A long time ago (sorry), I met Sammy Thompson (drums), Curragh Treanor (guitars) and Bruce Woods (bass) from Leeds-based powerhouse Yonderboy for a spot of Bungalows and Bears. The battery ran out near the end of the interview. The card was damaged and it took a lot of dirty little tricks to recover the majority of the interview.
But, enough technobabble and let’s dig into what these three gentlemen (out of the five that currently make up the roster of the band) had to say regarding influences, music and whether triumvirate is a word or not.
Tell us a bit of history for the uninitiated, please!
Curragh: We’ve been around for 3 years, we live in Leeds and we were doing the circuit, a few gigs in Sheffield, some in Manchester, one in London and we just kinda bonded over our love of guitar based pop music, that’s pretty much it.
Sammy: We all met at college, I guess. They had a different drummer before I was on board and I did some demos for a recording project. The previous drummer, well, he left and now he is in a band called The Sunderbans. He’s a nice guy! He was the original drummer in the demos but they never gigged with him. It was probably about two weeks since I joined the band ’til a big gig in the Brudenell came about. With Frightened Rabbit.
Curragh: It was a real trial by fire.
Sammy: It was organised by one of the guys from Pulled Apart by Horses, it was a last minute thing. He didn’t know it was our first gig, we didn’t say anything, just promised to bring some people over. It went out pretty well.
Curragh: It was good as well because we also got to play at Leadmill with Frightened Rabbit later.
Sammy: It was an accidental involvement and now they’ve opened for Death Cab For Cutie (in Sheffield, 2008) and now they’ve signed to Atlantic Records but we are still good mates and we keep in touch.
Curragh: They joked back in 2008,when we saw them with The Twilight Sad. They said they were called Jungle Bandits and it wasn’t until The Twilight Sad came on stage that they dispelled the joke.
You have a good harmony between instruments and the voice, so is the inception of any of the songs based from the ideas of one person or from several? Do you doodle some notes around then improvise?
Curragh: It’s a fairly standard affair I think. You get some band where one person does it all in terms of arrangement and that’s great, but for us, well, we get together with an embryonic idea and work with it. It’s nothing special, it’s how it goes.
Sammy: It comes more about the whole band. Sometimes Zand (the singer) will come with a demo, just him and guitar, but have a full vision. So it all will be there but there’s always room for interpretations, it’ll be more realised later as we work on it. We always build up now.
Curragh: It was only with the first demos when he gave it all to us, really and then we worked on them. But everything written subsequently has been all of us in unison.
Sammy: I don’t think we’re playing anything of the older stuff any more.
So it’s more of a hive mind approach?
Sammy: It’s Zand’s idea of him planting the seed…
Curragh: That sounds so lame!
Sammy: I know, but that’s what they want to hear!
Curragh: No one wants to!
Sammy: It’s just a first idea and we flesh it out! It works better and we’ve progressed.
Curragh: We’d hope we would after a couple of years!
This one is a long question. It’s about what entails defining your sound, because there’s some stuff that is quite dreamy and some is more straight out rock. DO you think your music is like a lucid dream, you are in control.
Curragh: Yeah, I think we do. We have right now a couple of songs that are more in a Pop sort of framework and I really like what can be done exploring in that sort of way. But then you can go into very interesting places, while still being true to yourself. The second song in the single, ‘Too Easy’, it’s more open, it simmers and we like that. The way I think about stuff is: I like to think about music sonically. Just thinking about a sound, purely. I like noisy music, rich with texture. Layered, kinda like shoegaze.
I like shoegaze a lot, dream pop too. Would it be fair to say you prefer ‘Too Easy’ to ‘Bob Minor’?
Sammy: It’s interesting with that. The reason we kinda did it was, well, we had both for a while on our sets, about a year, and we always liked ‘Too Easy’. In terms of the structure and length of the song it wasn’t very radio friendly, you know? It was never gonna be like an obvious song to make a single out of, but, by the same token, we didn’t want to put it out as a b-side. We use it as an opener, it’s one of our best songs. ‘Bob Minor’ we are very passionate about too, it has good range.
Curragh: It’s a very united song, it has a lot of things that are united in their concept. The lyrical themes are tied in, so everything comes together.
Sammy: The trumpets, the bell chimes, it works together and we are very proud of both songs. It’s a realisation of the scope we wanted.
I like both songs a lot, but if you make me choose one, I would go for ‘Too Easy’, but I’ve mentioned I like dreamy stuff.
Sammy: It’s interesting, because once the reviews came in, it was one or the other. It was only you guys [at Sloucher] who liked both of them. It’s interesting to gauge a reaction from people.
I like the idea of trumpets, the glockenspiel and all that. It shows you have a wider palette.
Curragh: I think with that, at the risk of sounding terribly pretentious, are a sort of nod to Steve Reich, minimalist music. Single notes repeated for long periods.
