Interview and Review by Chloe West
Photo by Simon Bamford
Following the Stoke Sounds review of Exit Calm’s debut album, the band kindly answered a few questions for us to share with you lovely lot...
First off, the debut LP is a great recording and is constantly on my biscuit player....awesome! Can you give SS a brief resume of the band, i.e. when and where you formed for those who may be new to the sounds of EC?
Scott Pemberton (drums) - Me, Sime and Rob had a band together before this one but we parted ways with our singer, but as musicians we wanted to carry on making music together, I don’t think we wanted to be in a band with anyone else. Although we had elements in us from our last band we wanted to make something new and be a different band. We auditioned singers for a while and Nicky was one of them, and with no disrespect to any of the others, he was leagues ahead of anyone else and he joined the band. I think he had been in the band about a week and we got a call saying we were going to
, I think he must have thought we were taking the piss! It kicked us into shape quicker than we would have normally got it together and through one way or another we agreed on exit calm as a name and it stuck. Japan
How does it feel to be compared to the Verve, Roses etc... and having the label of the “best new band” at the moment?
Simon Lindley (bass) - The best new band tag is not for us to say, it’s for other people to say with obviously supreme taste. Getting compared to the roses and verve is always a compliment to us. We've never denied the influence, how could we? It’d be pretty lame of us to deny it. It just gets a bit tiring when it’s all reviewers have to say about us, but I suppose it’s better than being compared to early learners krautrock like every band with big guitars at the minute. All we're saying is there’s a lot more in there.
Exit Calm are a real collective and it resonates from within to create your music. Rock music seems to have lost its edge, and many feel more focus is on image rather than the music itself. What are your views on this?
Nicky Smith (singer) - I suppose it depends where you look. If you are talking about bands like 'the drums' then I would agree. They reek of stylists running around them telling them to "put this shit top that's too small for you on and try these tight jeans on.” I think with them though the whole 'stylist' thing has run onto their music as well. They sound styled to me. I understand that people are hearing catchy tunes and melodies you can hum along to, or whistle whilst you're getting bummed by the tax man. But as a great man once said : look away, take a big deep breath and then look back at them. Piece of shit. That's all it is. Nothing more!
Your music to me is a fusion of some great, influential bands; can you highlight what your influences are and those that who inspire you?
Simon - Its like i said with the influences question, there’s more to it than the obvious, but not many people are gonna recognise dark star or campag velocet in us ‘causes they weren't mainstream. The stuff we listen to is always a wise range, bands like the House of Love, Shack, I am Kloot, to stuff like Underworld, and early Chemical Brothers. We mentioned the 3 labels Mo'Wax, Creation & Factory as we think its sums up where we came from as a band. Those 3 labels put out the music we were passionate about when we were all getting into music, from Oasis to DJ Krush, and there’s shedloads in between.
Where do the ideas for the music come from - are they from jamming or from ideas initially from acoustic s sessions and the band bringing in ideas?
Scott- Our band is a democracy so nobody tells anyone how it has to be. We can get an idea from anyone in the room and then we get parts that we like and shape the songs that way. Sometimes someone has a set idea for the way something should go and it’s the others job to try and do that justice, then when we jam around the parts our personalities come through and I think that’s one of the things that shape us and give us our sound. Sometimes tempers get frayed but it only because we all care about what we do.
I mentioned your “wall of sound” in the SS album review how do you achieve that? How do you replicate that on stage too?
Simon - It’s just natural to us. Obviously the wideness of the sound comes from Rob, but it’s all done live. To be honest with the sound it was a case of how to record it properly, not how to replicate it live. It’s a letdown when you go see a band and it’s all sequenced and done off backing tracks. For me it takes the humanity and instinct from it, so there goes the soul straight away. People don't believe us when we say it’s all done live, all you've gotta do is come see us when our amps get moody or decide have a nervous breakdown mid song and then you'll realise the sounds some from us. The only thing we do that takes it away from being basic is that Rob plays about four guitar parts at once, so that sometimes means four amps. We all know our dynamics and we use volume. Not just crank it up and hide behind noise. Just ‘cause it’s loud doesn't mean it’s good.
The music industry seems to be in meltdown at the moment do you find it difficult to get your music played on radio or other media, how do you reach that wider audience?
Rob Marshall (guitar) - The music industry being in 'meltdown' has brought about some positives to be honest...The old factory days of do it your self are been born out of it-like the reason Tony Wilson put a label together in the first place was to create an outlet for all the Manchester bands that the majors didn't give a fuck about. I think it’s a time for the underground scene and the independents to really soar again. There’s already evidence of that happening.
