It’s been almost two years since I wrote this. It was a couple of days after Leki left us. I was angry, depressed and confused. Leki was always nice to me. Every time I ran into him, either on West Street, at a gig or just rambling by the forest, he would always have a quick, honest smile for you. He was very empathic too. I saw him during two of my worst times in Sheffield and he just knew. When I had a terrible break up,
I went through a terrible break up in December 2011. I left a HPLC machine running some tests at the lab and went for some fresh air. We met on the corner of West Street and Mappin Street. He saw me and just gave me a hug. He had a couple of Wet Nuns pins in his jacket and gave me a few. I know it’s a simple gesture, but that made a whole world of difference.
Wet Nuns were a fun band. I was surprised to see them hit it big, even if it was a very short time. Even when they (and a big chunk of the audience) were drunk as hell, it was an enjoyable experience and I feel blessed for having seen them so many times live. Rob and Leki were another big part of what fuelled me to keep writing and running this Shithole of a Website (TM), and nothing I can write will ever make the Yucatán-sized hole that Leki‘s passing left in a lot of us.
What follows are 5000+ words I wrote in 2014. They remain raw because Wet Nuns was a dish best served raw. My moods through the years came and went, but my appreciation for the band and both of them never went away, really. I’m probably persona non-grata in my old Catholic school, but, hey, I did it for entertainment purposes.
Now, if you ever feel like I felt that day in 2011 and you don’t know a Leki, feel free to contact any of these fine organisations. Believe me, they will help. They did for me much more than I will ever be able to credit them.
So, here it goes. If it gets too boring or too whiny, feel free to skip. We’ll return to our regular scheduled nostalgia fest tomorrow. Besides, the one person who actually did justice to Leki was Dan Sumption. His is the better eulogy.
—Your cuate, Sam J. Valdés López
A disjointed history of Wet Nuns
March 17th, 2010. My PhD was in disarray, something that would be a usual malaise until 2013, when I had to leave. I was feeling terrible and directionless, which seems to be a leit motif in all my writings. It was drizzling and cold and I could’ve gone back home to noisy housemates that fucked whenever they felt like it or I could just go around town, looking for something to wash the doubts away.
I saw a big white tent by Sheffield City Hall. There seemed to a minifestival and I walked towards it. I saw the list of performers and could only recognize The Hope Explosion, whom I’ve seen two months before, and La Folie, which I’ve seen before 3 times. I thought about sticking around until they performed and review the night. I always had my camera with me, so photographs would be an extra bonus.
There’s lil’ shack selling burgers at the entry. So far, most hamburgers I’ve tried in the UK have been atrocious but the ones they sold there, man, the meat didn’t taste foul and plastic and the bacon and ketchup were brilliant. Or maybe I was too hungry.
So in comes a guy called Dan Williamson. I’ve been wary of people with one guitar and sentimental lyrics. He wasn’t the case. I enjoyed his show vastly. Then came Wet Nuns. I actually believed they were American because of the accents, but probably around the third time they spoke, saying they were from Sheffield, Alabama, I knew it was part of the act. I remember a contingent of metal looking dudes really enjoying their set. I enjoyed their music and felt shivers when I heard them cover Link Wray’s Rumble and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I really wanted to talk to them, but felt intimidated by the drummer, who I thought was one of those “metal dudes” tattooed up that are very morose and aloof. Time would teach me how wrong I was about Alexis Gotts. So I went outside and saw the singer, smoking by himself. I wasn’t confident enough to talk to someone out of the blue but I approached him anyways. We made small talk and he told me the story of Rumble being banned from radio because people thought it would incite riots. Then he told me the Creedence Clearwater Revival song was one they stole from another less known country musician. He said the name, but I can’t remember it.
I went back to the tent but so Alexis. I told a quick “good show!” and he nodded and said thanks. I went back inside. The Hope Explosion survived several pedalboard incidents and La Folie, well, they had something I liked but it seemed off that night. “We were horrible” the lead singer said when they finished and I wasn’t sure if he was for real or just joking.
