The Whip are from Manchester and they enjoy a good party. Consisting of one-time Nylon Pylon members Bruce Carter and Danny Saville, the pair spent months in the cellar of a pub in Salford crafting an array of electro-dance-rock tunes after the collapse of their old group before finally, with bass player Nathan Sudders and drummer Lil Fee in tow, re-emerging from their bunker rechristened as The Whip.
The resulting choice of noise is apparently making waves because they’ve already put out a single on French indie/dance/fashion label du-jour Kitsune, while also earning a spot on one of the label’s popular Maison Kitsune comps. They’re now signed to Southern Fried Records with a new single, ‘Sister Siam’, out this week and a debut full-length scheduled for spring 2008. DiS recently caught up with the entire band backstage at London’s Astoria 2 to talk about their past, their music and what it’s like to have a one-time romantically linked rhythm section.
You’ve been on tour for quite a while now and don’t look set to stop anytime soon. How’s it going?
Danny: It’s been a steady increase in fun as we go along.
Anyone’s nerves starting to strain?
Bruce: Actually, I was doing MySpace the other day. I got up yesterday morning and I stopped and I was like that (makes his hand shake). My hand was shaking. I don’t know if that was from typing or from touring (looks to rest of band). What do you think it was, exhaustion?
Fee: I think you had the shakes.
Danny: I think we’ve all at some point, because we’re so worn out, come down with something all of a sudden.
Fee: I’m still slightly ill.
Do you ever fight with each other while on tour?
Fee: Well, no, it’s kind of good because we’ve spent so much time with each other. It’s inevitable that we just… none of us even take a moment to think before we speak, but none of us like take it to heart or anything like that, you know what I mean? But at the same time we’ll, you know, if we’re doing a gig or whatever, we’ll have a hug and be nice to each other.
Danny: It really is just like a lot of brothers and sisters where you squabble every now and then but you have love for everyone, you know what I mean?
Fee: It’s literally turned into like…
Danny: Our family. I spend more time with these guys then my girlfriend or my family. This is so much intense than anything else.
Fee: Yeah, and the fact is you’ll make more of any effort to be nice to your girlfriend then…
Fee: Or me. And likewise, you know what I mean?
How have the crowds been?
Are you finding yourselves playing to only younger, new rave loving indie kids?
Danny: It depends on the gigs.
Bruce: We seem to get a split of people. They’ll be indie kids of a younger age depending on the type of gig it is. Then we’ll get an older generation who are into acid house music…
You get old ravers?
Bruce: Yeah, yeah, you get that kind of thing. Then you get people sort of like mid-20s or whatever.
Danny: I think it depends what kind of gig or club it is. When you go quite late like tonight then the audience is a bit older as well.
Fee: Well, you get a clubbers sort of crowd. You don’t get the old clubbers but you don’t get the kids. You get like mid-20s. It does cross all boards, which I really like that about it.
Do you find you always get the same reaction?
Danny: No it’s different, the kids go more mental.
Fee: The kids go crazy…
Danny: Older people act a bit cooler.
Bruce: It’s funny like some gigs we’ve been doing it’ll be kids throwing glow sticks at you and you have to sort of work for them to get a response out of that. And the next time you do it it’s just like a bunch of zombies looking at you.
Fee: And slowly but surely with every song they start moving just a little bit more. Some gigs they don’t let kids in. For the 14 to 16 ones it’s weird, because you can sometimes see a split in the crowd where they, the 14 to 16 year olds, are going totally mental and the older people are standing more in the back.
Danny: But people are generally dancing more. I mean gone are the days when people turn up to gigs, stand there and are too cool to dance. They are moving about.
Fee: What we always try to do, what we really want is people to dance and get into it. So that is why we’ve always sort of done lots of club night gigs rather than showcases where there is like three bands. A club night type of thing where the crowd is there to dance to whatever is on, whether it be a band or a DJ or whatever.
Bruce: I think it’s just like a big family barbecue and we’re the meat…
Danny: (Laughs) You’ll find, generally that we’re full of metaphors, and meat and food gets involved quite heavily in the metaphors.
You’re a hungry band.
Nathan: (Laughs) This band is starving.
Bruce: We are actually hungry, we haven’t eaten all day (laughs).
You have a new single out this week, ‘Sister Siam’. Any grand expectations for it? Or are you just praying that at least a few people will like it?
