Let’s get this out of the way first. The name: it’s marketing people within the music industry taking lesser-selling artists and placing them on the soundtracks of ‘youth’ films. It’s much like the latest skater rock bands appearing on Tony Hawkes games. Playstation 2 Soundtrack Strategies doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
The past year-and-a-bit has seen Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies play with the likes of Cursive, Death Cab For Cutie, Cat On Form, Polaris (“fucking amazing Leeds band who’ve gone unnoticed for no reason whatsoever”), and Hope Of The States, toured with 65 Days Of Static and (protégés) The Edmund Fitzgerald. They’ve ‘done’ Truck festival and In The City and released a 5-track mini album.
They’re a bit sick of that CD now, mind you. DiS meets them – minus bassist Ham - on their last day in Battersea Row Studios, where they’ve finished recording, with Hope Of The States’ Ant Theaker at the controls once more, a ‘mini’ album for Fierce Panda. The four of us decamping to a local greasy spoon, DiS finds out YMSS are not interested in political preaching, have no desire to infiltrate the mainstream (“it's more important to create art”), and “no more photo shoots in front of graffiti’d walls, please!”. They are, however, total music sponges. As a result, their songs are very long.
But how long is too long?
Andrew Mears (vocals/guitar): “If we were to do a two-track double-concept album, that would be too long. I like long stuff but I guess other people don’t. We’re already too long for some people. There’s nothing wrong with three-minute pop songs, two-minute punk songs or 30-second death metal songs, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with long song either. If you’re going to listen to a record, you’re going to listen to the length of music anyway”
Al English (guitar/effects/Theremin): “Anything that doesn’t keep people’s attention is too long… There will never be a song that’s too long for us as people. We could split our songs into lots of different little ones…”
Andrew: “But it would be rubbish!”
Al: “A lot of the time they end when we can’t make them any bigger or louder.”
Graeme Murray (drums): “It’s just the whole pop culture, they’ve created the three-minute pop song and whenever that wasn’t around people would quite happily sit and listen to two hours of music and be thoroughly entertained.”
Graeme admits he may never have got into the bands he likes now had it not been for meeting Al and his vast record collection (“I think I’ve got more records than the rest of the band put together”). Although they all listen to similar music, they all enjoy certain elements. Al likes his American indie rock (The Shins, Death Cab). DiS finds this more than acceptable. HOWEVER…
Al: “Graeme’s the one that loves prog.”
Graeme: “I do! I love prog and everything about it.”
Andrew: “Even the elves.”
No no no no.
Al: “And the capes.”
Graeme: “ALL that stuff. I was a metal kid.”
Andrew: “Ham’s certainly a metal kid as well.”
So – metal, prog, indie rock, and “unlistenable, bangin’ youth music” (we’re not sure if that’s Al’s or Andrew’s taste) – how do you go, for example, from metal to doing this mish-mash of styles all in one? How do you piece together everything from the simple likes of Ash through to Tortoise?
Andrew: “I think each person just serves as a missing link to the next person’s taste; Graeme and I both like lots of classical music and he used to play percussion in a youth orchestra. I got hammered when I was younger ‘cos my gran was going to be a concert pianist.”
Graeme: “She got her dream stamped on.”
Andrew: “She wrote me this lovely letter saying how she was going to study to be a concert pianist and cellist in Italy and then the war broke out and she couldn’t go, ‘cos they were all fascists. Hehehehe. It was a really touching story.”
Graeme: “But it’s right what we’re saying about the missing link. I thought electronica ended at Aphex Twin before I came over here. And that’s actually where it begins. I don’t really understand some people can be so set in their ways with their musical taste because, like, people who just listen to metal who’ll just sit and rave about Metallica and say nobody else is any good. How can they say that ‘cos there’s so much bloody good music and you just appreciate music in different ways?”
Andrew: “There’s just some stuff that feels really good in your ears; that’s what it really comes down to. We just like to pummel our senses.”
It CAN’T just be music though and lyrics about, ew, girrrrls. Surely they’re rallying against something? Are they angry young men or just nice graduates who are polite to their mothers?
