Over the last few years, I’ve gradually become a broken record when it comes to declaring the brilliance of Let’s Wrestle and the genius of their music. So if you didn’t get their debut last year, you’re probably a fucking idiot. But that’s ok because it’s soon to be re-released with an added disc of odds and sods. Lucky you. Anyway, I meet the band at The Slaughtered Lamb to chat about this. Thanks to the pathetic quality of my Argos value range ‘dictation machine’, we leave the steady buzz of the pub and take to the street.
DiS: So let’s talk about the re-release of the album.
Wes: It just wasn’t available before.
Mike: it was kind of a necessity, because it wasn’t available here. And because of the release in America in the spring, it all got a bit backtracked.
Wes: I think it’s also a good thing to remind people. Our second album is coming out in the not-to-distant future so I think it’s a good thing to say, ‘we’re still here, we haven’t died or anything’.
Mike: We haven’t paid that much attention to England and Europe, so it’s all been in America this year
Mike: So, I think it’s a good, kind of, ‘we’re here…
DiS: …‘We’re still breathing’?
DiS: Cool. So erm…
Wes: (Dejected) I’ve spilled tobacco in my beer.
DiS: Are you gonna keep drinking or go for the…
DiS: Just wondering what technique…
Wes: …Yeah, I’m just gonna keep drinking.
Darkus: It’s caught in the foam, so you’re alright.
Mike: A lot has to happen to your beer before you stop drinking it.
Darkus: Last time…do you remember a wasp flew in?
Darkus: …and I couldn’t get it.
Wes: Oh, your beer. I don’t remember your beers.
Darkus: I tried to have a little sip and push it off but flicked it in by accident.
Mike: I thought a wasp stung me when I was on my bike once, but it wasn’t a wasp. I screamed like…(high-pitched squeal)…but it was just a stone.
(Wes starts cracking up)
Mike: it hit me in the arm…I almost crashed.
DiS: So, talking of America, do you almost feel like you’re more known in America now than England?
Mike: I think it’s difficult to judge.
Wes: Well, at the moment…
Mike: …But at the same time, America is huge. It’s vast. So if you say, in London we’re better known than in New York, for example. But there are probably more people in America who know about us than they do here.
Wes: More people in L.A. know about us than people do in…Bristol.
Mike: do you know what I mean? Whereas in London, not everyone knows us but…
Wes: …I said that comparison because Bristol is the L.A. of England…
Wes: …that central, West coast town.
DiS: I’ve only ever passed through, but it felt very West coast.
Mike: What film was filmed in Bristol? It was almost like a Hollywood movie.
Wes: Skins? Skins the movie.
Mike: Rugrats the Movie, that was filmed in Paris.
Wes: (Cracking up) That was filmed in Paris.
Mike: Did you know when they did the London thing in Friends, that was the biggest studio audience, I think, of any sitcom ever.
Mike: I don’t know where.
Wes: An arena…an arena with the Friends set in it.
Mike: When I went to see The Backstreet Boys…
(Wes starts giggling)
Mike: They came out, they had like a boxing ring, and they were all fighting each other, and after about twenty minutes of fighting they started playing…’cause The Backstreet Boys were hard.
DiS: Who was the hardest? can you remember who threw the best punch?
Wes: The one who went to space…(laughing)
Wes: (Serious) There was one who went to fucking space. He spent all of his money and went to space.
Mike: Did he?
Mike: You can do that now…
Wes: I don’t know if he actually went to space…I dunno if he just went to a place without gravity.
Mike: There’s a museum where you can go into a space ship. It’s fucking nothing.
DiS: I think I’ve touched a space ship.
Mike: I went with my fucking grandma…
Dis: …and she fuckin’ hates space, so that was…
Mike: …And what was the name of the other thing. I can’t…Virgin Atlantic…Virgin…
Darkus: …Mega Space…
Mike: …Inter Planetary…No, Virgin Cosmo…what was the name of it?
Mike: They were doing holidays.
Wes: I know, they do a space craft thing…
Mike: Virgin…Virgin…Cosmos…or something…
Wes: …Lunar Millennium…
Mike: I don’t know. Anyway.
DiS: I was thinking…I was holding it back but, y’know…The Backstreet Boys could’ve called themselves (pause for effect) The Backstreet Bruisers…with the boxi…
DiS: I know, I feel disappointed I wasn’t there at the time.
Mike: Well it’s still BSB isn’t it?
