It’s been a little whilst since I caught up with Worcester’s finest poetic tunesmith, Wes Dance, so ahead of a forthcoming date at The Marrs Bar I thought it was high time we had a little chinwag to find out how his year’s going and what he has in store for the future.
1. Hi Wes, how are things with you today? Can you tell us what how 2013 has been, for you to date?
2013 has been pretty good. After my guitar left me for another, I took some time away from music. Then I found a new one, and the tail end of this year has been great – playing lots of gigs, and getting to meet and see lots of other great acts.
2. I’ve always described you as something of a poetic singer/songwriter, I know that your influences span both music and literature, do you consider that to be something of an apt description?
I wouldn’t say poetic; in my view my songs are like short stories, snapshots of a moment, when life takes a twist or turn for the good or bad. Like a Raymond Carver story.
3. It’s been a wee whilst since last time I caught you performing live, have you been writing any new songs in recent times? What can we expect from you at the Marrs Bar?
I’ve been writing quite a bit over the year, but I haven’t been playing them live too much. I used to write 8 songs a week, but now it’s more like a song in 8 weeks. I take more time, and try to make the songs more succinct and concise. There will be some new numbers in the set, and hopefully some other surprises too.
4. I hear you’ve also been collaborating with various musicians in recent times, is this something you plan to continue in the future?
I played for a year in Robinson, then I performed my songs with a band for half a year or so (with Hywel Payne, William Hughes and Lea Haworth). They were fun times. Now I’m back playing solo and it’s been great – and that is what this Marrs Bar gig is all about.
5. I see that you’ve been performing a little further afield in recent times how have you been received?
Lately, I’ve been playing a lot of gigs in Birmingham. I did a gig at the Yardbird which was great; such an awesome audience always in attendance. Playing acoustic it’s bliss when the audience is there to listen, rather than try and talk louder than the PA.
6. As much as I enjoy seeing you performing in and around Worcester, I always think that you tend to be at your best in a venue like the Marrs Bar, do you think that an audience gives a little more respect to a performing artist in an actual venue as opposed to a bar? I was always a fan of shusshh…Sundays, is your forthcoming date something of a nod back to that?
It was a friend who reminded me of the times I used to play the Shussh…Sundays at the Marrs Bar and suggested I should do a gig like that again. So yeah, it’s definitely a nod to those gigs, hopefully the 10th November will be just as good.
7. What’s next for Wes Dance, I’d like to see a new album at some point, is that something you’re looking at in the future?
I’m currently organising and getting everything ready for my next record. I have all the songs ready to go, and I can’t wait to get these songs recorded and out there for people to listen too.
Next year, 2014, local ska punk legends Spunge rack up their twentieth year as a band, that’s twenty years touring, writing and recording, no splits, no dramas just twenty years of skanking up the dancefloors, inciting mass sing-a-longs and tearing up and down the country. In that time the band have seen and done it all from playing local pubs to gatecrashing the top 40. To celebrate the band have decided to release a best-of with a difference, a collection of songs hand picked by the fans and then re-tweeked and re-recorded by the band . Spunge are not only offering the fans the chance to pick the tracklist but via the pledgemusic http://pledgemusic.com/projects/spunge campaign they’re offering exclusive previews, videos, competitions and anything else the Spunge super fan could possibly desire.
That’s not all as well as re-recording those classic Spunge moments the band are also working on writing a brand new album, as well as taking to the road throughout November with Worcester’s high octane Hey You Guys! in tow.
With all this going on it all only seemed right to grab five minutes with the band for a quick chinwag.
1. So next year Spunge are hitting a massive milestone, twenty years together as a band, did you ever expect to be together that long? can you remember the early day ambitions?
Jem – Sweets and ice cream
Des – I didn’t expect to live for 20 years plus I can’t remember what I did last night.
Alex – In the early days it was all about just enjoying ourselves and having a laugh but of course as time goes on… it’s EXACTLY the same reason we are still doing it
2. In your duration as a band you’ve seen it all, from the small pub gigs to finding favour with the masses, hitting the charts etc, can you tell us about a few of the highs and lows of the lifetime of Spunge?
Jem – Playing with Foo Fighters, and Kicking backstage with Greenday, oh and finding out we’d made the top 40 the hard way!
