We met The Retrospectives before the launch of their song, “Confusion” at London’s Water Rats a couple of weeks back. It was a great chat with Tom and Will, who gave some very thoughtful answers to our questions.
EP: You gig a lot! A real lot! 60 gigs during March to July last year –
TR: (Tom) Yeah! We did a lot last year, and we’re steadily building up again this year, we’re getting back to the stage where we’re gigging the same amount we were last year but towards December we were doing short tours because of the situation with band members and stuff like that.
(Will) Yeah we were doing something like six gigs in a weekend!
(Tom) Yeah we’d do like, 1 gig on the Friday, 2 gigs on the Saturday, 2 gigs on the Sunday, one on the Monday, something like that.
EP: Does it energise you? Do you get inspiration from it all?
TR: (Will) It’s everything in between that tires you out, but as soon as you get up on stage to play your set, it’s exciting, it always is.
EP: Is it like a drug? Addictive?
TR: (Will) Yeah!
(Tom) You can get into the swing of things as well, last year when we were really gigging that much we got right into the vibe where every time we went on stage, we just knew we were going to play our absolute best, because we’re doing it so often, there’s a whole lot less room for error. But when you’re waiting for a week to do the next gig, or sometimes you might be waiting two months to go on tour, that first gig you don’t know for sure that you’re going to be playing everything right, because playing live is about adapting to different situations, and that’s how you get tight, to play live, sort of reacting to different things that happen. That’s not something you can really do in the practice room.
EP: So you get to sleep occasionally?
TR: (Will) Yeah! Every now and then!
EP: Do you find inspiration being on the road? Do you write while you’re touring?
TR: (Will) I wish we had the time to write while we’re on the road, we don’t really have the time – I guess if you’re well off, you can be like, in a room by myself for two hours, but that’s not something you can really pull off when you’re playing small venues, you need to be out there talking to people and interacting with people – especially for us, that’s quite a vital part of what we do. Finding the time to write on the road, I’m sure if you could get the time to get away from it all…
EP: You’re not on a tour bus or anything…
TR: (Will) We sometimes come up with ideas, especially musically, not melodically, lyrically…we might come up with riffs in soundcheck and stuff like that. That’s always a good one. Gives us a little bit of time to play as a band.
EP: Talk to us about “Confusion”. I can hear a lot of Tom Petty in it. Would you say there’s a massive inspiration there?
TR: (Tom) Definitely!
(Will) It’s more like the older stuff, like “Damn the Torpedoes” and earlier than that, is what we were going for, he’s what we were taking inspiration from maybe a year ago. But “Confusion” is our first one that’s more like 80s Tom Petty. And that’s something we’ve never really done before, so it’s quite new to take inspiration from something like that, but it’s definitely what we were going for.
EP: I grew up in Australia, as you might have guessed, and your sound is very like what I would call, “pub rock”, which is really guitar-based, and 80s Australian pub rock – it isn’t a bad sound for me at all.
TR: (Will) We’re really influenced by a lot of the pub rock from Britain, maybe a little bit earlier than the 80s, but stuff like Elvis Costello, a lot of the Stiff Records scene that was going on at the time, that’s been a really big inspiration to us. We definitely listen to a lot of that music.
EP: The guitar sound is your thing…
TR: (Tom) Yeah we’ve always been a three-piece, not limited to that, but we’ve always been you know, guitar, bass and drums, that’s the way we’ve always worked. And it took a bit of time to get to understand the sound of being a three-piece, like a lot of the band we listen to and see are 4 or 5 piece…quite a big sound, 3 guitars and that. And it took us quite a while to realise we couldn’t really do that with a three-piece, and that’s where the sound kind of came from, working around the space that we had really.
EP: What’s your career highlight so far?
TR: (Will) There’s been a few – think we’ve done quite a lot of memorable support slots…
EP: Who have you supported that really stands out?
TR: (Will) The Boomtown Rats, that was a big one. It was just the way the gig fell, it was a really good day, we knew a lot of the bands who were supporting as well, it was a really good gig.
(Tom) Buzzcocks as well!
EP: Where was this? Where was this gig?
TR: (Tom) Picturedrome, Holmfirth, in Yorkshire.
(Will) Yeah Picturedrome in Holmfirth, it’s an old theatre, it feels like a big venue, but it’s really quite a small capacity, so it still feels quite intimate.
EP: So did you meet the Boomtown Rats and the Buzzcocks?
TR: (Will) Actually, no! Because I think the culture is different for those kinds of bands. When we played with the Boomtown Rats, Bob Geldof turned up 30 seconds before he went on stage, he wasn’t at soundcheck, anything like that. Same with the Buzzcocks. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the level of fame or whatever, but maybe because they’re indie, and they’ve learned how to tour and not wait around venues all day…
(Tom) From The Jam – Bruce Foxton – he was actually one of the nice ones – every soundcheck he’s there, I remember when we came off stage once after supporting him, he asked us, “How was that for you”, he’s really great.
