Following a set at the Bull and Gate, Drowned In Sound meet Koala for the second time following claims by Gaz that the band are ‘better to talk to face to face’. In an effort to find a suitable place to conduct the interview, a step outside is settled upon.
‘It was the pain of having to eat cow dung everyday.’ Drummer Daniel is beginning to explain the reasons Koala was formed. ‘Yeah there was that!’ continues Gaz, ‘We sorta always hung around together – it sorta happened. It was kinda by accident really.’ Although Martin sites Bon Jovi as THE reason he decided to become a singer, ‘When I was eleven I bought ‘Slippery When Wet’ by Bon Jovi and from that moment on I wanted to be the singer in a band.’ Following the ensuing laughter Martin defends his choice, ‘Yeah, it was amazing! Not now though, when I was eleven yeah, a long time ago.’
The band have been established for five years ‘going in Birmingham and Lichfield for a long time and no one noticed.’ ‘Well me and him’ Martin adds indicating to Gaz, ‘started playing together; sorta going down rehearsal studios just as bass and guitar and singing and making up songs fucking years ago, when we were seventeen or something and sorta kept doing it and we got all these hangers on.’ Tim, Martin and Gaz all grew up together as Tim goes on to explain, ‘We grew up playing our stuff to each other and got into music together because of that.’ ‘So we kinda acquired musical tastes’ adds Martin, ‘and then it just sorta happened, almost without us talking about it.’ ‘The thing is’ muses Gaz, ‘it’s the only job we could do where we could still hang around together and carry on being bell ends! I’m not a bell end, it’s just them ha ha.’
Playing pyscadelic power pop, it would be easy to make comparisons with a band such as the Super Furry Animals, which unsurprisingly enough is a big influence, ‘At the moment Super Furry Animals cos it’s all I’m listening too hehe’ says Tim proudly. ‘Definitely yeah’ adds Gaz, ‘Super Furry Animals lots now… but er...’ ‘When we started’ explains Martin ‘ it was more Husker Du, Sugar, the Boo Radleys’ ‘and money’ adds Daniel. ‘Definitely money was a big influence’ agrees Gaz. ‘We thought there’s money in this game’ ‘and we were wrong!’ stresses Tim. ‘We were wrong yeah’ concludes Gaz. ‘We haven’t actually made any money’ he continues, ‘we’ve probably lost thousands so we were wrong there.’ Gaz concludes more succinctly: ‘In terms of musical influences we’re quite eclectic. Tim’s always been more into electronic stuff – Aphex, Black Dog, Plaid, Autechre. He’s also a massive Bjork fan. Whereas Martin listens to loads of hip-hop. Right now he’s been listening to the Outkast album and Dre’s last album and he’s well into Tom Waits. I’m into lots of old fogey stuff like the Beach Boys, Love, the Beatles, and Husker Du. Daniel’s into great musicians really. His favourite band is the Beatles but he loves The Band and loads of classic stuff as well as jazz and all sorts.’
Due to the cheery nature of Koala’s melodies it may be possible to write the lyrics off as shallow. But what subject matter do the band write about? ‘Martin writes his songs and I write my songs’ explains Gaz, ‘and Tim writes music…’ before Daniel retorts, ‘Tim and I are never allowed to have any songs because I’m crap at it, but they don’t know that because they’ve never heard one of my songs. I often say can we play my song and they say, "oh we have no time, we have to do the set" so…’ ‘He once wrote "The Little Girl From Switzerland",’ jests Gaz, ‘and we’ve never done that, not yet anyway. We might sorta move into that, maybe later on when we’ve got an Alpine Horn (laughter). That’s what we need first.’ ‘Gaz’s failed love life, that’s what we have to listen to,’ insists Daniel, ‘Gaz’s failed love life.’ ‘Yeah that’s totally it’ agrees Gaz. ‘It’s personal and not’ explains Gaz. ‘The last mp3, "Time To Say Goodbye", was about that Russian submarine and being inside that.’ ‘Gaz is telepathic’ adds Daniel. ‘It does vary. Martin’s more specific’ concludes Gaz. ‘I try not to listen to the words as it affects my playing. We just don’t talk about it!’ stresses Tim.
