Kristian Bell is recalling a quote he heard once from Henry Rollins. “Someone asked him about why he started doing spoken word, and he said that when he was playing in Black Flag, and shouting so much that you couldn’t hear specifics, it was like when a dog comes over to you, and you don’t know what they’re trying to say exactly, but you get the gist of it.” The story’s one that’s particularly relevant for The Wytches, and new album ‘All Your Happy Life’. “I think there’s a power in seeing someone really aggressively singing on stage, and just taking in the way that they’re expressing themselves, then that being enough to gain some understanding from the lyrics.”
Despite this, the frontman has found himself being more blunt on ‘All Your Happy Life’, the abstract storytelling that made up debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’s lyrical content proving something that could wear thin. Candour, on the other hand, will never do the same for him - “it’ll help me not get sick of [the lyrics], because they’re so honest.”
The Wytches - Kristian, drummer Gianni Honey, bassist Dan Rumsey and newly-reinstated guitarist/keyboardist Mark Breed - may cast a gloomy shadow onstage, but the band feel it’s important fans are able to see that the darkness isn’t all-encompassing.
“I think we’ve expressed our love for slapstick humour and ridiculous comedy,” Kristian says, the day before they film a new clip for single ‘C-Side’, set to involve “David Attenborough-style animatronics”, and a creature whose neck can extend nearly ten metres.
“People who know us know that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and I’d like everyone to take it all with a pinch of salt. I’d love to be able to partake in the whole stage banter thing, and chatting like a rock star between songs, but I just end up getting lost in it all,” he says. “Maybe in a few albums’ time I’ll be a complete pro, but for now our on-stage personalities are very separate from how we are day-to-day.” As Rollins said, a band’s attitudes and personalities come across through more than simply their lyrics.
"We even have quality control now!"
— Kristian Bell
As such, just ahead of the announcement of ‘All Your Happy Life’, the band released a cassette-only EP of home recordings just for the hell of it. The more spontaneous way of releasing feels refreshing to Kristian, and is something he wants the band to delve into more in the future. “The album had already been finished when we wrote those songs,” he explains, excited to realise that nothing the band do is tied to a certain schedule or format - “we did this one on cassette, and next I wanna see a release of ours on a crappy, plastic-cased CD.
“Some of my favourite releases by bands I love have been B-side and rarities compilations, and while we’re obviously very proud of our full-length albums, so many interesting songs can hide in other places. From now on, I want to try and release at least a few EPs, or compilations, or whatever, before our next album.”
This twisting of dynamics hasn’t stopped The Wytches from already thinking about album three, with “five or six songs” already demoed and waiting. Speaking from Peterborough, where three-quarters of the band have relocated back to from Brighton, Kristian is clearly relishing the position they find themselves in, no longer having to “run out into the smoking area of venues thirty seconds before we play and yell at people to come in and watch us”. A headline gig at London’s Electric Ballroom is even waiting for them after almost a year away from heavy touring.
“We’re always going to go into every show with the aim of impressing, and would never take anything for granted, but it’s so nice that people liked the first album enough that they’re interested in this one,” he comments. A ferocious live band, who made their name on weekend tours before and around the release of ‘Annabel Dream Reader’, Kristian says The Wytches are thinking of scaling back their touring plans after the release of ‘All Your Happy Life’ to concentrate on those new, unusual ways of releasing their music. “It’s important for us now to just keep releasing music, and really work hard on refining the new material we have that we really like a lot,” he concludes. “And we even have quality control now!”
The Wytches' new album 'All Your Happy Life' is out 30th September via Heavenly Recordings.
Photo: Phil Smithies / DIY. Taken from the September 2016 issue of DIY, out now. Subscribe to DIY below.