The Whatevers

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

Leeds tunesmiths The Whatevers make effortlessly breezy indie-pop with tonnes of heart and a healthy dose of cynicism and lyrical wit. They've released a couple of brilliant albums (Art & Sex and All Your Indie Heroes) which had pretty limited physical releases but can be obtained through Bandcamp. Their latest EP, City Lights Fade was released on the reliably indie-tastic February Records. Mike, Kate and Al make the kind of classic indie-pop that inspires devotion among committed indie types. Persistently catchy, gloriously lo-fi and seemingly incapable of writing a duff tune!

Here's what songwriter Mike Relton had to say about how they got started, how drugs made him sell his Smiths LPs to help blind nuns and why we all secretly want to have sex with public schoolboys…

Can you tell the Soundblab faithful a little bit about how you got together?

Well, it's our life story, but ok... Kate and I were two of about five kids who made the whole of the indie 'scene' in a tiny little town in North Yorkshire. So we made fanzines and imaginary bands and stuff, and I stole her eyeliner and everything like that. We were kind of on/off sweethearts for about 15 years while I moved to Manchester and tried to make a success of a Stone Roses wannabee stadium rock band called The Angel Hurricane.

One month I finally owed so much rent I just had to run away so I moved into her house in Leeds and from there we fell in love again and she started helping me do my music. And then one day in a fit of pique I realised that everything I had been doing for 15 years was kind of rubbish. So I invented The Whatevers and it all fell magically into place from there. We met Al when we played a gig with his other band. So we stole him; snuck him out of the rehearsal room in a rolled up carpet. I've told this story so many times now that I think Soundblab gets the last official version. From now on I am just going to invent preposterous lies about strip clubs and heroin.

Your album, All Your Indie Heroes, is a rather cracking LP. It may seem like the most obvious question in the world but who are your indie heroes?

Well thank you! Although personally I think it is rubbish compared to Art and Sex.

Anyway, god, don't get me started. Just the whole of indie music. We're kind of old and crinkly so for me it all started with Kurt Cobain. For Kate, I guess it would be Jarvis Cocker. I dunno about Al. He seems to be the most indie of us, like he likes Ian Svevonius and stuff and he always introduces us to cool new bands that are playing in the Brudenell. The bands I truly, truly hero worship I would say like The Flaming Lips and Yo La Tengo, who have made record after record for decades and gone from being wierd noisy bands to incredibly accomplished musicians. And then bands like Johnny Foreigner and Japandroids and The Cribs and ooh, just everything really. I try and pick out the bands I would have loved when I was 14. I was alright when I was 14 you know? Finger on the pulse and a song in my heart.

You're playing the Indietracks festival in July, who are you looking forward to seeing? Can you tell us a little about the festival?

Well, it is at the Midland Railway Museum and we are playing an acoustic set on a train. (We've recorded an acoustic rehearsal here; you can put this link in the article of you like http://soundcloud.com/thewhatevers/sets/the-whatevers-acoustic/)

It's the first time we've been on a professional type bill with like, signed famous people like Edwyn Collins and The Hidden Cameras, so we are most excited just to be a part of it I think. This is like the height of success for us. Unless they bring back Top of the Pops. Then we would all have something to shoot for again. So many good bands on the bill, like Maths And Physics Club and Just Handshakes We're British. I'm not very good with festivals though. I get guilt, festival guilt and run round watching half a set trying to see everyone at once. I prefer to go to a gig inside and then go home and sleep in a bed like a civilised human being. This is what happens when you turn 30. You start not liking festivals and blaming everything on lesbians and immigrants.

Your albums always sound satisfyingly lo-fi. Is this a conscious effort or would you make things glossier if you had the chance?

Oooh, well, yes and no. The first stuff we did, it was just the best I could make it sound with the stuff I have got in the house, and I think it kind of suited. It seemed to strike a chord with this whole scene that I wasn't even really aiming for, the whole twee lo-fi indie-pop world. But it would totally be a dream to go into a studio with a proper drummer and Dave Fridmann and a symphony orchestra and a thousand chanting monks and make, you know, a proper record. The next thing we're gonna release, we'll have done like four albums worth of stuff in a year, so I'm trying a lot of different things, like it is going to jump from shouty indie to orchestral stuff to almost stadium rock. And I am not entirely sure it'll sound very good at all.

I just sort of make music with whoever and whatever is around, like Kate's brother came to stay and he is this amazing musician so I recorded him playing random drums and improvised some guitar parts and Kate will shout some stuff over the top and that will be some of our new songs. then Al lent me his keyboard so I pulled out some old power ballads did a load of overdubs with synthesised strings and horns and that'll be on there too. I guess if we keep proving we can make loads of records in the house on the crappy equipment maybe one day someone will descend from the heavens with a cigar and a bunch of money and tell us to go to a studio and make them a record they can put on an advert for cars or sausages or something.

