Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Pheromoans: INTERVIEW!!

Here we have Russell from The Pheromoans, who has kindly answered some questions for Gilded Gutter to tell us a little bit more about one of London's favourite underground bands.

For anyone new to you guys let’s have an introduction… who is presently in The Pheromoans and what do they do?

Currently its me, James on guitar, Christian and Alex do bass and guitar but swap around quite a bit, James drums, and for the new album Dan played violin. In recent shows Dan plays keyboard as well.

How did the band form?

I met Alex in a terrible office job we both had in Brighton. The company was run by this guy who called himself ‘Mojo.’ He was a real slimeball. As I sat opposite Alex I soon got to hear his life story quite quickly, and found out he played the guitar. I wanted to do something musically as I had started putting together poems and things that I thought might work, so we got together round at his flat to put things together. James Hines who turned out to be the drummer asked me to do some poetry at a gig where the Rebel and The Sticks were playing. James Tranmer is in the Sticks and I think he was one of the few to enjoy my poems, so I think we started talking about trying to work together. I asked James Hines to drum as I knew he was open minded as he put on different shows and things, and I knew he wouldn’t try and turn it into a noise band, which was quite popular at the time.

Are there any poets you look up to? Anyone you'd like to tell us about?

My relationship with poetry is quite difficult - I have a small book of poetry coming out soon - that a friend called Jenny is putting it out on 1994 Editions, so I haven't been reading any poetry at all. I much prefer reading novels, maybe because I know I'm not capable of writing a book! My favourite books (today) are The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell and Pick Up by Charles Willeford.

Front cover of Russell's new book.

Have any of you been in any previous bands?

I hadn’t, but I think most of the others had.

How have the recent shows been going for your new band Bomber Jackets?  How did the split 7” with The Rebel come about?

Well I have been a huge fan of everything Ben Wallers (Country Teasers, The Rebel) has done. I first saw him in about 2001 or something, at a gig with one of the Anticon rap-type bands. I was feeling quite alienated at the gig, as usual, but then this man came on drinking something concealed in a paper bag, and proceeded to sing some of the most brilliantly scathing and sardonic songs I had ever heard. I then bought all of his releases since then, and a few years later it turned out that Sarah Datblygu of the Bomber Jackets and Wet Dog was friends with Ben, so we asked him if he would like to get involved in the release we were doing for Kill Shaman. We ended up getting it pressed over here to save money, via the evil Savoury Days conglomerate.

What inspired the synth orientated sound in Bomber Jackets?

I suppose for me it was sufficiently different from the Pheromoans to warrant doing. I think it’s a nice sound, I really like the Magnetic Fields album ‘Holiday’ the sort of delicate sound. I find its helping me to actually ‘sing’ which I think I am capable of doing. Dan is into a lot of strange pop music, I like the slightly perverse feel that it has.

Is the name ‘Pheromoans’ a Sonic Youth reference?  (Or am I being super nerdy? Thinking of ‘Whore Moaning’).  If not, where does the name come from?

Its not a Sonic Youth reference, I didn’t know they had a song called that. Christian really likes Sonic Youth – when we met at university he was always trying to convert me, as I was only listened to things that had been nominated for a Mercury Prize. I am a fan of their stuff now. As for our band name, I think it’s a terrible name nowadays. I think we chose it because it sounded sort of ridiculously macho, as a joke about all of the patronising bands or ‘collectives’ in Brighton at that point, who would always bang on about how all bands should be female.

The lyrics in The Pheromoans focus on the quotidian, I like the idea of taking the ordinary and turning it into art – can you talk a little bit about what inspires the words in the songs?

I’m sure its the same process as taking a photo or making a film or anything – you just want to put something of yourself in to it whether its something that makes you happy or something you just think isn’t acknowledged. I suppose it’s a difficult balance as you don’t want to end up going overboard with trying to write ‘witty’ or humorous lyrics, and ending up like the Barron Knights, ‘whose between song anecdotes will have you in stitches,’ as the posters always insist. Or that bloke from the Divine Comedy, singing about moths wearing spats, and drinking lemon tea at the Savoy. I want to call the next album The Smell of Evil Is Dylan Jones Thoughts Fermenting, I want to get more involved in current affairs. Or ‘Helena Bonham-Carter Cannot Count’ was another one.

Tell me a little bit about ‘Soft Targets’ it’s my favourite Pheromoans track!

Oh thanks yes its just a general ‘leave me alone,’ type song. I think its quite an aggressive one, for us – I’m not sure if the lyrics arose from the music being quite aggressive, or the other way around.

Russell, we’ve talked a little about how we grew up in the same area of London suburbia and have similar tastes in music.  I think it struck us both as strange because there’s no music scene or proper record store at all in the area! Come to think of it, Watford's Harlequin Centre was the only place to buy music really from places like Virgin and CD Warehouse.  What was your introduction to the underground scene?  It wasn't easy to find!

