We had the opportunity to chat with Matt Bowman, frontman of the hugely successful indie-rock band, The Pigeon Detectives. With a brand new single, ‘Lose Control’, and a fifth album on the way early next year, the West Yorkshire quintet have been on a long journey since releasing their debut album Wait for Me, a major hit back in 2007. Having appeared at a few festivals over the summer, the band are excited to get back on the road. Here’s your opportunity to catch them playing some smaller, more intimate gigs whilst promoting their new album. Dates below.
Hey Matt, have you guys performed in Norwich before?
Yes we’ve played Norwich many times; we’ve played at the university, the Waterfront and even in the Art Centre back in the day.
What does it feel like to have all your tour dates sell out?
It’s nice. It’s testament to just how loyal our fan base is, they’ve been there for the last 10 years and it’s nice that they’re still sticking around. It wasn’t too unexpected because of the nature of the tour as it’s an opportunity to catch us in a more intimate setting. They are probably some of the smallest venues we’ve played in seven to eight years, but we have quite a few pieces of new material to try out so it will be nicer to have a smaller audience.
There have been several different stories, but how did you come up with the band name?
You know what, it was so long ago I don’t even know what the truth is anymore. Naylor said, “Dave breeds pigeons, and there’s a pigeon that lives in a shed, that’s his special pigeon, and this pigeon actually writes all the songs”.
(Bowman’s Twitter however says the band is in fact named after a 1970’s French cartoon. So who knows? Bowman even said that he and Wilson pulled the cracker during Christmas dinner together and that they found the name in there.)
What were your early musical interests/influences?
Do you know my biggest influence is probably the other band members. I wasn’t really from a musical household. I think my first experience of music was The Best of Celine Dion that my mum had on in the background! But I started hanging around with Dave, Ryan and Ollie, and they would play me the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and from that I started to revisit Jimmy Hendrix, Blondie, The Libertines and The Strokes and I was lucky enough to be in the middle of the Oasis phenomena.
How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
We met at primary school… 25 years ago!
When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
*Laughs*. Probably boredom! We sat around listening to music and thought we probably could play a bit. We just got a tape recorder and started doing covers, Dolls covers, Stone Roses covers. We just enjoyed doing it and the next progression was just finding a drummer and getting a rehearsal room and to start taking things a little more seriously. But there was no master plan to ever get a record deal or even play a gig really. We were playing because we enjoyed it.
What’s the atmosphere like before you perform. Do you get nervous…or excited?
Even though we’ve been doing this for a long time I personally still suffer horrendous nerves. But as we’ve been going along it has become a source of fun. In general we have a couple of drinks, try and loosen up, some people do a couple of stretches and go for that last cigarette. It’s quite relaxing now that we have found a comfort zone whereby we can ready ourselves for the gig ahead, crack a few jokes, chill out for a bit.
Do you prefer smaller venues or larger ones? Why?
There are merits to both. I enjoy the smaller venues, being able to feed off the energy of the crowd… being within touching distance. The first thing you notice during a gig is the humidity and the smell of the room changing. The smell of people dancing, that sort of dirty rock and roll atmosphere. A swell going through the room. So yeah, I prefer the carnage of the smaller venues but I also enjoy the bigger ones they tend to have nice stages, lights…
What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on tour?
All sorts happen on tour. The amount of times I’ve ended up in hospital seems to be an unnatural amount: broken ankles, torn hamstrings, stitches in my finger, my eyebrows, teeth repaired. Let’s just say I’ve been to hospital more than most!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to face as a band to get to where you are now?
Probably getting a record deal. Every band out there wants a record deal and every band out there is looking to be the next big thing. I think initially getting people to believe in you as a band, is always a challenge. We were holding down jobs while playing all over the place. Getting home in the early hours then having to get up a couple of hours later for work. Definitely the earlier days were hard because no one is paying you for what you are doing. But then again motivating yourself to make a big record, you have to find something you are passionate about, discover whole new directions that isn’t treading over old grounds, that can be hard sometimes. I think the first album and the fifth one have probably been the two hardest.
Where do you get the material for your albums?
Earlier albums were always kinda quite aspirational about where we wanted to go and what we expected from life. They were almost about the possibilities of what was to come. The later records are more reflective, especially this new one; it’s almost like a commentary of the journey we have been on post-tour. But also maybe a wish list of what we could achieve.
If you weren’t a professional musician what would you be?
Professional footballer! *Laughs* But I never had a chance. I suppose I always liked working outside so maybe I’d cut grass on a golf club, it be nice to have a bit of sun on my back…
What do you like to do in your downtime that may contribute to your musicality?
Outside of music I try to stay away from it. I listen to my iPod if I’m out running. I don’t really have any aspirations to work in the music industry outside of the band. Me and Jim go surfing on the East Coast. Me and Dave play golf. Football is great. And me and Ollie go for a quiz every Wednesday. You know, normal stuff really.
What current musicians/music do you listen to?
I have a collection of bands that I go back to, when I need motivation: Black Bottle Motorcycle Club, The Vines, The Libertines, The Strokes.
What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?
Get off your arse and form your own band! Don’t talk about doing it, just do it. We didn’t even have a drummer when we started out. Practice. Practice. Practice. Set yourself small goals. First goal: first gig. Second goal: a second gig. Beyond that you have to start thinking about playing bigger towns outside of your own area. Then recording your first single, radio show, festival. The most important thing is to just get up and do it. Just keep playing. Play to anyone.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
We’ve been doing this 10 years. We’ve grown up and our music has too. It’s all part of the journey. Sometimes this album is unrecognisable to some of our earlier stuff. So there’s definitely been a change… a progression. Another thing is, when you get to a fifth album you’re more willing to try new things and experiment.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for emotional support?
You couldn’t do a job like this without the support of your friends and family!
See THE PIGEON DETECTIVES live in the UK on the following dates:
Oct 01 – Various Venues – Portsmouth
Oct 02 – The Face Bar – Reading
Oct 03 – Borderline – London
Oct 06 – The Wardrobe – Leeds
Oct 07 – Broadcast – Glasgow
Oct 08 – Various Manchester Venues – Manchester
Oct 10 – The Louisiana – Bristol
Oct 11 – Norwich Arts Centre – Norwich
Oct 12 – The Sunflower Lounge – Birmingham
Oct 13 – The Welly Club – Hull
Oct 14 – Ku Bar – Stockton on Tees