Interview by Tony Creek
Photos by Kane Howie
Thomas Sanders, took some time out to talk to us ahead of the Teleman show at The Cambridge Junction on the 23rd April. As their support band, Uh, were running through their souncheck, we adjourned to the salubrious surroundings of the car park, to talk about their latest album, musical direction and the difference between touring in Europe and the UK amongst other things.
Kane stole my first question when he was shooting a few pictures, so this is not your first time in Cambridge then?
No we’ve played here, I do not know how many times. We have played quite a few headline shows over the years and with other bands. In fact I remember playing cricket in this car park with The Maccabees. We have played smaller venues in Cambridge too. We have played the Portland Arms at least twice.
Your latest album is entitled Family of Aliens. Does this represent you as a band?
Yeah, to an extent. I don’t want to speak for everyone in the band, but sometimes it is a kind of feeling of being a bit detached about everything that is going on around you, and you kind of feel, where do you fit in all this? It is often hard to relate to the stuff that is happening in the world, like politically. You assume that the majority of people are on the same planet as you, and then you realise that there are people living on a completely different planet. You start to question where you belong, where they belong, where do you all fit in?
The new album seems to have a different sound to the other two.
Yeah it does have a different flavour. Each time we go into the studio, we try and push the boundaries a bit further and be a bit more playful. As a writer I have moved away from the guitar quite a lot. Just because I got a bit bored playing the guitar all the time. I still love it and play it in the shows. We do not want all our songs to be focused around the guitar. In fact a lot of our new songs,on what will be our fourth record don’t really have any guitar in. We may have gone to far.
So more synth based?
Yeah, and just anything really. I have been writing on the piano a lot which I really enjoy. Trying to not let yourself get tied down to traditional habits. The way I have been writing my whole life has always been the same.
It is a conscious decision to move then?
Yeah it is definitely. I like to challenge myself. I kind of come from an indie and Britpop background. That was the music that I loved when I was a kind. Those are about the verse and the chorus, a very formulaic structure. Then the second chorus a double chorus and then you get your middle 8. For years I thought this is how you have to write a song and it got so ingrained that I really struggled to move away from that formulae. I guess it is the same with anything you do, not just music. In any creative process you can get in this groove of habit that can be difficult to break. So I have been enjoying writing to one groove that doesn’t change.
I am not talking about more recent contemporary music that is lute based. Songs like Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, doesn’t change, its just one riff for the whole song and it just gets better and better. You don’t get bored, and it is not until someone points out that you realise there are no chord changes. Some Fleetwood Mac songs are the same. A couple of their songs only have a couple of chords, and they are such great songs, that you don’t even notice.
There is beauty in the simplicity then?
Yeah and it can be so hypnotic about hearing the same thing again and again, and if you are loving it for 4 minutes, why change?
What are your influences, you mentioned Britpop?
Britpop is what I grew up on, but I would never call it an influence or a conscious influence on what I am doing now. I am not really aware of anything that is influencing me. I have been listening to some New Order recently and I really admire the way they interweave guitar into music where you wouldn’t really expect guitar to come in. Like music driven by drum machines and synths, it’s quite a fine art. It often sounds quite awkward when you try and fit in a guitar into music that is focussed around electronic music. So that’s quite a good lesson to be learnt from those guys.
You have just got back from Europe. What were the crowds like there?
Europe is very different. It is a very different experience touring Europe. On some levels it is much more enjoyable. The hospitality is great and you are looked after better. A lot of the time the people in the towns you play in genuinely appreciate that you have come to their town. They are really made up. In the UK we have an over saturated music scene. I do not mean that in a negative way. Any band you want to see, you know that they will playing in a town near you soon. The competition is high, and the standard in venues is often very low. There is no government funding, or very little that I know of.
A lot of smaller venues, are shutting down aren’t they?
Yeah exactly, for various reasons. But when you play in France, or you play in Holland, the government is putting money into venues across the country and they are astounding, like beautiful places too play in and there is definitely a difference. There is something about playing to a UK crowd that is very special though. It’s much more raw and there is a higher level of energy in the room, I have never really found that in Europe.
So what can we expect from one of your shows?
There’s going to be a lot of energy and there will be material from all of our albums. We kind of rework some of our songs to give them a more interesting twist for live. We don’t really like our songs to sound like they do on the record. I am always a bit disappointed when I go and see a band and it sounds like I have just put a CD on. I could just that at home. It is really nice when you get another angle at a live show I think. We try and make sure that everyone has a unique experience whether they know our songs or not and that everyone has a great time.