Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide to start the band?
Eileen: It all emerged gradually over time around me wanting to develop my songs and bring them to life. I had been the singer in a few originals bands in the past and just found the whole process of creating and sharing songs as a collective of people as adding a touch of magic and excitement to life. With the encouragement of Ashley (rhythm guitarist) and his connections with musicians he had met through a 60s band he had created our band evolved organically. The band in essence was born through gradually embellishing the songs and a growing belief among a small group of us that they had the potential to be appreciated by an audience.
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?
Eileen Wattam: Singer-songwriter-I bought a guitar and a chord book and started writing songs in my late twenties. Before that I had been in four different bands as the singer and had also written the melodies and lyrics for existing tunes in two of those bands. I had piano and violin lessons at school but never got that far with it but it helped me a little bit along the way as I occasionally write songs using my keyboard.
Ashley Wattam: “When I was around 17/18 I wanted to play guitar to be able to busk. I learn most songs parrot fashion and I guess the internet has helped me in many ways to continue doing just that. My Dad bought me an electric guitar tuner and I bought my first decent 335 style guitar, an Antoria from a music shop in the arcade at Dewsbury and I’ve been strumming ever since.” Ashley started a 60s band in his 30s and it had been a bit of a dream for him to be in a band. When I met Ashley he encouraged me about my songs and started strumming along and from there we started taking them to folk clubs and open mics.
James Alexander: We all tend to call him Jim in the band. Jim has been playing the drums since being at school and has spent much time helping with stage productions and often being the drummer in the “pit”. He has also played drums with brass bands, when the regular drummer has been unavailable. He also started playing guitar whilst at school and played with other schoolmates to perform as a band both on guitar and drums in school halls at lunchtimes or after school. In later life he has been in an array of covers bands from pop to blues and 60s music and he also started up his own originals band in the past. Jim originally started playing drums with this band as a favour and decided following a gig when he has depped as a drummer for us that he would like to try out on guitar. He likes the opportunity to be creative with Fishing4Compliments and I feel that the lead guitar parts that he creates are a major part of our distinct sound.
Steve Dyson: “I began playing the guitar accompanying myself singing at age15.Within a few months I was answering adverts in Melody Maker and wanting to move to London.” Steve never did move as he got a job in a music shop “Here I met loads of musicians and experimented playing on tons of instruments, which was fun. By 17 I was in my first serious outfit and at 20 I moved over to playing bass guitar in a band with some friends. We wrote our own songs and played any venue that would have us.” Over the next 10 years Steve; played in various covers bands, learnt the basics of home recording, undertook a music technology course, moved to Denmark and played in a band in Copenhagen. When he returned home he resumed writing and playing in more bands around Yorkshire. “I met Ashley and I stood in on a couple of his 60s band gigs and played on some of Eileen’s early demos…and I’m still here, so I must be doing something right…or else they just couldn’t find anybody else! “The process of song development and putting together ideas to form a coherent song has always fascinated me and I enjoy that side of playing in a band very much.”
David Sharp: David has informed me as a result of this interview that he is a classically trained percussionist having performed with “the likes of Moira Anderson, Kenny Baker, Jimmy Edwards and Brighouse Brass band.” I never knew about this before now but when he arrived to audition for the band when our original drummer decided to move to pastures new about 3 years ago with an array of percussive instruments we immediately knew we wanted him in the band. David always seems to have a new piece of percussive kit when he turns up to a gig too and I love that. He describes his musical history further as “Drummer, loud, post-punk, indie/grunge rocker, age 20 – 46. Percussionist, quiet, calm, controlled, indie-folk/pop-er age 47 to present. In other words I’ve finally calmed down ☺”
It’s been a bit of a wild last year, how have you guys managed to pass time and stay sane during lockdown?
Eileen: Lots of walking and finding undiscovered local walks; writing songs to deal with emotions, making little videos with Ashley (now my husband) to upload to our band page or online open mics and getting to grips with online performing. The people that have asked us to get involved with online gigs and the audiences that joined us for such gigs have also really helped massively with keeping me positive. I also found tuning in to The Dunwells daily live gigs they started from the beginning of the lockdown really good for keeping my spirits up. A friend of mine also offered some free zoom yoga classes in the early days which I found really beneficial in helping to keep me calm. I have made a couple of new friends too through sharing my songs online which has been lovely and some older friendships have grown stronger through meetings for a coffee and a walk. I have kept thinking all along that I feel really lucky to live where I do as there is so much countryside and nature on my doorstep and it is that and music that has helped to keep me sane really. We were also lucky enough to have a few outdoor gigs last summer as a trio version of our band which really helped keep me sane too as I was really missing the live gigging the songs. Ashley’s either been working or tinkering with model trains. I can’t really speak for the others but I know they have all been working most of the time throughout. David and Ashley are keen cyclists, Jim’s got lovely Jack (his dog) to take for walks and Steve’s been clearing out his cellar, helping to contribute to a book someone is writing about one of his previous band’s and experimenting with some new recording software. In recent months as the band have started to get more radio play I’ve become a regular listener to a number of internet and community radio stations which has also really helped to keep me going and my spirits as there are some very lovely radio presenters out there with lots of enthusiasm for supporting independent music.