(Will) They’re a great live band, he’s something that I think from afar can be seen as a bit of a money-maker, but what you don’t realise before you go and see them, how much of a part Bruce Foxton plays in The Jam.
EP: Oh yeah! It’s like take away Paul Weller’s vocals and you still know it’s The Jam because of Bruce! It’s like early Bowie stuff, that band still tours, Woody Woodmansey and the like, and even without Bowie in front it’s still the same songs cos it’s the same guys playing it!
TR: (Will) Yeah! Like, the bass is such a part! He’s still so good, and charismatic on stage, that it’s a proper treat to watch.
EP: Favourite venue? And why?
TR: (Tom) Umm I’d say Picturedrome! It’s quite local to us, it’s got a really good sound…
(Will) You can play to 700 people, like, we don’t have crowds that size ourselves, but we’ve done quite a few support slots there.
(Tom) They’ve always been really nice to us there as well, very supportive.
EP: So have you just played England so far? You’ve played London before, have you played further afield as yet?
TR: (Tom) Scotland and Wales, that’s as far as we’ve got so far really. We’d love to do Dublin.
EP: Talk us through “Confusion”. Inspiration, meaning behind it…what’s it all about!
TR: (Will) Musically, we talked about that before, it’s got a kind of watery feel about it, it comes out at you like a wave, and that was something that came to us at the start.
(Tom) We were listening to some 80s Tom Petty songs and playing around with the drum machine…
(Will) It was written at a time when we didn’t have a drummer…the drummer had just left and we were like, what can we do, we want to create…
EP: Let’s get a drum machine!
TR: (Will) So we made a whole demo – a hundred tracks – with the drum machine – that kinda sounded like 80s Tom Petty, and then we were like, it’s not exactly like what we want it to be, so we went to a bigger studio and recorded some stuff there…
(Tom) …Then we went back to our studio and recorded some more stuff…it’s like a really long process…
(Will) …It’s a bit different to how we normally work. Normally what we do really stems from a live performance, but this was very much like constructed in the studio. Lyrically it’s a coming of age song, about growing up, realising that older people don’t really have it all figured out, that’s what a lot of the lyrics are based around. When you grow up and realise that, it’s really quite a scary thing.
EP: Where are you going to be in five years?
TR: (Will) It’s weird, because you make plans, and it’s never what you plan, and you end up maybe not so initially excited, but there’s more depth to it.
(Tom) Nothing ever happens just like that, it’s all tiny little steps. It doesn’t feel like that at the time, but then you look at it at the end and you can see how it all works out.
EP: Dream collaboration? If you wanted to collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
TR: (Tom) John Mayer! He’s my favourite guitarist.
(Will) He’s a notorious collaborator too, it’d be good to work with someone who likes to collaborate, you get people who like are put together with others by the label. I never want to be in that situation.
EP: Any advice you have for young hopefuls wanting to get into the music business?
TR: (Will) Are we the right people to ask? (Tom laughs)
EP: I don’t know! You’re in it!
TR: (Will) Just make music you like! At one time we were making music that we thought people would like…
EP: You can’t please all the people all of the time!
TR: (Tom) Be honest! Be honest about what you are!
(Will) I don’t feel like we are the ones who’ve got it together, I feel like we’re the people who need the advice!
EP: How long have you been playing together?
TR: Ten years!
EP: Ten years! And you still haven’t got it together? That’s still pretty good – I mean – you’ve outlasted The Beatles, they were only together what, six years?
TR: (Will) We’ve been in it too long to give up now!
EP: Did you meet at school?
TR: (Will) Yeah we lived around the corner from each other!
EP: And it’s never destroyed your friendship?
TR: (Will) No not at all! We never really argue or anything, we’re kinda like two halves of the same person.
EP: So you’ve been friends right from the start? All the way through primary school?
TR: (Tom) Yeah were were friends!
(Will) I think it just took us a while, I think like every kid in England you grow up wanting to play football, and then when you can’t play football, you have to figure out what else you want to do, and playing music was the thing we liked to do that was the same.
EP: What question do you wish someone would ask you, but nobody ever does?
TR: (Will) We’re quite obsessed with the technical equipment we use, like our guitars and pedals, we’d get a bit excited about that, just because we’re a bit nerdy like that.
EP: Well talk about it! Talk about your guitars and pedals! What’s your favourite pedal and why do you use it?
TR: (Will) Ahhhh…
(Tom) Can’t talk about my favourite guitar either….
EP: Does your favourite guitar have a name?
TR: (Tom) My guitar is called Daphne, because the type of the guitar is called Daphne Blue (Fender Stratocaster), and that was my grandmother’s name.
(Will) Nobody wants to hear about the technical stuff!
EP: Oh go on!
TR: (Will) I bought a nice microphone, copper head…that’s the most boring answer I’ve ever given! Argh! We’d love to do a gear-specific interview with a magazine that’s all about that. Like, “Ultimate Guitar” or something.
EP: Thank you so much for talking to us!