Monday, 31 July 2017

An Interview With THE AMERICAS ~ 26.05.17

It's becoming increasingly difficult not to fall under The Americas' spell, and once seen... they're never forgotten; their classic yet cool and contemporary sound, coupled with eclectic, high powered live performances have won them a legion of fans up and down the country, as well as acclaim from the likes of This Feeling and BBC Introducing. Having appeared at the Isle of Wight festival, Tramlines and Y Not, the West Midlands based three-piece (made up of Harry Payne, Alex Bradshaw and Aaron Whittaker) have become somewhat of a familiar fixture on this years' Summer festival circuit. To date, they have two copiously infectious single releases under their belt in the form of 'Tenth Day of May' and 'Hot Minute' and I think it's safe to say that word is spreading about just how brilliant this band are.

I was able to speak with the delightfully eccentric trio recently when they visited Sheffields' The Rocking Chair to play a headline show.

How and when did you first come together as a band?
Aaron: I guess it was about three years ago, but not with Alex... if we're going right back to the beginning when I met Harry, I'd just got back from Australia and he'd been at uni.
Harry: Yeah, about 2014.
Aaron: We started to play with just two acoustic guitars. We were in a band together, but it was just one of those things and it didn't work out. We went through about a thousand different drummers, then we went to see Alex in another band and thought 'That guy's sick, lets get him involved.' I think that was about six months or so before 'Tenth Day Of May' came out.
Harry: We've been The Americas for about a year, but obviously the first single only came out in November so it's been quite a big build up to this point. We're new, but old!

What are your earliest memories of music?
Alex: I was brought up on U2 and stuff like that.
Aaron: It could be worse!
Alex: Yeah, but you always rip into me about that! I was obsessed with The Killers. I then went from that to weird scene type music... but I wasn't an emo.
Aaron: I was never into The Killers or whatever. My dad always used to play me Bob Dylan in the car every day when I was little so I got into that. I did go through a Guns N' Roses phase!
Harry: The Stones and Dylan. I'd listened to music, but didn't really take it seriously until I was 18. Everyone gets into music in their own unique way.

Can any of you remember what the first gig you ever went to was?
Harry: Mine was Alkaline Trio. I don't know why! It was at Wolverhampton Civic, I was like 12 and I remember there being all these people with proper mohawks and I'd never seen anything like that before! It was cool.
Aaron: I can't remember, to be honest! I did go and see Dylan with my dad when I was very young but that's probably just me trying to get cool points... I'm sure I went to see some crap right at the very start!
Alex: Mine was U2 when I was like 10!
Harry: No one knows it, but they're our biggest influence...

You've spent quite a lot of time on the road so far this year. Is there anywhere in particular that you always have good experiences playing shows?
Aaron: Aside from home, up North.
Harry: I'd say Sheffield.
Aaron: Sheffield has always been great. Liverpool's been great.
Alex: My favourites are Liverpool and Cardiff. Cardiff is cool.
Harry: We'd never been there before, but we really enjoyed it.
Aaron: London is always a bit of a mixed bag. It can be amazing and the best gig ever, but we've had some real downers there. But yeah, Northern cities are always great because people give a shit about music.

Do you have any tour habits or hobbies?
Aaron: Gargling salt. Just because I've got a delicate throat and I'm always singing a bit harder than I should be!
Alex: I sleep a lot.
Aaron: He does! You'll be driving and suddenly this body just falls towards you... and he's gone. He's terrible! You need a buddy when you're driving all that way! He can't drive, so he's got no responsibility. He's like our child.
Harry: We're the responsible ones.

Music aside, has anyone got any strange talents?
Harry: I can open bottles of beer with a lighter. I'm pro at that!
Aaron: You're just pro at getting to beer! One way or another.
Harry: It's true, I am good at that.
Alex: We can drive forklifts. That's probably my only other talent.
Aaron: Yeah, we're badass forklift drivers. And we like playing football.

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about what you do; is it the creative process of writing, recording and seeing a great track come together... or getting to head out on the road and play it to a live audience?
Alex: Bit of both. There's nothing better than someone coming up to you after a gig and saying 'That was amazing.'
Aaron: I don't think any band could truthfully answer that because it's all of those things. It's good to know that people enjoy your stuff, but I do get a massive kick out of just sitting down at a piano and writing.
Harry: There's a lot to it, and you've got to enjoy every part of it because it is all consuming. You've got to take it seriously, so it helps if you enjoy it.
Aaron: The studio is completetly up and down. You can have the best time ever in the studio, but you can also have some of your lowest points.
Harry: Being out on the road is amazing. We spent so long not playing until we felt like we'd cracked our sound.
Aaron: We're definitely not a band who just focus on the recording... we're not The Beatles! You can quote me there... we're not like The Beatles. We like getting dirty, getting out there and seeing lots of towns and cities.
Harry: You get to meet lots of cool people as well. You get people giving you musical suggestions, and just end up learning a lot.
Aaron: I think if I wasn't in a band, I'd still do the travelling aspect. I'd still go around to these cities in a camper van so that I could come and see the bright lights of Sheffield...