How positive are you feeling now we are in 2021?
As a band I think we are feeling pretty positive as we are all still enthusiastic about the future of it all and keen to get back to live performance and we have the recording of our second album to look forward to. We also now have a few bookings for outdoor gigs over the summer and a winter gig booked in so things are looking up. We have sadly lost a couple of the pubs we used to be able to rely on for regular gigs and a great atmosphere so in some senses it is like starting again. We hoped the recording of our debut album might help us get onto the line up of more festivals but it’s got even harder this year to get into any festivals that are actually going ahead this year so I think we are going to have to keep that goal for 2022. I personally worried the band may fall apart as the guys might realise they didn’t really miss it but they have been very reassuring from the start so that makes me very hopeful that we will get back to having fun as a band in the year ahead.
How has 2020 effected your mental health?
I can’t really speak for the rest of the band but for me in some ways it has strangely affected my mental health in a positive way. Before all this I used to find anything and everything to worry about and always had a lot of health anxiety in particular and then when there really was something major to worry about I strangely found more peace within myself. Like a lot of people the way in which the whole world calmed down made me tune in to other things like the birds singing. Our neighbour’s twin cats started visiting our garden too and somehow little things like that felt quite magical and peaceful. As I have family in London and Ireland and we used to go to Cornwall a lot to see friends we had made through the local music scene there I used to be in constant state of packing to go somewhere so in some ways an enforced inability to travel has given me a chance for a much needed rest though of course I am really keen to see everybody again though. The creativity and comradery of the band is really good for my mental health so I’ve really missed that but it’s really helped that I know they are still there in the background ready to get back on the road again. Also, though not necessarily consciously, my song writing has always been intertwined with my mental health and has always helped me through difficult emotions so in 2020 a fair few songs flowed and helped me through.
What advise would you give other artists starting out?
As long as you’re loving it and have faith in your music keep on keeping on and don’t let the tough gigs put you off and just view them as a learning process. Over the years we have learnt much about the places and spaces that our music may be best suited to. Also don’t assume the audience aren’t interested or enjoying your show when you are on stage when they maybe don’t have the reactions you are expecting as I have felt that way a few times and then people have come up to me and said how much they enjoyed it. If things go wrong on the technical side know that is all part and parcel of live music and people will understand for you. Build up connections with local musicians and bands and start experimenting with your live sound through support gigs and local open mics which are in particular a great way to experiment and build up connections and links with music venues and pubs. Also Ashley says purchase your own PA system as soon as possible so that you can be in control of a sound you are comfortable with I would also say don’t let the whole social media side of things affect your confidence or cause you to start comparing yourself to others and remember you have your own unique sound and you will find your audience and as long as you are enjoying it other people will enjoy it too.
Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
I am not keen on questions about the song writing process / what comes first the lyrics or the music simply because I find it so hard to describe.
As an experience group / collective, drawing on your experiences, how does the industry feel today compared to 5 or 10 years ago?
From my perspective as the person that manages every aspect of the band the main change that stands out is the impact of social media era on the whole process of booking and advertising gigs and sharing our music. While social media and the digital age of course does have its positive sides as evidenced really in this whole lock down situation I think there are added pressures that weren’t there before for band’s like ours and aspects of that whole side of things that mean you can get caught up in the whole comparing yourself to others thing which can affect your confidence and self esteem. Also as a worrier I spend a lot of time mulling over how to word things on social media and then have a slight stress feeling when I press send and that can make me long for the days when you just put a poster up in the pub to advertise your gig. I don’t think the rest of the band feel like that as they don’t really engage in that side of things which is actually really good for me as they are a constant reminder of why we doing it all-because we love it and when other people love it too in the audience where ever we are that is all that really matters.
What’s your favourite song right now from another band currently on the circuit?
As I am writing this a band from Leeds called Kinaara have just released their first single ‘Lang Aaja’ from their debut EP and I absolutely love their sound.