Des – Highs, playing with Greenday and Reading and Leeds festivals. Lows, having to go back to a normal shitty job.
Alex – Highs would be playing the festivals, meeting bands you look up to, people telling you how they listen to your stuff and how it makes them happy. Low would be purely that I can’t do this 24/7 as all those good times don’t necessarily pay the bills…
3. I can remember you playing places like a frenzied Horn And Trumpet back in the day do you look back at those days and wonder how you ever went from there to likes of the Birmingham Academy?
Jem – Yeah, but guess it was being young, fresh faced & new that made us flavour of the month, as opposed to the old beer soaked darts players we are now.
Des – It’s like a hobby that has got out of control.
Alex – Not in a ‘how did that happen’ way – but I do look at what we have done over the years and think ‘Fuck yeah, that was us!’
4. So tell us about your forthcoming greatest hits album, why now? did you always want to go back and revisit and record some of those old classics?
Jem – No, just 20 years seemed a good time, and as we are still doing it all ourselves, we decided we could aford the time and effort to do it
Des – 20 years on, why not bring these tired old songs back to life and give them the love and attention.
Alex – t just felt right, 20 years is a big achievement with no splits, ‘last ever’ tours or crap like that. And yeah, it’s nice to make the songs sound how we thought they were in our heads the whole time
5. Tell us about the pledge campaign that you’ve launched for the album, I believe the fans are getting to pick the tracks, etc, do you see this as a way of giving back to all the loyal fans over the years?
Jem – Yep, saves on us getting the blame for missing tracks off.
Des – It’s a way of saying thank you and getting the fans involved.
Alex – I like the idea of it coming back to the control of bands and fans, we’ve been around long enough to remember running tapes off and putting them on the shelf at the local HMV to try and sell one or two… and this is like a big version of that with bells and whistles lol! It’s been fun having them involved along the way in stuff like gang vocals and picking the tracks…
6. I also hear you’re busy writing new material, how’s that going? can we expect any surprises?
Jem – Every song will be a surprise, only just starting writing agsain as been busy with this – but it’ll be a surprise because we play acid sole jazz funk um-pa music now!
Des – We’ve got quite a few new tracks recorded and are still writing, I think we definitely need a new cover version.
Alex – We have a few tracks written, it all went on hold for this best of release but we’ll be back on it after the tour. Surprises…? Not really if I’m honest… It’s definitely still us on there, but I think we’re writing some of my favourite tunes right now, which is a pleasant surprise for me
7. You’re performing throughout the UK during November, can we expect any of the new material to be showcased or is this going to be a greatest hits tour?
Jem – Mainly Greatest Hits (which include a few that never get played live) plus 1 or 2 newbies to boo and hiss at.
Des – There might be 1 or 2 new ones in there as well as the greatest hits
Alex – It primarily a greatest hits tour, in fact we are playing every song we have recorded on the album, but there are a couple new ones in there too
8. You’re taking out relative young guns Hey You Guys! out with you on tour, what do you expect them to bring to the party?
Jem – drugs and money for said drugs, oh and humping all our gear in and out of venues and fetching us cold beer and such like
Des – I think they will bring a new lease of energy and enthusiasm that will keep [spunge] on their toes and make us work that much harder
Alex – The beer and women.
9. What else do Spunge have planned in the near future? Anything else you want to tell your fans?
Jem – A live album may be sporned from this tour – so if you want to be on the album, come along to every show and shout “Jarv’s a wanker” in all the quiet bits
Des – I’m planning to become prime minister, I don’t know about the other idiots. Buy our records too
Alex – We are just keeping on doing what we love to do. Greatest Hit is out in November, along with the tour, then writing more new tunes and recording them for a possible late next year release for that album too… our albums are like buses, you wait 6 years for one and then two come along at once Hoping to make the 20th year a good one with shows all throughout – so go pester those festivals to have us on the bill people Oh, and check out http://pledgemusic.com/projects/spunge if you want to get the best of as soon as it’s done!
Five Minutes With……Hey You Guys!
Worcester’s latest indie/pop/punk heroes Hey You Guys! have had quite a year, they’ve released a brilliant debut album, performed a number of high profile gigs across the UK and are now set to tour with local ska punk legends Spunge, so I thought it was about time I caught up with the guys for a quick chat.
