the whatevers. interview #27

Today we talk with The Whatevers. A band that makes that sweet mix of lo-fi, 90’s twee and a sensible approach to the subjects that make an indiepop heart skip a bit.
I got to know them via Holiday Records and found out they had more songs available for free download on  They have some covers (including ‘Where Damage Isn’t Already Done’ by The Radio Dept.) and ‘Marshmallow Soundtracks’.
They are recording their first album that’ll be called ‘Art and Sex’’. You can check some of the new songs on their myspace.  ‘Repeat To Fade’ is simply beautiful.
The Whatevers make simple and unpretentious tunes with a DIY sense and a genuine love for music. It’s music for parlour games and sunny weekends spent on the porch.

So here's Mike, Kate, Emily and Al talking about beginnings, dreams, synaesthesia and music, of course...

01. First things first: say hi to everyone! Introduce yourselves and talk about how it all started (the band or the idea of getting together to make music).
Hi everyone! We’re The Whatevers. We are Mike, Kate, Al, and Emily. Emily wants to bring down the patriarchy, Kate wants to bring down carbon emissions, Al wants to bring down the house and Mike wants to bring down aeroplanes.
Mike: I always wanted to be in a band since I was a teenager. Kate and I were childhood sweethearts. I would buy the Melody Maker and she would get the NME, and we would swap half way through the week and cut out the pictures to stick on our walls. Kate ran a fanzine called Opinionated Paranoia and she would interview my teenage band, which was called Sparkling Tarts. The drummer went on to be in a band called Hooker but I haven’t seen him for years.  This is the whole period we are talking about in the lyrics to ‘Rhapsody in blue jeans’. Anyway, Kate and I broke each other’s hearts for about fifteen years, and then I moved into her house and she started helping me do my music, and The Whatevers grew out of that, really. The most exciting thing to happen so far is Jacob out of The Drums putting us out on his free singles club on Holiday Records.
EmilyI joined the band after drunkenly overstating my drumming skills whilst chatting to Kate & Mike at one of their gigs, when The Whatevers was still just the two of them. They invited me to a practice, and I was pleasantly surprised when they said I could stay, as I'd only been teaching myself the drums for a week or so.
Al: Mike recruited me after I started listening to The Whatevers demos compulsively on lastfm. Mike basically cyber-stalks anyone who listens to The Whatevers. You should still listen though, he's not technically savvy enough to steal your credit card numbers or anything.

02. If your music was a landscape or planet or anything visual, how would it look like?
Mike: Well, I’ve got synesthesia so music makes shapes and colours in my head when I hear it, but they are just like dancing abstract paintings. So that’s pretty hard to answer.
Kate: I think it would look like a children’s illustration of a garden, but there would be some weird stuff in unexpected places. Maybe slightly unsettling things
Mike: Like gnomes? I am unsettled by gnomes, they are terrifying. But I like the idea of a children’s book illustration of kids smashing guitars and putting bricks through police car windows with shining little smiles on their faces.

03. Your music wanders through twee, lo-fi and pop-punk. Could you talk about influences and role models? I mean, in case you believe in the idea of role models. 
Mike: Well, I’m from a generation that saw Nirvana and instantly wanted to form a band! And that got me into The Vaselines and Beat Happening and everything. And me and Kate have always both liked Belle and Sebastian a lot. They might seem far away from each other musically but I think they have in common a focus on melody, simplicity and indie ethics. As for role models, I suppose bands like Yo La Tengo or The Flaming Lips, bands that started off with bad equipment and a lot of enthusiasm and have just kept going and getting better for years and years. Or maybe Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for the way they have done it all themselves and used the internet, rather than getting into loads of debt to a record company.
Kate: We were both really into the Manics as kids, but Pulp were the band that got me into music. I saw them doing ‘Underwear’ on The White Room and it actually made me feel physically sick. I’d never had that kind of connection with music before, I was young and innocent and it was shocking to me. Before that I had just learned the lyrics to songs out of Smash Hits but never heard any of the records! It’s always seemed like proof of the notion that there’s a really fine line between hate and love.