Andrew: “Musically all the songs are just trying to do the best we can. (Boo.) And not settle for the easiest option, then lyrically, try to prove…”
Graeme starts to speak.
Andrew: “Shut the fuck up, man. Shut the fuck up.”
Graeme goes in a strop.
Andrew (continuing): “Then lyrically, just whatever’s preoccupying us at the time. Or me, specifically. Sorry, Graeme.”
Your turn now.
Graeme: “I’ve forgotten what I was going to say. That’s the thing though, if I don’t say it then I’ll just forget it two seconds later.”
Al: “We’re not political activists or anything. We try hard in our day-to-day lives to be good people. The people we respect are the ones that try hard and make the effort – friends that promote shows or run labels, people that are just making an effort to create or do something, and not just kicking back and taking what’s offered to them.”
Andrew: “The songs are sort of political in places but it’s abstracted really. I don’t think we’re in a position to be preaching to people. We’re kids, for a start. I know what I THINK and that’s what I think about so that’s what I sing about but… I don’t want to try to influence anybody’s ideas.”
Do you want to influence people musically?
Andrew: “I don’t really think so. It would be incredibly flattering.”
You don’t want to read an NME classified ad and see YMSS as someone’s influence?
Andrew: “I think it would make us all spazz, but like… it’s not particularly an ambition. That would be weird.”
An early soiree unto London’s toilet venue scene saw them play a show at the Bull & Gate. During this, Andrew commented that ‘music industry’ people had advised them not to get their shirts off anymore. DiS, who saw them half nekkid the first time, wonders if this was actually true.
Andrew: “No, I was ad-libbing at that point I think.”
Al: “We have got The Fear though since that gig at the Garage with Six By Seven when that girl shouted ‘GET DRESSED YOU BUNCH OF FUCKING TWATS’. I haven’t taken my shirt off at a show since.”
Andrew: “I thought that was really funny. ‘Cos I was wearing my top!”
Al: “It was never about machismo – we’re scrawny little boys! It’s only ever about being hot.”
The first time I saw you, you were wearing a nurse’s outfit. That’s not about being hot.
Al: “It’s my mum’s! These boys don’t wear them anymore.”
Andrew (proudly): “We’ve done a couple where ALL of us have managed to stay clothed. Although, Ham seems to like it a bit more, but he’s got more tattoos.”
Back in their nurse’s outfit days before permanently toploss, sweaty, scrawny drummer Graeme joined, YMSS started life with Hope Of The States’ Simon Jones on the sticks. “We met Simon at university in Wycombe,” Al explains. “On our very first day of university we were going to go knocking on every door in the halls of residence with the intention of finding someone who plays the drums. The first room of the first flat we went to was Simon! He started playing with HOTS as well ‘cos he was friends with them from Chichester. And eventually his commitments with them outweighed his commitments with us.”
Andrew is a bit more blunt. “They stole him,” he fumes. “We’re deeply, deeply bitter about it. Everyone feels a bit like they’ve had to settle for Graeme. Hahahaha.”
OK, he’s joking.
Al: “When we came to make the first record, Simon suggested that Ant (Theaker) had done some production stuff and he’d be interested in doing it. And it’s just gone from there.”
Andrew: “Ant’s been absolutely amazing.”
Graeme: “An absolute dream.”
Andrew: “He’s just got his shit together so much. He makes you feel so at ease in the studio.”
Al: “All those boys have been really helpful to us and we’ve played shows with them.”
Andrew: “And their album’s going to be beautiful, it’s amazing. We’ve heard a few tracks.”
Is there any competition developing between you two bands?
Graeme: “We did have a little bit… they got four K’s in Kerrang!.”
Al: “Yeah, actually, Kerrang! reviews is the only competion. If we ever get five K’s then we’ll have topped them boys.”
Andrew: “Well, we’ve got 16 to their four already! Hahahaha.”
Al: “They’re rock stars! They’re in a different league, you know!”
