Naming your band after an undertaker in a Dylan Thomas radio drama probably draws preconceptions as to what said band may sound like. Which is why it's something of a mystery that London-based five-piece Evans The Death - their moniker shared with the aforementioned grave digger in 'Under Milk Wood' - find themselves associated with the C86 revival/twee scene. While there are some similarities to be had with the punkier end of that scene's first wave (think The Flatmates, The Shop Assistants or My Bloody Valentine's Lazy Records phase), their spiky sound isn't a million miles from the likes of Johnny Foreigner or This Town Needs Guns either.
Having first got together in 2008 - singer Katherine Whittaker and guitarist Dan Moss being the remaining founder members, it wasn't until a couple of years later that the current incarnation of Evans The Death got together. Dan's brother Olly (bass then guitar and soon to be back on bass), old school friend Rob Mitson (drums) and most recent recruit but soon to be departing bass player Lan McArdle completing the present line-up.
Last year saw the band sign to Fortuna Pop!, recording their self-titled debut long player in the summer of 2011 with former Test Icicle Rory Attwell. Although still in the infant stage as far as recordings and live performances are concerned, anyone that's had the pleasure of witnessing Evans The Death in the flesh will testify they're a breath of fresh air, undoubtedly one of the most exciting new bands currently gracing these shores.
Having just played a storming mid-afternoon set at this year's Indietracks, DiS managed to grab half an hour with the band, our chat finally curtailed by the sudden downpour that sees all and sundry run in different directions to escape the rain.
DiS: Just quickly take me through the origins of the band
Katherine: Dan and I met at a gig...
Dan: ...then I asked my old school friends Rob and Matt (Gill, former guitarist) if they wanted to join. Then my brother Olly joined. Then Matt left so Olly switched from bass to guitar...
Katherine: ...then Lan, who was a fan of the band that became one of our friends joined, and here we are!
DiS: Didn't Matt play on the album? Why did he leave the band?
Katherine: Basically he had other things that he wanted to do rather than be in the band. We're all still really good friends...
Dan: ...and he's having the time of his life now anyway. He's living on a boat!
DiS: Has Matt's departure and Lan's arrival changed the dynamic of the band as far as songwriting or playing live are concerned?
Dan: Playing live definitely.
Katherine: I don't think it will make too much of a difference in terms of songwriting. Obviously Matt contributed to the music along with the rest of the band but most of the lyrics come from me, so I don't see anything changing really.
DiS: Your music is often compared to a lot of C86 bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Primitives and then the likes of Pavement or The Fall. Would you say all of those comparisons are accurate and were you fans of those bands before people made the connection with Evans The Death?
Dan: We played with The Primitives once. I knew 'Crash' from the film 'Dumb And Dumber' but that's about it. We get compared to a lot of bands we've never even heard of, but it's good because it introduces us to a lot of new music.
Katherine: It's true. There's been so many occasions where I've been unaware of the bands people say we sound like, even when they come up to us after gigs. A lot of the songs on the record were written when we were really young, in some cases still at school, and I think the only musical tastes we had in common were punk. I loved the Spice Girls and I could never pretend I didn't.
Lan: We all have loads of things in common musically but at the same time we all have some very different tastes too.
Rob: It's the Pavement comparison that baffles me the most. I mean, I really like Pavement but can't work out where or how we're supposed to sound like them in any way, shape or form.
DiS: You're currently signed to Fortuna Pop! Records. How did that association come about?
Dan: Sean Price who runs the label saw us playing live about eighteen months ago, and then came up to us after the show and asked if we wanted to release a record.
Olly: Then before we knew it we were recording in a proper studio!
Katherine: The first single 'Threads' was recorded in just two days wasn't it?
Dan: Less than that I think. We recorded it the first day then mastered it the next so I suppose that is two days to do the whole thing.
DiS: Do you see yourselves staying with Fortuna Pop! for the foreseeable future or would you consider moving to a bigger label if the opportunity arose?
Dan: We've got no reason to leave.
Katherine: I mean, if somebody like EMI comes along waving loads of money to sign and make an album then maybe we would consider it, but in reality that isn't going to happen.
Dan: Katherine's a really unscrupulous character, she's the only one that wants to sell out!
Katherine: Ha Ha, no! It's been a pleasure to work with Sean and Fortuna Pop! so far. They aren't how I'd imagine any other label to be, simply because it's not just about making a product to sell. He treats like friends or members of his extended family even.
