SPOKES – Interview

Die englische Band Spokes hat bei uns ganz schön eingeschlagen. Was ihr kennt die nicht? Das sollte sich ändern. Die Jungs machen nämlich richtig gute Musik. Diese Aussage wird Musik Nerds nicht zufrieden stellen, also präzisieren wir mal ein bisschen: in diversen Artikeln ist zu lesen dass Shoegaze, Folk und Post-Rock  ihren elementaren Sound beschreibt. Trotzdem haben sie ihren eigenen Klang kreiert und das hört man vor allem auf ihrem aktuellen Album “Everyone I Ever Met“. Aber warum selbst reden, wenn das auch die Band übernehmen kann:

1.) Band facts

– Name: Spokes
– Band members: Owain Davies, Liam Morley, John-Michael Hedley, Ruth Ilgunas & Matthew Baty
– Founding year: 2006
– Residence: Spread out between the cities of Newcastle, Manchester and Oxford.
– Current album: Everyone I Ever Met

2.) Questionnaire:

– How did you all come together and decided to form a band?
I met Owain while we were a university and bonded over beer and music. We’d just hang out and play each other music that we’d been recording, including loads of silly stuff from when we were younger. We’d gone to uni with the sole purpose of finding people to be in a band with so just started slowly gathering people together. After a year or so we had Ruth on board since we both really wanted a violinist, and having a girl in the band isn’t bad either! Johnny is actually the younger brother of Owain’s girlfriend and after going through numerous drummers he suggested Matt who he’d known since school. The first rehearsal we had with him was great because we all knew that we were actually a proper band at last.

– In which situation did you come up with the name ‘Spokes’, how did you come up with it and what meaning has it for you?
I think it’s just got a simple and innocent sound to it, it’s just unpretentious. Plus it gives you freedom to have long song titles without tying your tongue in knots. There’s no specific meaning, although we since decided that it could mean ‘radiating from a central point’, and I like the symbolism of that. So it’s an unpretentious name turned very pretentious.

– You did release your first album yourself without the help of a label – why did you decide to do this this way at the time? How do you think about this in retrospective?
Well I think that these days bands really don’t need a record label in the way they maybe used to. We released ourselves simply because we could and we wanted to get ourselves out there. When we finally joined Ninja Tune it wasn’t because it was something we felt we had to do, it was just something we wanted to do. The experience of releasing an record ourselves actually just left us with the knowledge of exactly how everything works, so we’re not just blindly handing over to someone else.

– What did change since your debut record?
Well actually we’d call the new album our proper debut record since People Like People Like You is really only an EP in length, and we recorded and mixed the whole thing in four days. This time round the whole thing was much more ambitious and we were very conscious of the fact we were setting out to make a full album. The aim was to make it flow together as well as the EP did, the scope of Everyone I Ever Met is much grander. There’s more “proper” songs, vocals, organ, piano, and we actually did overdubs this time round as well!

– How did the situation for you as a band change with now having a label? What got easier for you, what stayed the same?
Well it’s just made everything a hell of a lot easier really, having other people take of actually doing all the business side of things. We still try to be pro-active in making stuff happen for ourselves though, like the idea to release our first single on a hand-stamped 7″. That was our idea since we just thought it’d be way more personal and special to do it like that, the label agreed, so then we just went and did all the stamping and numbering ourselves.

– How and where was the production of ‘Everyone I Ever Met’ taking place? What was the best moment during the production?
We were very lucky really, if you’re paying for studio time then your money doesn’t go every far. Fortunately a talented friend of ours started his own studio in Newcastle called Blank and they do loads of location recording. So it meant they could come out to the countryside at Johnny’s parents house where we rehearse, and basically make the entire record in the comfort of that space. It’s like our second home!
Recording’s full of ups and downs, I think every time you get a good take of something or a particular vocal or violin line just lifts the whole song then it puts a smile on your face. If you don’t get excited by little things like that then you probably need to get a proper job.