Wes: How did it get here…how did it get to this point.
Mike: (Giggling) The Bullshit Boys.
Wes: I’m just saying, how did we get here?
Mike: I know but wouldn’t it be crap if you hated The Backstreet Boys so much you called them The Bullshit Boys.
DiS: Back to America, any memorable dates?
Mike: Well, we spent all of September there. And it was good. But it was a weird one because we were doing the record at the end of it. So everyone was really fucking keen to get on the record.
Wes: Yeah, the tour wasn’t the best. The tour we did before that was the best. But yeah, we weren’t giving it our all, because we were there mainly to record the record and we didn’t give a fuck about touring.
Mike: But the time before was fucking great.
Mike: I’ve got a theory that, the first two times of the three [American] tours, we went into South By South West, so we kind of settled in. But this time we just sort of hit the ground running, and we were so ready to record the record, we were like, ‘fuck it, come on, and let’s do the record’. I think. That’s my theory.
DiS: That makes sense. So what happened with the recording, is it completely done now?
Wes: Yeah we did it in Chicago with Steve Albini. And yeah, it sound really good. I much prefer it to the first record…that’s just about to be re-released.
Mike: I listened to it for the first time since America a couple of days ago, and I was like, ‘woah’…
Wes: …it sounds like The Cars.
DiS: That’s pretty good.
Wes: (Laughing) Cheap Trick and The Cars. Thin Lizzy. All the best bands. All my faves. We’re playing super commercial rock now, that’s the plan.
DiS: That’s good. A bit of polish, a bit of sheen.
DiS: So what was it like working with Steve Albini?
Wes: It was awesome.
Mike: He’s the weirdest person…
Mike: …Ok, well, this is going to sound horrible. And if he ever reads this, it will sound horrible. But…
Mike: …he’s like, the nicest person ever, but at the same time as being the most horrible closed-off person at the same time.
Mike: It’s the weirdest thing.
Wes: He’s like, the coolest guy I’ve ever met.
Mike: And he’s a complete polymath, he knows about everything. He taught us how to play Billiards, and he knows about absolutely everything. But at the same time, he’s really…
Wes: …he’s like the angstiest person in the world. But obviously after listening to Big Black records you sort of get that. But he is so angsty. It’s like, talking about labels, and like, he just fucking goes off on one.
DiS: Did you hear about the Sonic Youth thing recently?
Wes: That was fantastic.
DiS: Were you around for that?
Wes: No, that was a couple of days after we got back.
Darkus: What was that?
Wes: He was slagging off Sonic Youth…in…GQ? (Laughs) Saying, sell-out fuckers (laughs). And I was like, ‘that’s fucking cool’. I like Sonic Youth. But not as much as Steve Albini.
Mike: But the first thing he said to me, because these two met him a few hours before I did…the first thing he said to me was, (nasal whine) ‘I’ve got no idea what you just said’.
Mike: I was like, ‘hey, yeah, lalala, yeah’…
Wes: Very quickly, I had to stop talking to him about music. So we started talking about foreign currency, stuff like that. We got introduced to this amazing programme ‘How It’s Made’.
Darkus: Ah yeah, oh my god.
Wes: We just watched that the whole time. It’s on the discovery channel. But this was the Canadian version. Which is far superior to the English version.
Mike: It’s like a fucking…I’m not gonna say a trip, like an acid trip. It’s not like that. But it’s like…
Wes: …it’s like the most relaxing thing you’ll ever see. It’s completely mundane, but so interesting.
Mike: And it’s got great music like, (air slap bass) ‘budangbuwanbudung’.
Mike: Well, kind of like that, but what I mean is…something’s happening to you when you watch it.
Darkus: A learning trance.
Mike: It is a trance.
Wes: (Excited) My favourite one was the fucking gobstopper. They went through the whole of making gobstoppers and it was amazing. We were all talking to Steve about it, and we all came to the conclusion that the really small things were so much more interesting than the really big things. Like, a car engine is really boring to watch.
Mike: But it was great because they make it out of sand.
Wes: Oh yeah, that is cool.
Mike: They make it out of sand, I mean…I know.
Wes: It was the scissor lift that we found really boring.
Mike: Because you look at it and go, ‘I know how that’s made’.
Darkus: But wasn’t that still really interesting, with all the little…
Mike: No, that was the ladder.
Darkus: Oh yeah.
