Last month, The Wytches released their debut LP Annabel Dream Reader. Recorded at Hackney's Toe Rag studios with Bill Ryder-Jones earlier this year, it signalled the culmination of two years hard work for one of the busiest bands currently on the circuit.
Having formed in Peterborough three years ago, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kristian Bell and drummer Gianni Honey moved to Brighton shortly after where they hooked up with bassist Daniel Rumsey. They'd already amassed a staggering number of live shows prior to the release of debut single 'Beehive Queen' last year, and since then have shared stages and tour space with the likes of Future Of The Left, Fat White Family and The Cribs.
Earlier this year they signed to Heavenly Recordings and as what's become the norm with The Wytches, have spent the best part of 2014 on the road ever since. It probably comes as no surprise then to learn that DiS caught up with them shortly after their explosive set at End Of The Road festival in August. Here's what they had to say about life on the road, bands they've toured with, signing to Heavenly, and how they'd like to achieve recognition for as studio artists as well as live performers.
DiS: You've played a lot of festivals already this year. Which one stands out as your favourite so far?
Kristian Bell: I really enjoyed Beacons. It was a good line-up as well.
Daniel Rumsey: Metz were on straight after us. We're big fans of theirs and they're friends of ours so that was good.
DiS: You've played a ridiculous amount of shows over the past couple of years and built up a steady live following in the process. Do you think this has helped spread the band's name as much if not more than any media presence?
Kristian Bell: Definitely. I think a lot of it has to be down to touring. We've played so many shows over such a short period of time. We do have music videos and records too but initially I think our live shows helped us get to the point we are now. Maybe in the future people will come and see us off the back of hearing the album.
DiS: You were initially attached to the London psych scene. You've been on numerous bills for the likes of Bad Vibrations and Fuzz Club for example. I guess that's also been pretty helpful in raising the band's profile?
Kristian Bell: It's helpful in that we're not really a psych band. I kind of understand why people might think we are, and I think our ideals fit in with a lot of those bands. We enjoy playing for people like Keith (Milla) from Bad Vibrations. He's always treated us well and the people that go to his shows seem to get us, which helps.
DiS: You signed to Heavenly earlier this year. What made you choose that label?
Kristian Bell: I met Jeff Barrett and Danny Mitchell from Heavenly and thought they were really nice guys. They promote their bands and the label in a way that suits us so we signed to them pretty much as soon as the offer came our way. Their label has a bit of a fanbase as well.
Daniel Rumsey: It's almost like a cult in itself!
DiS: Do you share an affinity with the other artists on the label?
Daniel Rumsey: I don't think we do, really. Not in terms of style anyway.
Kristian Bell: I think you can link us all together but in completely different ways. I really like Temples, and I like the soundtrack Charlie Boyer did recently for 'Belladonna Of Sadness'.
DiS: Were many other labels interested in signing you at the time?
Daniel Rumsey: There were maybe three or four others. I can't even remember who they were now! There was a lot of interest at various times but Heavenly seemed to get us and we genuinely like them as people so that's what we went for above anything else such as money. We knew they'd be there for us in the long run.
DiS: Your first album Annabel Dream Reader came out last week to mostly positive reviews. Did you worry at any time about the reception it might receive?
Kristian Bell: Yeah. I'm always worried that people are going to hate it.
DiS: Really? Why?
Kristian Bell: Because the production quality is really to my taste but probably not anybody else's. It is quite violent to the ears. Quite shredded and visceral but at the same time I think that brings out a certain beauty in the songs. So I guess from my perspective I'm really happy about the way the record turned out. I haven't read any of the reviews or anything but I'm told it's going down well.
DiS: Staying with the production, Bill Ryder-Jones worked on the album with you. Was it his influence towards using analog equipment that helped create the violent sound you describe?
Kristian Bell: No, he was up for mixing it digitally. That was our call because we'd recorded a couple of singles like that before and that's what we're most happy with. Bill added a nice melodic line over the top of some of the songs. He played the organ on 'Summer Again' and added some really subtle keyboard parts to 'Weights And Ties'. He also played organ and drums on the last song ('Track 13'). Because that was just us trying it out.
DiS: So was 'Track 13' something that just happened while you were recording the album?
Kristian Bell: Yeah. All the softer, melodic songs are ones which weren't really planned to be on the record. We just recorded a load of heavier ones beforehand. And then a few were initially meant to be b-sides. 'Gravedweller' for example. Even after hearing it we still thought it was going to be a b-side.
DiS: 'Gravedweller' is one of those songs that always seems to go down well at your live shows. Certainly today it got the liveliest response of the set from the crowd here.
