ON THE RADAR
“We’ve been an underground band for many years now and lets just say we’ve been in the ring a fair few times”
With headline festival shows under their belt and a support slot on Lit’s recent 15th anniversary tour, Kentish troopers Electric River are starting to reap the rewards for years spent on the circuit. Headwarmer’s Nick DeLibero caught up with lead singer Sponge to talk inspirations, attention to detail and Pamela Andersons breasticles
by NICK DeLIBERO, July 17th 2014
Hey Sponge, how’s it goin’? Nick from Headwarmer here. We’d like to talk a bit about your band and the colossal new album if that’s ok; which we dig, a lot.
So how did you come together and when did you realize you had something special?
To attempt to cut a long story short – Chris and Will both met at a local music festival called ‘Create’ in Ashford after both moving to Kent from very different places. Will spotted Alex, our drummer, bashing a single snare drum at School in Canterbury. They formed a friendship and then begged Al’s parents to buy a drum kit so they could form a band. I was invited to give bass and singing a go a little while after – the rest is history…
Presumably you’ve all similar influences. What were you listening to in your youth and what was the music scene like where you grew up?
Yeah I guess we had similar influences. We just used to share loads of music around the garage. Will & I were more into Metal/Classic Rock, Chris was the punk guy & Alex was somewhere in the middle of it all. Al had an ear for reggae and other weirder stuff. There was a small music scene in Ashford for about 4 years, which was great at times and probably some of the most memorable days of our early career. It tended to be very cliquey. We didn’t really give a shit what people thought. We just wanted to be a good band and for people to enjoy our songs/set.
There’s a video on YouTube about the making The Faith and Patience, in which you describe how it took just four days to record. We wondered what the atmosphere and dynamics were like in the studio over that period?
Yes- the back bone of the record was recorded live in 4 days way back in April last year and was just a brilliant experience. The band was completely secluded in the beautiful countryside of Devon with no distractions, not even a phone signal. It was very full on and we pushed 15 to 18 hours a day. It all kind of merged into one but it was brilliant for the record. We had a great little team- Pete’s ears, Joe’s vibe and Danny’s commitment to getting the project completed in the given time. We tried to whack out the energetic stuff early in the day when we were fresh and raring to go. As we went into the evening and the band started having a few beers and smokes, we captured the more chilled and intimate stuff. It made for a great working environment, something I’ll remember forever.
Presumably the writing process wasn’t as quick? How did that go and who does the most writing? Which songs challenged you the most as recording artists?
After doing our earlier ‘In Your Name’ EP we started to find our feet and a place the band was comfortable exploring musically. We started to drum up demos with the intention of writing an album. As time past we just kept defining what we wanted to capture on what eventually became ‘The Faith and Patience’. It wasn’t a quick process as we are our own worst critics. We literally go through the ring with our songs. The writing process goes something like this: Will brings a small round or ‘circuit’ (as we call them) to the band which will be the very bare skeleton of a song. They are usually on an acoustic guitar, easy chords, with a tiny bit of melody. The band then starts to work on the idea, everyone adding their parts and figuring out what works well together.
If it creates a spark we demo the rough version live. Will and I then start the long process of writing lyrics (depending on the song, sometimes Will has a very clear idea of what the song is going to be about). We look at subjects and how the song makes us feel as well as whether there are any clues from the musicality. To an outsider it’s probably very boring but it’s our labour of love and we spend as much time on it until we are happy with the outcome. It is a real team effort by the time a song has gone to its final ‘pucker’ demo stage. Many times we have recorded songs 4 to 5 times before deciding on the final version.
Is the album title symbolic in any way, how did it come about?
Definitely. We have been an underground band for many years now and lets just say we’ve been in the ring a fair few times. But that’s no bad thing and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our skin is truly thickened! ‘The Faith and Patience’ was taken from a pinnacle line in the song ‘In Your Name’ which in turn is a tribute to all those around us that have stuck by ER over the years and continue to believe in what we do. It just seemed very fitting and summed up the vibe of the album really well.
We’ve noticed the album has interesting pacing. How did you choose the order of play?
We always had a vague idea in our head about what kind of journey we’d like to take the listener on when we were piecing together the track listing. We tested a few different orders in different scenarios before ruthlessly having to cut things down to make the collection of songs as complimentary to each other as possible. I guess all those long journeys spent listening to other albums in the van really hammered this point home to us.
I checked out the video for ‘Calling Out.’ To me, it’s the perfect combination of art and politics. Can you describe the concept?
‘Calling Out’ is probably the most directly political song on the album & in short was inspired by the overload of information, facts, figures and news we are fed on a daily basis. The song is very cinematic in the way the lyrics are shot at the listener, in that quick descriptive machine gun assault. Being one of the more darker sounding songs, Robin Fuller (Director) came straight to mind. We had seen some of his other work and loved it. We gave Robin a small idea of what we wanted from the video and he totally nailed it. We didn’t want it to be political overkill and still wanted that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ vibe to shine through, so we were really happy with the balance between art and politics.
‘This Garden Will Grow’ is a favourite. What inspired the lyrics for that tune?
