You are releasing your first new music in 23 years with the album ‘What’s In Between' due out on June 25 via Electric Moth. Just how does that feel now the record is done?
Rob: We were in Brooklyn, New York with John Agnello mixing the record, and within the first few hours there was already a great sense of accomplishment. John knows exactly how to top a pizza. He's brilliant.
Mike: It felt natural to be working together again, and it shows on the record. we recorded in Paul's studio, Massive Sound, and also at Matt's guitar store, Midwestern Music, so we were essentially recording at home. When we got to mixing, we realized we needed an outside ear to get this thing finished. There's no one in the recording business better than John Agnello, and he had some free time to mix this, so we jumped on it. i've known john for 20 years and he can listen to a song and instantly get where it's going and how to make it work on any and all the levels.
Matt: It feels great to have this record out. I'm proud of the music, the production and the fact that it is being released on vinyl. I'm ready for the next one..
When did the band originally get together, with what ambitions and are you happy with the legacy so far? Are your ambitions for the band different this time around?
Rob: The future is unwritten! And there isn't much change, as far as ambition. Our ambition has always pretty much been the same - to try and get as many people as possible, in the universe, to enjoy our records. So, we're just gonna keep making them. Hopefully the next one will be out in less than 20 years.
Mike: When we first got together, we wanted to make a living -- like any musician taking a stab at their first real band. I'm happy with our legacy, because we've always worked hard, paid our dues on the road, and tried to record the best songs we could. If it takes the four of us dressed as characters from Moby Dick while skydiving into a flaming volcano to get the music heard, we'll do it.
Matt: We originally formed in 1983, I think. At that time our ambitions were to record and play music. It was a dream we pursued. Although most of the recording was in the garage, we did manage to get a lot of gigs. Our first real tour was over two months long. Our first release was a cassette tape, "Sensual Cardboard Event," and actually did well on college radio.... I'd say our ambitions are still the same. It's still about the music. The dream is still the same but the perspective has changed with time. We are as passionate about it now as we were then.
photo: Michael Forrester
Hi and welcome back to this side of the pond, how is the European tour going so far, good fun?
The tour is great so far :) some surprisingly good turnouts considering that I have only been over sporadically.
When did you decided to undertake a solo career and with what ambitions?
After spending a decade of living and struggling in the
How do you approach your shows solo and with band, are preparations different and do you prefer one over the other?
I'm very aware that my solo shows are very compelling and lot of people enjoy seeing me just by myself. I use the band to augment my vocals and also to get more energy during the rowdiest songs. I love playing with my band, as well as performing solo.
Tell us about the label Joyful Noise, who released your solo LP, how did you get together?
Just as I had almost competed my successful kickstarter campaign to raise funds to self-release, Karl was the only one to contact me and offer me a record deal. He was very intelligent and seemed very nice, so we negotiated a very fair deal..
What is the meaning behind your album title 151a
151a could also be read in Japanese as "ichi-go-ichi-e" It means "one moment one meeting" and it is an approach to performance and composition that allows me to enjoy t he spirit of the moment and take more risks.
You are releasing the decade spanning, The Woodentops ‘Before During After’ – Remasters, Remixes & Rarties 1982-1992 via One Little Indian, on May 27th How does it feel now that the release is ready to go?
Its exciting. Its so long since we put out a serious release I really had forgotten how it feels. It’s a little spotlight moment for us. Time to make a scene. hehe. Puts a bit more oomph into it all, We'll play harder live.
Is the release designed to be a history lesson on the band or, a long look over the shoulder, before looking forward again?
Well that’s how it looks. However in fact it was nearly compiled a couple of times before, just this time it went all the way to finish. I like the long look over the shoulder idea. Some truth in that. good one! You writers quite often help me figure out what it is I'm doing. 3cds long, a look!. Not too long I hope, neck ache..
When did the band originally get together and with what ambitions?
1982 it began as an idea and conversations and listening to tapes I’d done. It didn't take long to find people to come in the cocoon of hard work. We all loved to play as much as possible and we took a long while before we dared play in public. From then on the ambition was to play more and more get it better. That’s the drive. Still is.
