Jodie: guitar, vocals
Paul: guitar, vocals
Although Bullet Union call Camden home and band members can be found propping up the bar at many a local punk rock show, they are difficult to interview in the flesh. Well, I say that – to be honest I didn’t bother trying, instead sending a bunch of questions to frontman Jodie who, in turn, passed them to fellow guitar-slinger Paul for answering. As they don’t say in the sidestreets and backalleys of London’s premier tourist-trap toilet (that’s Camden, obviously), job’s a good ‘un.
With a lot of shows under your belts now, what would you say have been the best live experiences you’ve had?
Without doubt there are two shows that really stick out. The first was the last night at the Underworld, London, on the Q and not U tour, for two reasons. One, we are from all over the place - Exeter, Tokyo, Brentford - but we have all been in London for years now and are definitely based in Camden. So, after playing a bunch of shows around the UK it kind of felt like our hometown show at the end of the tour. A lot of our friends were there and after playing for a week we'd got our shambolic shit together a little bit. Two, for me it was our first ‘real’ show; it always takes about 10 to 12 shows before a new band plays its first ‘real’ show. Although we had already had a lot of fun, it really felt like it came together that night. Then we played the Sant Feliu Hard Core Festival in Spain. We went over on Ryan Air, and played at 9pm. It was our 15th show, and we played to, like,1,500 people. I remember about 30 minutes before we played I was a bit drunk, and I said to Tule, who had organised for us to be there, that we only had six songs (20 minutes), he was like, “Errrr”. So me and Jodie where like, "Shit, we’d better ‘Jesus and Mary Chain it’ between songs four and five!" We went dancing ‘til 5am, drank tequila and ended up in the sea at 6 am. It was Jodie's 24th birthday too - we have a photo and we all look so happy. The festival is totally independent, unsponsored and it was really inspirational to be there, with these people who had organised such an amazing festival for so many people. It’s set 30 kilometres from Barcelona and 10 minutes from the beach on top of this valley. It’s truly beautiful. Honestly, if you have nothing to do in August, GO! I promise anyone that they will come back to the UK feeling fan-fuckin’-tastic! (Festival website.) And, let’s face it, there is something a bit cool about getting on an aeroplane with a guitar, even if it is Ryan Air!
The single was well received – are you expecting a similar response when the album comes out? (Note: the album is out!)
Wouldn’t expect anything. We spent 10 months writing and 4-tracking it, making the most of what rehearsal time we can afford in this town. Being in a band in London is fuckin’ expensive, what with rehearsals, travel, time off work etc. We recorded it with our friend Richie Rich who works at 2khz, which has the old Abbey Road live desk that Pink Floyd did a lot their 60s stuff on. He is the in-house engineer there. Bands like The Kills and Babyshambles have recorded there, but Rich only owns like four records: two Articles of Faith records, a Rites of Spring record and DAMAGE! He's our friend, so we gave him The Sonics, Live at Leeds and some (Drive Like) Jehu records and said, “Like this, but with a bit of Unwound in it please.” He had the whole LP on minidisk before we went in. They gave us an amazing deal on down time, and it’s such an amazing studio with a valve desk and valve mics so we wanted to make the most of the time we had. We did, like, 18-hour days, and we all got sick after. But I think I can speak for the band and say that it’s turned out how we wanted it to sound. I hope people like it, but of course that’s not the reason behind making it. I don’t if there’s any reason why we made it apart from because it’s a lot of fun being in band, really.
The album’s immediacy is staggering – was it recorded in a very short amount of time? Were all the tracks recorded ‘live’?
Think I answered this above, but we really wanted to get the feel of old 60s/70s punk bands, like The Sonics and The Stooges, but we try and write as we feel. I mean, Unwound is a huge influence in what we all used to listen to - the whole thing was, “Let’s try to do Jehu/Unwound/Sonic Youth (Sister-era), but get that Stooges groove in it”. One of my favourite bands was One Last Wish - there are mistakes on that record, bad notes and everything, but its got so much energy. We spent a lot of time in the pub getting drunk and talking about records and stuff, taping each other music... it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed making it, and maybe that’s why it sounds enthusiastic?
Will there be more singles, taken from the album? Just how long to you intend to promote it – shows, interviews, etc – until you get cracking on with new material?
