This Many Boyfriends - Interviews - Soundblab

This Many Boyfriends

by Miz DeShannon Rating: Release Date:

It's been a hell of a year for This Many Boyfriends. Stalwarts of the Leeds indie scene, they were featured by NME as one the must-hear bands of 2011 and have become, it's fair to say, one of the paper's favourite groups. They've also been talked-up and interviewed by Steve Lamacq and produced by Cribs man and all-round paragon of indie integrity, Ryan Jarman. These achievements are all the more remarkable given the hard times they've endured, none more so than the tragic death of their talented guitarist and songwriter, Pete Sykes.

But why all the fuss? Well, with their literary lyrics and fierce passion for indie-pop's aesthetics and legacy, it's easy to imagine TMB attracting devotion. They could become one of those bands, like Orange Juice, The Smiths, The Manics and The Libertines, that music lovers cling to as proof that beauty, intelligence and fire can still be found in the humble three-minute pop song. There's a reason, after all, that they were voted Best Newcomer in our annual poll. We caught up with the band to discuss pop, Paul Simon and slightly sexist security.

You tragically lost your guitarist, Pete Sykes, last year. What has it been like to carry on?

Rich: It's been hard obviously. I mean, it is a horrible thing to have to endure but we took the decision to carry on and we've stuck by it and tried to do what we think would make Pete proud. It's helped us to deal with the grief to be playing songs we wrote with him every time we play, I guess it makes us feel close to him in an odd way. Every gig I dedicate 'Starling' to Pete. We will never ever stop doing that, for our sake and for the sake of his family and friends who were, and continue to be, so supportive of the band. We miss Pete and we'll never forget him.

Has the loss of Pete affected your sound and/or songwriting? Are you looking to recruit a new member or continue as a foursome?

R: Personally, as a lyric writer it's not affected the way I approach songwriting at all. I mean, it has knocked me for six emotionally but it's not really seeped into lyrical content or attitude. I'm quite detached as a writer. The first few songs I wrote for this band were quite personal and based around my relationships but I've gradually drifted away from that. I tend to try and stay out of any deep, emotional outpourings and concentrate on pop songs.

Laura: At the moment we have our friend Ben filling in as supply guitarist. Its working out nicely having him along for some gigs, but there's a few we've done just as four. And we recorded our album with the four of us. Ben was good friends with Pete and is a great guitarist in his band The Birthday Kiss so it just seemed right to have him in the band.

R: Yeah, I mean Ben has been around the band for ages and we've recorded at his studio in the past. He was working on a single with Pete's band Men Only just before he passed away and they seemed to really bond loads during that process so it's good to have him around when we play rather than just a session guy filling out the sound. We feel comfortable talking about Pete around him and that really helps when we can share anecdotes about him and have a laugh without awkwardness. I do think recording as a four has been really important to us though, I really wouldn't want to do that with anyone else yet.

So you "...bonded over a shared love of playing pop music far too loud in rooms far too small." Were you basically in student digs together then?

L: No, not at all. Our rehearsal rooms are pretty small though and it gets loud in there.

R: Yeah we just played some small places when we started. To be fair we still do!

Tell us about some of these great places you've played in? Which one was the best?

L: One of my favourite places we played recently was The Buffalo Bar in Cardiff. Playing Indietracks a few years ago was also pretty special too.

R: Yeah, Indietracks was very special. And all the Cribs support shows were amazing, if not a little nerve racking! I think it was a real thrill to play with my favourite band (ever since I was a teenager) at a place as big as Leeds Met on a Saturday night in my home-town. Amazing.

Dan: It's hard to say which place is the best, they're all pretty cool.

You *are* a bit twee musically, really, aren't you - it's not really hardcore rock that you play. Any plans to experiment with your sound?

L: We are a bit twee, but only a bit. Its not all glockenspiels and ukuleles and handclaps. There's still a bit of shouting and guitar solos involved.

R: Yeah let's face it we're not writing about so called twee stuff and the music is pretty loud and sometimes aggressive live. It's not all lollypops and sunshine. I think our songs are pretty universal really, they're about shit jobs, love and records. I honestly don't get why we have to be hardcore rock to not be twee. I mean yeah we're not exactly Black Flag but so what.