How have the personnel of the band changed over the years to how do you look as a group today … are there any plans for new music?
For a 5 piece band essentially, I counted once 35 people have played in with us! Some for a while, some a short burst. The 3 of us Simon Frank and I are the longest serving from the beginning of it. We look like the Woodentops. We are pretty wirey and play fast for a long time. Seriously, the set is fierce at the moment. New songs are weaved with the originals and there is new album just about to step out the house. Because of ‘Before, During, After’, we have given ourselves a touch more time to tweak.
How long have you been playing and performing and what was the spark that sent you down this musical career path?
I have been a musician for years, but the music I am making now, I have been creating and working on for about 5 years. I have always been interested in writing and creating music and sonic soundscapes, however I think watching the phenomenal musicians that come out of Australia as a young adult, as well as theatre and watching films have been the main inspirations for my musical progression.
How would you describe your music for people who have not yet heard your songs yet?
Electro-acoustics. Folk music with sound effects and dialogue samples. Big drums and lots of vocals.
How did your collaborations with Peter Broderick and Holly Throsby come about?
Holly has been a friend of mine for years, and was a big inspiration to me, both musically and personally – I always wanted to sing a song with her on my first album, and I got to sing on her album too. It was an honour.
Before my album came out, almost 3 years ago now, I sent Peter a bunch of demos after writing to him and letting him know how much I enjoyed his work and respected his opinions of mine. He enjoyed them so much he sent me a handful of poems he had written, including a beautiful visual piece called ‘A Boat?’. To challenge myself, as well as show my respect for his work I turned it into a song – and wrote music and a melody for his poem. He enjoyed it so much he let me put it on the record. To this day, Peter and I have only met once in person.
Your music is described as Post-Hardcore, how would you describe your sound?
It's a mixture of all the kinds of music we like; we mix really heavy stuff with really
"poppy" stuff. it's a little bit like good vs evil
You released an EP in 2011 when is your next release due and what can we expect to hear?
Hopefully as soon as possible. We're working on a new album as we speak. That will be
our full length debut. It's a little bit more technical and mature but it's still the same type of
music.. just better.
How did the band come together and with what ambitions?
Most of us lived in the same town in
(about 1000 people live there) and we were pretty much the only guys in the whole
town that liked rock/metal. So we started playing together as a HIM covers band and
then just evolved. There was nothing else to do other than practice so, we pretty much
practiced every day.
How would you describe the sound of the band on the new album (‘Love and Peace and Sympathy’) and was there anything different in the recording process this time around?
The album was recorded live with very few overdubs. 5 of the tracks were recorded take one and the rest we had 2 or more goes at. The whole thing was done from start to finish in about a week. The sound of the band is expansive but inexpensive. It felt like making a first album again.
Who designed the striking butterfly album cover?
Paul Barton. I think he builds posh sheds.com
The band originally formed in 1996, seventeen years later, what still drives you on?
You have a gig at London’s Bull & Gate on 01 May as part of the venues closing celebrations. As another landmark venue falls by the wayside are there any special memories you have of the Bull and Gate you can share?
We did a 'secret' album launch for our third album there. The actress Thandie Newton came to see us. There were paparazzi outside and I stood and watched them and thought it was hilarious. A bit like the Yardbirds guitar neck scene in Blow Up. I was worthless on the street standing next to the press waiting for the film star but then I was the centre of attention inside whilst on stage.
You have a tremendous about of experience in the music industry. Has it been like joining the army and seeing the world or how would you sum up your career so far?
A tragedy of sorts! I don't think I have that much experience with the music industry because I have spent all my time trying to make and sell music from outside of it!! The Army would have been better. At least I could have killed people legally.
How would you describe one of your other projects ‘Twelve’ and do you write for both bands?
Yes. Twelve is just me though!! It's electronic and sounds a bit like Kraftwerk having a party with John Carpenter.
Listen to the awesome 'Fall Into Your Arms taken from the new album HERE
Your music has come to the attention of many people via advertisements and other “non-traditional” ways for an artist to become known. What are the pro’s and cons of this? Is it odd that people may know your music but not know you?