– How do you normally work on songs, what are the steps, when do you decide that a song is finished?
It could happen in a number of different ways, either me or Owain will have a more-or-less fully formed idea for a song which is then added to and usually rework a few times by everyone else. Or sometimes we’ll literally just have one riff or a bit of a melodic idea and we jam around it. I think it’s quite a natural and democratic way of working that we have. We generally know when something feels right, or fun. It’s just a gradual organic process that it does make it hard sometimes to tell when something’s done, but you can’t sit around nit picking for the rest of your life. You have to come to a point when you can just let it go and be happy with it.

– Who are the first people to listen to the finished songs?
Usually Johnny’s mum and dad get to hear everything first since they’re always around while we’re writing and recording. They like everything we do, which is cool. Even if it’s noisy as hell!

– “We Can Make It Out” is one of our favorite songs – can you tell us something about the story/idea behind it, the songwriting and the production of the song?
That song does have a bit of a back story actually. We demo’d it a long time ago before we’d even signed to Ninja Tune, and at the time we were really happy with it. But when we came to re-record it for the album it just didn’t sound right, we’d totally lost the feeling that was on the original demo. After working on it loads we eventually got frustrated and pretty much dropped the song. We sent what we thought was a final mix of the album up to the label without that song on and they basically demanded we have another go. So we went back to the studio having not played the song for like a year and all of a sudden it sounded totally fresh to us again. We got the final version completely finished in a little over a day and it left us wondering why we couldn’t have done that earlier. So there you go…

– Where do you take the inspiration for the lyrics, the instrumentation and the arrangement from?
I think we live in a pretty shallow world some times, and that was kind of an inspiration for the song. It’s like whenever I watch TV it’s just full of vacuous, talentless celebrities and I can’t help but worry about the effect this has on kids growing up. God I sound old don’t I?! So anyway, the song was written with this kind of half imagined story of two people running away from all the corruption, although where they’re supposed to be going I’ve no idea. When we came to do it as a band though it really changed, you’ve got Ruth’s violin and Matt smashing his floor tom so it became much grander and more uplifting. It’s interesting to see one little idea change into something really different.

– Which situations/times are the best for you to write lyrics and to work on music? Why?
I like writing lyrics when I’m travelling by myself, trains are best, but buses and ferries work pretty well too. I think it’s something to do with the almost-solitude and the passing scenery. I do think it helps to get a bit of space by yourself in order to be creative. I think that’s why a lot of musicians and artists are virtually nocturnal.

– What was the last record you listened to?
I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I’d not really listened to Can before, not properly. So I’ve recently decided to give them the attention they deserve and put on their Future Days album. As I write this I’ve got Tago Mago on, I’m going to have to get myself vinyl copies of both. Spokes have a bit of a vinyl fetish, especially for old classics.

– Which song is your all time favorite?
Oh god I’m not sure I can answer that. I’m going to pick something at random and then regret it because there’s a million and one other songs out there that I love. I’m going to go with Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping by Grouper, don’t listen to it if you’re feeling a bit down because it probably won’t help. In fact it’s the most heart breaking song ever.

– What are your next plans?
Well this year has been full of firsts for us, and we’ve got even more coming up since we’ll be heading out to Scandinavia next week and then spending four lovely days in Germany before finishing in Graz. Then we’ve got another UK tour before we spend the summer either writing, recording or playing festivals.

– Which song makes you dance every time?
Either Footcrab by Addison Groove or Hyph Mngo by Joy Orbison never fails to do the business. And Africa by Toto always makes me play drums on the table with my fingers.

– How would your “Bedroomdisco” look like?
A pillow fight on mushrooms.

– Who did fill out this questionnaire?
You’ve been talking to Liam, and he’s enjoyed it, so thanks.

Spokes – ‘We Can Make It Out’ (Official Video) from Ninja Tune on Vimeo.