Danny: It’s on limited release. 12”, 7” and digital only. It’s not coming out on CD.
Are you hoping that it gets played in clubs?
Danny: It’s to reach out to people who buy 12”. It’s to lead up nicely to a new single in the beginning of February and then the release of the album in March. It’s all to lead into the whole campaign. The record company had an idea of it, as they always do, to release it like that…
And you’re happy with that?
Danny: Yeah, it’s cool.
You’ve been labelled dance-rock, dance-pop, electro-rock, techno-rock, and so on. Is there any one hybrid moniker you’d rather be known by?
Danny: It’s whatever anyone wants to make of it, isn’t it? Everyone has a different idea of how a band, in the traditional sense of drums, guitars and bass, works when you’ve got like synths in it. Whatever else anyone wants to give to it, they can give it a label, you know? It’s up to anyone.
But do you see yourself as more of a pop act or a dance act?
Nathan: We’re just what it is, surely.
Danny: We’ve never sat down to deliberately write a song to sound like a certain way. It’s just whatever comes out. Some songs are obviously more dancey than others but I guess you just feed off records, buzzing to whatever you’ve been listening to at the time.
Bruce: We do like stuff that’s really dancey.
Danny: There’s definitely no agenda.
Bruce: We like a bit of indie stuff, and a bit of dance, electronic, lots of different stuff.
You’re a dance-rock group from Manchester. New Order were a dance-rock group from Manchester. Many have drawn comparisons between the two of you. Ever get sick of it?
Bruce: No way.
Danny: How could you get tired of being associated with something that was so absolutely brilliant?
Some bands like Interpol appear to dislike being compared to Joy Division, for example.
Fee: I don’t know how you could hate that. I could see why you might get a bit bored with it.
Danny: But surely, as with New Order, they were absolutely amazing.
Bruce: They’re certainly a big influence. So that kind of comparison is cool, it’s just the music evolving. I don’t see why someone would need to be cynical about it.
Danny: It’s going to rub off somewhere, you know what I mean? We spent all of our lives in Manchester, growing up listening to stuff like that. So it’s going to have an influence on your sound, whether you like it or not. It’s part and parcel isn’t it?
Video: 'Sister Siam'
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The first obligatory question: what are your influences?
Fee: Basically everything.
Danny: Yeah, everything.
Fee: You can say Kraftwerk...
Nathan: Okay, Kraftwerk, New Order…
Bruce (with Nathan): Justice, Simian…
Nathan: Daft Punk…loads.
Fee: Daft Punk is directly responsible for turning around the way I play the drums. They’re a direct influence. I think sometimes we just say the albums that we like when we talk about influences.
Danny: Daft Punk is probably the album that got me into wanting to pick up a synth.
Fee: Yeah, I was a total indie kid and then Daft Punk came along. Discovery was the first one. Those were the kind of beats I was doing. I went from playing along to like Oasis, the standard (mimes frantic drumming) to playing along to those types of things (Daft Punk). I always had this dream that Daft Punk would have an actual drummer, but obviously…
The second obligatory question: how exactly did you all meet?
Bruce: Danny and I went to school together. These two (points to Nathan and Fee) used to be erotically linked and then they split up. We left college and formed a band.
Danny: The quick synopsis: we’ve all known each other about Manchester. Me and Bruce were in a band prior to this. That band sort of disbanded. We started writing songs. We started working in a music shop. Meet up with Nathan again, who loved all the bass lines that Bruce was playing. He went, “Fantastic, I want to be in the band”.
Fee: It was originally supposed to be a drum machine…
Nathan: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I got asked to be in the band.
Fee: …and Nathan said, “No, no. No, get Fee in”, because I was doing that sort of drumming at the time and he knew it was something I could do and would want to do.
Danny: And Nath said, “Fee on the drums would be fantastic”; they split up and then we started the band.
Did you two break up because of the band?
Nathan: You know, we broke up as the band started.
Fee: Yeah, literally. First rehearsal…
Nathan: It was before the first rehearsal.
Fee: We decided that we… I was learning the tunes, we were still together. Then the first rehearsal…
Nathan: We weren’t together.
Fee: No, when I was learning the tunes on my own with a CD and then we split up just before the first rehearsal. I remember you (looking at Bruce) making the phone calls when you found out we split up and we were like, “Don’t worry about it”.
Bruce: Yeah, I remember you saying that, “Don’t worry about it”.