April 18th, 2010. I hate football. I hate it with a passion. It’s boring, uneventful and leads to people being violent to each other, both physically and verbally. It was a lazy Sunday, the city seemed quiet, too quiet in those rolling hills of Crookes. I’ve been waiting for a fucking bus for an hour or so. The public transport in the UK is a fucking joke. The bus finally picks me up as I keep listening to Cats:For:Peru. Wet Nuns are performing at The Stockroom, a little haunt I really enjoyed. The bus is packed with people, all looking fed up and tired. Somewhere near West Street the bus stops and tells us this is the end of the line. Everyone complains and the drives shouts at us until his face is boiling red. I walk out and see that a couple of places are closed. Huh. I keep walking and I see a riot van near another pub. I walk faster and as I turn into Square, I see three drunken jerks getting punch to the ground by riot police. I run into a back alley, secretly thinking of the music from The Warriors’ videogame as my getaway music. I keep to the small jennels and roads to make my way to the Stockroom. I’m finally there and my heart drops when I see the long line outside the Stockroom. Then I feel relief when I see is actually for the Leadmill. Some band called Renegades or something is performing and the line is for them.
I excuse my way into the Stockroom, although someone thinks I’m cutting in and yells “WANKER!” at me. The Stockroom is empty. It truly is a man and his (drunk) dog sort of gig. Serious Sam Barrett performs and mentions he’s been to SXSW. He’s good. Wet Nuns take the stage as I was wolfing down a bowl of free veggie jambalaya. What I heard was loud, sometimes sloppy but 10 flavours of fun. They also never stopped with the jokes. I know bands tend to “banter” to break tension and sometimes while cooling down between songs but Wet Nuns’ stage talk was in a league of its own. You’d be tempted to say they were better stand up comedians than musicians and you’d be half right. I found out also that Renegade was a Feeder alt project, so when it started drizzling over the people outside, Rob would play a few riffs from Feeder’s Buck Rogers. Some people outside heard it and cheered, others gave them the v sign. I like Feeder but I was in the better place. Turns out I made the right choice: no Feeder songs were played and people complained bitterly about this. That’s superfans for you.
April, 2010. I can’t remember the day but I do what happened. A couple of lost friendships, a total trainwreck of a PhD and no one to talk with. I close shop early and have a drink and sausages at The Graduate. I then walk towards the Stockroom, just to have another drink and I’m surprised to see Alexis working there. He’s happy to see me and we talk for a little while. He mentions a release is coming up, nothing too serious but want to have something out as Wet Nuns. I see an Electric Tape Recorder album in the back and I ask if it’s good and he replies yes. I buy one and I ask him about what’s the plan for the night. He says there’s a Pop-o-matic night. He does mention it’s a bit twee and maybe not as good as I’d enjoy. I tell him I’ll be back later. I go back to graduate, have a coffee and write for a while. I come back and have one of the best nights of my life.
May 30th, 2010 It’s a Bank Holiday and a place called “SAWA”, in front of TJ Hughes has a “FUCK LEEDS!” event. They are charging 6 quid to go in and I only pay because I want to see Wet Nuns. They are good as always, but the sound is pretty shit. We go out after their set and I ask them if they would be willing to record a radio bumper for a friend’s station. Alexis says “Radio?” and I tell him that I’ve been bigging them up in Mexico. They agree and record it. I didn’t press record, I’m an idiot. I did record a bit of conversation we had afterwards. Oh, well.
June 17th, 2010. Having a strange day with a friend. She also suffers from deep bouts of depression and maybe OCD. We’re in my 98 Cavalier, parked near Parque España and we are worse for wear. Then I decide to put Wet Nuns EP (the free one they gave away). By track 3, we are in stitches, especially when Rob says “sometimes you just gotta beat one off!”
July 19th, 2010 First Day of Tramlines and I’m at the Washington beer garden. I buy two copies of their EP (or EEH PEE) as they described it. They are thankful for the review and we don’t talk about the mostly negatives ones they’ve had. I liked their set that day, even if people seemed to be confused as what to think of their show. When I got home around 1 am, I opened the CD and the photocopied insert made me smile and cry. It was the first time a band had thanked me in their liner notes.