Daniel Rumsey: Yeah, for some reason it always sparks that kind of reaction when we play it live.
Kristian Bell: It's because a lot of the songs are quite downtempo whereas 'Gravedweller' is really fast. We actually really enjoy playing fast music considering we don't have that many fast songs. Most of our songs are fast in a different way.
DiS: Do you see yourselves more as a live band or a recording band?
Kristian Bell: I'd like to see us more as a recording band. I've got a ton of ideas for studio stuff.
Daniel Rumsey: People tend to regard us more as a live band because we've never stopped playing shows. We book the shows ourselves and are constantly looking for the next ones. I think we got quite good as a live band so we prided ourselves on that.
DiS: You've supported and toured with lots of great bands including Future Of The Left, The Cribs, Fat White Family and The Growlers. Are there any that stand out as being particularly inspiring or memorable to work with?
Kristian Bell: Metz. They're like a no shit kind of thing. So consistent at what they do.
Daniel Rumsey: Same with Pulled Apart By Horses actually.
Kristian Bell: I'm a huge fan of The Growlers so that was a good tour. Fat White Family are a very good live band, and their album is sick as well which people tend to overlook. I like that it came out before all the media attention blew up so they're already one album in.
DiS: I read a review from one of the shows where you played with The Growlers and Fat White Family and it seems as if the writer was more concerned about something controversial taking place than any of the music.
Kristian Bell: That's what's so unfair on them. They are really into the music but there's an element of people clearly just there as voyeurs. It can be a dangerous trap to fall into and some bands would play up to it and start method acting but with Fat White Family they really don't care for any of that. They're a much needed band.
DiS: Two years ago many publications were sounding the death knell for guitar music. Do you think there is a new generation of guitar bands emerging, particularly in the UK?
Kristian Bell: You can measure it through festival line-ups. There's a lot more dirty, harder rock bands higher up on bills and some of them are barely more than a year old. For example, Drenge have been one of the main attractions at many festivals this summer and they're still relatively new. I can't imagine doing what we do when it was just full of disco-indie type bands.
Daniel Rumsey: It would be horrible. The Horrors managed it but I guess they weren't that heavy.
Kristian Bell: I loved The Horrors during that period because it was so opposed to what everybody else was doing.
DiS: What's the scene like in Brighton for heavy guitar bands in a similar vein to yourselves?
Kristian Bell: I think there's always been a scene for bands like ours in Brighton. Psychedelic music has never left Brighton. When I first moved there two-and-a-half years ago there was already quite a big psych/garage thing going on with plenty of nights dedicated to that kind of music. There's a lot of bands in Brighton. Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming.
DiS: The only downside is that bands still feel they have to move to places like London or Brighton to gain any kind of recognition.
Kristian Bell: I was talking to a lad from Manchester recently and he said not a lot was happening there at the moment. Which to me sounds quite odd because so much great music came out of that city. I mean, Temple Songs are a Manchester band. I think they're awesome. We played with them last February and they were great. But yeah, it's true. You have to go to London really, or at least play there regularly.
Daniel Rumsey: We were quite lucky as it's only an hour away on the train. We used to load all our stuff on the train on the way there then after the show run for the last train back dragging our equipment behind us.
Kristian Bell: Our first tour was like a mini-tour just staying in a friend's bedsit. It was like being in university halls but ideal as we had a weekend of shows in London. It's understandable why London is the place to go but it's also a shame there aren't scenes everywhere. When the hardcore scene faded out in my hometown Peterborough the whole music scene died with it. The last band I saw at (Peterborough venue) the Met Lounge were The Smyths who are a Smiths tribute band.
DiS: Besides touring, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Kristian Bell: Basically, we're touring until December and then gonna go away for a while and finish our second album.
DiS: Have you got many songs ready for the second album?
Kristian Bell: Yeah, there's a few. But they'll probably end up being changed as they're not that good at the moment.
DiS: Have you set yourselves a timescale when you'd like it to be released?
Kristian Bell: Hopefully nine or ten months from now.
Daniel Rumsey: Sooner rather than later.
DiS: Will there be any more singles taken from Annabel Dream Reader?
Kristian Bell: I don't know. I hope not.
Daniel Rumsey: It just feels like we're flogging a dead horse a little bit.
Kristian Bell: It gets to the point where it feels like we're just scamming the public. If it's already on the album I don't see the need in having to release it again. We were actually worried when the album came out because we thought all the songs had already been released!
The album Annabel Dream Reader is out now on Heavenly Recordings.
The Wytches are on tour until mid-December. A full list of dates can be found here.