The plus points for me outweigh the cons by far. Some people have a negative opinion of music being used in advertising, but I've discovered a lot of my favourite artists through hearing their music on advertising campaigns, for example Stina Nordenstam. And I wouldn't have heard them otherwise as their music never had regular airplay on any of our main radio stations. If you're quite a left-field artist or you're doing something a bit different, you're actually more likely to find a bigger audience through an advertising campaign featuring your music than you are through radio play. So I definitely have respect for advertising agencies for being more creatively minded about music. I think it's a real shame that many key radio stations have lost that from their high rotation playlists. Secondly, the income through having your music featured in an advertising campaign can be the equivalent to having sold (these days) many thousands of albums. So they also generate funds you can feed into touring or recording. For me personally - I always enjoy seeing how my music works with different visuals. I've enjoyed the anonymity of the way this kind of exposure works.
You regularly interact with fans via youtube and facebook. As you become ever more popular and in demand, do you feel that you’ll be able to keep this connection?
Absolutely. I love speaking to everyone on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. And yes, I will certainly be able to keep this connection, I take a couple of hours out of every day to make sure I can catch up with everyone - to me, showing my appreciation to those who've taken the time to let me know why they've enjoyed listening to the music, is really essential. It means a lot to me, when people get in touch to talk about how the music's moved them.
We’re conducting this interview prior to your show at a tiny church (St. Pancras Old Church in
It doesn't very much actually...I still try to cram in as much of a spectacular show as I possibly can, regardless...and I've not found it to be a problem so far. The only time I change approach is if I can't find musicians who are available for the date, or sometimes I'll just feel like doing a show with less musicians involved. But for sure, the best reflection of the album is through a larger arrangement...although smaller arrangements give more focus to the album melodies and lyrics, which is also a really lovely thing.
How did the band come together and with what ambitions?
Joe: The band was initially Jack's solo recording project that produced an EP on Sea Records, two 7" singles on the Battered Ornaments label, and provided most of the material on the first Jagjaguwar album/compilation "Tidings". Ian who mixes our records bullied Jack into forming a band to reproduce it live. Tom (drums) and Jack had played in bands together in
There were no other ambitions other than to attempt to reproduce the sound of Jack's initial recordings, I think we are all surprised it’s got this far to be honest. Our ambitions have evolved with each recording, and I think we would just like to keep improving as players and hopefully leave a legacy of albums that people will still turn to and enjoy in the future.
How did you come up with the name Wolf People?
Joe: Firstly, we'd like to clarify that it's a name we're not proud of, none of us are that enamoured with it, we've tried to change it, but couldn't think of anything better! Jack needed a name for his early demos, and a favourite childhood book was "Little Jacko and The Wolf People", I think it was chosen on a whim, and at the time none of us were really aware of the other "wolf" bands around, it wasn't given any consideration. In the end, it’s just a name, and if it turns certain people away, then maybe the music isn't for them anyway...
New album ‘Fain’ completed, what is the biggest difference you experienced recording this record to your last album?
Joe: We don't have a lot of time to spend together and we don't have a lot of cash either, so we needed to find a space where we could be free to work as long as we wanted without worrying about cost. We also just wanted to get away from normal life for a bit, and just hang out together and have a mini holiday. The build up to this record was different too, after touring Steeple, we became a bit more of a band, and we spent a lot of time sharing ideas and recording rehearsals. I also found that I didn't have to really sit down and write or study ideas this time, we had played so much together that the riffs just locked in without much thought, things just happened.
Fresh as a daisy thank you, all be it a daisy trying to grow between the paving stones of Hackney Road . Yes, still in sunny Hackney... the English Riviera .
Is there any inter-linking theme between your previous Coastguards records, your solo Sudden Fiction album and the new Coastguards record Blindspot or are they all stand alone albums?
There's certainly common ground between them.. there's a strong relationship between Sudden Fiction and Blindspot as they share a timeline and a story. If they were vases or bookends, I'd refer to them as companion pieces. Those two records we're both written in the present, where as the records that preceeded them were written looking back and grabbing moments from a longer period of time. So they either share an ideal, or they bring down an ideal and replace it with something new, depending on your outlook.