July 20th, 2010. I’m emotionally and physically spent after gallivanting around all day. I’ve met and talked with The Twilight Sad and I feel like I’m on top of the world, even if it seems my PhD is done for. My supervisor ran away to Canada without a warning and I’m directionless. They might kick me out of the country. I’m terrified. I’m also queuing outside S1 Artspace. The bouncer says it’s completely full and no one is allowed inside. 4 people come out and we still aren’t let in. Another gang leaves and then we are allowed in. The place looks empty to me, but inside S1 Artspace, there’s a good crowd. I manage to see Wet Nuns. They are drunk but still having fun. Rob slurs a few lyrics and they keep playing. He’s carried like a rockstar by James, Fraser and Eoin Loveless. Rob throws his wallet and people give it back. He keeps throwing it to the floor. They keep rocking.
I’m introduced to Death Rays of Ardilla that night. Another great duet that always felt unappreciated by the local media. I also meet Fraser, who has a lot of sympathy for my immigration woes. He says he’d be interested in writing for Sloucher, but never does. He does a few editorials at Now Then that are pretty great and let’s be honest: he is better with the larger audience.
On my way out, Alexis and Rob are outside. Rob is sitting down, sobering up a little. I shake their hands and thank them for the shout out.
August 20th, 2010. I review the EP in character as a Southener called Uncle Billy Bob Ortega (aka Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez). In hindsight, I was trying too hard. I fucked up.
September 1st, 2010. The very first Sloucher Mix CD hits the web. Front cover depicts Wet Nuns in cartoon form, floating away in a balloon. They were gracious enough to donate Alcoholics/7 year itch. It was a fairly popular download.
September 2010. I don’t remember much about this day because I was stressed out of my mind. A meeting with a supervisor in York was a bust. I managed to get in time for the Monicans at Soyo and I enjoyed their music greatly. Then Wet Nuns did what they do best, bub. I did meet them before the show, when the doors were closed. I remember Rob greeting me and introducing me to Joe Carnall. I shook Robert’s hand. Carnall looked at me straight in the eyes and left me with the hand hanging out. Oh, well, maybe it was my ponytail.
September 20th, 2010. Finally, I’m interviewing Wet Nuns. We meet at The Hallam Inn. I’m surprised at this choice, as I always thought of the place as a posh pub. Not meant as an insult, in fact, I wrote a big part of my novel there. I enjoyed the place and I think one of the servers fancied me (although it probably was the other way around.) We are sat in the back, it’s a little chilly but the ale will do as a beer jacket. I keep the interview funny and snappy. They are in good spirits and don’t mind taking the piss out of interviews in general. A particularly funny bit was when Alexis mentioned that their main influence was Enya’s Orinoco Flow. I’m not sure if this was the first time they said it, but it would become a recurring a joke.
Then, by the end of the interview, I asked them about anything else they wanted to add and Alexis broke character and said it was nice of me supporting the lesser known bands from Sheffield. I’m sure I blushed. I’m just a guy with a keyboard, too many words and a passion for music. I thanked them and walked back home.
October 10th,2010. I’m travelling back from Liverpool, still tipsy after doing pints of Cain’s with Stu, a friend I met through a Doctor Who forum. He’s probably the nicest British person I’ve met and I can defend this to my very death. On the way back, I’m thinking of a cool love story involving high rises in Manchester, fairy lights and the colour blue. I get a message from Chris McClure, the lead singer of The Violet May. He’s been absolutely friendly and he wants to invite me to Club60. The fabled Club60, an underground and unregulated nightclub in Sheffield. I meet Chris outside The Swim Inn and he introduces me to the rest of The Violet May. They will also be performing that night. We get into several taxis and make it to the Shalesmoor.
The place has so many derelicts and the streets are dark. I feel like I’m back in Mexico. We go into Club60 by this gate that leads to a door. People are smoking pot and cigs and we say hi and go into the place. I see a lot faces I’ve seen a lot at gigs. Hugh from obLONG is playing only John Lennon music because of course these underground high class music fans are Beatles fans. Live and let live. I have a rum and coke and try to hide my disdain for the Beatles. Wet Nuns perform and they might be inebriated. Which is a great way to get into trouble. I’m 50% sure they played ‘I told my momma’ in an extended version, but I might be sketchy as Alexis later said about a review that they’ve never played it live. It was a terrible review so he might’ve been lashing out.
Still, gig went great until they carried Robert and he fell on his head. Everyone freaked out and I started to dial 999 on my phone when I heard “he’s okay, he just doesn’t want to move yet!” The Violet May played afterwards and I really enjoyed it. Saw people from Bromheads and Death Rays of Ardilla. A friend would later warn me of going to Club60 but that’s another story.
