RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW EDINBURGH BAND THE THIRD MAN
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Luke Westendarp: Thanks very much, I’m online with Dan Wansell and Andy Grieve from the Band, Pete Nixon our Bass player and Sound Engineer is off travelling for a couple of weeks but we’ll fill in for him as best we can.
What made you decide to start making music?
Luke: Fair point, did it work?
Dan: I remember sitting in my bedroom with a guitar at 13 and Nirvana’s unplugged was on and it became a bit of an obsession for me thinking I could write music on my own. I was very determined to make my own compositions. I formed a school band where we only played our own music…
Luke: What were you called?
Dan: Don’t judge.. Postcard,
Luke: That’s actually not bad.
Dan: When I got to Edinburgh I became really determined to really make something. And as soon as we started to play some music I realised I could carry on making our own music and it was something we could do together.
Luke: Yeah, so Pete and I grew up together and when I was about 14 we both got given guitars for Christmas by our parents the same year. And we basically started learning to play completely from scratch. We taught each other with The Radiohead’s The Bens and I think the first song I learned to play was Fake Plastic Trees.
It was really good because we would both push each other. We learned fingerpicking… I think Pete started and said, “look I can play this” and I said “wow, show me how”… And we just carried on with it, it was really fun…
Dan: It was a great decade for music that, we really weren’t lacking in rich options…
Luke: Totally. And what about you Andy?
Andy: I got given a trombone at Primary school… but my best friend Paul had a drum kit and a garage, he was having lessons at School and would show me what he learned.
Luke: So drums was actually the first instrument you learned?
Introduce us to the band and how you got together.
Luke: Well I’ve known Pete since I was a toddler, and he was older than me and went up to Dundee to study at the Art College there and I was desperate to get away from England and followed in his footsteps to Scotland, but I chose Edinburgh…
Dan: And that’s where we met, in first year at the Art college, we quickly became friends and then when we realised we were both into the same kind of music we started trying to write stuff together.
Luke: That’s right and then in 2nd year you went off to Spain for your exchange and I stayed and got stuck into the Edinburgh open mic scene which was where we met Andy, with your old band, what were you called?
Dan: That’s some kind of skateboard move isn’t it?
Luke: Dan you’re so street…
What was the first song you wrote that defined you as a band?
Luke: The first song we really wrote all together instead of Dan and I bringing you guys something we’d already largely written was “How to Leave” (from our first album in 2004)
Dan: We were in Coloursound practice rooms and Andy was able to show us how the structure could work. There was a lot of electricity around actually being together and making the music as one.
Andy: Because there were a couple of songs that just stopped, about two thirds of the way through, and then started again. And I remember thinking that was a really weird thing to do; that was an unusual thing to do with a song structure. Normally you’ve got your verse, chorus, verse, chorus, or you’ve got a standard structure that builds up towards the end. But those songs didn’t do that, and from that unusualness of structure, that opened my mind more to the possibilities for these songs that were unlike most normal songs if you know what I mean.
Luke: The song we’ve maybe played the most does that – London, it’s probably been our opener for every single gig we’ve done since we wrote it and it just stops and then there’s just me on acoustic playing one strum per line and then it rocks back in again… really fun to play live.
Dan: There was almost a kind of obsession with you two, in the practice rooms about dynamics, I remember that really mattering a lot.
Andy: I remember saying to you Luke, in the chorus of Downtime, I’m going to come in like a ton of bricks, and it’s going to sound crazy, but it will work…
Dan: Yeah, and it really did, Andy you really enjoyed stepping back and then just coming in full throttle at the appropriate places.
Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?
Andy: We are at the top
What’s the biggest thing you have learned from other musicians?
Luke: I think the thing we used to talk about a lot is about making an album an Album, and particularly Greg Dulli with both the Afghan Whigs and the Twilight Singers… there was such a structure to all those albums, where you know where you are. Particularly the last two songs are pulling together everything that’s come before and are, you know, building up to this big climax. So it’s either this big climax in the penultimate song and then a nice little sort of digestif afterward just to kind of settle you down after. Or it’s the other way around and it’s building you up to this epic finish. There were a few other bands that did things like that but I don’t think anyone ever did it quite as well as Greg.
If you could wish for one thing to aid your career what would it be?
Luke: Guitar techs, so we don’t have to worry about tuning up on stage to all the nonsensical tunings Dan writes in…
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about?
Dan: I have a syndrome…
Luke: Ha! That’s right, half of your body grows faster than the other, what’s it called?