TGWG was inspired from growing up in Ashford my entire life. At times I have felt quite trapped and isolated. It’s just a very normal town like so many across the UK (something I have been able to discover being in a touring band). The thing is as you get older, you realise how hard life can be and you start to respect what people have been through to build a life for themselves and their families. So now I’m a young man, I have a love/hate relationship with where I am from and felt it was a good subject for a song. I hope people will connect with it and recognise some of the themes within the lyrics.
Are there any songs that didn’t make the cut, that may see the light of day? I noticed ’32’ on Spotify. Why was that one left out?
We recorded 16 songs in total and ’32’ was put out on iTunes when we released ‘In Your Name’ as the first single, shortly before the album was officially released. We are planning on doing more singles, along with B – Sides. The reason the 4 extra tracks were left off the record is because we felt we had a good collective flow with the 12 tracks we decided on. We didn’t want to fuck with that journey.
How are the new songs going over live? You recently played with LIT for their 15th anniversary of A Place in The Sun. Were they an influence on you in any way and how did those shows go?
The new stuff is being received really well judging by the comments on the songs after shows. We feel we are finally being taken on face value rather than having to over compensate with an over the top performance. The Lit tour was incredible- great to see such loyal fans and for us play to so many brilliant audiences. It has been a real highlight of ER’s career. Lit and their crew were a great bunch, though I’m afraid I didn’t really know that much about them previously, other than Pamela Andersons breasticles all over one of their videos.
You’re scheduled to play the Dover Music Festival in July. Do you adjust your sound or approach to festivals compared to more intimate venues? Which do you prefer?
Not massively. Obviously the adrenaline tends to pump a bit harder if you’re playing a massive stage in front of a big audience. Essentially it is the same 4 guys with the same songs up there. Our blood might be racing that bit quicker at a festival but by the same token the sweat runs furiously at small intimate shows. I love both types of gigs- same songs but generally very different vibes. I love how you never quite know what’s going to surprise you at gigs. Perhaps that’s what keeps it exciting.
Do you have a favourite venue?
I do, but we haven’t played it yet. Hammersmith Apollo has been my favourite for quite some time. I think the sound and layout is perfect for a mid sized gig. I have seen some of my favourite bands there and really hope we get to grace that stage in the future.
What are you listening to when you’re on the road?
A CD that’s been in the van for a while now is a band called ‘Kongos’ (self titled album). They’re big in South Africa and are currently on a big U.S tour with Kings Of Leon. Kongos’ album isn’t officially out over here yet, but when it is, I think it will be a big one! There’s just a shit ton of CDs in our van from Queens Of The Stone Age to Norah Jones and about 7 albums Al bought at a poundshop in Warrington. Safe to say they’re all shit but it was quite funny at the time.
And your favourite releases of 2014 so far?
So far probably ’Til Midnight’ by Chuck Ragan is my favourite ‘current’ record. I’ve always liked some of Chuck’s stuff, but I think the new full band line up works really well. I like the arrangement of the songs and the pace of the album, I think it’s a big step up.
Lets talk about social media, which has become huge for bands nowadays.
What’s your view on sites like Kickstarter and Spotify?
Because I am a fan and collector of music, it doesn’t really bother me. I will buy records and follow the bands/artists. I don’t think it should be a platform where your whole collection of music is stored. I try to think of it like when my Dad would go to a record shop and ask to take a listen on headphones to the CDs he was interested in. If he liked what he heard, he bought it. That’s what I tend to do too. If I discover a band or hear a song and want to find out more, I take a little listen online. If I like it I buy it, or put it on my list of records that I want to add to my collection. It’s a real hard one as it really affects artist’s income, but this is where we are at with the music industry & I don’t think it will change anytime soon.
Going retro, we love vinyl. And they come with digital downloads these days which has to be the way forward. What’s your view on music formats and do you gravitate more towards digital or physical?
Definitely physical. Luckily, I am from the generation of kids that used to save up their pocket money to get the next CD. I loved it then and still do now, looking through the artwork/lyrics/production notes. It’s all these touches that can make an album great. Back at school, even when you got a rubbish album, it still meant that you had taken a CD home, listened to it in it’s entirety and escaped to another world for 45 minutes or so. All my mates would be talking about the CDs they were listening to and bands they have discovered. Such a lot has changed in a very small amount of time, but those things are very important to us. That’s why we spent a lot of time and effort getting the artwork & booklet right for ‘The Faith & Patience’. We wanted to give the listener a real look into the album and have the artwork reflect the vibe of the music. Plus we wanted the album to be more than just a CD, we wanted it to be something of worth.
Outside of ER, what occupies your time?
Unfortunately music isn’t a full time occupation for us yet, that’s the dream to make ER our career. At the moment we still continue to work our day-to-day jobs. When we have free time we try and spend it with our family and friends. Chilling out & travelling. Sorry it’s not more exciting than that!
Can fans expect anything new in the remainder of 2014?
Well we have started work on new material for our next album. I guess it depends on what we work out for the rest of the year. We still have plans to tour the UK and potentially release ’The Faith and Patience’ in Europe and tour there too! We will certainly be putting out some new videos to ride along side single releases, which will contain the B-sides I mentioned earlier.
Thanks again for talking to us. We appreciate honest musicianship, so a big congrats on the new album!
Cheers and thanks for your time!