Interview The Wave Pictures:  ‘I Couldn’t Write A Song For Girls Aloud’

‘Indie’ is a strange, almost meaningless term.”“

Once upon a time (1998, fact fans), in a tiny little village in Leicestershire, two young boys, David and Franic, were happily messing about with guitars because there was nothing much else to do. Realising that they needed to find a name for themselves, they decided upon the slightly rubbish ‘Blind Summit’. But our young heroes also realised they needed a bit of book learning, so off went David to university, and like all good boys he studied hard. Franic, on the other hand, decided to spend his time lazing about at Art School. There, he happened upon a nice northern boy named Johnny, who liked to thump the drums. And together again, they all agreed that ‘Blind Summit’ was a bit of a rubbish name, but ‘The Wave Pictures’ was a really good one, so they ran away to London Town, where the streets are paved with gold and discarded fag butts.

One day, a lovely man from Moshi Moshi records came to them and offered them a beautiful record deal which, for the sake of our tale, was studded in crystals and diamonds and written with a quill by candlelight. And this was good for it gave our three intrepid adventurers the opportunity to drive around the countryside of Ye Olde England in a little van, persuading the villagers to part with their shillings for a copy of their latest shiny disk, ‘Beer In The Breakers’. But, whilst they were driving in that little van, a mean lady rang them up and demanded that they answer some horrible questions, some of which she hadn’t even bothered to think up herself, but instead had kidnapped their friend and producer Darren Hayman and made him write them for her. Even though they had no mobile signal. Even though mobiles probably haven’t been invented yet. That’s how mean she is. And then she put it on the internet. And she might not even remember to mention the big show at Scala on the 26th of May, that the boys have worked so hard for. What a bitch.

So, you’re currently driving around the country on tour, how’s that going?
It’s going very well, thank you! We had very good shows in Liverpool and Dublin, and places that we haven’t had good shows before… Manchester, we’ve had a lot of bad shows in Manchester, but we had our first ever good one, so that’s been good.

You never use a set list though, do you?
No, we just go on and start playing whatever songs pop into our head. There’s been a few times where we’ve tried but what we found was we would worry too much about what we were going to play in advance and then we’d just deviate anyway. And we’ve always had an awful lot of songs, so to choose which ten you’re going to do beforehand is really difficult. Whereas if you just make it up in the moment, you don’t really have any regrets because you don’t really notice what you’ve not done. We always like to be a bit spontaneous on stage… A lot of bands, it seems like they’re just going through the motions, it’s like they’ve rehearsed it so much, it’s like they’re just putting on a play and they play exactly the same things in exactly the same places. We never wanted to be that way. We did do a show in Preston where we ended up playing eleven of the twelve songs on [new album] ‘Beer In The Breakers’, but we haven’t done a show yet where we ended up playing all twelve. We always wanted the possibility that we might surprise ourselves, just a little.

And the new album is produced by Darren Hayman, how did that come about?
What happened was we decided to have Darren record us at his house and we didn’t really know what we were going to get. We might get one b-side, or we might get an album, we really didn’t know. And it just ended up that we really liked the sound that Darren got. He’s a really good engineer anyway, he’d also borrowed some really good equipment as well. And then we decided to release the recordings that he’d done. He did do a very good job I think, we were really very pleased, we weren’t expecting it to necessarily be as good as it was, I suppose. We’re really proud of it, which sounds like an arrogant thing to say but we haven’t always been. This is probably the album that Johnny, Franic and me are most pleased with. It’s certainly the one that was the easiest to make, and it’s the one that we’re least regretful about any little things. Everyone seems very happy with it.

Apparently it only took a day and a half?
Yeah, it did. It was just a day of recording and then the second day we did a couple of songs. Most of them are from the first day and most of them are first takes, there’s no overdubs. Darren wanted there to be some concept and he thought we’d done too many things where, you know, we’d had guests on songs etc. So between Darren and Johnny, they came up with that idea, and Franic and I were really excited about it.

Darren mentioned that it was your third attempt at recording the album?
Not exactly, it’s the third place we’d recorded but we did different songs so it’s a bit misleading that it’s the third attempt. It’s certainly true that it’s the third place because we’d tried two other places during the year and we didn’t like the result so much, and Darren’s was the third place we tried and we really liked it. So yeah, that’s true in a way, we did do other recordings that we rejected.