What support is out there for new artists in Huddersfield?
We have found the vibrant and supportive open mic scene in Huddersfield to be the very best way to start getting gigs and building up support and this is how we started to get opportunities to bring our original music to some really great community feel live music pubs in the villages around the town centre. There are some really cool live music venues with great sound systems in the town centre too that we still hope to get to showcase our songs within one day and we very much hope they are able to keep going through these uncertain times. Just before the lockdown we got lucky enough to secure our first gig at one of them and the sound and lighting was absolutely amazing just like what you would expect for a really prestigious gig. For those starting out with original music too there are opportunities through an events company in the town to get involved in showcasing material through community events and going on to play at large events such as the Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival on a big stage with again a great sound system. There was a great cafe bar that was really supportive of us from day one really that unfortunately made the choice to close last year so it’s all uncertain right now but there is a strong live music vibe in Huddersfield and the surrounding villages and a local music scene, once it gets going again, ready to support and encourage new artists.
Who is inspiring you at the minute on the Huddersfield unsigned scene?
Alternative Folk singer-songwriter Robert Sharp has always inspired since the start of my band’s journey really. He was kind enough to support us on a couple of occasions in the early days of the band and that really meant a lot to me as I have great admiration for him as a songwriter, guitarist and singer.
What useless talent do you have/ party trick?
Ashley “well I can change a guitar string during one song and have done so on many occasions, without taking the guitar off.” Jim likes to put his glasses on wonky and pretend he is drunk sometimes which is quite amusing but you maybe have to be there. He also says he likes to “tell a few good jokes.’ The rest of the band and me are struggling to come up with anything in answer to this one to be honest ☺
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
Eileen: I feel like we always have fun, that’s why I love it so it is hard to pin point one particular gig. I think the answers from the rest of the band pretty much sum that up: “I always have fun on stage with Fishing. I do enjoy the banter between you and Jim, and some of the things Ash says that you can’t hear ☺ Quite like it when the audience can hear me but not see me, in little places usually” (David); “Probably when someone else is giving you a lift so you can have a few drinks ? ! ☺” (Jim); “Most fun on stage is when it all goes right” (Steve). Ashley reminded me that the music trains we have played have always been full of laughter and that “eating pizza together at a festival and travelling around to gigs as a unit is great” and adds “if you’re talking joy from impressive gigs, then the spiegletent in The Piece Hall was one” (more about that later).
What was the worst experience on stage?
Our worst experience on stage was when we had no monitors, we couldn’t really hear ourselves at all and the sound was clearly very poor for the audience too and it just all ended up feeling really embarrassing. We did another gig where we were told a PA system would be provided and it turned out to be as Ashley puts “no more than a kids karaoke amp”that was another embarrassing one as the audience were just looking baffled.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about?
I would say people would be surprised to hear that I was once the lead singer in a thrash metal band and wrote the lyrics and melodies of a couple of songs for them. Ashley says people would be “surprised just how long Eileen devotes to this band every day.” Ash gets emotional at heart-warming dramas/ movies and has reported enjoying seeing rabbits sunbathing while on train journeys. Jim considers himself to be a better drummer than a guitarist and is a quarter Latvian. Steve has related fun, cute stories about feeding and roaming time with his little fury animal friends (gerbils and a rabbit) and Ashley says “You’d probably be surprised David likes pork pies, he seems too nice! He is our spiritual guru.”
Whats your biggest achievement as a band?
The day the CDs arrived for our debut 11 track album ‘Off The Isle Of Somewhere’ it hit home just how big an achievement it was. We had been playing many of the songs on the album for years so it’s definitely our biggest achievement and then to go on to be nominated within the Best Folk/Acoustic Act as part of the Radio Wigwam online radio awards 2020 as a result of the songs from that album felt quite something. Being asked to be the opening act at an event called Loafers Presents: Thank Folk it’s Christmas in 2018 organised by Loafers Vinyl and coffee shop in a beautiful spiegeltent in The Piece Hall in Halifax also felt like a major achievement. The event was beautiful with a great sound and headlined by Chris Helme of The Seahorses and the band had been the soundtrack to many of my memories in my late twenties. I shared a house for a while with a guy who used to play ’Love Is The Law’ over and over on his electric guitar on his bedroom and I was thinking I would never have dreamed that at the age of 49 I would be the singer songwriter with a band supporting him. Merrymaker also played just before Chris Helme whose members include Dan Sealey the former bassist and songwriter with Ocean Colour Scene another band that was the soundtrack to an era in my life so that added to the amazing feeling of it all as did the fact that one of our fellow local bands ‘Birds and Beasts’ who are doing really well on the local scene where on the bill too. I also love Ashley’s answer to this one and I know we all agree “Just playing the music together and enjoying our company and our quirky outings is the biggest achievement” and of course when the audience enjoy themselves wherever we may be or however many they may be in number, that always feels like a huge achievement.