D: I don't believe we really think about that when we write, we just write whatever sounds good.

R: Yeah as far as experimenting goes we're not going to push it. It's whatever feels natural to us. We're not suddenly going to do a dubstep record or something and go drastically different for the sake of it. If we write a song and we enjoy performing it then that's what we play. If it appears twee or indiepop or whatever then thems the breaks!

Lyrics like "Radio is the devil, in the wrong hands.... It's lethal" are quite deep sounding... What provokes you musically?

R: To be honest most of my writing should be considered theft. I can pretty much identify exactly what I was listening to when I wrote all of our songs. I'm inspired by other people's records and the things I'm consuming at the time.

For example, the song you are quoting 'It's Lethal (Part One)' was directly inspired by two things, listening to 'Intuition Told Me (Part One)' by Orange Juice and reading about the film director Paul Shrader and his Calvinist upbringing, where radio was banned in his household until he was 18. Yeah that's right I am a massive ponce!

Granted some lyrics are just inspired by life, like '#1' and 'Young Lovers Go Pop!' were both written when I was in a long distance relationship and all that that entails. Feel kind of uncomfortable about that kind of writing now though, would rather concentrate on other people and their lives. In an abstract, presumptuous way though obviously. I definitely do NOT obtain lyrical inspiration through stalking!

Tell us about this obsession with Paul Simon? Has he become aware of your song about him?

R: Oh yeah, I heard he listens to it every day. On a serious note I just love Graceland. It's my favourite LP of all time.

"Sounds like five people high on several bowls of sugary cereal, bouncing down a stair case on a number of bright orange spacehoppers" said Steve Lamacq (BBC 6Music) - what IS your favourite sugary cereal and why?

L: Coco pops. I'm a proper chocolate addict. If we could get peanut butter cereal here like what you can get in America I would be all over that.

R: I don't really like cereal. Sorry!

D: I always used to like Golden Nuggets. I think I still like them because they remind me of when times were good.

Of all the free things you could put out with your single, you chose a fanzine. Why did you choose a fanzine, and is this going to be another creative angle that you're undertaking with every release...? Could be nice!

L: I spend ages thinking of all the things you can get as band merch and fanzines were something that I could make myself that I wanted to try. I've made us tote bags, I made us some felt badges a while ago but cleverly left them all behind at a gig and never got them back...

It worked really well as something we could incorporate as a download but also as a physical release and that we could put loads of daft stuff in that explains a bit about what we're about. I want to try some more ideas with future releases but maybe not every one, might be a bit too ambitious!

To Laura - how do you cope being in a band or on a tour bus with three boys?

L: Not too bad! Me and Richard have lived together for a few years anyway and we all hang out a lot, so it's just spending (A LOT) of time with friends rather than it being a boy/girl issue. I've never even really thought about it before. There's not any "lad" humour or anything to put up with. All the people in the band and people we work with (almost exclusively men) are all decent people.

There was a distinct lack of women on The Cribs tour which made me a bit uncomfortable- not from any of the bands or anything but I was treated different by security etc. There were assumptions about 4 times that I wasn't in the band and nobody else had that problem so I can only think that's its cos I'm a girl. If there's not any other women around (not just in the bands but on the staff either) then I guess its easy to assume I'm a girlfriend or something. The music industry is really shitty in the way it treats women.

Your single 'Starling' came out recently - fill us in on what you've got planned for the rest of the year... space hopper races, maybe?

L: Our next single '(I Should Be a) Communist' is out on May 21! So that is pretty exciting.

R: Loads of shows and our debut LP, that we recorded at West Heath a few weeks ago, will be coming out in Autumn! I guess I should mention, for extra excitement, that it was produced by Ryan 'Him Off of the Cribs' Jarman. The aforementioned single is the first thing to be taken from it and we can't wait for people to hear it!

D: And loads of festival shows!

L: There's loads happening for us, its really exciting. And we never know what's gunna come next!

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