Mike: I mean, you’d look at a ladder and not really care.
Darkus: But…once you know how it’s made.
Wes: My favourites were the gobstopper and the acrylic awards, like, the employee of the month awards. That’s amazing.
Wes: Really, it’s so fucking good.
Mike: I mean…ok imagine this sign (points to a small plastic sign on the side of the pub), and you think, ‘someone designed that sign, it’s got a making process’. Y’know? But it’s just a boring sign.
DiS: Would it be too far a leap to say that watching the Canadian ‘How It’s Made’ with Steve Albini has changed your entire outlook on the world?
Darkus: Definitely changed my life.
Wes: Definitely changed the sound of the record. We came in with this folk record, and then we were (crazed American wail) ‘YEAH, HOW IT’S MADE’…
Wes: …and we just started freaking out…we kinda rock out now.
Darkus: And vinyl pressing.
Wes: yeah, that was…
Mike: I mean, it sounds very cliché, like (hipster drone) ‘yeah, we just watched this edition on vinyl pressing’. But it was really interesting.
Wes: Have you heard Louie’s (Darkus’) vinyl cutter idea?
Darkus: Oh yeah, I’m gonna buy a vinyl cutter. But it’s loads. Loads and loads of money.
Mike: Well you’ll probably make some money.
Darkus: Well, yeah, that’s the thing.
Wes: (Squealing with delight) He went for a fucking loan!…he went for a fucking loan for it.
Darkus: I’m not just gonna buy it out of my pocket am I? I need a loan for…
Wes: Ben phoned me up and was, ‘y’know, Louie’s looking to buy this vinyl cutter. He’s been online all morning for banks looking to find a loan.
Darkus: (Getting frustrated) Well I’m not gonna just buy…
Wes: Didn’t you register yourself as a business?
Darkus: Yeah, because you’re more likely to get a loan.
(Wes collapses with laughter)
DiS: So how do you feel things are going with the band in general? Like, talking before the interview, you sounded a bit unsure about what would be happening in the run up to Christmas.
Wes: It’s just…we don’t really know what’s going on. Same as it’s always been. You don’t know what’s going on, somebody phones you up and says, ‘do this’, and so you go, ‘alright’. You turn up, you do it, and you go home. Cry yourself to sleep at night.
Wes: We’ve had a frustrating couple of years with labels and stuff like that. I won’t go into the gory details, but we’ve had a tough time, and things seem to be kicking off again this year. But it’s half exciting, and half ‘I can’t really remember what to do’. Because we’ve had this long time off where we’re stuck in financial hell, trying to get stuff sorted out. And I’m sure every band occurs this shit problem…but the industry is such a big fucking pile of shit. It’s such a horrible, horrendous, wanky, industry. And you get very fucking disillusioned, very quickly. So it’s hard to get excited about stuff.
Mike: I think it’s less than disillusioned, and more…you just get tired of it, y’know? You go through these different loops and processes of people trying to do stuff, whatever the fuck it is. And you get very easily tired and bored. I dunno, it’s a weird one. And I can’t remember what the question was…
DiS: Erm…something about how you’re finding it…
Wes: (Laughing) …how’s it hanging?
Mike: Well, it’s hanging fine, it’s hanging good.
Wes: It’s hanging better than it has done for a long time.
Mike: Things are happening.
Wes: It’s just…finding our feet again.
Mike: Imagine you’re twelve years old and you’re just a goth, and you don’t quite know where you are, y’know…we’re just, kinda…finding ourselves…
DiS: And you’re just looking for other goths?
Mike: Well no, we’re saying, ‘maybe I’m not a goth’.
DiS: Oh ok, so you’re questioning everything and stripping it right back?
Mike: Kind of.
Wes: Yeah, well, we started the band when we were 15/16, had out first single out, and I remember being so fucking naïve. It’s fantastic, but you don’t really know what’s going on, and the more you learn, the less happy you are with what’s going on.
Mike: The same as everything.
Wes: It is the same as everything.
DiS: This is very true.
Wes: Naivety is precious folks. It’s like, when we were getting started I’d expected to just record a record and it would come out and we’d go on tour, and when you got home you’d do another one. And that’s what I’d like to do, I’d like to work continuously the whole time, but it’s impossible to do that. It’s hard when you’ve got a record that you’ve just done and you have to wait seven months till it comes out, and then you get bored of the record by the time you’re touring it.