October 2010. Counterfeit Magazine asks me to interview Wet Nuns. I thought of them as being better than Sloucher, so I thought this could be a big break for me. I meet them at the Frog and Parrot. They are performing for Toast Magazine’s Awards and I’m not looking forward to sitting by an awards ceremony. Thankfully, It’s not a dull one.
So, we set in the beer garden and they are even funnier this time around. I see Jono from The Violet May joke with them and also with other people in the back. This time around we stick full time to the American voice routine and I’m pretty happy of how it turned out. They rock the place and I see that a lot of people are now really getting into them.
October 30th, 2010.
The night seemed good but it wasn’t. Chris McClure told me about this new place he found, called The Office. He said he was tired of the city centre scene. “No more album cover shit, no fucking trendies and no fucking scenesters.” I always wondered if he was referring to the Sheffield Scenester, who at first dissed The Violet May as a “Sex Pistols rip-off” (uh?) and then bigged them up. So The Office was a quaint place. I sorta liked it and Wet Nuns were brilliant. It was the second act what didn’t do it for me, so me and a friend walked out and joked outside. A lot of people followed us. Flyer said “The Hipshakes” but then crossed out with pen it said Avida Dollars. I don’t think they are my cup of tea and I think the review that was posted (and later taken down) was neither well-written nor just. I finally talk to The Monicans we plan on an interview. When we come back to The Office for The Violet May, the atmosphere feels tense. Again, they are a great show but when McClure grabs the front amp and carries it into the people while everyone is moshing, it feels too dangerous. There’s glass everywhere and we try not to get killed in the fray. A little disco ball that was hanging from the middle of the stage gets ripped off and thrown through the window.
I’m confused by this gig. I like the element of surprise and the rawness of all three bands, but I’m jaded by PhD woes (still tutorless). Therefore, the review is an unreadable piece of shit that tries to be too Gonzo for its own good. Everyone hated it and I think any good grace I had with both The Violet May and Wet Nuns crashed and burned.
November 10th, 2010. Tonight, I go and fall on my bum a lot for Rollerpalooza. This was an important day for me in many ways, but let’s stick to Wet Nuns. A guy from Drowned in Sound events approached me regarding a feature on Rollerpalooza, calling us an “ace blog”. I took the opportunity and asked Glenn to draw Wet Nuns again in a “Rollerball like atmosphere.” He drew them as a band playing to a bunch of squirrels fighting on skates. It’s better than my description, I swear.
November 2010. I go to a gig at the Student’s Union. It was a-ok, but I see Robert and Alexis near the exit. I come to them and apologise for the bad review of their gig at The Office and also apologized for the tardiness of the interview. I promised Counterfeit they would be posted first and even if I handed it on time, they are still waiting on the photographer. They tell me not to worry.
December 2010. Finally Counterfeit put the interview. The photo from the “artist” was a headshot with a stick figure drawn below. If the band had been more famous, Counterfeit wouldn’t have done this. Still, they would eventually interview them again and that got posted fairly quick. That’s the game, yo.
My interview also saw the light of day. No photos, but I had my friend Glenn Miller Montoya do the drawings and they were pretty fun. He enjoyed drawing Wet Nuns and would do so a few more times.
January 2011. I have two supervisors for my PhD, a girlfriend that I madly loved and a new camera. I’m celebrating by attending Old Number 7 and watching Wet Nuns and Drenge. It’s already packed when Drenge are playing and they blew my mind at how good they are. Wet Nuns also play, but sometimes I think we are all going to die with the amount of people and moshing happening. I almost knock over one of the rides/cymbals when trying to take a photo of Alexis. All my photos end up being unusable, but I had a great time.
June 2011. Getting better at the camera shenanigans and I make my way from Peace in the Park 2011 (the best one) and make it to The Harley. After the madness of Cobra Fist, we get Wet Nuns. Changes have been made. They sound more polished, as if they started to take it more seriously. They are fantastic and the crowd is indicative of how far they’ve come along in the last year. I talk with both of them quickly, because they have more people to talk with and hangout with and I have PhD data to work with.