04. Your music is a combination of dreamy guitars, electronics and sweet vocals. I’d say it’s twee having a drink with synthpop and then taking dreampop to dinner on a pier. Said that, could you give your ideas on the music you make? Tell us about influences (not only in music)...
Mike: My influences outside of music are Wile E Coyote and Robin Hood! And I suppose writers like Henry Miller or JD Salinger. But I’m trying to write the sort of lyrics Alan Bennett would write. It’s weird that all the bands we keep getting compared to in the bits of press we have had, like Jonathan Richman or Hefner, we’d never really listened to. We were trying to sound like The Cribs! We must just be not very good. People keep mentioning public transport in the reviews. I don’t know why. I see us as sort of music for unemployed people in cardigans to masturbate to.
Kate: Mike writes almost all the music and lyrics, but I’m like a sort of critical friend – I’ll tell him if there’s something that I don’t think works, and we’ll re-write it together. My favourites are the ones with lyrics that are quite personal but also pithy and fun. As a singer or a frontperson, people I admire are Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Lauren Laverne when she was in Kenickie – not that I think I’m like any of them! In other spheres I love Mike Leigh, Alan Bennett, Willy Russell – lots and lots of great British writers and film-makers.

05. I really like to know about different artists ways to create. Tell us about how’s your creative process when writing songs and what do you believe in terms of music. And how do you record your songs? 
Mike: I do it all at home on the computer. All those free demos on our Last FM page, I played everything on. I’ve been doing this for so long now that I can pretty much try it I anyway I like. So I can start with words or music, or start by jamming or recording a backing track and trying to write over the top of it, or anything. It isn’t always the same process, I always wanna try it different ways.  But I have written songs for years and years. And just this year people seem to have started listening a little bit since I took a ‘fuck it, stop trying so hard’ type approach to it, and started writing lyrics about our real life using our real personality, instead of singing about stars and oceans and all that.  Right now I’m working on recording us as live as possible, now that we have got a full band.
Kate: I contribute the odd word or line here and there, or Mike takes stuff I say to him and makes songs out of them. I wrote half of ‘This Despicable Life’. I really want to write more lyrics, but at the moment my role is to fund this operation with my job!
Mike: It’s always the best word in the song that you write, though
Kate:Yes! Yes it is.

06. ‘same power chords punk sux version’ and ‘same power chords pop sux version’. I think the idea behind this two versions is brilliant. how did you get to it? What sux more: punk or pop? Or both? Or neither?
Mike: Ahaha, well, I got a free trial of Antares Autotune, and I got a bit carried away. I always believe in these things while I am doing them. It was gonna be some concept album about modern pop music, ‘cos I was listening to a lot of chart pop stuff. So I made this pop remix of same power chords and then I realized it was totally silly. Like a Ting Tings pastiche or something. But I like the way the song takes the piss out of pop music but …is in love with it too. I dunno. In terms of aesthetics and attitude punk rock is the best thing, but I am a total pop tart, I always like the poppy-est one by any band.
Kate: Anything sucks when it pretends to be something it isn’t. If you’re in a band, you should try and make really good music that you think people will like, and that says something about who you are. If you try and do anything else, you’re just a pretender and people can always tell.
Emily: Both are pop and punk are pretty good. If you take pop to mean commerical, and punk to mean political then pop sucks more, but that's a bit of a simplistic view. I like both. I like pop-punk too; the "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes" version of Mandy is simply breathtaking.

06. So far, all of your songs, were released for free. Share with us your view (views?) on music distribution nowadays? 
Mike: I will never mind if people download our stuff, as long as they dress up like a pirate when they do it, and go ‘arrrr!’ Basically I think anyone who thinks downloading is wrong is to be mistrusted as probably a dickhead.
Emily: It's good to make music freely available, but I think it's also good to place a value on creativity.
Al: I think what we're doing: giving away demos for free, is a good way to get the music "out there", but it would be nice to have an actual CD to sell at some point. Personally I think people who download thousands of albums and never listen to them are ridiculous, but then we've all copied the odd CD so I dunno.

