Whiskas (of ¡Forward Russia!) Interview
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Music.
One of the brightest groups to survive this past pre-SXSW hype, all members in tact, are Leeds’ ¡Forward Russia! who have branded such distinct tones that they honestly bear no one on one comparison with any of their contemporaries; granted they sound like a lot of bands combined, but yet they stand alone as something completely unique. Having released a string of successful EPs the band felt it proper to combine some thoughts, old and new, into what would become its first genuine album, Give Me A Wall. As the band’s guitarist, Whiskas, would mention in this interview, the songs blend with each musician contributing their own distinct sections. Whiskas also touches base on the band’s notorious ¡! logo, plans and anticipation for the band’s current tour and who he thinks could shine at next year’s SXSW Festival.
My introduction to the band came around the time of this past year’s SXSW. With the warm reception and the full-length release that followed, how much difference has a year made for the band?
Whiskas: Quite a lot! We’re just on a massive European tour, and we’ve been harking back a lot to what we were doing a year ago. Especially as it was In The City – the UK’s version of SXSW. A year ago we weren’t sure of or how we’d make our first album. Now we know we’re going to make our second album, the question of when depends on how successful the promotion of Give Me A Wall continues.
Listen after listen proves to me that the band’s music is very dependent on Tom Woodhead’s often high pitched vocals. There are many hundreds of bands that don’t utilize the talents of their singer to their full extent, why then does it work for Forward Russia to base much of its songs around Woodhead? Does the band write music around Woodhead’s lyrics, or is it quite the opposite?
Whiskas: I think we use every edge that we can, and I do agree that too few bands really use vocals well. A lot of it is just being lazy, and I think musically we’re not a lazy band, we will try and anything out until we’re happy with the way things work. However I don’t think we’re dependent around the vocals – and in fact the lyrics themselves come last in the song writing process, although we are constantly aware of the vocal melody while working on the texture of the song.
How did the band’s ¡! logo come about and do you think that it helps the band’s marketability?
Whiskas: It was a kind of happy accident, we were playing round with having the name with extra punctuation, then we started using the font, which gave the exclamation marks the look they did. I think we like the idea that the band is identifiable by the symbol and so have played on that. That does help our ‘marketability’ but really it just gets people interested. The music is not exactly the most commercial thing, so little things like that help us reach to people who wouldn’t usually think to care.
There’s something within the band’s music that is oddly familiar, where does Forward Russia’s sound come from?
Whiskas: I don’t know! We always say that we are the product of everything we’ve ever listened to, so maybe that’s got something to do with it? I think/hope we take the good and interesting bits out of lots of bands. I think we do put some poppy hooks in, and that gives it a bit of recognizability
Who has had the greatest influence on how the band’s music develops as time progresses?
Whiskas: Not sure if you mean within the band here, or externally. So I’ll answer both quickly! Within the band, I think I used to come in with huge chunks of song, that we’d arrange as a whole band, but now more and emphasis is put on everyone coming up with there own bits and bobs. We’re better at challenging what we all want as well. Externally, I don’t know what has been the single greatest influence. We all left one track garage rock bands, and the big thing we’ve said about Forward Russia, is that we’d never be too involved to not try anything.
It’s not even close next spring’s SXSW, but people are already talking about it. Are there any bands that you see coming out of it as breakthrough artists?
Whiskas: Wow, that’s a forward question! Hopefully a band we’re working with on Dance To The Radio called ‘The Pigeon Detectives’ will do really well. I think they will, though it’s quite a British sound. I think there’s an interesting crop of new English bands who just missed this year that I’ll be intrigued to see how they do – Klaxons, Mumm-Ra, Fields…some of them could do really well.
As the band makes its way through Europe and North America are there any locations that you’re particularly looking forward to playing?
Whiskas: We’ve really enjoyed re-visiting Berlin, Barcelona and Brussels so far in Europe. I think they’re our favorites, and we’re looking forward to Paris this week though I think we’ll be very busy with promo! We haven’t seen much of America yet, it’s so big and spread out, within the cities I mean. New York seems cool, I think we’re looking forward to heading up to Canada. I’m really looking forward to Seattle and Detroit ‘cause of the musical heritage. It will be nice to see Austin again too, see what it’s like when it’s not SXSW.
If the band had one last performance who would you like to share the stage with?
Whiskas: Wow, I don’t know. I think you’d get a different answer from all of us. For whatever reason it would be our last gig, it would be nice to play with all our Leeds friends – This Et Al, Duels, iLiKETRAiNS and all the guys. It was great when we used to play together every week. We don’t see them enough nowadays.