No its weird living on the outskirts of somewhere like London I think, in that the more clued up people will go to clubs or gigs in the centre, but if you’re a bit timid and a bit curious about things, there’s not really a way into anything. Not just music, but books and things too. I quite appreciate now, the feeling of living in a vacuum, in that you would buy a book from Smiths or get it from the library, and just read it with no distractions like the Internet or Ross Noble. Or you could go into Watford and buy a Wire CD, and listen to it on repeat. Now I suppose if someone recommended Wire you could just download everything they did in about two minutes, then move on to the next band, or read one of Mark Ronson’s tweets. Actually, the era that I’m talking about you probably could do that, but I didn’t know how put it that way – I wasn’t very savvy. The only record shop in the town I grew up in is now a novelty shop I think, with fake fingers and whoopee cushions and things. I suppose that’s a metaphor for the way society is going.

To someone who hasn’t been here how would you describe the underground music scene in London currently?

I’m sort of dimly aware of people doing interesting things. I think I got very fed up of bands quite early on since starting doing music. There are these quite snooty bands who play this very complicated music, but with a silly sort of humour involved. You’d think oh they might be being self-mocking, but then they would swan around like Elton John demanding more ‘reverb,’ and all this sort of stuff. Now I suppose you’ve got more dance-type bands which can’t be a bad thing, as I don’t know much about that sort of stuff so its more interesting, but again I wouldn’t know what any of them are on about. I really don’t know where this myth that ‘scenes’ are a good thing came from. When I was younger I went to punk and hardcore shows just out of curiosity and would always feel alienated because everyone else had dressed up in a very specific way, and were going on about Toadfish from Neighbours, or Bouncer’s dream!

On the record ‘It Still Rankles’ there are a few different dates listed on the artwork, did this album take a long time to make?  What was the process like?

It only took a long time because we kept putting out singles and things while working on it, but keeping back songs that we thought would make sense on an album. For the second one we recorded it straight away. The only song we recorded several times was the A-side of our first single, as we wanted to get it right.

How do you find recording differs from playing?

Getting a good recording from James is definitely my favourite thing about being in a band, but the process of recording if the recording doesn’t come out well and we have to go back and do it again, it can cease to be fun and becomes more like work. My attention span isn’t the best, so I always bring a ‘misery memoir’ with me. Playing live can be so varying in terms of enjoyment that I have sort of given up having any expectations of the crowd and things, and just get on with it.

What was the first live show that made an impression on you?

It sort of ties in with what you said before, I didn’t really go to any gigs when I was younger. The only venue where I lived was the golf club, and I used to wander into there now and again and peer into the function room where I heard some music coming from. I was probably the youngest person there, as it was mainly people who had just finished their round of golf, so they were still dressed in these expensive sweaters and the shiniest shoes I ever did see. They mainly had impressionists, of ‘legends’ like Brian May, or a modern band like the Stereophonics. It was terrible - the Stereophonics weren’t even Welsh apparently – they were from somewhere near the New Forest. They were even worse than the originals. But later, I’m not sure how history regards them, but one of the few touring bands that came to Coventry was Arab Strap. Coventry was where I went to study, so I still didn’t get to see many bands then either, but I already knew Arab Strap, who I really liked. They were very bleak but very funny as well. The music suited the harsh Coventry environment, and I remember walking home feeling like I’d just read a good book or seen a good film.

What’s the future for The Pheromoans and The Bomber Jackets?

The second Pheromoans album is coming out this year, it was recorded before the first one even came out. I would put it out now, but the label that’s doing it probably want a bit more of a gap. There doesn’t feel like much point recording any more at the moment, as there is a backlog. The Anti-Climb Paint thing we did right after the album turned into almost an album in itself as well, so we don’t want to push our luck with the record buyers. I know people like the Manic Street Preachers wait around five years between albums, as that is the best way to get people to part with their money. I suppose that’s why they are millionaires, because the tall Manic Street Preacher understands the capitalist game and takes advantage of it. I’d like to do a Bomber Jackets album too, Sarah has moved to New York so we now have Sian drumming. She is also in Plug who are one of my favourite bands. Their album is much better than ours. I’d like to get a manager, one with a sheepskin coat, so I can go to one of those All Tomorrows Parties things and meet Steve Albini.

“I’m full of dust and guitars” – Syd Barrett, if you were cracked open what would be inside?

Usually salt and vinegar McCoy’s, stifled laughter at photo’s of Mark Ronson coming out of a nice clean nightclub .

Copies of Russell's book can be found here
The Pheromoans Blog
The Pheromoans Facebook
A track off of The Pheromoans recent 12" on Onec

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