I Was A Cub Scout have been steadily attracting critical praise and the affections of the nation’s more discerning followers of bands classed both ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ for a wee while now. One of this site’s tips for 2007 (click here), the two-piece are just about to release their fourth single, and third for XL imprint Abeano, ‘Our Smallest Adventures’. Oh, and they also play at DiS’s end-of-summer party. Not got a ticket? Get one.
The twosome – Todd Marriott (synths, guitar and vocals) and William Bowerman (drums, vocals) – also have a series of September dates planned – scroll to the interview’s end for details. DiS caught up with Todd ahead of tomorrow’s DiS show to talk about their forthcoming debut album and more…
Hey, how's tricks? Feeling refreshed, ready for some super touring in September? How did Reading and Leeds treat you - win over some new fans? I saw you on the telly, a studio performance from the festival. How do you find those, awkward?
Hello my friend. All is great. We are excited to be hitting the roads again, should be nice. Reading and Leeds were both great, and we played to full tents at both festivals, which is kind of weird but amazing at the same time.
That session (for the BBC) was very nice. It was far too hot, though, and we could hear the singer from The Used telling the crowd repeatedly that they were motherfuckers and that they should get the fuck up. But it was cool, really, and it was another positive out of the weekend. We’ve come home and, along with Reading and Leeds, that television appearance is all I’ve been asked about. It’s such a small area... the response has been very positive.
'Our Smallest Adventures' (review) is single three for Abeano, and four overall - how's that album progressing, and just how much existing material will make the cut? Are you happy with how the singles to date have been received? With each release, do you notice any swell in live attendances?
I’m not sure. The ‘I Hate Nightclubs’ (review) single didn’t do as well as we would have liked. We really like that song but because of the mixed response it’s not going on the album. ‘Pink Squares’ (review) is the single people seem to be most fond of, and it was originally a b-side. After that some people didn’t take to the ‘…Nightclubs’ single very well.
I don’t know what people expect of us, but there was obviously something people didn’t like with ‘…Nightclubs’. They both helped in different ways though, which is great, and got us places we didn’t expect to see. This new single has been so far taken very well – it’s got much more radio play and the whole campaign leading up to the release has been the most successful to date. It’s my favourite of the three Abeano releases to date.
Live, I haven’t really noticed a swell, but I think next year when we do headline tours again I might see something.
And the album…?
I am so so so exited about the album. I am an 18-year-old boy who should be working at the frozen isle in Morrisons. I have succeeded in everyway I’d ever hoped and I am going to have an album that I made with one of my best friends and that is going to be amazing. We recorded eight new songs and three previously released, so we’ve tried to keep it fresh. I’m pleased with how it sounds so far – we’ve still got to mix and master most of it, then record vocals on a couple tracks, but the process was great and we are both very happy.
When touring, are you able at this point to select a few choice supports? They've been fairly mint to date, Dartz! and the like. Is it important to you to present a good bill at your live dates, rather than just 'bend over' and take whatever a booking agent suggests?
We love Dartz!, but that tour was an odd one. But we love their music and it helped us all realise that Thursday are still very good.
We choose most bands, but we will support most bands, to an extent. We are touring with a band called Kill Hannah in September, who we are nothing like us but I guess to their fans we will be something different and hopefully that will help us.
We try to have a mixed bill. Our tastes our pretty eclectic so we will have some pop-punk bands with us, like Tonight Is Goodbye. Then more diverse bands, like Rolo Tomassi, who we adore and will be touring with extensively next year.
I don’t know if it’s sometimes what people who like us might like to see, but we love it and that’s all that matters to us. It’s obviously better if they are in to it, though.
Is variety on a bill important, too, both from a band's point of view and that of the audience? Being the type of genre-spanning act you are, have you been shoehorned onto a few odd bills? Are there any bills you've totally turned down due to who else was confirmed?
We don’t really turn many shows down. Long Bennington is a very dull place and I will escape it at every possible chance. Variety is always good, but as I said it may not be what they – the audience - want to hear. We have played odd bills, with big names and small names. But shows with bands like Babyshambles just seem pointless and degrading – getting called a cunt, a sailor boy and being told to fuck off for half an hour is not worth any of my time.
But, we like to play shows and will try do play anywhere and for anyone.
Back to recording: is it tough forming layers enough as a two-piece, or does the electronic element to your band allow you to flesh out songs in a way that few ‘traditional’ two-pieces can? Is there a temptation to go TOO far, ever, as surely the possibilities when you're using banks of synths and laptops, etc, are near enough endless.? How do you know when a song is done, fin, end, etc?