October 30th 2011. My camera is fucked because water went into the charger and battery. I feel like a fucking idiot and will have to rely on my small one to survive tonight’s gig which is at Bromheads’ studio, Crystal Ship, smack out near one of my sampling points by the River Don. I missed two bands but make it on time for The Violet May. They have also been getting bigger and they had a fantastic time in Italy and Iceland. Dead Sons almost made me sick because of how loud their set was. I will always remember the loud organ intro to I am the lord and how it made my torso vibrate.
Working the bar that night was Alexis. I’ve seen a few times working bars, sometimes looking fed up, sometimes happy as a clam. Whatever his mood, he would always smile and treat me like star. I appreciated this always and we talked about inane stuff. He said he had two more Wet Nuns gigs that year.
November 5th, 2011. Leadmill press passes have always been a nightmare. They play hard ball and they are great at it. Chris McClure has to intervene and I get a photopass. Bands playing are Wet Nuns, The Hope Explosion, some pop indie band from Australia called All Mankind and The Violet May. Something happens when I see Wet Nuns. I feel like I’m not enjoying myself, but still, they play it like always. It sounds fiercer and sharp, like a good ginsu knife. This is the first time I see Alexis put the drumsticks like an inverted cross. This and standing on top of the drums were the signature moves until the end of the band. I noticed The Violet May never came down to see the other bands. Some say this is bad, some say this is good. I’m neutral about this, but it felt odd.
November 29th, 2011. A Rough Shag is always a good night out and the lovely Andrew Smith (whom I once thought was Alexis’ cousin) had a killer line up, probably my fave of all the Rough Shags I attended: Black Cat White Cat, Shields and Wet Nuns. Black Cat White Cat were always a great time, with that seedy, grimy form of blues rock that was half-performance, half-happening. Shields convinced me that Vikings lived in Leeds and made proper hard rock. They were also a hoot live. Wet Nuns’ set that night really dispelled my doubts from last time. They were immense and I think it was the greatest gig of them I’ve been at.
December 16th, 2011. I’m in tears, walking wound through the streets of Sheffield. My girlfriend dumped me by email and she got a new guy in less than 4 days. I feel like there’s no one to talk to and just when I hit West Street, I see Alexis. He sees through me and gives me a hug. We talk, he gives me another hug and gives me a Wet Nuns badge.
January, 2012 It would be a long time until I would see Wet Nuns again. Matt Helders wearing a Wet Nuns t-shirt in Jonathan Ross and some love from NME made the band skyrocket. PR, a new manager (non-fictional) and a lot of touring outside of Sheffield ensued. I didn’t even manage to see them during Tramlines 2012. Still, we had a little email interview, catching up. The American accents were a thing of the past. I had no photos for this interview, but two ace drawings by Glenn that summed up the fun that Wet Nuns were for me.
October 27st, 2012. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Wet Nuns. I’ve got a press pass +1 for tonight’s show at Shakespeare’s and when I try to come in, the guy at the entry says it’s sold out and my name isn’t on the list. I tell him Alexis invited me, he says no way. I try to call their PR guy but signal is terrible. My friend Lily really wanted to see them. We are both a little down in the dumps and we’ve been going to gigs non-stop to flush the pain away. Eventually, the tall guy comes downstairs, apologizes profusely and tells me to go upstairs with Lily. We get our stamp and we are in. The guy was their manager. Dirt off your shoulder, no biggie and everything got sorted quick snap. Some loud and great bands tonight, some of them probably a product of touring around and meeting cool rock bands. Between bands, I go and see Alexis at the front door, thanking him again for the +1 ticket. I ask him if he wants to wear my sarape for a photo and he even poses as a “sad Mexican.” Maybe he was poking fun of how morose I had been lately. He cheered me up. Wet Nuns set was a killer again. My camera was drenched with ale and it took a long time to get it working again. Best Halloween of my life.
Some loud and great bands tonight, some of them probably a product of touring around and meeting cool rock bands. Between bands, I go and see Alexis at the front door, thanking him again for the +1 ticket. I ask him if he wants to wear my sarape for a photo and he even poses as a “sad Mexican.” Maybe he was poking fun of how morose I had been lately. He cheered me up. Wet Nuns set was a killer again. My camera was drenched with ale and it took a long time to get it working again. Best Halloween of my life.