Dan: It's not like we're really part of that whole scene either to be honest. We've played with a lot of those bands but I think a lot of our audience are quite different to the ones that are into a lot of Fortuna Pop! bands.
Rob: When we first started out we didn't think we'd even get a gig anywhere let alone get a label wanting to put our records out, so for that reason alone we owe Fortuna Pop! a massive debt of gratitude.
DiS: You mentioned earlier that some of the songs on the album date back to when the band first started four years ago. Which is the oldest song currently in the set?
Katherine: Probably 'Catch Your Cold'. It is around four years old yet we still feel very attached to it. Quite a few of them date back to that era actually, although not necessarily sounding the way they do now. We were talking about this earlier how it was nice to go into the studio when we recorded the album and change some of the songs round a bit.
DiS: Reviews for the album and your live shows have been very positive so far. Do you pay much attention to what other people are saying or writing about the band?
Dan: Obviously it is quite flattering that people like us. I get more upset about some of the references they use when describing our band rather than whether they like us to be honest.
Katherine: I think when I read some of those references or comparisons it's clear the writer hasn't actually listened to us. I remember reading one review that said I sounded like Lily Allen! I mean, Lily Allen? Really?
Dan: Well you are a girl, and Lily Allen's a... girl.
Katherine: It was utterly ridiculous. You know, she's a female singer so therefore must be the same as Lily Allen.
Olly: I guess the main thing to remember is that a review, whether it's of a live show or a record is just one person's opinion.
DiS: I guess being involved with a label like Fortuna Pop! could also lead to stereotyping in a different kind of way.
Katherine: It did to start with, but once people heard our music and saw us play they realised what we were about.
Dan: It's definitely happening less and less now.
Olly: I think what's quite amusing is that we were actual babies when most of the other artists on the label started writing songs.
Dan: In some bands cases we weren't even born then!
Katherine: I'd only just turned fifteen when I joined the band and most of us were what, sixteen/seventeen when Fortuna Pop! picked us up?
DiS: What's quite interesting about your songs are that they tend to follow the typical two-and-a-half minutes verse-chorius-verse formula but incorporating different variations from noise to melancholic ballads.
Katherine: Yeah, I guess we aren't that easy to stereotype really. Someone once asked us to describe our sound and I said garage pop, which might not be all that accurate but perhaps comes closest to where we are.
Dan: Garage pop that's accessible to indie pop audiences maybe?
DiS: Now that Lan's in the band and also involved with Joanna Gruesome, will she be involved in the future songwriting process and do you see the band's sound evolving as a result?
Katherine: Actually, today was Lan's last gig with the band.
Lan: Yeah, I'm leaving to concentrate more on Joanna Gruesome.
Katherine: So basically we'll be reverting to a four-piece after today, with Olly switching back to bass.
Lan: It was never really a permanent arrangement with me being in the band anyway.
Dan: Although if Lan had wanted to stay with us that would have been amazing. I guess that's why we're now concentrating on staying as a four-piece. We don't want to bring new members in unless they're right for the band, and apart from Matt and Lan, we can't really think of anyone else who'd fit the bill.
DiS: Have you got any more festival dates lined up for this summer?
Katherine: No, this is it for the time being.
Dan: It seems to be quite difficult getting booked onto the major festival bills, even on the smaller stages.
Katherine: The same bands seem to be sharing the same bills at every one.
Dan: They get booked because they belong to the same agent or management company.
Katherine: That's what's so great about Indietracks. You get to play with so many different bands you wouldn't get the chance to see anywhere else.
DiS: It's a bit of a minefield at the minute for new bands trying to get themselves established.
Katherine: Most labels don't want bands to record albums any more. They want individual tracks that work on the radio or they can license to advertising agencies.
Lan: It makes you quite defeatist in a way, thinking about the mechanics of the industry, but then bands like Evans The Death and Joanna Gruesome can at least hold their heads high and say they stayed true to themselves and what they believe in.
DiS: Bands aren't allowed to make mistakes nowadays. If My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead or Blur to cite three examples had released their first records in the current climate they'd have been dropped almost immediately.
Dan: I think My Bloody Valentine are a perfect example. It took them five or six records to find a formula and discover their sound. Nowadays they'd be dismissed as failures after the second single.
Katherine: A lot of the current thinking in the industry isn't about creativity. It's purely about making money.
The album Evans The Death is out now on Fortuna Pop! Records.
For more information on Evans The Death visit their Facebook page.
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