It can be a tricky business, this interviewing rock bands lark. Not just because you often have to go through PRs, and deal with conditions of interviewing bands or and because they may not be wanting to do interviews -but actually because of things like, well, the day jobs. Theirs as well as mine.
It’s a Friday afternoon when I catch up with Michael from We Are The Physics (there’s three Michaels in the band, which adds to the confusion), on a break from his day job. ‘I just work in offices,’ he explains, almost apologetically.
But soon he’s about to take a break away from the water cooler and the fax machine, and spend his annual leave heading out on tour with the band, in support of their sophomore album, Your Friend, The Atom. It has been four years since their debut We Are The Physics Are OK At Music came out. There is a reason for this, of course.
‘We’ve always been a DiY band,’ Michael says. ‘[The sophomore album] has taken so long to do, it’s almost a like a death, a terminal illness.’ That brings a new slant on the concept of a release schedule, I suppose. ‘We were writing the second album as soon as we finished the first, but we toured it for a year. We started to demo it in 2009.’ Ultimately, he explains, it comes down to economics. The reality of being in a do-it-yourself- band is, by definition, that you are doing these things yourselves, and that includes getting the money together to record your music.
The same goes for the band’s videos, fantastic affairs which have been doing the rounds in anticipation of the new album. ‘We just pull in favours from friends, no-one’s getting any money for it,’ Michael tells me, acknowledging that ‘it’s nice of them.’
The band release their albums through This Is Fake DiY Records, but they’ve been responsible for founding the album, with the label being responsible for manufacture and PR. He recalls experiences of negotiating with other labels when it appeared that A&R were hanging around offering opinions. ‘You always feel that you’re going to compromise when you’re on a major or an indie,’ he says. But they got to record with Thomas McNeice, the current drummer of Gang of Four, who he acknowledges as a major influence. He also tells me how indebted the band are to the likes of Devo and the Skids, but also is quick to mention Brainiac. ‘Off the wall, sqaure peg bands!’ he tells me.
Perhaps more than any other city in the British Isles, Glasgow is often portrayed as being a band where everyone is part of the scene, where everyone hangs out together and lives nearby to another. This isn’t the case with WATP. Although they all live there, they’re all doted around the city, not all living around the fabled West End hanging out at the legendary drinking holes around Hillhead. They don’t consider themselves part of any scene. ‘You need bands that don’t fit in,’ Michael believes. Whilst many Scots acts profiles start to tail off the further south you head of Gretna Green, the opposite has been the case for them.
The reality is that they have set their sights far further afield than just their hometown. ‘We’ve always seemed to do better in England than in Scotland. We’ve never done as well in Glasgow as [they have] in London. We struggled to build a fanbase in Glasgow,’ he adds, though it is evident that they have done so. ‘We wanted to play to as many people as possible’ -and one of those places is…Russia?
‘We’ve toured Russia twice,’ he reveals. Although he admits that it is a ‘scary country’-alluding to the current stories about the imprisonment of Pussy Riot and banning of anything that constitutes ‘homosexual propoganda’, they have played both Moscow and St. Petersburg. This came about after a chance encounter at a gig where someone was a promoter who puts on bands in Russia. I ask if it’s influenced their songwriting at all. After consideration, he says that the the space race era of the 1960s is something that they write about, although he owns up to being unsure if it ended up on the new LP.
Proudly going against the grain, the fitting in of gigs around the day jobs to pay their rent means that ‘We always make our gigs an even’ adding ‘that’s our only weapon, that we’re quite good live.’ The forthcoming tour will see them supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks on some dates – and he relishes the fact that they’re both quite different bands in their sound. ‘There’ll be an audience to win over!’ He enthuses. ‘It doesn’t seem to work when we play with similar bands.’
Your Friend, The Atom is out on This Is Fake DiY Records on October 22.