Interview with We Have Band
Thomas, Dede and Darren are the upstanding citizens that make up We Have Band. The trio's formation as a group was somewhat unusual; they all met while working at EMI in London, recognised a mutual musical kinship, and decided to form their own creative outlet. Their eponymous debut is a whirlwind of dance, electropop and rock, and has just been unleashed on the public. I spoke to Darren recently to find out more about the London-based trio's origins, their insane touring schedule, and how the album was recorded.
Hi Darren - for a debut, your album is extremely tight and sure of itself – you must be very pleased with how it's turned out.
Thank you. Yeah, we're really pleased with it. We worked hard on it for nearly 2 years, from the first songs being written to it being finished - so it's a big chunk of time and effort, and it's nice to be happy with the result.
Can you tell us a little bit about the band's background? You all met when working for EMI?
Yes we all worked there for some time. Thomas and Dede met there and had a romance and fell in love and got married. Then we all became friends. Myself and Thomas had been in some other bands beforem but Dede had never stepped onto a stage before our first show. It was all very private at first, and for about 5 or 6 months we would just meet up at home and have dinner and some drinks and then write and record. We didn't tell anyone what we were doing, because if was sort of just for fun. But then we made a MySpace page and got offered a show, and at that show we got offered two more… and it went on and on from there.
Do you think, having had some insights into the inner workings of the music industry, that it prepared you better, in some way, for being in a band? You're more aware of the pitfalls?
Yes and no. The main lesson you learn is that there are no rules or secrets to being successful in music - which sometimes labels seem to think there are, so that kind of scrubs out anything you ever thought you learned. But also the live side of things - we really knew very little about that, and that's been such a big part of being a band for u. So it's just about being aware and trying to make the right decisions with everything we do.
Was the deal with Naïve Records a one-off for the album, or are you still an unsigned band?
No, we've signed a three-album deal with Naive. They're a very intelligent indie label, and they want to be in with us for the long term, and we're happy about that. Being signed or unsigned was never really a big thing for us. It was more about being an active band, which we always were - so we never really had the moment of needing a label to move forwards until the album was done. We did 137 shows last year all over the world on our own, so we just kept going like that. We raised the money for the album ourselvesm and just went ahead and recorded it completely as we wanted to. And it was only when it was done that we needed and wanted some help to release it, and Naive were there, and we liked each other - so that was that.
Who were the bands you grew up loving? Who was/is your musical hero, and do they influence We Have Band's sound?
Everything you've ever listened to and liked feeds into your debut album really, consciously or not - so there's surely some of many things in there. We were all big Michael Jackson fans growing up, but also we loved bands like Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Radiohead, Bjork, LCD Soundsystem.
How long has the album been in the works, and where/when was it recorded?
Well we started it before we even knew we were doing an album, about two years ago. Most of it was written at Thomas and Dede's house in the early days, and then last year while we toured, we were fairly constantly touching it up and adding things and we wrote a few newer songs to finish it off. The final stage was a month in the studio with Gareth Jones in August, where he did some additional production and he mixed the album.
A question that you probably get asked a lot – but does the fact that Thomas and Dede are a couple ever impact on the band – especially since you're a trio? It must be hard to keep personal allegiances to one side when you're making creative decisions!
It's never been a problem for us at all. We're three very strong personalities, so creatively, we learnt to share from the start and we actually realised that it's a major strength in the band. Also, we don't know anything different. We were friends as a three-piece, and now we're a band as a three-piece, and it just feels like a natural progression.
Speaking of which, who has the main sway over proceedings in the band? How does the songwriting process work?
No one has more swing than anybody else. It's important that we're all happy with everything that happens in the band. Songwriting normally has us all in the room at the same time, and we talk about ideas and just play around and experiment. We build songs up slowly, normally with beats first, and then maybe bass or guitar. Then melodies and lyrics come after that. Nobody has ever come along and just said 'I've written a song, here it is'. That wouldn't really work for us.
You've got a very distinct aesthetic, from your promo shots to the album cover. Was that something that you wanted to cultivate from the very beginning of WHB's life?
Like a lot of things with the band, it kind of snuck up on us really - but as soon as we recognised it, we got a handle on it pretty quickly. Now we really like thinking about the visual side of things, because it's a great opportunity to add another layer to what you do.
You've got this reputation as being an 'electro art-rock' band and have been compared to Hot Chip on several occasions – but I think there's something less definable going on with you guys. There are a few clever twists and turns in your songs. How do you feel about being placed in a scene with those bands?
We're OK with comparison stuff, really. Unless people are just being lazy, then it's a bit frustrating. The thing about making music is that once it's out there you don't really own it anymore like you used to, and you have to be prepared for people to do what they want with it, and hear it as they want to. But it's nice that you hear at lot of things going on, because we feel that we put a lot of different things into the record. That slight indefinable feeling excites us too.
You've played a few festivals and won the Glastonbury competition last year. Do you think that your main strength is playing live?
Playing live has always been super important to us and we sort of did our growing up on the live scene, so it's a big part of what we do, and we try to do it as well as we can. But we were writing from day one, too - so that's equally important. It's well-written songs that sound best live anyway, so you have to take good care of both sides. We love it when we're writing and we listen to a finished track and say "this is going to be huge at a gig".
'We Have Band' is out now on Naïve Records. See www.myspace.com/wehaveband for more info.
Watch the brilliant video for 'Divisive' here:
Story by Lauren | 09:00 | Wednesday 12th May 2010 | Music
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