Over the past year Koala have had a particularly good response and increased following, so what do the band make of this. ‘About bloody time’ snorts Gaz with Tim adding ‘Not good enough’ due to the duration of the band’s existence. ‘We got lots of response in the beginning’ Daniel says by way of an explanation,’because we had an advert out KOALA, but people thought it was kebab. People calling what we thought was for the band, but they thought we were take away!’
Following the move from Birmingham to London, Koala have definitely benefited, ‘It’s a lot more fun down here’ insists Tim before Daniel stresses, ‘London has benefited!’ ‘Yeah London has benefited from us’ guffaws Gaz. ‘It benefited Daniel as well cos he doesn’t have to drive to Birmingham twice a week’ concurs Martin. ‘Yeah Daniel used to have to drive to Birmingham’ continues Gaz. ‘And I don’t actually have driving licence or insurance’ insists Daniel, ‘so it was always a little bit of a difficult and dangerous thing.’ He doesn’t even have a car’ adds Gaz, ‘he used to steal one every week!’ It’s at this stage that Martin’s phone goes off leaving cries of ‘You can’t do that in the middle of an interview’ from Gaz. Daniel tries to explain Martin’s behaviour, ‘It just shows what a disruptive band this is. We want to work and technology is always you know girls, grandmothers, children, pets, our pets, our pets, our pets!’ Finally confirming that no one understands what Daniel is talking about, the interview is resumed regarding London benefiting the band. ‘Definitely’ drawls Gaz, ‘cos in Birmingham the thing that benefited us was we lived in a shithole that was falling down.’ Worse than New Cross? ‘Yeah’ snorts Gaz. ‘Far worse’ adds Tim. ‘Where we live in New Cross’ argues Gaz, ‘is beautiful, it really is. We actually live near the college in an underground cave.’ Tim agrees, ‘In a funny way it reminds me of Birmingham. It’s a lot like Birmingham. Grim but friendly.’ ‘It’s like Martin Carr said’ says Gaz, ‘it’s the only place you could move to that was a lot worse than Birmingham. But we love it. It’s great. It’s just becoming the place to be. Blossoming.’
Sitting outside the Bull and Gate after a band as popular as Koala have come off stage is possibly not the most intelligent place to conduct an interview. Having not given it a second thought, suddenly the band is bombarded by fans with banners and wee koalas. However everything once again resumes; how gutted were the band about losing out on the Astoria gig supporting Dodgy? ‘We were gutted on missing out to Toby Slater’ says Gaz. ‘Oh no come on’ argues Tim, ‘I don’t want to slag off Toby’. ‘No I don’t want to slag him off’ explains Gaz, ‘but we weren’t fans of Catch!’ ‘Although I bought ‘Bingo’,' says Tim sheepishly. ‘I DID buy ‘Bingo’,' he continues this time more defiantly. ‘You know when you buy a single or record…’ ‘And regret it for the rest of your life’ jokes Gaz, ‘and then a week later’ continues Tim, ‘you think "What the fuck was I doing?" It was one of those.’ ‘You got it out of the Woolworths bargain bin surely?’ questions a deluded Gaz. ‘I can’t remember actually’ stresses Tim, ‘but I did give it away.’ ‘He seems a very nice man’ says Gaz more succinctly, ‘we’re just not keen on his music. But it wasn’t bad at the end of the day, we went to the party and that was good. Enjoyed it.’ ‘And Gareth snogged him at the party’ jokes Daniel. ‘Yeah I snogged Toby’ quips Gaz. ‘Actually no No! We can’t put that in!’