DiS: I wanted to talk about the humour in your music, and your views on humour in music in general…
Mike: I think It’s like Seinfeld. It’s a record about nothing, and so it’s easy to relate to all of the things that happen day-to-day…about dreams or not having a girlfriend, or whatever. And it’s funny and exciting when somebody else feels the same way.
Wes: I think that humour in music has to be used very carefully, because you can just not be taken seriously. And I’ve never written lyrics like, ‘oh this will be funny, I’ll put that in here’.
DiS: ‘This will be a zinger’.
Wes: Yeah. It would be dishonest of me to be really fucking serious, because I’m not that person. But I think one of the things that’s lost that people don’t seem to pick up on with our records, is that…there is humour, but there’s a huge amount of, ‘this is shit’ too. I think it’s making the best of a bad situation.
DiS: Yeah, definitely it’s dark humour. And it’s the juxtaposition between the absurd and the heartbreaking.
DiS: …because you can combine humour and tragedy so easily in most other fields, but maybe with music its an underused effect.
Wes: Yeah, I mean, all my favourite comedy programmes are quite dark. It’s like Seinfeld…they look normal, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with those people. And it’s the same with Chris Morris. And if you like Little Britain and write lyrics like that then you’re a fucking idiot and should die.
DiS: I think the British are generally quite good at wallowing in the absurdity of their situation, and finding the dark humour from that, like on My Schedule…it’s like, my friends and I, we do this thing where…you don’t welcome shit situations on yourself, but you almost don’t mind too much because it will make a good story and you can revel in the awfulness and get laughter from that. But it’s heartbreaking at the same time.
Mike: One of my favourite quotes about the difference between Americans and English people is that, Americans are scared of everything, but they’re positive at the end it will be a happy ending…but English people laugh at everything and are totally certain that at the end it’s going to be horrible and bad. And I think that sort of sums it up about us, like…there is this comic sense, but at the same time, we’re positive it will be a bad ending.
Wes: I hate to mention Facebook in any sense, but I put on my page, (laughing) ‘I fucking hate everything and I’m going to kill myself’, as a joke. And the woman from Merge, our label in America, was just like, (laughing) ‘are you ok? What’s wrong’, and sent me this long e-mail asking if I was ok. And I was like, ‘yeah, I’m fucking joking’.
Mike: But I do think in music it’s so important to have a sense-of-humour, and be able to laugh at yourself, and have people laugh at you…
DiS: …And you think about how many musicians must not have that capacity.
Wes: Well the one I find so strange is that Morrissey can’t laugh at himself, when all of his lyrics are quite humorous. I don’t like people that can’t laugh at themselves, it’s bullshit.
Mike: if you’re not having fun, fuck it…what’s the point?
Wes: if you really are that depressed, just fucking die…like, I don’t want to hear about it, just kill yourself, quick.
Wes: If I’m having a shit time, I’m keeping it to myself…just bottle it up, that’s the best bet.
DiS: Or have a shit time, but find the humour in it. It all reminds of this thing I read once about ‘Waiting For Godot’, and the idea of clowning in the face of absurdity. Have you ever watched [British comedy] ‘Bottom’? I didn’t realise till I read that piece, but that’s essentially just ‘Waiting For Godot’…
DiS: …No, seriously…it’s just two guys in this flat just waiting and wallowing in the absurdity of the situation with complete failure at any attempt…and it ties into what we’ve been saying about the British sense of humour…
Wes: …Everybody’s waiting…waiting for something.
Mike: And it’s never gonna happen.
DiS: ‘It’s never gonna happen’, (laughing)…that seems like a good place to end it.
Charles Bukowski once wrote that, ‘true laughter knocks even the longest odds flat on their ass’, and Stewart Lee, writing in that ‘Waiting For Godot’ feature that I was muttering about, said that ‘Godot perfectly encapsulates the theory that clowning represents man’s attempt to stand upright and retain some shred of dignity in the face of impossible odds’. Just as I leave Let’s Wrestle that night, they tell me an anecdote involving one of Britain’s most famous guitarists and a six-pack of the children’s yoghurt, Petit Fileu. It is possibly one of the funniest things I have ever heard, and keeps me in fits any time I remember it in the next few days. It’s only when I tell a friend, to their complete disbelief, that the sheer insanity of the tale rears its head and I question its veracity. But then, even if fiction, it’s a beautiful, hilarious fiction. And as long as you’re laughing, fuck the rest.