07. What is a perfect pop song for you?
Mike: God only knows by The Beach Boys and Sunday Morning by The Velvet Underground.
Kate: There isn’t really one I can pin down, it depends what mood I’m in. Happy, dancing-around-the-room music is Funny Little Frog by Belle and Sebastian or Kite by Kate Bush – angry is Alanis Morissette’s first album (I never claimed to be cool…).
Emily: Anything with harmonies and soaring synth lines.
Al: 12.51 by The Strokes

08. What can we expect for the future? 
Al: Gigs in the new year? Me and Emily have to learn to play an ever growing list of songs first. Mike writes alot of songs.
Mike: We are hoping to self release a home recorded album next year, just for the few fans we have managed to get. We will do 250 and see how we go from there. We are still learning to play all the songs cos Emily and Al have just joined. And we are planning to promote some sort of all day show in Leeds next year with some of our favourite bands. The Just Joans are playing, and hopefully Piskie Sits, Men Only which is Al’s other band, The Felt Tips, and anyone else we can rope in. I want to play a gig on a bouncy castle! Or at least have one at the show that you can go on when you are drunk.
Kate: Now that we’ve got Emily and Al, I’m looking forward to being just a singer on stage (with occasional glockenspiel). You never know, I might even start busting some moves…

09. Do you get to live of your music or do you have a job to ‘pay the bills’?
Mike: Well, the problem with thinking that the music industry is an untrustworthy, closed world full of whores and vampires and adhering to indie punk principles and ethics is that there is no real money in it. So I teach guitar.
Kate: I am a climate change officer for the council. I reduce carbon emissions like Jay Z rocks a funky track.
Al: Hahaha! I’m a postman! But I want to be a rockstar.
Mike: people in bands and professional footballers should be required by law to have part time jobs as well. Keep everybody honest. Except me. I want a big bag of drugs and a bathtub full of supermodels, and a fat hairy person to lift all the amplifiers. And a monkey.

10. Any song(s) you’d like to cover?
Mike: There’s a few free covers on our last. fm page.  Best Coast, The Cribs, The Mystics, The Radio Dept…We are gonna get sued so bad if anyone finds out though. We didn’t ask anyone, we just did it. Except  Eux Autres. We asked them but they haven’t replied yet.
Kate: I’d like to do a twee-punk cover of ‘Old-Fashioned Girl’ by Eartha Kitt. But Mike won’t let me.

11. Name the perfect place and time to hear your music.
Al: Probably sitting in your room thinking about girls/boys and corduroy trousers like some shameful indie stereotype
Mike: I want our album to be the go- to cd for people who wear cardigans and care about fanzines to put on when they are getting ready to go out of a Saturday night. And for Sunday morning when they’re hung over too.
Emily: Having it on my headphones certainly cheered me up on my walk home through the snow today.
Kate: When you’re dancing in an indie club and you’ve got the best shoes in the room.
Mike: That line’s going in a song! THAT’S how our creative process works…

12. Recommend something you've been listening lately.
Mike: Eux Autres! Their new album is good and Cold City is a classic. My favourite this year is Shrag with their ‘Life, Death, Prizes’ album. And I would imagine people who read your blog already know about Standard Fare and This Many Boyfriends and Just Handshakes and all those great indiepop bands from Yorkshire. And I love Best Coast, especially the early e.p’s and singles…but they’re well famous anyway.
Kate: I’m rubbish, I don’t listen to new music unless Mike forces me. I like all the stuff he said!
Emily: The Bumblebees from Bristol, their self titled EP is brilliant
Al: Harlem, Bobby Conn and The Roman Empire, who are a local band.

13. Anything else you feel like saying?
Mike: Damn the man, play nothing but hardcore. Actually, what I would like to say is I am quite willing to compromise each and every one of my principles and sacrifice all my own dignity and self respect just for the chance to be on the cover of the NME and get several grand in debt to some knob at a failing record company. I am all about that. If anyone out there works in the music business, please, please exploit us and take advantage of us just as soon as you possibly can so that my Mam will get to hear us on the radio and won’t think I have wasted my education.
Emily: Never let the fact that you can't actually play your chosen instrument stop you from joining a band. But once you join, be prepared to practice a lot.

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