You've released two incredible songs so far, and it's become clear that you've very much got your own sound and your own unique vibe going on... did you know starting out what kind of band you wanted to be and the sound that you wanted, or would you say that has developed subconciously with time and experience?
Aaron: Again, if we're going right back to when we started out, it's taken a while.
Harry: It's developed over a number of years. We've had periods of time where we've been playing one half of the set could have one sound to it and then the other half is completely different. Every song is different. I guess we've kind of just stumbled across what we're doing now. Having a solid line up is very important.
Aaron: Every time you change a member of the band, the sound completely changes. You can't just be like 'Here are our songs... learn them.' Well you could try... but it wouldn't work. It has to be natural.
Harry: I do feel like we've finally found what comes naturally to us, but it did take a long time.

Tell me something about The Americas that no one else knows...  are there any dirty secrets?
Aaron: Oh, loads...
Harry: Our consciences are pretty clean! Compared to a few people that I've heard of...
Aaron: Something that no one else knows? I really don't know. I'm looking to one of you two.
Harry: My mothers' maiden name?
Alex: You might need to use that as a security question one day though so it might be best not to say that one.
Aaron: There are a lot, but I think you'd have to be with us 24/7. There are lots of weird little things that happen when we get together.

Would you rather have the ability to travel back in time or see into the future? 
Harry: I'd like to see into the future. I don't really see any point in looking back to the past... gotta look to the future! I always fantasize about knowing how certain situations would go down so that I wouldn't have to worry about them. If you knew that you were going to succeed or fail at something, you would at least be able to do something about it.
Alex: But what if you go into the future and you can't come back?
Harry: No, you're just seeing into the future... not going to the future.
Alex: I'd probably want to go back, then.
Aaron: I think I'd like to look back. I wouldn't like to see the future in case I didn't like it. I want to go back to New York in the 60's.
Alex: I want to go back and be Jagger. That'd be cool.

If you could spend one month trapped inside any television show or movie, which would you pick and why?
Aaron: Friends! I don't even need to justify that. I just want to hang out with Chandler.
Alex: Mine would be Peep Show.
Aaron: It's always Peep Show with you!
Alex: I'm absolutely obsessed with Peep Show. I love it!
Harry: I think mine would change on a daily basis but I guess The Office UK... I'd like to be a background character in that and just observe stuff. But ask me again tomorrow and I'll have changed my mind and say Robot Wars or something.

Finally... what are the hopes, dreams and plans for the future of The Americas?
Harry: Release an EP, eventually. We will do that at some point.
Aaron: We're recording at the moment.
Harry: To play live and record would be our mantra, I suppose.
Aaron: I just want to play to more and more people.
Harry: Yeah, that's what we live for.
Alex: I'd like to get out to Europe, as well. Road trip!

The Americas... aka Charlies Angels

Listen to The Americas...

Where to find them:
Facebook/Twitter/Instagram: @TheAmericasYeah

Friday, 28 July 2017

An Interview With THE SLOW READERS CLUB ~ 19.05.17

The Slow Readers Club are easily one of the most respected bands on the circuit at the moment, and with two sterling album releases to their name as well as a string of huge live performances alongside the likes of James, The Charlatans and Elbow under their belt, it's not difficult to see why. Throughout their careers, the Manchester based quartet (made up of Aaron and Kurtis Starkie, James Ryan and David Whitworth) have received high acclaim and airplay from BBC 6 Music and XFM, and have become known and loved for their ineffable live performances, boasting sold out headline shows at some of the UK's most prominent music venues.

With the band in the studio working on album three and yet another gargantuan headline tour planned for the end of this year, there is a great deal of excitement circulating around this band at the moment. I was able to catch up with them back in late May when they made a whirlwind visit to Leeds to headline a sold out Belgrave Music Hall.


How and when did you first come together as a band?
Aaron: Me and Jim used to be in a band called Omerta. For one reason or another, the drummer and then the guitarist left. Kurt was at a point where he was looking around and we'd always wanted to be in a band together. For a while when we first started it was just me, Kurt and Jim. David came in, jammed with us a bit and it worked out well.

What did you grow up listening to, and would you say that any of that influenced you to want to make music yourselves?
Aaron: Our dad was a big fan of Elvis, motown and loads of 80's pop. He was a DJ in Manchester, so there was always music around in our house. It's similar to the music that we listen to now in the bus. We have a Spotify playlist of tour bus tunes and it's pretty much 80's pop stuff. We're 80's kids so we were watching stuff in the cinema like Back To The Future, The Goonies and that kind of thing! The music that we listened to was Yazoo, New Order, Madonna, Michael Jackson... the Rocky soundtrack! Cheesy pop, really! Later on, me and Kurt got into really cheesy stuff like Meatlof and Bon Jovi. Once we realized that it made us ostracized socially, we got into Nirvana and had a brief grunge period... and then Britpop happened. I feel like I'm telling you my life story! But yeah, all of those contribute to our sound, I'm sure. But maybe not so much Meatloaf. David has a mouthful of chips at the moment but he's a Led Zeppelin kind of guy.
David: A lot of it comes from my family. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Hendrix... that kind of stuff. 60's and 70's music.

