"It is wonderful to be able experience art without understanding how it was meant or what makes it good." (Kim Boekbinder said that during an interview I did with her) I might not have the biggest knowledge about music but I have a great passion for it. Passion is what counts.
I live in Berlin, Germany (born, raised and still resident) and this is my personal blog about music and other things that cross my way. Things I love to be exact. And even though I am German and my English is still not perfect, this blog is in English.
Spring Offensive are: Lucas Whitworth, Matt Cooper, Theo Whitworth, Pelham Groom and Joe Charlett. On Monday this lovely 5 piece band from Oxford released their newest single “A Stutter and A Start” (video can be watched below) in the awesome format of a colouring book completely with colour pencils. Great stuff. It was paid by people who bought “Between Me And You” - an acoustic EP released earlier this year. Personally I heard about them the first time through Alcopopular 4 (you can hear “A Let Down” on it and it became one of my favourite songs on the compilation). On a very different note was “The First Of Many Dreams About Monsters” (2010) - a thrilling and moving song and available for free download on their site. And not to forget “Pull us Apart”!
I had the change to “catch” all five via Skype before one of their rehearses during their busy time before the release (and luckily Skype only broke down twice-love skype). I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Dörte: Was the only reason to release “Between Me And You” to raise money for you next single or was it because you wanted to do something acoustic as well?
Matt: Every release you want to make money for your next release and we wanted to do something acoustic because we were kind of writing that way, especially after Dreams about monsters which was so long and busy with so much going on. It felt right to do something acoustic. And then the idea of it to be a pay-what-you-like actually came after we decided to put it out. It was a last minute decision.
Lucas: It wasn’t so much wanting to do an acoustic record to finance it. It made itself happen. It was a very quick turn around - from the idea to the actually release date it was about 6 weeks.
It all happened very quickly. And we didn’t really plan to make an acoustic record, it was just about what we were making. If that makes sense. We were writing acoustically and we decided that it was time to makes it work and put it out. They weren’t meant to be a very important release. It was more for the band and it was really good that people were picking up on that. People like yourself who hadn’t necessarily heard of us.
I’ve heard a little bit of you.
Matt: You’ve heard us by the Alcopopular 4.
Yes, I did.
Lucas: We did make a lot of new fans through it. Which is really nice because we haven’t thought of it it in those terms. It is good to see people responding to something which was for us a very easy and natural organic process. Usually when we write and record it its quite tortured long. It was nice to see something working out so well and so fluently, have a positive result at the end.
Did it influence you in your recording style now or your writing style?
Matt: Yeah, well, we played a lot of acoustic shows after we did the record. I don’t know if it is a coincident or it just happened that way. But you know to be honest we find a lot of the time the people want a band to be able to play acoustic. It works well on the bill and it is nice to be able to kind of adapt your sounds. It just happens at the moment we are playing acoustic quite a bit. But that’s not a permanent thing, our new single doesn’t have an acoustic guitar in it. Lots of drums, lots of dancey electric guitars and other things. Even though that was actually written before the acoustic EP, it doesn’t really follow like that.
Pelham: I think that it can help because when you write an acoustic EP the songs are so much more exposed. You just don’t have big wide walls of distorted guitars and thunder of drums and stuff to hide behind. It’s really the song is out there. So, it is really a good exercise in really focusing on the music rather than the production side of it.
Is it more difficult to do it this way than putting a massive sound on it?
Matt: I think the other way round actually. It gives you understanding with acoustic records everyone likes the rawness to that and it being a bit rough around the edges but when you’ve got drums and guitars if they sound bad, they’re badly recorded, it can drive the energy of an entire song down. And I personally I hate being reliable on good recording in order for a song to sound good. And with an acoustic guitar you know how it is going to sound, you just need to capture that. The way we recording full band and writing full band as well is much more be aware of when writing as a full band because there are so many options, so many different things you can do.
I always think that when you write acoustic then you have to have a feeling to it not only the rough sound or something which you can hide a bit between a big sound. I always think it is so much more difficult to give someone a feeling by being stripped down.
Theo: That is true but at the same time you can get really lost in thinking too much in how the big sound will sounds and you can just get a bit too involved in that verses with an acoustic guitar or a minimal percussion you just have less choice, so less things to be distracted by in a way but I know exactly what you mean. The benefit of doing it is that you can be a bit simpler with it.
Matt: The way we work is that we write on acoustic guitars first and then we go to electric. It actually takes the step out. I think it is closer to the feeling of the song at the acoustic guitar stage and sometimes it is better and sometimes it actually doesn’t sound that good.
Lucas: I think what is quite different about that as well is that most often it appears that hot new young bands are making music with electronic instruments reduces to start at the other End. To start with an acoustic guitars it is unusual. It doesn’t go with most of today’s trends in a strange way even though a lot of big bands show like Mumford & Sons who obviously have very acoustic guitars tunes. I think people we are in direct contact with on our level don’t have to start with acoustic guitars. For that reason that makes sense.
You write your songs all together, don’t you? It sounded like it.
