With a sound reminiscent of The Doors, Stone Roses and early Kasabian, psychedelic rock and roll five piece West Of The Sun have played support slots with bands such as The Merrylees, Detroit Social Club, Twisted Wheel and Kassassin Street.
Frontmen Luke Ward and Joe Stratton both hailing from the north of England and singing in their natural accents, provide a kaleidoscopic galloping swagger to the band’s delicately-arranged, often neurotic, compositions. Fusing elements of psychedelia, baroque, spaghetti westerns, trip-hop beats and conventional guitar-laden rock and roll, they have themselves referred to their sound as coming from the ‘big beat manifesto’, and the result is a sound that falls somewhere between Echo & The Bunnymen and Django Django.
Hot off the back of their latest single releases‘Siberian Hysteria’and ‘Trip on a Turntable’ we caught up with the north London band to talk about their influences, achievements and plans for 2016.
Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
We’re good thanks. We’ve just left our rehearsal room where we’ve been demoing some new songs. We’re due to go back into the studio later this month to record some new tracks for an EP/second album.
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
We are a rather unique concoction of rock n roll, psychedelic pop, trip hop beats and I guess modern indie, with influences from Captain Beefheart to Fatboy Slim. If it’s got a good tune and an interesting beat it usually finds a place in our music heads.
What are the 5 albums that have influenced you the most?
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
The Doors – The Doors
The 3 EP’s – The Beta Band
Butterfly House – The Coral
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Which other artists are you into at the moment and why?
There is a brilliant band from Liverpool called The Vryll Society. They’re a bit like the early Verve but more electronic sounding. They have a real groove and they excite me a lot more than most of the other guitar bands from Britain at the moment. Another young band who are certain to go onto great things are Neon Waltz from Scotland. They once asked us to support them but we couldn’t make it – we were a bit gutted. They have a great sound and are fans of us also. Apart from that some golden oldies are doing great stuff at the moment – Iggy Pop’s new album is brilliant and I enjoyed Blur’s album last year and looking forward to the Gorillaz new one this year. The fact Stone Roses are back on the scene is obviously brilliant and we’re all intrigued by the thought of their new album after a 20 year hiatus. David Bowie’s Blackstar is an amazing record to have written at nearly 70! Primal Scream’s new record is great also. Joe from the band has been listening to DMA’s and Night Beats. King Gizzard are cool. Stevie, the drummer loves a band called Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats. I like Kurt Vile’s latest record and also a band a friend discovered called Ultimate Painting – they sound kind of like a modern Velvet Underground.
Are there any key pieces of equipment that you are using to define your sound?
As a guitarist I would say my Electro-harmonix Memory Man delay pedal. I use it so much i’m not sure i could ever go without it.
What would you say some of the challenges artists face today in the music industry?
There seems to be more bands than ever because with the internet you’re exposed to so much. Every single band/artist can have a website, photos, videos, high quality recordings etc. Social media allows everyone to look ‘professional’ so everyone’s basically on the same level at first glance, which is great for the fans but as an artist there’s so much more expected of you now than writing songs and playing your instrument. It’s almost come full circle so the only way to make yourself really stand out from the crowd is to have the best songs. That’s what we try and concentrate on – the music.
Where do you gather songwriting inspiration?
It will be the answer most people give I expect but music, life, films, books, emotions, situations. One thing that’s happened recently (whether subconsciously or not) is the songs have become more political. Some lyrics have been quite purposefully directed at certain political figures, and the music’s got a bit ‘angrier’. I’m sure we’re not the only band to feel a little aggrieved about those issues mind.
Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when put music together?
With me personally usually the music comes first, and I’ll get a little instrumental demo together on Logic or Garageband that I can work with and fit lyrics to, then show Luke and the band. Lyrics I tend to write on the bus or on the train and save in my phone. The others I think write in a more Dylanesque way where it all comes together on an acoustic, sat on the end of a bed – lamenting the times we live in haha. We all write in the band, literally all 5 of us come in with things and often combine ideas. That’s what happened with Siberian Hysteria. Joe had the lyrics and the verses and I arranged into a ‘song’ and put that intro together for it.
One thing I think is consistent with us all is we find inspiration to write music by listening to music. It’s a nice cycle, providing you have enough time to do it! But I feel these days a lot of British bands forget to do that part – the research part really. Keith Richards always said you’re only as good as your record collection. And he’s done alright!
What’s the best gig you have ever done and why?
We’ve done some good gigs recently but I think we’d all say the 100 Club in 2013 was one of the best. We sold it out, it was a blazing hot day in September and it was banging. Queues outside and all sorts. We played lots of new songs at the time, an hour long set, had the crowd singing back at us and it was just a massive buzz at that early stage of the band.
And the worst?
There’s been a few of those as well I’m afraid haha. One stands out at a place called Surya near Kings Cross where we had one guitar between three guitarists… And it was a 12 string! It was awful. Very Spinal Tap.
If you weren’t a musician what would you be?
I literally can’t imagine not doing it. No idea… Luke’s good at surfing and stuff like that so he’d probably be a pro surfer or something. Perhaps we’ve held him back actually… Oh dear haha.
Do you have any particular gigs or festivals that you dream about playing?
Obviously the pyramid at Glastonbury would have to be one. Not really though to be honest, I think we think a lot more about our songs and what we’re doing ourselves than the location or status of the gig. Saying that I watched Sigur Ros play this amazing festival in Iceland on YouTube and it looked like another world. I forget what it was called.
If you could perform alongside any other band or artist, who would it be?
We’ve spoken of our dream to support the Stone Roses since they reformed in 2011. That would be magic. So if you’re reading Mani… Or maybe The Coral would be more realistic at this stage. Maybe… But to support our heroes would obviously be great.
Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects or gigs in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?
Our recently released track called ‘Trip On A Turntable’ is ultimately someone imagining a life spent revolving on a turntable listening to their favourite music. How life can be so insufferable without it (for example a tube journey or a daily errand like doing the washing up) and what often keeps us going is that 4 minute moment of escaping via our favourite tunes.
Musically, it’s certainly the ‘heaviest’ track we’ve done so far and feels like a real fresh approach and departure from the psychedelic pop sound I suppose people would usually associate us with. We wanted to lead this track with drums and bass – really push them to the front of the mix and not concentrate so much on the intricacy of the guitar parts and vocal harmonies.
After this single we have our debut album set for release later in the year and some gigs coming up in Leicester, Manchester and London.