and conflicting ideas
and stuff.  For us though it was really refreshing and fairly easy!  We
all turn up at practice with a riff or a drum beat and piece stuff
together until something sounds good.  We all have an input into what
each other plays, Wiz will comment on bass lines and guitar riffs for
example and we’ll all chip in with vocals and suggest drum parts.  It’s
also cool to be in a band where there isn’t going to be an argument if
a song or someone’s part isn’t working, we try out a few different
options then pick the best bits for the song.
You had a dauntingly small period of two weeks to do the album. Why was this?
Daunting is a pretty good word for it.  Basically we couldn’t afford to
do any longer!  Although we only spent 2 weeks out in Portugal we made
sure that we had fully demo’d the album and sent everything over to
Chris so there wouldn’t be too many surprised over there.
As well as producer Chris Commons parents basement, you recorded in
Portugal in a studio which was designed the same as the legendary Abbey
Road 2. How did the spaces help you in terms of efficiency when making
the record?

The studio where we recorded the drums was an amazing space, a copy of
Abbey Road but with a few Portuguese twists like the roof falling in
and thousands of pounds worth of microphones in a pile on the floor.
 The best thing about that studio is we were left to our own devices
and had no time limits so were able to get the drums done in 2 days
instead of the 3 we had planned.
By the sounds of things it was quite a serene experience despite the
deadline. Did the chilled atmosphere –  allowing yourself breaks in
the pool and drinks at local bars mean that your minds were in a place
where creativity just seemed to flow with ease?

I’m not sure serene is the right way to describe it.  There we’re a few
evenings where a few beers in a local bar ended up in a club at 6am,
which was normally Chris’ fault.  On the whole though yea the
surroundings really helped.  Being stuck in a normal windowless studio
sends you crazy after a while and it makes it really hard to make a
clear judgement on anything.  If we hit a wall we’d had a quick pool
break and work it out afterwards.  We were looked after really well by
Chris’ family too which really helped.
What sort of guy is Chris like to work with? Was it a mainly peaceful relationship?
After spending 5 weeks with Chris in Seattle he’s more like a mate than
just some producer you work with.  Most of the time the only falling
out was between Chris and Pro Tools but we did have a few differences
on some parts of the record but I see that as a good thing.  I remember
him saying when we were in Seattle, “You’re paying me to produce this
record, if you don’t want to listen to suggestions I’ll just shut up
and hit record” Any differences we did have were quickly sorted out
over a beer later on anyway.
You have stated the importance of having an album that is cohesive, flowing from start to finish. How did you achieve this?
Yea this was a big thing for all of us.  We’d always wanted to write
and album as an album not just a collection of songs thrown together.
 We’d demo a lot of the tracks and place them in into a kind of order
at a really early stage in the writing process.  This meant we knew
whether to focus on writing a faster aggressive style of song for the
start of the album or slower tracks like “Baskerville the Atheist and
Accordingly In Motion”.  We tried to keep a theme throughout the album
too with the intro and outro and using the same lyrics in different
songs.
Is it smooth running most of the time or have there been occasions
where perhaps someone has lyrical ideas offend the other members or you
have different views on the direction of a track?

I can honestly say it’s smooth running all of the time.  If something
is working it’s just said and no one takes offense to it, in fact we
were all probably thinking the same thing anyway. If we do disagree on
lyrics or a section we just work on making it better or trying out
something different.  The main thing we all agree on is that the songs
need to work, if a part or lyric doesn’t you have to realise that and
not take it personally.
Talking of lyrics – The album features the seemingly mundane –
motorways and canal holidasy, dreams – old lady kidnapping, and
religion – Harold Campling. You have commented on aspirations and Thom
being wrongly sacked but would you say you largely veer away from
intensely personal topics or stories?

Glad you picked up on some of the topics, a lot of people think it’s
all about Blakfish bashing which just isn’t the case!  I wouldn’t say
that we have deliberately steered away from personal things it’s just
the way they panned out.  A lot of the lyrics are about some bizarre
dreams Wiz has. Thom does most of the lyric writing and anyone who has
met him knows he doesn’t take things too seriously. I personally can’t
stand songs having a go at things that the singer probably knows
nothing about and definitely isn’t qualified to talk about, you’re not a
banker or a politician and you don’t know anything about it so stop
bitching and moaning. I think that might almost be a Maynard James
Keenan quote but he probably said it better.
D.Pablo I featured Iphone recordings of waves and town bells. Are
you always looking for innovative things to include in your music or
are you simply inspired by things you see and hear when out and about?

I’d like to say that it was a real thought out idea but we just came up
with it whilst having a beer on the sea front and thought it would be a
nice touch.  The bells were quite difficult to record as in true
Portuguese style they just went off at completely random times
throughout the day and night.
You are releasing your album through your own label Ondryland. Was
this necessary due to the current state of the music industry or a way
to maintain control over all aspects of your output?

A bit of both really.  We’ve been doing this a long time and have a
pretty good idea on everything a label does for a band anyway so it made
sense to have complete control over everything we did.  Record labels
don’t really make any money anymore either so are reluctant to shell
out thousands of pounds to bands who will probably never make them any
money back, so it made sense to self finance it and make 100% on
anything we get back.
Journalists love to make comparisons – I have seen your sound
compared to Gallows and At The Drive in amongst others. What comparison
is the most accurate or least irksome?

The biggest comparison is always with Blakfish, which we don’t mind so
much and is completely understandable (you’ve done very well not to
mention it). What is annoying is when Light Bearer is directly compared
to Champions as if we’re the same band and it’s our second album.
You toured with Shapes in OCT/NOV. Would you say you have mastered
the art of touring ( staying healthy, getting enough sleep and enough
partying)?

I think we’ve mastered how to deal with no sleep, eating crap if
anything at all and then feeling in the mood to party or even if you’re
not in the mood doing it anyway.  We’ve been friends with Shapes for a
long time so we definitely put a lot of practice in in the drinking
and general good times department.
Apart from your ‘Off the Cuff Xmas Show’ how will you be spending the festive period?
Well apart from the “Off the Cuff Christmas Show” (16th December
tickets at only £4 available from our website) Wiz is currently making
plans for the first &U&I Staff Christmas party which should be
good and a chance for us to say thank you to our unpaid but extremely
dedicated staff (Chris the driver and Mike our sound engineer) .There
is talk of a Secret Santa and a meal which we might even pay for if
they’re lucky.  Other than that probably just general festivities and
asking Father Christmas for guitar strings and drum sticks, a van and a
new bass amp.
Goals for 2012?
Every festival we can possibly do, European tour with Chris Common’s
band and / or Shapes, sell loads of albums and be famous although we’ve
been working on the last one for a few years now.
Dream collaboration?
Lou Reed and Metallica . . . oh wait that’s been done.
Best thing anyones written about your band?
The Fly described our album as ‘One howling gargoyle of an album’

Dream Tour?

A really good support tour I suppose, Poison the Well would have always been a good one.

Tour essentials?

Everything I packed up and left at home before the Shapes tour.
Sat-Nav, Deodorant, Wet wipes, toothpaste, toothbrush, sleeping bag and
porn stored on your phone in case of a lack of 3G. 
What is on your recently played list?
Daughters last album
Nick Drake
Bear Vs Shark

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