You just completed your third album, King of Waves (US release 2.28). I have read it was recorded over 2 year period. How does it differ from your previous LP’s?
With this album we wanted a harder hitting sound that reflected the energy the bands live shows and the different music we'd been getting into. We were listening to guitar instrumental stuff like Link Wray, Garage/Psych stuff and Krautrock along with being into sounds like Spaghetti Western soundtracks and early studio pioneers like Joe Meek. We wanted a darker more explosive character to the album.
We also realized we had to oversee all creative descisions, Where we recorded, who we worked with, artwork/videos etc. We'd previously left other people to take care of some of these things and it didn't work out. so we reigned it back in.
Alternative rock veteran Edwyn Collins produced this album. What did his experience bring to the table for you?
We did our first album with Edwyn and had known him a long time. We knew working with him in his studio was the perfect place to record. They had the best equipment and are such fun to work with. We also knew they'd understand what we were after, and they love to break the rules when it comes to the recording process . Edwyn was one of the key people in getting us off the ground in the first place by recording us when we had no money or label. It was also amazing to see him back in the studio again after suffering a stroke which could have ended his career if wasn't for his sheer determination and hard work.
It was 5 years between the time you recorded this album and the previous. Why such a long layoff? Did you all think about calling the project quits? Or just wanted to work on other things?
There were several reasons why there was a long break. Firstly it takes longer to write your material once your label stops supporting you and you can't afford a permanent place to work and write songs. We also wanted to record at Edwyn's and it's a very busy place. But we knew it was worth waiting for. Sometimes we'd have a weeks recording and then have to wait 4 months for another four days in there. Inbetween sessions we were trying out the songs at small London gigs to get the arrangements right. I had also been playing and touring with Primal Scream a lot and doing other session work. We never thought about calling it quits. It was better to be patient and get it right.
How often have you toured the US? How do the crowds differ here from Europe?
We've never toured the US before. Only the odd show in new York and LA. US crowds have been great. We're the opening act so you don't assume people will want to watch you, but they have so far. European crowds have been generally really good too. Sometimes in the UK people are a bit too scared to let their hair down in case someone thinks they're not cool anymore.
You recently toured Japan. How is the country after the massive tsunamis?
We were one of the first few bands to return to Japan after the Tsunami. We only played Tokyo and Osaka on that trip and you couldn't see any evidence of the disaster in those cities as it was too far away. Only when you talked to people did you get a sense of how they felt. They were just trying to get on with their lives were incredible audiences. They seemed so happy that some bands were still coming to play for them after many cancelled. A good friend of ours worked for the Red Cross at Fukushima to help the clean up operation. He said it was most shocking thing he'd ever experienced. Thousands had lost everything.
How has the response been to the new album? I know in Japan (released earlier this year) it has caught fire. From what I read you had to block off entire floors of hotels to keep fans at bay. Why so successful in JP?
It's not quite Beatlemania in Japan but it has gone great for us. We're not really sure how things got started there. It may have been when a few people got hold of imports of our early records and started talking about us. Japan has been so good to us. We've made some good friends there. We have been followed on the bullet train and checked into hotels under false names.
Your influence range from surfer rock to blues. How did these influences come about between the 3 of you? Did you all bring it to the table? Or?
We're all into loads of different stuff. I got really interested in early electric guitar instrumental stuff, the reverbs of surf and the fuzz of freakbeat and psych and wanted to put that into our sound. Lewis was really into The Cramps and The Gories amongst other bands. Virgil was into all kinds of stuff and is handy in the studio and engineered our rough demos. he also dj's a lot and has a good take on arrangements and what gets people moving. We were all grounded on Rhythm and Blues, Rock'n'Roll and Soul and Funk too. We're always playing eachother records we've found that we think one of us will like. We've also done loads of gigs between us which keeps your chops up.
How does your songwriting process work? Do you enlist others to assist with lyrics/structure? Or does one of you bring the lyrics to the table and then you workaround that?
A lot of ideas start with me doing a very ragged demo. From there we get in a room and start playing around with it, trying different ideas that anyone shouts out or comes up with, I mostly write the words but it's a collaborative effort in the end. Since Virgil joined we have more scope to improvise without the self indulgence of massive solos. The band is much more dynamic and powerful now.
What are your upcoming goals? What would you like to accomplish?
We want to do more recording and tour new territories. Keep being creative. As well as new songs we'd love to do something like a soundtrack for a film in the future. Being able to keep working at what you love is the main thing.
What made you want to dedicate your life to music? Was there a show or album?
For me the two main things were The Stone Roses first album and seeing clips of Chuck Berry and BB King on a TV. I asked my parents if I could get a cheap guitar for Christmas. That was it from then. . .
Anything you would like to say to Pittsburgh?
Come down early and see us at the Rex Theatre Pittsburgh X
Show begins at 8p with Little Barrie opening for Charles Bradley. Tickets are $15 and can be found here.