The Columbia Hotel, west London – the establishment immortalised in the Oasis song is heaving tonight. Sharing the bar with only three other people, I and Christopher, elfin-featured front man of hotly tipped Californian quintet The Pattern settle down for a quiet pint. Tonight was the London date of the NME Upstarts Tour, in which The Pattern along with Crackout and Vex Red have been leaving a trail of destruction across the UK.
‘The tour has been going really good. We’re quite different musically from the other bands but we’ve got along really well with all of them. It’s been good sharing a tour bus with Crackout. They like to stay up late, watch silly movies and drink all the beer that we’ve not finished from our rider. Do we have any weird requests on our rider? No. In America nobody honours riders so it’s cool for us to get towels even. We asked for a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine so to even get that is miraculous’.
Are there any plans for a headline tour in the UK?
‘Yeah, hopefully in January. We did our own tour in August and it was really good but at the same time really difficult because it was our first time coming over. We did really good shows and got to play the Reading and Leeds festivals. It’s weird being on this tour because the bands are really good but at the same time it doesn’t feel like you’re playing to people who are necessarily going to respond or understand what you’re about. The three bands are completely different. The people who come to see Vex Red aren’t necessarily going to like us. It’s good in the sense that the different bands have good energy, but I feel like it’s not personally satisfying because we’ve been so used to doing something that’s our own and setting the tone, and we’re not really doing that this time’.
The Pattern are one of the few American bands who have not cancelled their UK appearances following the recent tragedy in the US. Being both a record company manager and artist from the States, it’s interesting to hear Christopher’s response to those band’s actions, as well as a first hand account of the feeling over there.
‘I wouldn’t begrudge anyone anything in terms of what’s going on. The world’s a really odd place right now, you feel like everything you had, any logic, has been tossed out of the window. I’ve been reading the papers over in the States and England and now everyone’s coming round to have a political opinion, but really I don’t. I grew up being into punk rock and having a radical left-wing view about politics but now with everything that’s happened, I feel like that’s been thrown out of the window. People over there are trying really hard to be normal, but it’s just so surreal. I went in to work (Christopher directs US label Lookout Records - see early Green Day material) and I was telling everybody ‘If you wanna go home that’s fine’, and we all stayed around just to be together’.
The Pattern formed in July 2000, originally for the purpose of playing at parties throughout the summer, but as they were offered more and more proper shows they opted to stay together. Having already released the EP ‘Immediately’, there are plans for an album in early 2002, but the intensive touring has left little time for writing. There is no doubt that The Pattern take inspiration from the past, but Christopher cites that their influences are difficult to pin down.
‘I don’t really feel that the things which influence me musically really come out in what our band’s about. My favourite band of all time is the Beach Boys and I love sweet delicate music like Cole Porter, Nick Drake and Jim Belucci. Where I grew up in California there’s tonnes of really great bands, a lot of small local bands who really help fashion my idea of music’. The resulting sound is something which Christopher goes on to describe as ‘petulant rock and roll with poetry’.
‘It’s because I think the vocals are part of what the music’s about, but also sometimes at odds with the music. They’re not about ‘Oh we’re the greatest band’, they’re often a lot more pathetic…and soft…and vulnerable in a way that the music doesn’t portray. That dichotomy is what’s exciting to me about our band because we’ve got this guitar rock ‘n’ roll overdrive mixed with icing on the cake – it’s a bit more soft. It’s a ‘skinny boy’s gonna get knocked over’ kind of sentiment’.
This amalgamation is apparent in Christopher’s live performance. He’s been described as ‘Iggy Pop with electrodes attached to his testicles’ (‘The fact that someone might see that sort of energy in us is amazing’,) due to his lurching and violent outbursts, but then the next minute he’ll be sheepishly sucking his thumb, something that he claims he doesn’t do normally.
‘Playing a show is like a performance but at the same time it’s really honest because it’s putting me on spot and exposing my real self. In normal conversation I’m not a very sensual person, I’m not all whispery and rubbing myself against people but I might be on stage, because that’s a true part of me. Our whole band is about being very realistic and being honest, true people. But at the same time being in a rock ‘n’ roll band it’s appropriate to exaggerate and give a larger version of ourselves, to justify holding people’s attention. I want everyone to have a good time, but I’d like to think that someone could see something a little bit more substantial’.
The new ‘No Caress’ EP is out now through Wichita Recordings.