Dan: It’s called – after the three men who discovered it: Klippen Trelawny Webber Syndrome, don’t look it up on google, you’ll be horrified…
Andy: I’ve been on national TV more times than I can remember.
Luke: Oh yeah, because you’re like the doomsayer aren’t you… maybe we shouldn’t elaborate on that.
Andy: Yeah, just leave it at that…
Luke: Brought in on national TV to be the doomsayer, OK, nice.
Luke: I was going to say, my thing is that I’m taller than the tallest man on earth. You know that band The Tallest Man on Earth, I should probably look up how tall he is, but yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m taller than that guy…
Dan: What shall we say about Pete?
Luke: He’s just texted me saying he’s currently the 45th best Tetris player in Amsterdam, so there’s that…
Actually I’ll tell you one thing that people are always surprised about when they hear our music. Which is that we aren’t really sad depressed people with tortured souls, scorned in love… We’re actually all really happy with good, stable relationships.
Andy: Maybe we’re all just living out our alternative realities where we got divorced in our late thirties…
Luke: It’s like that Oscar Wilde story: A Picture of Dorian Grey. We’re like the Music of Dorian Grey.
What makes you stand out as a band
Andy: I think that coming from Art College, both you guys Dan and Luke, think as deeply about the imagery and presentation of the songs as you do about the songs themselves and how they are perceived and digested and that’s something that I think that’s a bit different from other bands.
Dan: Yeah that’s a good shout. Because we both had a similar sort of training, but Luke you were always a really good shit screen, you’d be very quick to say that’s not quite good enough, but the point is that made me more determined and we definitely pushed each other.
Luke: Absolutely, I think if there’s one thing I’ve added to the song writing process it’s the editing, and saying “maybe not this line”
Dan: Or maybe not that chorus or that chord change…
Luke: And in this latest album Somewhere to Leave, Pete did some brilliant work on that as well. Because we were all really excited about the song When, and I remember after we got the drums on it and we were all like “This is amazing”, and Pete didn’t say anything on the group chat and then he called me and said: “I’m really sorry, but I’m just not digging this song. I just don’t like it.” It was something about the rhyming structure being really boring and so I said, well give me something better then. And so he came up with that extra section that Sophy does some vocals on in the final version. But I also then re-wrote some of the other verses to get rid of a lot of the repetition. And it really worked.
It’s like Iron sharpening Iron with us, we don’t let each other get away with something we don’t think is good enough.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it?
Luke: Yes! So we have a new album coming out on the 27th of July called Somewhere to Leave, and the single – What She Wrote is out this Thursday the 7th. It’s like a series of vignettes about leaving.
Dan: Luke, I think you’ve always been into giving people a little window into lives and talking about leaving in it’s various forms.
Luke: It’s kind of our thing… This album is perhaps a lot gentler than much of our live music though. There’s a lot of strings and layered vocals and loads of guitars weaving in and out of each other.
What was the recording process like?
Luke: We started work on this album at the beginning of covid lockdown in the UK so it was all done remotely.
Dan: I would be recording guitars into my phone app and then sending them over.
How was it for you Andy?
Andy: In a practice room you can try something without any real risk. Whereas recording remotely, you can’t really change things without a lot of effort.
That was the negative thing. The positive thing was that I would go to the shed, put headphones on. And I would probably be in a completely different head space when I went to put parts down. And that probably helped me come up with some drum parts that were perhaps a bit unusual.
Luke: Yes, and that’s what really makes some of the tracks – particularly the single we’re promoting at the moment – really special because there’s this drum part that is just off the beat. And it was really interesting trying to mix it. I had a lot of back and forth with Pete to try and work out – where’s the 1? the first beat in the bar. And that kind of thing is what really makes it.
I was like this big octopus in the middle taking all the stuff you guys sent me and putting it together. And when I would receive a really cool drum part it was like – Yes, here we go, this is suddenly changing it and making it really good.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
Luke: For me, I learned production from scratch using Ableton.
Dan: I learned how to make good takes, remotely. Some bits could be chopped and changed but some bits just had to be perfect.
Luke: Yeah there were a lot of tracks I had to send back to you during the process.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
Andy: I would love to hear what they sound like recorded all together, live. That would be a very different album, maybe not better, there’s somethings that we’d have never been able to do in that context.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Check out the art book we’ve made to go along with the album. It’s available to download with the album Bandcamp or iTunes, it’s got all the lyrics with the art for each song and we’re really proud of it.