In terms of radio, it’s a bit of a fucker...it’s always gonna be difficult for a band that’s main focus has nothing to do with fitting in between the confinements of main stream radio. We've had little bits here and there but nothing major....The last single we did was 6 an half minute song edited down to about 30 seconds, and still, "it’s too heavy", " it’s too dark", "no strings on it"...You can’t win! Its gonna take someone to really go out on a whim and just play it cause they're in to it..Disk jockeys with balls and confidence. Not many about...well a few but their more interested in red carpets and Pimms and lemonade than music. The best thing to do is just get on with making music and let our manager Richard Hawkins worry about that.
EC seem to have strong links with Echo and the Bunnymen – I surmise they have been extremely supportive of you and you’ll also be hooking up with them again for the Tramlines festival , how did that relationship come about?
Nicky - The strong link is that we have the same agent, but yes apart from that they have been very supportive. Will put Rob in touch with someone in America straight away for a particular sounding tiny amp, that Rob now uses a lot of the time and I think that has shown a mutual respect between them from the off. Just to get the support was amazing anyway. There were and still are a lot of bands with much higher profiles than us who would kill to support Echo and the Bunnymen, but we got the nod and it spurned us on. Each one of them was absolutely sound as well. We heard a lot of bull shit before meeting them, but now in reflection that is created by the people surrounding them. As soon as we all met them they put an end to all the crap straight away, each one of them was down to earth, genuinely good people. It's a bit shit to mention age, but I don't care because it’s the truth. I think for Mac to be doing what he does now and still be one of the coolest bastards around is a lesson for every idiot out there, because that's how you do it isn't it? He is a diamond.
As a local online site Stoke Sounds supports local music and beyond - any advice you can give to bands and artists who may be setting out or seeking a wider audience?
Scott - How do you give advice to bands without sounding like a wanker? I only know our mentality. We know bands that played their local pub week in week out but you have to make sure you don’t get used to family and friends coming to every gig just for the safety that brings. We used to see the sense in going further a field and sometimes we'd turn up and there would be nobody there or sometimes we would catch a hand full of fans and they would stay with us. I think its learning to take the rough with the smooth that a lot of bands can’t do. I’ve seen bands play to 5 people and walk off stage half way through their set ‘causes its a shit turn out, I remember that happening and just thinking if that’s all the respect you've got for your band you should fuck it off now lads. Then you get the nobheads that get narked ‘cause the stage isn’t big enough or there set was cut a bit ‘cause another band run over then they try and kick off at the promoter. All anybody ever thinks of them is that they’re wankers and to steer clear of them or not give ‘em a gig in the future and they don’t know why.
Nobody owes you a thing and the only way to gain reputation is to get your heads down and earn it. If you can’t do that, go and get a different job.
Finally are there any plans for Exit Calm to play in Stoke in the future?
Rob - First time I was in Stoke, I was in a place called The Talbot. The man behind the bar was Dog Ruff and the toilets smelt like a disease...Sugarmill with Sunshine Underground was the last one and we had a few tech problems, the usual, pickups just dropping out of guitars and amps switching them self on and off...so, yeah we'll be back to resurrect our selves soon ;)
A jaunt up north later and the StokeSounds team arrive in
Barnsley for the band’s highly anticipated home coming gig. The venue, The Civic, open for just open a year, is plush to say the least, and certainly not your typical surroundings for some rock and roll lovin’. Prior to Exit Calm’s arrival, support Dogfight Revolution brave the stage. Hailing from the ‘industrial wilderness’ that is Wolverhampton, it is easy to see why the headliners chose this act to warm up the punters. Spaced out, psychedelic guitar compliments Tim Baker’s raw vocals, manipulating their vast range of influences. Third number Have You Forgot Who You Are, has a Death Cab For Cutie air about it, with its bassy beginnings, while Easy Life echoes the hypnotic beats of Spiritualized’s Come Together. Dogfight compliment EC’s sound to a T, cooly combining Ashcroft vibes, melancholy tinged lyrics, and big riffs before the Barnsley boys release their full on assault.
As the band file on stage, tension rises; frontman Nicky Smith paces around, arching his body in preparation for his delivery. The room is barely lit, eerie to a certain extent. Even though this is home soil for the lads, and the Civic is top notch, you get the sense that this sound would fit more aptly in a close knit, sweat dripping venue, rather than the vast assembly rooms. Kicking in with You Got It All Wrong, the effect is immediate. Goosebumps. The band must surely find the Verve comparisons tedious, as guitarist Rob is no McCabe rip off, and even though the similarity is obvious, EC emit their own unique sound, an evolution from the 90s space rock era rather than a replication. The set tonight consists of a complete album play through, meaning their loyal fans know exactly when their favourites are about to kick, and reaction is most seen for past single Hearts & Minds. Its raucous opening unfolds into an anthemic body, and the song, like the rest of their set, exposes the bands passion, direction, and union with their music. They combine Northern swagger, with serenity; confidence with calm. Quite simply, Exit Calm provide a sense of escapism. It turns out that venue is irrelevant here, EC are mind blowing whatever the surroundings. Catch it while you can.
A big thank you to Exit Calm for their time and thoughts.