Echo and the Bunnymen are one of the most important but also one of the most overlooked post punk voices of the 80s. If you haven’t heard of them, your parents certainly will. Originally comprising of frontman Ian McCulloch, guitarist Will Sergeant, and bassist Les Pattison, the band released their first album four decades ago and since then have established a remarkable catalogue.
I had the opportunity to interview guitarist Will Sergeant to talk about everything from the early days of Echo and the Bunnymen, his new found love for jazz music and the prospect of returning back to live shows.
Calling me from his home in Merseyside, the first thing I can’t help noticing about Will is just how friendly and open he is. The band are re-releasing their first four albums on 180 gram vinyl, with a number of limited edition versions too, just over four decades after the release of their debut ‘Crocodiles’.
Speaking on the reissue of these vinyl’s, which is set to be released on the 22nd October, Will said that, “I’ve gotta say that had nothing to do with us! That was more to do with the label than anything else, I didn’t really know much about it but I’m a big vinyl fan so it’s always nice seeing the albums getting reissued. I’m not really big on first editions and all that crap.”
As we were on the topic of records, I couldn’t resist asking Will how many he owned himself (I mentioned I had a meagre collection touching 50). “Yeah, I’ve probably got a few thousand. You can still get some good bargains if you know where to look, charity shops I’ve found to be pretty good with that…I’ve recently been getting into jazz. Miles Davis and the like…there’s so much of it to get into, it’s brilliant.”
The bands first four albums are perfect examples of The Bunnymen’s unique approach to post punk incorporating elements of psychedelic music too. The album artwork reflects the bands early music. Photographer Brian Griffin and designer Martyn Atkins were involved in each of their first four albums which creates a continuity to the atmospheric theme of each cover. “Yeah well we all had a part to play in them. We wanted something quite psychedelic as that’s what we’d been called at the time. With the first one being in nature, in the woods and then Griffins brought a light to give it that effect.
“When it came to Heaven and Hell we decided to head down to the beach and Griffins brought a bag of whitebait with him and threw it around us so the seagulls would come down. He made us stand facing away from the camera which was pretty unorthodox at the time with 80s album covers.”
Will then paused to recall an anecdote of their time in Iceland as the band took photos for their third album ‘Porcupine’. “Then we went to Iceland. For the shot we did we were on this about four-foot ledge wearing the complete wrong clothes and shoes. We were pushing each other about on the ice and to think one wrong move we would have fallen off the edge!”
While I had the opportunity to talk to Will, I couldn’t miss the chance to ask him about the band’s unique sound. “At the time, post punk gave us that space to be different. I couldn’t really play the guitar but with the music we were making I learned what sounded good and didn’t and stuck to that. I’m not sure if we knew it was special but we wanted to create classic albums, that’s something we knew we wanted to do.”
The band are back on tour early next year playing here at the LCR on the 11th February. I asked Will how he felt about going back to touring after Covid, “daunting. Quite daunting. 2019 was the last time we properly performed live and my fingers are so soft now. You know when you play, they get really hard but now they’re as soft as a baby’s bum.”
Earlier this year, Will released his first memoir which details his life growing up in Merseyside and the early beginnings of The Bunnymen. Talking about the book he said that he “would normally write 3000 words a day sometimes more sometimes less. I started writing the book in 2019 so while it didn’t really come about because of the whole covid thing it did give me the time to write it and concentrate on it.”
Looking towards the future, Will mentioned that another memoir is in the works as well as some more music from Echo and The Bunnymen in the coming years.