At the minute Koala are playing "lots of gigs". ‘We’re gonna try and get in and record maybe four or five new songs at some point’ concurs Tim. ‘The usual way we do it is to do loads and loads of stuff at home cos we all live together so it’s cool we can do that and then take it in at the last minute to the studio and do it in one or two days; get it all down.’ ‘The problem’ muses Gaz, ‘is we’ve got no money.’ ‘Give us all your fucking money’ bellows Tim. ‘It’s a very good cause,’ insists Gaz. ‘We could do a lot with it honestly. Just wait and see. So we’re kinda stuck really…’ ‘We’re not stuck’ stresses Tim. ‘We’re not stuck’ recedes Gaz, ‘we can do stuff but we can’t do album stuff cos it’s too much.’ Although Koala have been unable to record new tracks independently of late, the band contributed a track to an online album featuring the likes of Martin Carr and Lorna. ‘We’ve done a new track for that’ says Gaz, ‘but it’s not one of ours. We had to do a cover version.’ Tim continues, ‘Of an American band. The way the album works is you get British bands covering American bands and American bands covering British bands so we chose ‘American Music’ by the Violent Femmes. Starts off like Spiritualized, then you’ve got three minutes of glam and then three minutes of techno at the end.’ ‘I went to America last year’ explains Gaz, ‘and met Victor from the Violent Femmes, who used to be the drummer, and he was a very nice man and I thought we should do that because apart from the fact he’s a very nice man it’s a brilliant, brilliant song.’ ‘And it was perfect for the album’ continues Tim, ‘because the album’s kinda about mutual respect between America and the UK so it works.’ The whole album is available to download from www.excellentonline.com as Tim explains, ‘It’s just an online release. You can download the tracks and you can download the artwork.’ ‘We’ll probably real world release it ourselves’ ponders Gaz. ‘I think the deal is a month. It’s online for a month and we can put it out, so you can write to us and we’ll send you a copy.’ ‘That’s the kinda way we sell singles at the minute’ stresses Tim. ‘The trouble is’ quips Daniel, ‘we’ve given them the masters so we can’t cut anything out.’ ‘We can do a sorta skiffle version of it’ says Gaz. ‘I’m after that’ grins Tim. ‘Skiffle techno is big in this summer.’
And following "virtual albums", what do the band make of the infamous Napster? ‘Oh god I fucking love Napster’ insists Tim. ‘It’s just an arse it’s broken,’ drawls Gaz, ‘it’s just unworkable so um Audiogalaxy, that’s what we use and we love it.’ Tim outlines the band’s preference of audiogalaxy over Napster, ‘I’ve found tracks on audiogalaxy that I could never find on Napster.’ ‘It takes a bit to get used to’ deliberates Gaz, ‘because everyone’s so used to that kind of interface. It’s different, but in some ways it’s better because you can download half a track and get cut off and next time you come on it downloads the rest of the track, fantastic.’ ‘Stereo’ by Spooky Tim insists proudly, is a prime example, ‘can’t get it on Napster, can get it on Audiogalaxy.’
However, ignoring the furore regarding Napster and the copyright infringement of mp3s, what do the band consider the importance of the Internet, especially for new bands? ‘For us it’s been brilliant’ says Gaz. ‘It helps new bands because we’ve got nothing to lose’ adds Tim. Gaz, suddenly very animated argues, ‘It helps ALL bands. It’s bollocks. The point is that Metallica have a shate load of cash anyway. It doesn’t detract from people buying a product; people still want to buy a product.’ ‘I’m very disappointed to hear Tom Waits has just become one of them recently’ says Tim ruefully, ‘because I like Tom Waits. What was that mp3 thing about? Which one is it ‘Downtown Train’?’ ‘Yeah I like that’ concurs Gaz, ‘He’s suing mp3.com because of ‘Downtown Train’ being available.’ ‘I’ve lost a lot of respect for old Tom’ continues Tim. ‘I think it’s [the internet] making people’s tastes broaden. I’ve got stuff now I’d never go out and buy because of the risk involved and you can’t be arsed and all this sort of stuff. Now you can just get to hear it. Then you go shit and you find out stuff that you like so I think it’s a very, very good thing. But I’ll think that till the point we’re signed.’ ‘Yeah when we’re signed,’ quips Gaz, ‘it’ll be a different matter. You can fuck off, you’re not bloody touching our music!’
And that’s it. Being the popular band they are, Koala are confronted by more fans and propositioned to have a makeover in a teenage magazine. A band for every occasion? Quite possibly.