It’s an odd one. Some of our songs will have three synthesizer layers, others nine, or whatever. But we haven’t yet reached a point were we can’t play the songs ourselves. My sequencers can only play up nine parts anyway, so that’s the furthest we go. We try make it as sort of 'real band'-sounding as possible. I’m far too fond of delay and reverbs and currently Rock 4 delay pedals for my guitar, so we have lots of echoes and loops in the background which all helps fill it out.
The end comes as soon as a song sounds thick enough in our ears. Some songs are nice and frail and thin, but others we’ll pack with a stupid amount of stuff. We are really excited about playing the album tracks, but we’re going to leave it a while as we want to get them perfect live. We get complaints that sometimes we sound full on record but too thin live, so we are going to get things good for us and hopefully that’ll mean it’s good for everyone else. It has become harder on newer material as we don’t want to use laptops for any of our electronic sounds. It’s a petty thing, but I just don’t want to use something I send e-mails on as my source of sound.
Do you feel any pressure at all regarding the album? Debut records these days come in for a great deal of scrutiny - whereas years ago a first album wasn't the be all and end all of a band critically (just look at Radiohead!), nowadays if the first album's not a success, favour turns fairly rapidly. Are you keen to make an impact commercially with the album, or does the desire to make a record that reflects where you are now take priority? Do you think IWACS have a particularly commercial sound?
I’m not too sure. There are some songs on this album which are very poppy and what I would find easily accessible. My lyrics are just about me, my 'lovers' and my old friends who are hooked on drugs. And I guess a lot of people can get into that, because that is all that’s going on for them, too, for people that like us. So that is easy to get into, I guess. But we have not done anything we don’t like, and that we would just do for success. We love our songs a bit too much and have probably listened to the album through about 50 times each, and it’s not finished.
Commercially, I don’t know. We want to be a popular band but we won’t sell our souls. We aren’t a Fall Out Boy sound-alike act, or a Hard-Fi-style band, so the mainstream may not suck our asses. Who knows...
It would be surprising if we became superstars, but if we do I will buy you any meal you wish that day Mike... anything... anything. But I don’t know how people will take it. I’m not worried, I’m just exited to have a record.
As a new band - and a young band at that - where would you say you're drawing influences from, primarily? Are there bands whose material you feel you've channelled in some sense, or do you not hear the odd nod in your songs to date? Are you ever intimidated by acts you meet at festivals, etc? Do you get all fanboy-ish??
We really like lots of different bands but we love what we would call emo. Jimmy Eat World are my favourite band and I guess we draw influence from their melodies and music. I like to play octave chords a lot. I like Orchid and bands who were in that ‘90s scene, which was probably when I was five or whatever. We like the epic nature of post-rock bands, so you can sometimes hear that. A mix of things, really. We both really like drums, so there are lot of different influences for William.
I don’t get too fanboy-ish any more – I find it a little weird now. I’ve got to try to look cool, man! But William took his nephews and I took my brother and sister to meet Fall Out Boy and Lostprophets, and they loved it. The only way I would get fanboy-ish is if I met Jimmy Eat World, although William got really fanboy-ish when he met Walter from Rival Schools. That was mint, though.
What's in store post debut album? Are you already thinking on to album number two, or has the experience of making the first put you off at all?! Will you be releasing standalone singles in the future - non-LP tracks and the like? Are you, yourselves, collectors of such things, and do you have an opinion on the physical vs digital debate? Can you imagine your songs not being released in a physical format?
We will try pull downloading down. It’s not good. There’s no art, there’s nothing. It’s bad for music as an art form. But, our singles come out on download formats too, so I guess that’s what a lot of people want. But I will not download bands, as I like physical records. Therefore I don’t think we will ever do download-only releases – there will always be some sort of physical format.
I don’t really know what’s going on after this album. We are still writing like we did for this album, but we need a break at some point. There are ideas floating around but we won’t start thinking about it until next year.
And tomorrow’s gig - excited? I AM! See you there…
I am excited, yes! It should be great. We love Dartz!, Youthmovies and Russian Circles and it’ll be nice to hear Eugene McGuinness. See you there my friend, and thanks for the interview.
‘Our Smallest Adventures’ is released via Abeano on September 10, and is available digitally a week earlier. Catch I Was A Cub Scout at DiS’s end-of-summer party this Friday, August 31 (full details). Alternatively, check them out at one of the below dates (further gigs listed on MySpace, here):
19 Newcastle Academy 2
20 Glasgow King Tut’s
21 Manchester Academy 3
22 Oxfordshire Truck Festival
23 Birmingham Academy 2
24 London King’s College
25 Bristol Academy
26 Southampton Joiners
27 Colchester Twist