March 29th, 2013. I can’t believe how much it took to get a discounted ticket for covering Detestival. At least I haggled enough to get a two for one and I gave my other to Dan Sumption, an ace photographer in Sheffield who was very kind to me several times, even giving me some tips to get better at photos. Detestival sure feels a little corporate, but, fuck it, sometimes you have to give in to The Machine a little bit to get some leverage and move up the bullshit ladder of success. The fact that Wet Nuns used this to bring some top talent to Sheffield made me adore them even more. Fell in love with Black Moth and I’m sure everyone who was in attendance became a fan of Bo Ningen, the best live band in the world. Wet Nuns were thoroughly engaging that night and I got to talk to both of them separately. They weren’t hanging with each other. I got a bad vibe about this. Maybe SXSW burnout had affected them both?
March 30th, 2013. I meet with Shell Zenner from Amazing Radio and her fried Lisa at Rutland Arms for food. We get to Queens Social and I want to introduce Wet Nuns personally to her. Alexis is very busy and can’t talk to us, but we run into Robert and they talk for a while outside the place. She gives them a box of homemade cupcakes and they keep talking. I walk away because they have to talk business which is good. The lineup today is little mellower, but still, John J. Presley takes the cake.
October 8th,2013. I haven’t reviewed that much this year. It all feels useless. I haven’t been to school in a while and the momentum I seemed to be gaining in 2011 and 2012 is fizzled out. I know it won’t end well. I heard the album and loved it but, how should I review it? I knew they wouldn’t release anything as they announced the end of the band and they had one last gig at Queens Social Road. I felt Rob and Alexis were at odds, but wasn’t sure how bad it was.
So I took a risk and made it a Storyteller’s Review, where I do a story around a character from my novel reacting to an album. For this one, I fibbed and said that I’d sent the album to a nun from my old Catholic School, with translated lyrics and saying the band were a hard rock Christian band from England. I looked around for Bible quotes and wrote the way a caring but stern nun would. It was the biggest post of 2013, everyone shared it and loved it. Robert, whom I thought hated me at this point, actually walked towards me one night and said thank you for that review. I then realized a lot of stuff was in my head….
October 19th: Last Wet Nuns gig ever. I get a free ticket because of my review. I felt special that day, but still wanted to have fun. Royal Blood was great and I wasn’t surprised to see them hit it big later. Flaming Skulls are still a beast and I’d love to hear more from them. I went for a drink at the bar and ran into Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys, who has been dogged by everyone all night round. He looks at me and I let him pass. He was relieved that I wasn’t asking for an autograph or selfie, I guess?
Once Wet Nuns started playing, I got my El Mìstico mask out and wore it for the entire set. I felt like I was getting a rash. I felt horribly asphyxiating inside. I would never want to wear a mask in my life, even though I kept using it afterwards. My friend Fuzz Caminski was around and he tried the mask and we took pics of each other. A friend of his, called Nancy, was the tiniest, thinnest girl I’ve met moshing. She hit me a few times but it was all for fun. Once the gig was over, both Rob and Alexis jumped into the crowd and crowdsurfed. I took as many photos as I could, but the best one was the symbolic one of the moment: Rob surfing to the left, Alexis to the right. Different directions, same fun. But it was the end. An introduction to finality.
We went to The Harley for an afterparty. I thought about talking to Rob and Alexis, but instead got hounded by a couple of friends asking about an article in Vice, which was about Sheffield’s local scene and sediment sampling. That’s how they knew it was by me. I spent most of the time talking with Nancy. I was smitten but I didn’t see her again until my leaving away party from Sheffield.
November 24, 2014. I’m still in shock. Alexis was always friendly towards me and the news of his death on the 20th still shocked me. I heard it from Bernie, confirmed by Adi Carter. Dan Sumption wrote the best possible eulogy for him. I got stupidly drunk on Saturday 22th and I think I’m still hungover as I write this piece, as long as the ramblings of someone who is in a complicated relationship with his depression.
I will never judge anyone like Alexis for taking a decision like the one they did. I do not have that authority. I do regret not seeing him or Rob before leaving Sheffield. I hope both knew how important they were for that Shithole of a Website called Sloucher.
Always in my mind, dear Alexis Gotts.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López