North London based band West Of The Sun return with a new single “Siberian Hysteria” out 6th May via Phoney War Records. To prepare for the release, we had a chance to discuss their influences, their music, and their goals!
Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
“We’re good thanks. We’ve just left our rehearsal room where we’ve been demoing some new songs. We’ve been running through lots of ideas – some old and some very new.”
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
“We are a rather unique concoction of rock n roll, psychedelic pop, trip hop beats and I guess modern indie, with influences from Captain Beefheart to Fatboy Slim. If it’s got a good tune and an interesting beat it usually finds a place in our music heads.”
Can you the name albums and artists that have influenced you the most?
“We’d be lying if we said The Stone Roses debut and The Coral’s Butterfly House weren’t the two albums we’ve wanted to emulate on record since the start. Not that we sound overly like either of them but the rhythms, the sonic soundscapes, the eeriness to the records, the phase and haze swirling over your ears are a huge influence on our sound. John Leckie is as bigger influence on me as any band, he’s just an amazing producer. The Bends by Radiohead also – what a guitar record that is. Lots of sixties pop and west coast stuff also – Love (particularly Forever Changes), The Doors, The Byrds, The Velvet Underground. And no band enriched by melody and hooks can deny the Beatles being in their writing process. We’ve always listened to electronic music as much as rock n roll but only recently have we learnt to incorporate it into our music. We are still very much on that learning curve though, which is great!”
Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?
“There is a brilliant band from Liverpool called The Vryll Society. They’re a bit like the early Verve but more electronic sounding. They have a real groove. Another young band who are certain to go onto great things are Neon Waltz from Scotland. They once asked us to support them but we couldn’t make it – we were a bit gutted. They have a great sound and are fans of us also. Apart from that some golden oldies are doing great stuff at the moment – Iggy Pop’s new album is brilliant and I enjoyed Blur’s album last year and looking forward to the Gorillaz this year. David Bowie’s Blackstar is an amazing record to have written at nearly 70! Primal Scream’s new record is great also. Joe from the band has been listening to DMA’s and Night Beats. King Gizzard are cool. Stevie, the drummer loves a band called Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. I like Kurt Vile’s latest record and also a band a friend discovered called Ultimate Painting – they sound kind of like a modern Velvet Underground.”
What would we find under the category of “Guilty pleasures” in your music collection?
Y”I think we all have them. Whether they’re ‘guilty’ or not I don’t know but there’s the odd out-and-out pop tune that is just undeniably catchy. All Saints’ Pure Shores is one of these, and I love ‘Stronger’ by Sugarbabes haha. I know this sounds mental but I can always imagine Ian Brown singing it… it’s a really cool melody. Beautiful Stranger by Madonna also – that’s been known to come out at acoustic nights! So perhaps 90s girl groups…”
The UK music scene is certainly always changing. Some might say that at the moment it’s more electronic oriented. Do you think this makes it more difficult for indie/alternative acts to get recognition that it would have done ten years ago?
“There are pros and cons of course. I personally think if we hadn’t learnt to produce we (the band) would all be sat around complaining about it and strumming acoustic guitars feeling sorry for ourselves cos we can’t afford to record. We were getting left behind, and we learnt like a lot of bands that you have to move with the times. I got a Macbook off my brother who’s a DJ/producer and bought some software that cost a few hundred quid and we’ve been able to record a whole album ourselves at very little extra cost. Now the possibilities are endless really – we can incorporate so many more sounds into the record and use effects and samples where we couldn’t before because of the constraints of a hired studio – we’re not working on borrowed time and rushing the tracks. Recording is much more in the artists’ hands than it ever has been so its down to the musicians themselves if they want to embrace that or not.
What does piss us off though is the live circuit – too many mid-size venues have closed in recent times and rock and roll gigs don’t generate the atmosphere they used to unfortunately. Bands get treated like crap as well and promoters don’t seem to be music fans – they’re in it for themselves. Now you have to go through 50 booking agents just to get a Tuesday night at the Purple Turtle in Reading haha. And then no one’s there anyway! So yeah, it feels for the time being at least that some soul has been sucked from live music unfortunately. Something has to be done about it.
