Obviously we love interviewing the big names in music (Will Sergeant, anyone?), but we’re always going to be partial to that new indie band that tickles our ears. London’s My Sad Captains have been making great music for a few years now and deserve to be included in that Tuesday night DJ set that makes all the kids swoon.
Ed Wallis has one of the best voices we’ve heard in years. Equal parts Lloyd Cole and warm chocolate syrup combine to smother you with a feeling that is familiar and delicious. The rest of the group (Nick Goss – guitar, samples, melodica, Jack Swayne – bass guitar, Jim Wallis – drums, keyboards, singing and Cathy Lucas singing, playing violin and keys) combine to make music that causes you to scratch your head and wonder why they aren’t already on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
We featured them as a ‘Band To Watch’ at South By Southwest, we’ve posted their songs in the past and now we’re fortunate enough to get inside the heads of what ought to be the next big thing.
TDOA: There’s nothing better than a well-crafted pop song. Can you tell us about the songwriting process for the band. Do songs generally start with a vocal melody, guitar riff or what?
Ed Wallis: It’s an endlessly mysterious process, which i guess is what keeps people doing something that can often be pretty frustrating. But generally the songs start with some chords or odd combinations of notes that you hear the start of a melody in, which provides the spark, and then you’re at the races. That often suggests an idea for some words and then it kind of pieces itself together. Once we have the basic shape of a song its open season on what we can do with it in terms of arrangement, changing it about to try and find the most interesting approach. Which sometimes is the less is more pop song and sometimes not. But we are trying to get away from the linear “write a song, arrange it” approach towards something more collaborative, so I think the answer will be different for the next album.
TDOA: You played South By Southwest earlier this year. Can you describe the differences between an American and a British crowd?
EW: It seemed that SXSW pretty much was a British crowd. It was like almost everyone i slightly know in London who’s in a band was there. Which was nice and everything, but I don’t think I quite got a handle on the American crowd; there were still lots of people looking studiously unenthusisatic, which is the standard London gig demeanour.
TDOA: We’ve interviewed quite a few British bands who yearn to play in the U.S. but can’t afford it. Are we safe in assuming that the label helped you pay for the trip and do you think it “helped” the band to come here? Would you recommend it for new bands?
EW: Much as we dearly love our record label, massive funding is not really their style. So we pooled whatever small resources our band has accumulated, ploughed that back in and then went into debt from there. And did things as cheaply as possible. There are grants you can get here to play abroad, but they seem pretty hard to come by. We took a decision that it was worth going broke for, backing ourselves, and hopefully it paying off in the longer term. The jury is still out on that one.
TDOA: Stolen Recordings has quite a few good bands to its credit. How did you become associated with the label?
EW: Stolen was a label we’d been aware of and liked for a while. And then we came to record our album we ended up doing it with Paul Jones – who is one of the people that runs Stolen – because we’d heard some things he’d been doing and it seemed to fit in with what we were aiming for. Over the recording sessions he came to really like it and then the rest of the Stolen crew felt the same way about it and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.
TDOA: You’ve also played with some great bands. Please tell us about your best experiences and the best advice you’ve gotten from those groups?
EW: We’ve been quite lucky in that the two places we play most – The Windmill in Brixton, and White Heat in Soho – always get good bands and sometimes put us on with them. So, this isn’t advice I’ve gotten off other bands but is advice I’d give myself: try and play at good nights with people who like music and like your music. For there are an abundance of shit promoters out there.
Tilly and the Wall was pretty good, because that was quite early on and was the first proper rammed show we’d done I think, plus they were probably the nicest.
TDOA: On your website you mention quite a few current bands as influences, but ‘Ghost Song’ reminds me of Lloyd Cole’s best work. Do you listen to any of the old C86 bands and do they provide an influence?
EW: Quite a few people have said Lloyd Cole to me and I have to say, embarrassingly, I don’t think I have ever heard him and his Commotions. The C86 thing was before my time, and my teenage path went straight from Britpop to the US underground, and its never been a big deal for me particularly. Although I do like the Vaselines a lot.
TDOA: Can you tell us about the recording process for the new record? How long did it take and how much of the record was written prior to going in to record?
EW: It was in a warehouse in North London in the summer and it was so hot the desk expired. All in all it took a fair old while to do – we could have bashed it out in a few days but wanted to spend time on the sound of the thing. Plus we have a tendency towards faffing, and so the basic tracks were done in a couple of weeks, but then there was a gap between doing the basics and then coming back and finishing it off; mixing; then mastering. From recording the first take to actually getting it in a shop was almost a year. Most of the songs we’re written before, only really Hello Bears was new in the studio, but we re-arranged lots of things and tried out different ways of doing stuff, and that tended to yield the best results, rather than the straight versions of what we’d been doing live.
TDOA: Do you prefer the comfort of the studio or the instant gratification of playing live?
EW: In theory the studio, but in practice live. In the studio I have to live longer with my disappointments.
TDOA: What’s next for the band? Plan to come back to the U.S.?
EW: We’ve just done a single off the album – Ghost Song – with five free tracks that we never got finished for the album. The wheels are in motion for a second record, so we are getting excited about writing new songs and seeing where that goes. We’ve got a little UK tour in October/November. We’ve got slight plans to come to the US in spring next year, so we’ll see if that comes to anything.
We generally stick with three videos from the bands we interview, but there is that rare occasion where we’re so blown away by a band, we feel compelled to post more. This is one of those times. Frankly, we couldn’t decide which video to post at the top because they’re all heartachingly wonderful. Do yourself a favor and watch them all, buy their music, make banners and t-shirts professing your love and visit their myspace page.
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