You’ve all trod the boards previously with numerous local bands, but how did Hey You Guys! come together, was there a moment when you collectively thought I know lets throw our shit together and see what comes out?
There was simply a point where Dave (guitar) unilaterally thought: “Let’s throw our shit together and see what comes out.” Personally I was getting ready to retire from this hedonistic lifestyle. Too much free sex and drugs was beginning to bore me.
The debut album Gasp! Shock! Horror! is a blast from start to finish, was the recording of the album as much fun as I imagine?
It was better fun than that. It was a really freewheeling experience as we all just did our best while Dave (again!) steered the ship behind the mixing desk and kept us kids in check.
Bar a handful of gigs you seem to really come out the blocks with the release of the album, did you always plan to hold back on live performance until the recording was nailed?
We’ve been playing pretty regularly since October last year. We just balance our time well. Writing, recording, playing – you can’t do them all at the same time and we’ve managed to fit a lot into the last twelve months!
Bar a handful of gigs you seem to really come out the blocks with the release of the album, did you always plan to hold back on live performance until the recording was nailed?
We’ve been genuinely thrilled by the reaction we’ve got. People seem to like what we have to deliver and the same goes for the album. The feedback we’ve had from that has been great.
You recently made your first trek out into Europe how did that go? and do you plan to venture out more in the future?
If they ask us. In which case we’ll be back in a heartbeat! After all, they’ve got all the best beer and I get to crowd surf over there.
So you’re about to embark on a tour with (now 20 year veterans) Spunge how did this come about? and what are your expectations for the tour?
It should it be said that HYG realise how lucky we are to be asked along for Spunge’s tour! I’ve heard a lot about what Spunge get up to on tour so my main expectation is that I will be barricading myself in my hotel room each night and doing a lot of crying.
I can remember seeing Spunge years ago in places like the Blower and Gonzo’s, as well as the likes of The Birmingham Academy, etc what does it mean to you touring with a band that have seen and done it all?
It shouldn’t be taken lightly, these guys are veterans and heroes. But I don’t think they’ve seen or done it all yet – after all they haven’t tried following HYG nine nights on the trot! Both bands have a lot to give so I can’t wait to get out there.
You finished the album launch gig with a brand new track (alluded to be on the second album), can we expect to hear more on the tour? and what else can we expect from the Hey You Guys! live experience?
We’re playing the first album in its entirety every night. Unless we can’t be bothered, in which case we’ll play a load of new stuff. Or a mixture of these two options. As for the live experience, I’m not giving anything away until the first night!
What’s next for the band after the Spunge tour? I hear there’s a date with Kerbdog coming up.
You’re actually completely right. We’re supporting the ‘Dog in Kilkenny on New Year’s Eve. That’s going to be painful!! Before that we’ve got the Robocop single Hallowe’en single, a handful of Xmas dates and we’ll start working on our second album. Meanwhile I will fuck a bunch of suits to try and secure us a record deal.
60 Second Band Interviews
Ahead Of His Performance at Bingley Music Live
- What’s your favourite thing about British festivals?
Well, this year’s been pretty unusual. It’s been marvellous, being out in the sun; as the sun has chosen to shine this year. It’s all about the friendly atmosphere. So I guess you could say my favourite thing is fun in the sun.
- What’s your first live music experience or an early memory that stands out?
Probably, the first gigs we started doing in 70’s, playing in pubs in London. We were from just outside London, in Essex, so it was like coming to the big city. It was exciting. It felt serious.
- Who is your ultimate performer?
Chuck Berry, I’ve seen him 4 or 5 times. The first time was in the mid-60’s – he thrilled me; his music and stage performance.
- What’s been the highlight of your recent performances?
What’s been pretty good is we did the Farewell Tour earlier in the year and then I retired, but I didn’t like that much! Then summer came along and the festivals started coming in and I thought, well, I’m not too ill and if I can’t make it then the show will still go on. We also played in Tokyo, it had been pouring with rain. We came on stage; the clouds parted and out came the sun.
- You’re known for your love of the Thames Estuary but do you have any particularly fond memories of Yorkshire?
Well, my Mum came from Sheffield. So I remember visiting Aunties and Uncles and I always remember that warm twang I feel whenever I hear “do you want a cuppa tea”.