Matt: I’ll have to fill this one. I will say how I think it is and then everyone will tell me if it is the truth. Usually I will write with someone else, maybe start in the bedroom on my own and then depending on how busy everyone is, I will write music with Theo and Theo will tell me what’s good and what is bad. And I wound be up with lyrics, so I write lyrics with Lucas and Lucas will tell me if it all makes sense and then make more sense and get rid with the crap. Sometimes Lucas will come up with ideas and lyrics first and I will work with them.
Usually it is Lucas and me at the start and then we get to the studio and I become totally useless. Everyone else takes over. And then we all just focus on our instruments really. And everyone’s job is to make the songs down to hear it. What people are hearing is very much a group effort. Where it starts is a bit different but that actually doesn’t matter because it is what people hear and those fine arrangements that are very rarely like anything ever starts out.
[Everyone of the band agrees to that in the background.]
Since your lyrics are important to you, does it bother you if you do a concert with a not English speaking audience?
Lucas: I think we are very lucky and most people from other countries have a healthy approach on learning other languages and more understand than if we were listening to German music. It’s a big help. We have people who can hear us and understand us all over Europe and also if people don’t understand the lyrics they can take it on a different level as well. Some of my favourite music in sung in a language I don’t understand for whatever reason if its made up or I don’t speak.
Matt: I like this French band. I can’t understand a word French, so I can understand that. Also we never really thought anyone else than our close family would hear our songs, so we have been really surprised to potentially going to Germany. It is a nice price we have to address that and maybe provide translations.
Lucas: We have to learn German.
Always good to do that. We love people who speak a bit of German.
Lucas: I am actually in the process of finding a podcast on iTunes where I can learn German to talk to people on stage and not just go “Hallo, mein Name ist Spring Offensive”.
Joe: There is a great tradition of people translating their music into English. You know like Shakira and Enrique Inglesias. And we could that, we probably need to translate them. The Beatles did it in German in fact.
Then you’re kind of reduced to the feeling again.
Lucas: Yeah. You know at the end of “The First of Many Dreams about Monsters” it is kind of a whole of noise and shouting anyway. Maybe that is a bit easy to do because words don’t have enough strength. Most of the time we hinge on our lyrics as you said and that is what carries it off. But there are also times where that is not enough and you kind of have to use the fact that you’re a band. That is what we like about playing as a 5 piece rock band, you have that. If you need to you have so many more gear you can go up to. I am sure that there are times you can’t understand a band, there are lots of other times where the music serve that and do that.
When I was first listening to “…Dreams About Monsters” how did get on this topic and how did you stumble over this book and then make a song about it?
Matt: I wanted to write something about the grieve cycle, we are using this structure. We started playing with different ideas and I started read this book (“On Death And Dying” By Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross) after deciding on the structure. I looked into who came up with this structure and then we have been writing for some while. We have been writing some attempt of the song. And now we wanted to use this structure and thought we write about grieve. I started to read the book and we all looked into that topic and then come across Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who came up with that. It is not and nor should it be easy to write about something like that. It was that kind of struggle.
The reason it took so long is that the more we did that the more we realised that it is not fair to use someone else’s story and we became about us - not surprisingly, like always - writing about grieve than rather being simply about grieve, it became about that struggle.
Was it the reason that you put all five stages together in one song instead of making 5 single songs and make a 5 song EP?
Matt: We were going originally up to last minute to have them more separate but we thought that it would look better if they were all together because they would be less broken up when you listen to them on you iPot or whatever. When you have it on shuffle and get one 30 seconds clip of noise and it sounds horrible. It wouldn’t make any sense. All the sections back each other up and they sort of carry each other. I think we reached the conclusions that they didn’t really work on their own.
Lucas: I think part of it is also think “why not?”. You write something that is difficult to make why not make it a bit of effort to listen to as well. It is an commitment to sit down and listen to music for 13 minutes in a single sitting. People just don’t do this very much any more so it is a challenge to people. Do you want sit through this? Do you want to get something out of it? In terms of what we put into it, in terms of the listening experience. Basically writing a 13 minutes song made it extremely difficult to write something else after that. It took us a while to get back to the road which eventually just came ahead with Between Me and You and lots of songs on the EP.
Is the way you sing an aid to what is being said?
Matt: Absolutely. I think it is in many ways a song we wanted to write before when we have been writing other songs. It was just in terms about everything. Everything was just so focused on making it right and we were spending so long about analysing every single detail, the way things are played, they way things are sung that it is an exact reproduction of the recording when we play it live now. It’s exactly how we wanted it to be.
The lyrics is the most important thing. It is not really enough for us to just sing them I guess. There are so many artists who do it so well. I mean Nick Cave and Morrissey - in the The Smith not later - and the way in which Nick Cave sort of carries the story is incredible. The words aren’t really enough, it is the delivery which is kind of stand by to it. I hope that’s something we get across. Like “Get me a surgeon”: we wanted that sentence kind of building and getting out of control for a moment.
It was nice of you to put the lyrics to it as well.
Matt: A friend of mine called Clem [Garritty] did design it. And I just loved it, we all loved it. It looks great and also when you’re doing a digital release it feels a bit cold. You just clicking “Download” and it appears on your iTunes. It is nice to have something else to look at.
Thank you very much for the interview, guys!
And here is the fabulous video to the single. Enjoy!
Thank you for reading, thank you Spring Offensive and thank you Tim,