With festival season coming up and you frequenting a fair few of our major festivals this year alongside acts such as Arcade Fire and Elbow... how does that feel?
James: Really good! If you go back to just over a year ago, we'd be happy to play to 30 people outside of Manchester. To have sold out Leeds, play on the main stage at Isle of Wight with the likes of Arcade Fire... it's just ridiculous. I know we keep harping on about it but we don't have any kind of label behind us, it's just us. So for us to be doing that in the same situation as we were 18 months ago is mad. Obviously we're really, really pleased about it. We couldn't ask for more.
Aaron: We went to see Arcade Fire in Manchester for the Neon Bible tour, so they're heroes of ours. We rehearsed in Blueprint where Elbow practise. From a lyrical perspective, Guy Garvey is fantastic.

Music aside, has anyone in the band got any interesting hobbies or strange talents?
James: I like making stuff out of wood. It sounds pretty pathetic, but I really like doing that! It's quite therapeutic.
Aaron: He'll come and say 'Lads, I'm doing a shed,' and then in three days, he'll have built a shed!
Kurtis: Not just your average wooden garden shed, either!
James: It's bigger than your house...
Aaron: Actually if you look at his beard, he has got a woodsmans' beard! Kurt used to be able to dance like Michael Jackson.
James: Aaron can do a pretty good disappearing act whenever we're getting stuff out of the van! He's literally there one second, and then he's gone. We could be in the middle of a field so he's got nothing to hide behind so I reckon that really is his biggest talent.
Aaron: I don't technically have anything to carry!

Is there anything that you've done so far, whether that's a particular song, a certain gig or perhaps something else entirely, that you're either especially proud of or feel has been pivotal in getting you to this point?
David: The Ritz gig was pretty special.
James: Growing up in Manchester, The Ritz is famous for loads of different reasons. Everyone knows what it is, where it is and how big it is so to have not only done a gig there but sold it out feels mad. We didn't really realize just how busy it was until we walked out. It feels mad that so many people would come out just to see us. We really appreciate it.
Aaron: Having played Night & Day, The Roadhouse, Soup Kitchen and pretty much every small venue in Manchester, to then go and do Gorilla, the Academy and the Ritz is just incredible. We're very appreciative.
James: I remember we said after we'd played Gorilla that no one could take that away from us, all that we'd achieved, and then literally a year later we'd do it to three times as many people in the Ritz. Gorilla is a great venue but the Ritz has so much history to it.

In terms of your creative process, is there a primary songwriter or is it more of a collaborative effort?
James: It's easier when you collaborate. A riff could come from anywhere, whether it's guitar or something on the keys, bass or a drum beat. If we like it, everyone will carry on playing it, and if it's crap then we'll all start dropping out one by one and you know that we're not going anywhere with that and it's time to move on. We'll jam it out as a band and then Aaron will ad-lib any old nonsence vocals over it to get a melody and then it goes from there.
Aaron: We get the most out of it when we write together as a four-piece. The challenge that we've had recently, because we've had more demand for doing shows and more demand for dealing with industry people and stuff like that, it's hard to get time in as a four-piece... but it's also a good problem to have!

Would you say that you have a preference between the creative process of watching a great song come to fruition in the writing and recording stages, and then getting to go out on the road and play it to a live audience? 
David: For me, recording is the best thing about being in a band.
James: I prefer playing.
Aaron: I prefer playing as well. But I'm a narcissist!
Kurt: I'd be more proud to have a good record than of any one gig.
Aaron: For me, it's probably the beginnings of a tune... the first day or so when you've created it is the most exciting time, then it's playing live is next and then recording.
James: When you're in the studio, it's always the vocals that go on last and I really like it when you listen back and you properly hear it all for the first time as a recorded tune and think straight away how you can't wait for people to hear it. That feeling then of knowing what it can be and what it's going to be like live is a really good part of it.

Finally... what are the hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
Aaron: Festivals, and then we've got our own tour in Winter where we'll be playing a headline show at Albert Hall, Glasgow, Dublin, London, Nottingham.
James: The whole dream is to keep playing gigs and that people still come out to see us. We want to play in Europe and see places like Germany and Poland. We've heard that those are the sorts of places where bands like us do well. We'd like to do this as a full time career and be able to quit our jobs and completely focus on it. At the moment, it's not that we're part timing the group, it just has to fit around all of the other shit that goes on so it'd be good to be able to focus on it full time. Maybe we'd then be able to write songs that are even better than they are now, so that's the goal really. At the moment we have to get up, go to work and then do this in the evening where as we want to get up and do this all day.
Kurtis: The plan is to release another album as well.
Aaron: We're not sure what it'll be yet, whether it'll be singles or an EP, but there's four recorded already and another couple in the wings. There'll be an album at the beginning of next year.

Listen to The Slow Readers Club below:

Where to find them... 
Facebook: /theslowreadersclub
Twitter: @slowreadersclub
Instagram: @theslowreadersclub