How do you go about writing the tunes? Is it a group effort?

Well, this is going to make me sound like a total Billy Corgan dick but no, it isn't. I basically play all of everybody's parts on the recordings, and write all the songs and am a total dictator. Although, that said, I kind of rely on Kate and Al for their ears, cos I get a bit carried away with meself. Suppose one week I am obsessing over The Beach Boys then I will try and make a Beach Boys record and then the next week we all go to a club and I suddenly decide there has always been a pumping trance house element to our music. So my plan to do this record where all the songs are in different styles, I've got to kind of get that past Al and Kate. If they think it sucks then we probably won't do it. Cos they are the ones who I'm asking to stand there playing these songs at the end of the day.

Kate helps out with a few lyrics here and there. We argue a bit 'cos I'm always trying to make her sing things from my mind that she maybe isn't that comfortable with. Like 'You and Your Twisted Romance' or 'Meet Me Down the Side of the Canal', I'm basically prostituting our relationship and the edited highlights of my sex life/mental health problems for a song. So she'll make little changes that always make the song better. Also I've sort of noticed Al can really play so now I'm just starting to teach him the chords and let him make his own bass-lines up. I'm gradually becoming less of a control freak about it all. Cos if we are ever gonna make something truly great then I want us to learn to use everyone's talent in harmony and stuff. I'd like us to be the kind of band that can do whatever we like and you never know what the next thing will sound like, that's why we're The Whatevers! And I would like to add that I admire and respect Billy Corgan.

It's a tough question but what does 'indie' mean to you? And are the ones we love the dearest really careerist?

Ah, that song's just supposed to be funny and cute. Actually, I wanna get this off me chest. I went through a period of reviewing stuff thinking it was a good way to promote The Whatevers and I kind of got used a bit by a national music magazine I shan't name, and all I achieved was to make meself look a right bell-end and make people in good bands think I was a gobshite. And I love every little band out there, I've got nothing bad to say about anyone. I've just got kind of a silly irreverent sense of humour and I didn't realise how it would come across. There's nothing wrong with wanting a career at all, I want one myself! To me indie just means making whatever music you want to make as long as you are passionate about it.

Cos I was Nirvana Kid, I've got this aesthetic obsession with indie-punk principles or whatever but all the bands doing adverts and stuff, good for them, if that's what they need to do. What's anyone got to say about anyone else and what they are doing? Let's be honest, I would probably get down on my knees and bark like a dog to get The Whatevers on an advert. Cos I haven't got any money. That's why I have to steal all my music off the internet. It's just a shame though that real artists have to struggle to make a living cos the industry will only throw money at you if you are a sexy little pop tart or a public schoolboy. But then on the other hand I like illegal downloading as a thing. Like, I really, really love to go online and steal other people's music. So it is my fault that capitalism doesn't work and legends have to sell car insurance because of me. I think the moral of the story is that songwriters are ten a penny and we all secretly want to have sex with public schoolboys. So to answer your question, indie to me means making music just cos you love to make fucking music. And you better learn to hold down a job in a call centre.

What are The Whatevers plans for the future?

Well we've got gigs through the year and there's a whisper that we might get a proper drummer on kind of a part time basis, maybe, if it works out. But basically, unless the sky starts mysteriously raining money, I believe I will keep making music in my house with my crappy equipment for the rest of my life with anyone I can convince to help me, because I totally absolutely love it. Like, it's better than video games and cartoons even.

And to finish a few tough, indie based choices…

Vauxhall and I or You are the Quarry?

Well out of those two You are the Quarry, I've never particularly like Vauxhall And I. But I am more of a Your Arsenal man. In fact, I have got this theory that the number of Moz solo albums you own is indirectly proportional to the amount of sex you ever have. So I just own Your Arsenal. The Smiths are like drugs, you've got to be careful. The first time I took ecstasy I decided I would never, ever be sad again and had no need anymore for miserable music and I sold all my Smiths albums to a charity shop and put the money in a charity box for blind nuns, no less. and then a week later I was like "Oh god! What have I done!" I had EVERYTHING, on the original vinyl. Two pound fucking fifty to blind nuns!

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain or Wowee Zowee?

Well they are both amazing but I'm gonna say Crooked Rain cos it was the first one I had and I am more attached to it, emotionally speaking. it reminds me of being a teenager. I don't know why I am so obsessed with my teenage years, they were fucking horrible. Nothing to cling to but my Pavement records. Pavement were great weren't they? If only an influential music website would notice, then they could finally get some of the critical approval they are so long overdue. No justice man, no justice in this world.

CD or vinyl?

Computers to be honest. I loved holding the CD of Art and Sex in my hands, but I was well aware that actually owning a physical object is quaintly antiquated to the kids. I started buying vinyl again cos I felt guilty about bringing the music industry to its knees, and then I just look at the records and listen to them on the computer.

Finger on the pulse and a song in his heart. Cheers Mike...

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