I can’t see us taking any singles off the LP; there doesn’t seem a lot of point. I mean, the vinyl is different from the CD and it’s only £8. There isn’t any point. We really want to go and play as many shows as we can. We’ll play anywhere - people’s houses even – and we have transport (and will travel). Robin and I were in the pub with Lil and Kafren from House Hold Name, and they where like, “You should go play where all the H.H.N bands play. Bands that sound like yours just play Leeds all the time, and it’s bullshit.” They had a total go at us, in a nice way of course, and it was really funny but partly true. All those Household Name bands work really hard touring the UK; bands of our like are often lazy as fuck, aren’t they! I totally get their point, and it really made us think about how exclusive ‘scenes’ can be, so hopefully we will play as much as we possibly can. Mail us at email@example.com if you can help out. We don’t need much money or anything...
Is the songwriting process a simple one for Bullet Union, or are you particularly fussy? Do you spend a long time over each song, however short it may prove to be?
Well it all comes from the pub! We’ll be sitting in the Mixer (popular drinking den on Camden’s Inverness Street), arguing about records as per usual and about what happens during our days. You know, like “Fuck, I hate London… but I love London… this happened… whatever”, and we'll be like, “We should write a song about it. Yeah, and it should have a bit like this. Oh, and you know that Bikini Kill song… I love that bit when this happens”. Then me and Jodie will sit in my front room and kinda go, “Well, I had this idea and that”, and then Robin will try to put a B52's beat to Jodie's stupid 6/9 timings or what ever. I'll be like, “But where's the key change? I want a hook!”, and Kay will come along and go, “That's shit. You lot think you’re so great but you don’t know anything!” We do a lot of re-writing too. We 4-track everything ‘cause we don’t get a lot of time, what with work and stuff. So we’ll get ideas, fuck around with them, tape it and everyone will listen to it on minidisk and then be like, “That sucks, we cant play that bit properly!”
So I guess we spend a lot of time on it, and I think we are quite fussy but everyone has an equal part to play. We try and shape the songs to how we naturally play together and play to our strengths. I like how we never use pedals and the guitars are totally clean. If we want a part to be loud then we have to make the previous part quiet; if want a part to be louder then we have to change a drum part or play a chord differently. I find it interesting, and I think that probably makes me more quite boring, doesn't it!?
Obviously ex-bands helped raise Bullet Union’s profile initially, but are you now at a point with the band where former bands should be just that – in the past? Does it bother you that people are quick to say ‘ex-Dead Inside’ etc etc, or does doing that have benefits, i.e. readers can check out earlier work?
Do they? I am not sure about that. I don’t care about that at all. I mean, when people remember old bands that are ace and they were listening to at the time, and even still care... I'm suprised that Kay's band (Comet Gainn) doesn't get brought up more often, like: “You’re okay but you’re not as good as Kay’s ‘real band’.” Ha ha, she will kick me for saying that!
What does 2005 hold in store for the band? Are there confirmed plans? Tours, releases after the album, etc?
We have lots of plans. The immediate adventure was that we just played in Spain, Sweden, Oslo, and Copenhagen with Blood Brothers. We are playing The Crobar sometime soon, and Bar Solo which is next to The Mixer in Camden, which will be two free shows in one weekend. Hopefully we can make them like an album launch thing. We are also playing a festival in Pescara, Italy, with God is My Co-Pilot and The Red Krayola; another festival near Frankfurt called Summer Slam with Dance Disaster Movement; and hopefully the Vort n Viz in Belgium with Das Oath, but that's still a ‘fingers crossed’ affair. We are doing White Heat at the Infinity Club Mayfair with The Plot to Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, and house shows in Leeds with Luke and Sheffield. Hopefully we will do another single in the summer, with some more covers we have up our sleeves. Mostly we’ll just be playing gigs, so if anyone wants to know where and when then mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What other UK-based bands are interesting you right now? Are there acts playing pub toilets that should really be making some cash outta this game?
Das Oath made the best record of last year, but they are from all over the place! The Unit Ama, This Ain't Vegas, An Emergency, Aggroman (the new Ed Shred band), Capricorns, Geisha, Brown Owl. I want to see what Neil and the rest of Wolves! (of Greece) and co. do next. Silent Front, Navajo Code… I wish Thomas from San Quentin would get his shit together and do another band! Pro Forma from Glasgow. There's a new Comet Gain record out soon, which I can’t wait to hear. Bloody Kev's (ex-Dead Inside) got a new band Shackle Me Not. Tokyo Sex Destruction, but they're from Spain. Lords are really good. Oh, and Soeza are fuckin’ brilliant! I like them a lot, and they’re nice people to boot!
For more on Bullet Union, check their website.