- BML has a ‘pirates’ theme this year. What’s your favourite fancy dress outfit?
Wilko johnson performs Live at Bingley Music Festival on Saturday 31st August
Tickets are still available but please hurry if you want to catch Wilko. A standard three-day weekend ticket is £45*, with advance day tickets for Friday costing £17.50* and advance day tickets for Saturday or Sunday priced at £30*.Tickets are available online at www.bingleymusiclive.com/tickets or call the ticket hotline 0871 220 0260.
Singer-songwriter, Rupert Stroud has recently released a stunning second album entitled Chasing The Night (reviewed on this very site), a varied and vibrant, often emotion fuelled mix of hook-laden pop, rock and grunge. The abum is one of those releases that you find yourself returning to over and over again, humming the massive choruses hours later, so I thought I ought to grab the chance to speak to the man himself to see how he goes about constructing those contagious anthems, what influences his writing and more.
1. Hi Rupert, How are things with you, thought we’d start with a few getting to know you questions, so can you tell us what you’re first memory of music and did you grow up in a musical background?
I’ve been told, that from as early as 18 months old, I would always nod my head to music and dance around. Then when I learnt to speak singing came naturally to me. I used to love sitting in the back seat of my mum and dad’s car while they played music on their tap player or the radio! I sang along to everything-Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Bob Marley, Simply Red, The Police, The Beatles… ah the list goes on! But also my 2 older brothers were a big influence on my taste in music- Nirvana and Oasis always stood out to me. So then, over 10 years later, when I learnt to play guitar, they were the first 2 bands I wanted to mimic and learn the riffs of! Everyone in my family loved music but no one was really very musical per say-In fact I was the only one out of us 4 boys that my dad DIDN’T encourage to play a musical instrument…and look at me now!
2. Was there any defining moment or artist that first sparked an interest in music?
I’d always loved music and singing and was asked to join the choir at school but that was so NOT good for your rep at school. Also I was a pretty shy kid in my pre teens and early teen years. Around the age of 14/15 I remember watching on TV a recording of Nirvana Unplugged at NYC on MTV. Kurt’s voice was a bit rough and squeaky, breaking at times but the passion in his performance was mesmerizing! To hear those great songs that I’d heard time and time again, blasting from my brothers bedroom while growing up. To be then transformed and broken down into intimate acoustic songs… it was like a small education in music for me. Just that one program! That was THE moment that made me think “I want to learn how to play the guitar!”
3. When did you start performing and writing songs? And were you in any bands before you went solo?
Shortly after learning how to spin off a few power chord riffs and play some of my favourite songs, I started a covers band at school with a few mates but that’s really when I took my first tentative steps into song writing. We enjoyed gigging locally and being known as “the most exciting part of the end of school music concerts”. But when school came to an end , we naturally disbanded and I went on to Uni to study Music and New Media. I didn’t really start performing solo til my last year of uni , when I had to write songs for a songwriting and production module. It forced me to get back into writing and performing again and it kind of went from there. I started attending open mic nights, playing covers and originals and then started getting booked for proper gigs.
4. What were your original ambitions with music and when did you realize you could make a career out of music?
At first , after uni, I saw it as a part time hobby. Something I could do every other weekend to earn some extra cash. I enjoyed performing and having a drink with friends after each gig and meeting new people. When I had written enough songs for an album I went into the studio to record and did my research about how and where to release my music. Putting my music in front of potential fans etc. A lot of people seemed to love my songs…and not just me mum n dad… so it kind of made sense to pursue music as a career. I’m a strong believer in “following your dreams” and “doing something you love”, which a lot of people say sometimes isn’t possible but only YOU can make things happen for YOURSELF. It’s like with everything in life. If you have a talent and you work hard at it, research and open your own doors, you can achieve your dreams…. But it’s not meant to be easy! So I like the challenge the music business brings too!
5. Your latest, Chasing The Night showcases a number of different influences and moods, does this reflect your own musical tastes and did you always plan to write a varied album?
Yes I wanted the album to be as varied as possible and I suppose it does naturally reflect my own musical tastes. I wanted this album to be different from a lot of what you hear these days. You have to be unique to stand out in the music business and I’ve grown so tired of some albums that sound the same. Song after song. I have a “sound” and I think my sound is based on my song writing style and my voice. Like many young artists I probably started out sounding like some other established singers but it was important for me, to find my own voice. It’s also about the way I tell the story in each song.