Curragh: Yes! Me and Zand are fans of Steve Reich in particular. I don’t know how successful was in the end, though.
Sammy: If you go too much in one direction, it will be overbearing, but it works in the narrative. We are working with more narrative in our current stuff, we like to do different things. We want something to set us apart.
What’s the plan for 2011? An EP, another single, maybe another split like the one you did with Just Handshakes (We’re British)?
Curragh: I think the idea is to get a handful of songs recorded and do a sort of a free download and then do another single.
Sammy: If we can record and get them out really fast, it would be best. We took our time with this single because we wanted to do it proper. Everything before was just like bedroom demos and we wanted to make them available online whereas ‘Bob Minor/Too easy’ was the first time we did it proper: cd, Itunes, Amazon, you name it.
Bruce joins us at the table. He was taking a call and finds it amusing that the interview is being recorded on a camera instead of a dictaphone.
Would you like to go into the influences question, mate?
Sammy: It’s the frisky one.
Bruce: I’d say primarily The Smiths. People say we sound like Morrissey.
Curragh: I don’t think anybody knows any more how does Morrissey sound.
I wouldn’t compare you to Morrissey or The Smiths. I don’t like comparing bands.
Bruce: That’s compassionate! I think influences for me would be Talking Heads and The Smiths. Maybe Radiohead, that would be the triumvirate, but then it’s really obvious. The guitar part would be Steve Reich.
Curragh: We talked about him already!
Bruce: The guitar style, yes, we try to emulate, but we like that clean guitar sound, like Talking Heads.
Curragh: I try to shoehorn some stuff to get an interesting guitar dynamic, not wanting to be loud, just add a lot of variety.
Bruce: A lot of our old songs build up to a big ending, whereas now they have more of a stream in it.
Sammy: For The Smiths we would be taking the sense of melody and maybe some lyrical aspects, but with Talking Heads we would take the energy, really. There’s bits of Radiohead, more like In Rainbows. We just want to specify which points we are taking from which bands instead of doing a blanket statement regarding their influence.
Curragh: Early Radiohead built towards being experimental and I don’t think we are gearing to that. I wanna stride to be interesting, I like experimental stuff.
Bruce: We get labelled math pop which I don’t get at all. We are not taking influences from Math Rock at all.
Sammy: Maybe because some of our time changes, but maybe that’s all. It’s not an influence.
Curragh: Math Pop in itself.. where the fuck did that came from?
It’s not really pop if you are playing with signatures.
Curragh: As a band you can’t complain with being labelled because you will in the end. There’s no point in complaining, really.
Sammy: We don’t mind as long as people are writing about us, really.
Curragh: We are whores! As long as we are on the spotlight! (laughs)
Rage against the labelling machine?
Curragh: Yeah (laughs).
So which is the holy triumvirate of Radiohead, then?
Bruce: I meant the bands. Radiohead, The Smiths and Talking Heads. But we do take more influence from In Rainbows, if you ask me!
Funny enough, I don’t remember In Rainbows that much.
Bruce: Man, I love that record.
I like Arpeggi and House of cards! I heard you can mix In Rainbows and Ok Computer and put it in a certain order, the songs flow seamlessly.
Curragh: I heard that it syncs with Wizard of Oz.
Sammy: If you playing backwards, you get messages from Thom Yorke!
Curragh: I couldn’t imagine us working something like that just at this moment. When we start doing 15 minute prog odysseys we might start thinking about that. Too much money, too much cocaine!
Watch out, Charlie didn’t work well with Oasis!
Sammy: Watch out!
Curragh: What was it, Be here now? Just don’t mention ‘Country House’ to them…
Bruce: It always comes back to those two, doesn’t it?
Curragh: Well, we are in the North, it will come to haunt us. And you live in Manchester.
Would it be wrong that in the battle between Blur and Oasis, I went for Supergrass?
Curragh: I went for Pulp!
Sammy: I didn’t get into them until the third album. I got it for a birthday.
Curragh: It’s all about I should Coco. ‘Caught by the fuzz’ is an absolute great tune.
We are running out of battery. Anything else you want to add?
Bruce: What have you covered?
History of the band, single, recent stuff, plans for 2011.
Curragh: We recently got a new guitarist. Zand used to sing and play guitar and now he just sings, we got a guy called Liam. Zand needed more freedom to sing.
Bruce: He felt compromised between guitar and singing, so he wanted to concentrate in one thing.
Curragh: Liam is good and he’s a nice chap.
Sammy: He’s also in a band called Moody Gowns, also from Leeds. We just want to be a better band, so if we free Zand to be a better singer, so it will be. We still are in our early days.
Curragh: It means less rider, though.
Bruce: It’s all about my rider!
No brown M&M’s. Thank you very much!
Words: Sam J. Valdés López (additional questions by Tonan)