If not the popularity of electronic music, what would you say some of the challenges indie bands face today in the music industry today?
There seems to be more bands than ever because with the internet you’re exposed to so much. Every single band/artist can have a website, photos, videos, high quality recordings etc. Social media allows everyone to look ‘professional’ so everyone’s basically on the same level at first glance. It’s almost come full circle so the only way to make yourself really stand out from the crowd is to have the best songs. That’s what we try and concentrate on – the music. Although I have (largely against my will it should be added) learnt to manage the million social media accounts required by a band these days – something I know Lou Reed never had to do haha… Saying that, things like the X Factor don’t help the cause of any creative mind, whether that be a musician, writer, painter. So can we just blame that instead? People these days are more mind-numbed than ever before in our lifetimes. Spending Saturday nights in front of the TV watching people murdering songs that are 40 years old and never needed re-doing. Watching people on TV who are watching other people on TV?! It’s mad. And why is every advert just a dull acoustic version of an already great song?! Just play the original!! Sorry, rant over.
Where do you gather song writing inspiration?
It will be the answer most people give I expect but music, life, films, books, emotions, situations. One thing that’s happened recently (whether sub-consciously or not) is the songs have become more political. Some lyrics have been quite purposefully directed at certain political figureheads, and the music’s got a bit ‘angrier’. I’m sure we’re not the only band to feel a little aggrieved about those issues though.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when put music together?
With me personally usually the music comes first, and I’ll get a little instrumental demo together that I can work with and fit lyrics to, then show Luke and the band. Lyrics I tend to write on the bus or on the train and save in my phone. The others I think write in a more Dylanesque way where it all comes together on an acoustic, sat on the end of a bed with a notebook – lamenting haha. We all write in the band, literally all 5 of us come in with things and often combine ideas. It’s great, and keeps everything fresh. That’s what happened with Siberian Hysteria. Joe had the lyrics and the verses and I arranged into a ‘song’ and put that intro together for it.
One thing I think is consistent with us all is we find inspiration to write music by listening to music. It’s a nice cycle, providing you have enough time to do it! But I feel these days a lot of modern bands forget to do that part – the research part really. They often look great and can really play but there’s a distinct lack of songwriting depth. Keith Richards always said you’re only as good as your record collection. And he’s done alright!
What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?
We’ve done some good gigs recently but I think we’d all say the 100 Club in 2013 was one of the best. We sold it out, it was a blazing hot day in September and it was banging. Queues outside and all sorts. We played lots of new songs at the time, an hour long set, had the crowd singing back at us and it was just a massive buzz at that early stage of the band.
And the worst?
There’s been a few of those as well I’m afraid haha. One stands out at a place called Surya near Kings Cross where we had one guitar between three guitarists… And it was a 12 string! It was awful. Very Spinal Tap.
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I literally can’t imagine not doing it. It encapsulates every minute that i’m awake. No idea… Luke’s good at surfing and stuff like that so he’d probably be a professional surfer or something. Perhaps we’ve held him back actually… Oh dear haha.
Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?
Obviously the pyramid at Glastonbury would have to be one. Not really though to be honest, I think we think a lot more about our songs and what we’re doing ourselves than the location or status of the gig. Saying that I watched Sigur Ros play this amazing festival in Iceland on YouTube and it looked like another world. I forget what it was called.
If you could perform alongside any other band or artist, who would it be?
We’ve spoken of our dream to support the Stone Roses since they reformed in 2011. That would be magic. So if you’re reading Mani… Or maybe The Coral would be more realistic at this stage. Maybe… But to support our heroes I think we’d say our lives were near enough complete.
Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
We have a single coming out on 6th May called ‘Siberian Hysteria’. This will be followed by our debut album later in the year and a tour in the autumn. If you like your guitars psyched up, your beats booming and your lyrics telling you should give it a spin.
We are playing at The Great Escape at the end of May and headline Borderline, London on 2nd July. Come down!