Good Kerrang! review, yes, they’ve had a-plenty, even a ‘single of the week’ review ages ago of a single which hasn’t even gone to the pressing plant yet. They swear they’re not sleeping with anyone at the magazine. They’ve just been ‘lucky’. “I’ve always followed up everything,” says Al, “anyone who’s shown the slightest bit of interest, I’ve pursued it. I’ve sent record to people who I think MIGHT like us and just tried to built up some sort of relationship.”
Andrew: “There’s a lot of our really bad demos around. There’s got to be thousands.”
The article in The Face came about after the Truck Festival as well, didn't it…?
Andrew: “Ohhhhh, god.”
Why is that bringing back such bad memories? (Oo-er, there’s an argument brewin’.)
Andrew: “We shouldn’t have done it.”
Al: “No, we SHOULD’VE. We always should have. It didn’t do us and harm, man.”
Andrew: “In retrospect I’m not very sure about bands being in fashion magazines.”
Graeme: “We weren’t in the position to turn it down whenever it was offered to us and it did do us some good.”
Al: “I wouldn’t have ever let us turn it down, but it could’ve worked out better.”
Andrew: “They could’ve listened to us or seen us for a start.”
Al: “The person who did the article hadn’t heard us or seen us play, and that kind of showed.”
Andrew: “And they were actually doing work experience as well.”
Al: “But that’s fine! I don’t have a problem with people being given a chance to write for the magazine, but I think it’s unprofessional that she hadn’t heard us play.”
It was just confirmed that The Face is closing.
Andrew: “Really? (Sarcastically) Oh, that is a crying shame. I think it had lots to offer the print world. Huhuhuh.”
Al: “Nah it had a place, man. The picture of us (above) was really nice.”
What was the worst thing you were asked to do in the photoshoot?
Al: “Get our dicks out.”
Andrew: “Take a piss??! Yeah. TAKE A PISS!”
Al: “And touch each other up! She was lovin’ that. Any hint of homoeroticism she was like ‘YES YES, THAT’S EEEET, KEEP GO-EENG’”
Andrew: “‘TOUCH HIS COCK’.”
Al: “‘YEAH, IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SUCKING HIS DIIICK.’”
Andrew: “‘GO LIKE THEEES, LIKE IN HEEEP HOP, THEN GO LIKE THEEES, AND ONE OF YOU TAKE A PISS.’”
Graeme (curls up in laughter at the memory): “One of you take a piss! Hahaha!”
Al: “We’re not even exaggerating; that’s exactly how it went down.”
Andrew: “We were just like… whhhat…”
Graeme: “One of you take a piss! Hahaha!”
Al: “That was the first time we’d had someone take pictures of us, and we were like, c’moooon. One thing we’re never going to do is photographs in front of grafitti’d walls. Every single photographer, man, ‘yessss, it’s street, it’s gritty’.”
Andrew: “Every time we’ve gone to have our photos taken at the last minute at some location it’s always with us standing in front of a grafitti’d wall. And I don’t think we’re a very grafitti’d band.”
Graeme: “Unless it says like PISSFLAPS or something. Hahahaha.”
Andrew and Al fall into silence.
Andrew and Al: “Why?”
Andrew: “I’d like you to retract that. I don’t think we’re a ‘pissflaps’ band either. I’d like to think that we come across as a bit more sensitive and mature than that.”
Al: “Next question!”
I think I’m out!
Andrew: “You can’t finish it on ‘pissflaps’!”
Make some sensitive and mature comments to summarise, or ‘pissflaps’ it is.
Andrew: “Errr, winners don’t do drugs.”
Later on, we’ll bump into Ms Dynamite in the studio’s kitchen. Wahey! YMSS will tell her they've been eavesdropping on her recording sessions. YMSS will then not finish mixing their own album until 5am. You better bloody well appreciate it then.
‘Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will be Better Than the Last; the Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead us all to Happiness’ is released in July on Fierce Panda. Their split 7” with The Edmund Fitzgerald on Vacuous Pop will be out any century now.