Hooton Tennis Club is the name on a lot of lips at the moment within the Americana indie scene, and it doesn’t take more than a cursory spin of either of their albums to see why. Hooks abound and leads into off-kilter guitar parts that keep everything from feeling too polished or formulaic, they consist of: Ryan Murphy (vocals/guitar), James Madden (vocals/guitar), Callum McFadden (bass) and Harry Chalmers (drums). Formed in 2013, they are currently signed to Heavenly Recordings. In the midst of a European tour, Dom Whiffen caught up with the boys just before their first ever gig in Norwich at the Waterfront.
I meet the boys in the excellent St Andrews Brew House (one for beer lovers) where they were relaxing with a pre-show pint. Jokes fly and the band are clearly in good spirits. After much discussion of which beer would go down best and whether to order food or not, we got down to business.
Hi guys, good to see you. How’s the tour going so far?
Ryan: It’s going really well. Reception is definitely great and we’re seeing more and more new faces and packing in higher numbers than ever before, so it’s a success thus far!
Harry: It’s only the fourth date but if the first three are anything to go by, we’re in for a great tour. The fans keep us going and it’s essential to us that we go out and deliver consistently and make everyone happy.
You guys released your second album only around a year after your debut. How come you were able to release another great record so soon after the first?
Ryan: The songs were just ready to go really. It wasn’t a conscious decision to create an album, more a case of having the songs there so why not?
James: We had a few demos left over from the first record and also wrote throughout the following tour during soundchecks and the like. We never stop writing, we’ve already started work on the next album!
You’ve worked with some prominent names within the industry including Edwyn Collins and Bill Ryder-Jones from The Coral. How did the collaborations come about?
Ryan: Edywn and Bill were both suggested by our record label as people who might be a good fit to work with us.
Callum: Bill had just worked with The Wytches who are stylistically similar to us in some respects. It was a good fit, as you can hear from the split. Just a good pairing we felt.
Harry: We’re quite influenced by Edywn, even though people might not necessarily put us together. He’s friends with our manager, who immediately envisioned him as the man for the job after hearing the demos we were putting together.
Ryan: He’d also just finished building a new studio and was eager to try it out, so that was really great, to be the first band in there.
You’re often mentioned as bearing similarities to bands like Dinosaur Jr and Pavement. Would you class these as influences and are there any influences you have that might surprise people?
Ryan: Pavement are definitely up there. The whole grunge Americana thing is absolutely something we’re into. But we don’t all listen to the same thing at all. It’s a melting pot!
James: Bob Dylan is definitely a top one for me. He definitely creeps into my parts a lot.
Callum: Big Star and The Flying Burrito Brothers as well on my end.
Harry: Yeah, it’s definitely a melting pot! We all meet in the middle and we’re constantly slagging each other’s tastes off, but that’s all part of the process!
There seem to be a lot of stories about strange characters in your tunes, such as Powerful Pierre and Katy-Anne Bellis. Are these inspired by local characters, fiction or a mix of both?
Ryan: Yeah, the two you’ve mentioned definitely are and a lot of our songs feature elements of people we know.
James: Powerful Pierre is about a former associate of ours who was… the opposite of powerful. Quite a timid fellow who had a few characteristics about him that fit into a set of lyrics rather well. Katy-Anne is about a former flatmate of mine. That one’s pretty true to life as well, fairly accurate.
Ryan: We definitely prefer writing about real characters and experiences rather than pure fiction. I’d probably say it just feels more honest to us. It comes a lot more naturally and we’re much more comfortable with that than we would be just writing the first thing that came up!
Sounds like everything is progressing nicely for you guys at the moment. What’s next after this tour?
Ryan: The next album is coming along nicely, we have a few good tunes that we feel will be a good progression so it’s definitely in the pipeline.
James: It won’t be as soon as this tour’s finished though. We’ll need to recuperate and finish off the writing first. I’m not sure when the release date would be….
Callum: Early 2017 we think.
Harry: Early? I thought mid-2017 was the target?
Ryan: Compromise! We’ll say early to mid-2017. That’s the official line for now. You heard it here first!