On a cold winter night in North London, we meet with hotly tipped indie pop beat combo The Wave Pictures before their gig at the Islington Bar Academy. Counting Jeffrey Lewis, Dean Wareham, Darren Hayman and Herman Düne as fans David Tattersall (vocals, guitar), Franic Rozycki (bass) and Jonny 'Huddersfield' Helm talk to us about their inspirations and what it's like to be finally getting recognition after years of obscurity.
How would you describe your music?
David: We're a guitar, bass, drums trio in the rock and roll based vein of Chuck Berry, Velvet Underground, Dire Straits, Hefner
Franic : "We Like E Minor and G. And a few other chords"
Where do you see yourself in today's music scene?
David: We see ourselves as not really fitting in to it. We don't really see ourselves as part of anything other bands are doing. We listen to old music, we're not especially interested in what's happening now, just because it's happening now.
Franic: We're just pop really.
Is there anyone around now that you see as your contempories?
David: There's a band in New York that are kind of our contemporaries by virtue of being also not contemporary, they're called The WoWz. They could have been around at any time, not just now. They're not really related to anything else going on.
There's loads of bands around we like now like Emmy The Great, Darren Hayman, Matthew Sawyer and The Ghosts, Slow Club, Jeff Lewis, Stanley Brinks, Herman Düne. We like all these people, but it's not a scene in the sense of you would mean a scene.
When did The Wave Pictures begin?
David: It's a little hazy, but Franic and I started playing music together when we were 16. We were in teenage bands that just did covers of Mudhoney songs and The Stooges. The drummer sang "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges and me and Franic made a lot of noise and then it kind of turned into me writing my own songs, but it only really became The Wave Pictures when Johnny joined on the drums.
So you've been around for quite a long time now. How does it feel to suddenly start getting recognition?
David: Mmmm, it feels a little strange. In some ways it's really good as more people hear your music but in other ways it's very strange as you start to realise how stuff happens, how it's all about who you know.
Franic: We haven't really started do anything different, but we moved to London to get more recognition and we just did, so it kind of worked. We're still playing the same music and we're not doing anything different. We haven't changed our clothes and we play the same songs that we've been playing for a long time.
Dave: We change our clothes occasionally!
Franic: You know what I mean!
David: We haven't changed our wardrobe
Jonny: I've only just got a wardrobe!
You've already put out six albums worth of material on CD-R, but have only recently been signed. Did you ever feel like giving up?
David: No, not at all. Because it was fun, and we'd sell it people at shows if they liked it. There was no sense that it was something not worth doing because it wasn't getting recognised. Making albums is really fun. The right way round is to making an album because it's fun and then worry later about what people think.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album? Is it going to be re-recorded versions of your old songs or new material?
David: I think most, about 70% of the songs haven't been recorded before and maybe about three of the thirteen it might have been possible someone would have heard on one of our CD-Rs before, and it's still recorded live.
Franic: It's still recorded live, but in a studio this time instead of on a 4-track on our own. It's not really glossy. It's the same songs, we didn't want to change the songs.
David: It's not lush at all, it's got scratchy guitars
You seem to have several close friendships with some well respected musicians, such as Darren Hayman & Herman Düne - how did they come about?
Franic: We e-mailed them, gave them CD-Rs at gigs. Herman Düne we went to see at Leicester Arts centre which was a really small show and we'd just recorded our first lot of four track recordings and we gave them a CD-R. Later they e-mailed us and invited Dave to play with them. Dave heard Jeffrey Lewis on John Peel and he e-mailed him and Jeffery wrote us an e-mail back saying he'd already heard us as Herman Düne had given him the CD! We sent Darren a CD and we ran into him in Bethnal Green, where we live
David: Our favourite three indie bands, when we were teenagers were Ballboy, Hefner and Herman Düne. They were the three people we really liked and the three people we really wanted to give CDs to, and we'd just give CDs to bands we liked. We didn't send CDs to promoters or DJs or record labels, and we didn't understand why we didn't get asked to play gigs or played on the radio or signed!
What inspires your lyrics? They can be both very personal and intimate, but also very surreal, such as "A statue is a statue, and marmalade is marmalade. But a statue of marmalade is still a statue".
David: It's a mixture, it's just going to sound really pretentious when you talk about lyrics, but I always just really like writing lyrics, I like playing around, I like the sound of the words, and, this is really pretentious, but I like the gap in between the sound of a word, and what the sound means. I don't like poetry, but I like the kind of lyricists that get talked about in that way. I really love Bob Dylan's lyrics from the mid 60s like "Blonde on Blonde", I love Tom Verlaine and Television's lyrics. When I was little, my dad had a Television record, "Adventure", and he would sing things like "She put on her boxing gloves and went to sleep", and Stephen Malkmus singing stuff like "Heaven is a truck that got stuck on the freeway", things like that, and the Silver Jews. I just really like those songs that throw up those sorts of images, that don't maybe make a conventional sense. I never set out to write a song that's a piece of autobiography, and I never set out to write a song that makes sense all the way through, I throw things up just to amuse myself as I'm writing the lyrics. I'm just trying to have fun. What inspires me is the songs I like. That's the short answer, I really like those sorts of songs.
You have quite an unusual style, referencing yourself quite a lot, such as "Strange Fruit for David", "David is a monster"
David: I like it when Jonathan Richman sings "Jonathan, Jonathan " or whatever, I like it when he sings his name, and it's like a real reggae thing to do as well, to sing about yourself and create your own mythology. And it really backfires on you, because people think you're arrogant or being self indulgent or they think all your songs are about yourself, which also isn't true. Again, it's just something I like.
One of my heroes is Bo Diddley. The first record I bought was Bo Diddley and the first song on it was called Bo Diddley (sings) "Bo Diddley gonna buy you a diamond ring" so you just want to go "David would buy you a diamond ring". That's the reason you write songs. The first song you hear is "Bo Diddley buys you a diamond ring" so you write "David buys you a diamond ring.", and you're just really happy as you've just done the same thing that someone you like has done. It really is that simple
and finally, a lot of your songs reference fruit. The important question is, what are The Wave Picture's favourite fruit?
David: The banana! Hands down, no question! Jonny Helm?
Jonny: Errr the Clementine
Franic: Something like a strawberry or a kiwi. Or a blueberry, I've just discovered them.
David: That's three! You can't have three!
Franic: I can't decide
David: Make a decision and stick to it!
Franic: Ahh yes I'm going to stick with the strawberry.
David: There you go, you have the banana, Clementine and strawberry, the Wave pictures favourite fruit!
The Wave Pictures were interviewed by Martin Hills, and you can catch them playing live in London a lot during the next couple of months. Check out their myspace for details.