6. What kind of subject matters influence your writing, are they personal tales or are they more story based?
Most songs are based on my experiences but quite a few are definitely influenced by my family and friends. I draw a lot of inspiration from people around me. Sometimes not even people who I know particularly well. I like to observe the way people behave. It fascinates me.
7. How does your new album differ from your debut (released back in 2008)?
It’s pretty different! My debut was a lot more “pop”, simpler song writing. I was a lot younger and naïve back then. It was a big step for me and looking back, I think I was quite brave to self fund and release an album, when I had so little experience! But I’m glad I did it, I learnt a lot from my ‘mistakes” from my debut. It’s been a real learning curve. And I’ve developed so much as a songwriter since then. Also my voice has developed, I think it’s matured…. I’ve grown up a bit.
8. How has the album been received to date and what are your hopes for the album?
I’ve had a great response so far to the album. It still amazes me how I can get people on the other side of the world buying my album from my website or iTunes. Sales from Europe, the US, South America , the Far East and all over! In fact off the back of my debut album, I even booked a short tour of Hong Kong! I was totally stunned when people turned up at my gigs and were singing along to the choruses, crazy! I sound like my dad but the internet is AMAZING in that way. People who have never seen me live are some of my biggest supporters! I’ve promised many fans dotted all over the world that “I will one day perform in a town near you!” So I need to continue to work hard to fulfill that promise!
9. When did you link up with producer, Will Jackson and what do you think he’s brought to your album?
I linked up with Will in 2008 when I was writing my debut. I’ve learnt so much from the man! He’s a legend! An amazing musician and producer and a very laid back a lovely human being-which makes it even more of a pleasure to work with him! Will brought a wealth of experience as a producer and musician and we both have a similarly eclectic taste in music. Will gave me the confidence to develop my own sound on my second album. I learnt a lot from the whole recording process from Will during the recording of my debut. By the time I went back in to record Chasing The Night, Will and I had developed a real friendship and he understood exactly what I wanted to achieve on Chasing The Night.
10. Can you tell us about your new single, Always (100% of the proceedings being donated to charity) and how you became involved with the charity Alzheimer’s Research?
Well the song is dedicated to my grandmother who died over 2 years ago after suffering with Alzheimer’s for the last 7 years of her life. It’s such a devastating disease and caused my family and I a lot of heart break and pain to see how it destroyed my wonderful Grandma! I wrote the song back around my debut album days soon after she had passed but didn’t put it on my latest album. It just didn’t seem right. I then actually re-wrote the music and modified the lyrics a little to make it into the song you hear today! I then did my research into Alzheimer’s charities in the UK and from what I learnt online, we, as a country, don’t put enough money into research! We desperately need to find a cure! Anyone can get Alzheimer’s and there are already 820,000 people in the UK who have the disease. I contacted ARUK and told them what I planned to do and they have been supporting me ever since the first phone call! 97% of the funding they get for their research is from public donations and private fundraising events like the one I am hosting on 30th June at The Ilkley Playhouse, in West Yorkshire.
I see the “donate and download” project as an on going thing. As my profile continues to rise, so does my work in raising awareness and funds for the charity! It’s become a big focus in my life now and I endeavour to continue to raise money for the charity for many, many years to come.
11. What’s next for Rupert Stroud? Are you planning to tour the album? Will you be performing at any of this summers music festivals?
We’re playing Live At Leeds which will be our first festival of the year and we’re planning a tour of the north of the UK and a few dates to be set for London too! This summer we’ll be visiting cities and towns all over to perform for my great fans! We are always looking for new venues to play so if anyone reading this would like to see us live in their town, please contact me either through facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep your eyes on the website for confirmed gig dates!
12. Thanks for your time, is there anything you’d like to leave our readers with?
Thanks very much for reading –take care and please do check out my official website rupertstroudmusic.com and check me out on Facebook and twitter! But please, above all, find it in your heart to help ARUK find a desperately needed cure for Alzheimer’s. By donating and downloading the track “Always” you are not only contributing towards their desperately underfunded research but in return you are receiving our gift of a really heartfelt song. Thank you and Cheers J x
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