What makes you stand out as a band?
I feel personally like the band work some kind of magic on my little simple songs and we do have a sound that feels quite distinctive to us. A lovely lady called Sue who has been kind enough to support the band since our early days wrote this comment recently “The songs and melodies of Fishing4Compliments are unique to them and are instantly recognisable as theirs” and I like to think that is the case. It was fun to read the response of the rest of the band to this one: “I guess we’ve got a unique sound-vocally and musically and Eileen’s funky dress code” (Jim); I think we are all quite different. Diverse is a good word, musical tastes, backgrounds, ages, other bands we’ve played in, which is what makes us stand out as a band musically”(David); “Strong songs, clear vocals and good harmonies. We have quite a diverse and eclectic mix of influences which we tend to combine. Drawing on these multiple modes and different inspirational styles we attempt create something of our own. If this sounds over complex, the resulting sounds are not really as we don’t like to over complicate things. The various influences emerge as a harmony here, a guitar sound there, a percussion part on a verse or two and a rousing chorus that people may remember when we’ve all gone home!” (Steve); “We are all enjoying it, we don’t get over serious. We also practise regularly and I think people often pick up on that we know what we are doing. Eileen often alters phrasings etc and we can manage to pick up on it and work around it” (Ashley). David also mentioned that the band photographs taken by Jason Hanson as part of our debut album photo shoot helped to give us a strong image and I really thought he did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the band.
Whats your favourite song to play live and why?
I was interested to find out the different answers from the band on this as it was a bit of revelation for me. Personally I am not sure I have a favourite I love singing them all with the band. Here are their answers to this one: “Probably Drunken Tree-for the anthem and it’s a great song for a big crowd too” (Jim); “Probably Shell and Mystic Moonlight are my favourites to play. Why? Because they are strong songs with good melodies and they have been in our set for years and stood the test of time I suppose” (Steve); “My favourite song to play live from our album is Mystic Moonlight for the “wall” of percussion, although I can’t play it all live I can play a different element each time. Oh and Dave Dunwell and his shaker masterclass is there should he ever wish to join us live.” (David); “Presently Tomorrow Who Knows, as we think it’s a great festival tune, but they’re all great to play live. Wild Bird in the open air at the Huddersfield Food & Drink Festival is a very memorable and there are many more great ones to come.”
I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?
Eileen: ‘Drunken Tree’ is song five on our debut album ‘Off The Isle Of Somewhere.’ The song began life when a friend of mine, who is also an fine art photographer, sent me an image of a tree which she entitled (un) drunken tree and that just got me thinking what a great title for a song and sparked feelings and emotions associated with the concept. As with many of my songs I find it hard to say exactly what it is about because it’s about a highly personal journey and also I do like to think people can relate to the lyrics in some way and take their own meanings from them. At live gigs I just generally tend to say “this is a little song about temptation.” We particularly love the production of this song (by Joseph and David Dunwell of the Leeds Indie Folk band The Dunwells) and feel like their little touches of creative magic including adding to our backing vocals really enhanced and elevated the sound and vibe we wanted to achieve.
How was the recording process given the various restrictions the UK has been under of late?
We recorded the album before the restrictions came into place. We did have dates booked in to start recording our second album last year but we had to postpone given the number of us in the band. We weren’t keen to look into recording remotely as we wanted to experience the recording process together as a band as we did with this album as that was half the fun of the whole process and a good for band bonding too.
What are your plans for the year ahead
To record our second album as Steve says “we have lots of songs as yet unheard and plenty we don’t play very often so it would be nice to get those out” which we again plan to record with The Dunwells. We also have a story video in development for one of our songs ‘Mystic Moonlight’ that some friend of ours just chose to start working on during these times, which was lovely of them, so we need to all meet when we can to work on that and we are really keen to develop a video for ‘Drunken Tree’ sometime soon. We have plans to get some more live performance videos filmed this year as well and here’s hoping to get back to doing plenty of live gigs and hopefully get on the bill of some nice quirky, community feel festivals.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Just our music, we would love our songs to reach more people as we hear we have an uplifting sound. Also you are never too old to start a band and follow your dreams.