The new album ‘Rule of Twelfths’ is released. So is that job done, or are you on to the next project already?
We don't have much rest... at the moment we're busy promoting the album and making videos but we're hoping to release something else later this year.
Was there a different approach to recording this album and were there any surprises during the recording this time around?
We always use the same approach when recording, all playing at the same time live in the studio. Vocals and some extra parts get overdubbed later, but this allows for a more truthful and organic rendition. We recorded the album at Soup Studios in
We recorded the string quartet separately, Rachel wrote all the arrangements beforehand, and left the mixing to one of their engineers, Giles, who has been absolutely fantastic to work with.
How do you go about creating your music, what is the writing process and are there any particular stories behind the songs on the new record, that you would like to share?
The songs usually start off by Rachel and me playing together at home on acoustic guitar and piano. Some of the songs are fully formed, some more embryonic, and we then work on them collectively. This time we did this over a long weekend in a converted barn in
What do you hope people hear on the new album and where do you hope the record takes you as a band?
This album is probably the most complex and at the same time melodic we've ever made. To us these songs are pop songs, and we hope people hear them as such, and we hope to play the songs live to as many people as possible.
The ambient ‘Coming Home’ last track on the album is totally different from any other song on the record. Tell us more about this track please?
This is one of the first tracks written, and it was in a completely different form. I think over time we played it too much, and decided one day to deconstruct it totally which is the version that ended up on the record. The original version might surface one day, who knows.
How's the music scene in
It is very strong. It is the reason I live in this little seaside town. Bands always come here on a
I was lucky enough to meet the folks from Sons of Noel and
Sons was very helpful for this, especially because it is the most unlikely of bands. There was a time when we had 12 members and yet somehow it still worked. It made sorting my band out seem easy, although I never really think any of it is easy.
Described as "indie folk heroes from
We started this thing called the Willkommen Collective which was a way of carving out our own identity. Somehow connected, feeding from the same musical well and yet a lot of contrasting personalities and musical styles. It certainly helped to create some intrigue in our own little scene. I am very impressed by all the musicians who have counted themselves as part of the collective and I think it's fair to say that we are all friends however loosely you might define that.
New Album out now on Bandcamp (it's pre-order at the moment) and on 25th March physically, any stories around the songs that you would like to share?
The album is called Obituaries. This is quite a heavy word; loaded with meaning and yet it is open to possibilities. Obituaries themselves tend to be short; listing the achievements and headlines of a person's life. How would yours read? I'm sure as a child I imagined myself growing up to do something vaguely important or useful, but there comes that realisation. What would that thing be? Of all the things to do with one's life, music is the ultimate in pissing in the wind. And now recorded music is digital if we needed further proof of its intangibility.
With that in mind, the album was mostly written following a painful breakup. It is an account of the breakdown of that relationship and the possibility of redemption. Classic songs of sex and death.
What was the spark that made you decide music was going to be your career and did you consider any other careers seriously?
I was 12, hanging out with kids from school. I felt a bit lonely and insecure and like an odd one out because I didn’t understand all the group dynamics that were going on, nor was I interested in trying to crack them. I just wanted to talk about interesting things and do something productive. Not just hang around doing nothing.
I started feeling very bored. In truth or dare I admitted freely which boy I fancied and everyone freaked out, like I had done something wrong, laughed and ridiculed me. That was it for me. I left this silly party, went home, locked myself in my room, listen to my favourite choir piece, wept and promised myself that I would dedicate my life to music.
It’s very dramatic, I know. But I was (and still can be) overly serious as a child and teen. For example I couldn’t sleep the whole night before my 13th birthday because I was in such terror, believing that this was the turning point where my childhood would come to an "end"
Are there any particular stories you would like to share behind the songs on the new album?
Not now, maybe later.
You sing in Icelandic and English, how does that effect your song writing and the structure of your songs?
I approach songs and the art of writing from a musical place only. I write them, arrange them, internalise them in my mind completely before executing them on instruments. Usually the lyrics come just before I record, so they are non influential to the song writing process.