So it wasn’t a case of, we’ve recorded in the Bahamas but we don’t like it, let’s go to New York, let’s try Darren’s – you’re not trying to bankrupt Moshi Moshi?
Ha ha! Yeah!

And how’s it going with the label, are they looking after you? Do they give you the freedom that you need?
Yes, they are, they are. We’ve had a lot of arguments with them and still do have a lot of arguments with them but generally, they’ve become more and more understanding of what we’ve wanted to do and they’ve released pretty much everything that we’ve wanted them to release. They’re really great, they’re very understanding and loyal so we are quite lucky. We’ve never really understood why they like us. A lot of what Moshi do, seems to me, to be electro pop but they seem to be pretty good for us. It seems like it’s a separate audience that would hear us because we’re on Moshi Moshi than would hear us because we do shows with Darren or Jeff Lewis so it seems to me like maybe it takes you to more, different people.

Does it annoy you that you’re perceived as being ‘indie’ because of the label you’re on?
We’re going to get called indie, I suppose, but it’s a strange, almost meaningless term now and it’s difficult to know how to feel about it. I used to think it meant something - it certainly meant something to me when I was younger - now, if you told me you were going to see an indie band, I would assume you were going to see a very bad band who made very bad music. I would like it if it meant something good, if it meant something independent spirited and independent minded, but what I think it means is something a bit lame; bad musicians and people who can’t sing, and a sort of cliquey thing…We are indie kids but it can seem a little constricting and a little surprising who people think we sound like because sometimes people think we sound like people that we don’t think we sound at all like. Everyone has that problem to some degree. For us, there’s more of a classic rock kind of influence going on with guitars and, when we think about Johnny’s drums or Franic’s bass or how I’m playing the guitar, we’re always talking about more bands like Neil Young or Creedance Clearwater. But my singing… I’m an English person with a whiny indie boy voice so the overall effect is definitely indie. But for instance, a lot of indie fans, they don’t really tolerate guitar solos at all, which is where it can get a little bit constrictive. The point of indie music ought to be that it’s not a genre, it’s about being independent minded. It’s become thought of as a sound, and I think that’s the problem. You could say the same thing happened to punk, I suppose that’s the frustrating part about being called indie.

So, the time has come to ask the reader submitted questions, which this week have been sent to us by Mister D Hayman, from East London. He asks, “how do you prevent the avoidance of safe conservative music production becoming conservative and safe in itself?”
…We’ve discussed the question and what we’ve decided is, that’s a stupid question and that’s very, very Darren Hayman. Darren’s very much more conceptual than we would be; we’ve tried lots of different studios and we’ve done things in lots of different ways. Also, I don’t mind if it gets conservative. If I like it, this is no concern of mine! I’m not worried about it.

His next question is: “Is it easier to write a song that you don’t like but everyone else does, or write a song that you like but no one else does?”
They’re all roughly as easy as one another to write, and some of them some people like, others I like. Just as someone would have their favourite songs that one musician’s done, I have favourites but I sort of like everything I’ve written a bit. Because I wrote it, I’m a bit biased. I’m pleased with all of them to some extent and also I can see what’s wrong with all of them, whereas someone else is just going to have their favourite one. I don’t think I’ve ever written a song that I’ve knowingly disliked just to entertain everyone else, I just write everything with the vain intention of just amusing myself. Some are more popular than others and that’s nothing I can do anything about, really. I wouldn’t know how to write a song for Girls Aloud.

Finally, and it’s nice to see your producer so worried about your diet, he’d like to know how the vegetarianism is coming along?
I haven’t eaten meat for a month and a half! But I have been eating fish, so I’m a pescetarian. Johnny, if anything, is increasing his meat intake, we just went to a cafe and he had a huge plate of mince with dumplings, which looked disgusting, like cat food. It looked inedible and he ate the whole thing. So it’s all balanced out. Franic, though, is a Meat Reducer, which means that he’s just trying not to eat as much meat but if he fancies a kebab, he’ll have a kebab. He’s not putting himself in a box, he’s a free man with no labels!

And with that, dear readers, our boy adventurers disappear over the Pennines and into the streets of Newcastle to have some more scrapes, without so much as a setlist to guide them. But don’t worry, they’ll be home soon, as they’re playing their biggest show to date at Scala on the 26th May.


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