Danny: Bruce just said to me, “Don’t worry about it…”
Bruce: “…It’s fine, he’s covered it”.
Nathan: It’s a bit obvious because I kind of, what, well, you know…
Danny: It works.
Fee: What? Don’t start making it awkward after all these years (laughs).
Nathan: I found some other guy’s underpants in my bass case.
Danny: It works, it’s fine, everyone is happy.
Fee: (Laughs) Why on Earth, if I’m going to get rid of some guy’s underpants, would I put ‘em in your bass case? It’s not the cleverest of…
Nathan: Because you’re not all there.
Danny: Whoa, that’s enough now you two.
Fee: That’s all lies (laughs).
Danny and Bruce, you were previously in a group called Nylon Pylon who enjoyed some success and a major label deal before everything collapsed. What drove you to keep going and start all over again with The Whip?
Bruce: We were just so close at the time when everything was falling apart…
Danny: Yes. It was weird ‘cause like we had spent that long working on the album, that it got to a point where we knew something was going to happen and it took awhile for the whole thing to wind down. And it was just like, all we thought about was like, “Whatever happens to us, just keep on writing songs”. The other guys were like, “Well, priorities have changed, we’re looking to do different things”. They just moved off and did their own things. We just carried on writing.
Bruce: The music we were making felt good. What we were doing with that (Nylon Pylon) album, it got overproduced and a major label… it got blown out of proportion. They were changing the way it sounded after we had finished it and stuff like that.
Danny: It was just like, you’ve got to just dust yourself off and get on with it. We both sat there, both of us got jobs in music shops and we kept on writing songs. There was no like, “Shit, what the fuck are we going to do now?” It was, “Let’s see if we can do it all over again”.
Bruce: We felt like we learned a lot from it.
Danny: It makes you stronger. You learn from mistakes, don’t you? You learn what not to do the second time around. We’d met that many people… it’s all “gratitude, not attitude”, I think I said to someone else. We’ve always been nice to people. All the people we supported the first time around, when we started looking for gigs again, we got back in touch with. Because we’d always stayed in contact and been friendly with people we were able to get some gigs in place. Yeah, we picked ourselves up and kept going.
Your music has an upbeat, positive vibe in light of what you’ve been through in the past. Your press bio even mentions the phrase you just used, ‘gratitude, not attitude’. Is it important to you to give off a sense of optimism in your music and not sound negative?
Danny: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Bruce: Yeah. Quite a lot of the songs are actually about getting stuff off my chest.
Danny: Yeah, I think like initially with what things that have happened, you get your beef off your chest until you’re back on again.
Bruce: Yeah, it’s about trying to find the best out of the shit that’s out there. Not giving a fuck…
Danny: It’s about going to gigs and dancing a bit and having a good time, cause we want to have a good time.
Bruce: It’s like what everyone likes doing. You go through the shitty bits and then you want to just lose yourself to some music and be in a club.
Danny: I’d like to think that people can have a crappy day at work, come to a gig and just go out and have a laugh.
Bruce: That’s the best thing in the world.
Danny: We’ve had crappy times and when we’ve had crappy times, we get into music and it just sort of picks you up. It makes you happy.
Are you happy with your new label, Southern Fried?
Nathan: Fucking awesome.
Bruce: The A&R guy, Nathan, he’s there in the studio with us the whole time we’re recording.
Danny: It’s like a family. They’re like an extended part of the family. It’s a small label, so there is not that many people to deal with, so everyone that you deal with becomes very close to you. You become friends. You’ll pick up a phone, talk to them and have a laugh. It’s a shining example of a label.
What are your plans for the next months?
Danny: The UK stuff finishes at the end of next week. Then we’re going to Amsterdam for a couple of gigs supporting Soulwax and Justice. Then we’re off to France, Japan then back to the UK. A few gigs here and there leading into Christmas.
Finally, what is the secret of the Whips success so far?
Bruce: There’s no secret, is there?
Danny: Gratitude, not attitude.
Nathan: Fee, having a female drummer.
Fee: Don’t say that, that’s ridiculous.
Nathan: (Laughs) Having a good drummer. Having a good drummer who happens to be a female.
Fee: Good, that’s much better.
The Whip’s ‘Sister Siam’ is out now on Southern Fried. The band’s MySpace – tour dates, tracks, information – can be found here. Just announced: The Whip will support Simian Mobile Disco on their Jan/Feb 2008 UK dates.