It’s late afternoon when lead vocalist Will Walter’s dulcet Somerset tones crackle into life on the other end of the telephone. He’s calling from his old bedroom at his parent’s house on the outskirts of leafy Bath. Will and his two brothers, Ollie (guitar) and Tim (drums), still live in their childhood home, when they’re not out on tour or in the studio that is, which hasn’t been often over the last few years.
Photo: Daily Record
In fact, the band has just returned from recording their debut album in Berlin. Entitled Under the Volcano, they “had a really good first album experience,” and when asked about the choice of Berlin’s Hansa studios as the recording location Will replies, “it was a joint decision with the producer (Jim Abiss), it was based around the fact that we wanted to go somewhere exciting and hopefully that would reflect in the album.” Pressed further about the fantastic coup of acquiring Jim Abiss (of Arctic Monkeys and Adele fame) to produce the record, Will expounds: “It was amazing, that was the first point after getting signed we were like, shit’s getting real. It felt like a massive step up when he agreed to do the record.” Will’s over-awed disposition is typical of the humble personality he projects throughout the interview. He’s really just a small-town, down-to-earth lad from Bath, it seems, and that’s the essence of the band’s music too.
Asked about the record, (released 3 February on Virgin EMI Records), Will says, “we were hopefully sounding like our take on rock ‘n’ roll music at present, and trying to inject a slight bit of modernity into it, bring it into 2014.” Under the Volcano contains some more unexpected influences too: beneath the ‘neo- Led Zeppelin’ vibe can be discerned a more urban sound, including a guitar line on ‘Trust Me… I’m a Genius’ which was inspired by Dr. Dre’s hip-hop stomper ‘Still D.R.E’. “We were listening to a lot of hip hop when we wrote the record. We were getting back into De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and stuff like that,” Will explains. “We took influence from whatever the hell we wanted, that’s the way to do it.”
Will waxes lyrical about happy memories of his time in various bands with his brothers when they were teenagers, trying to graft a living and get noticed by big labels. The brothers played “local pubs and local battle of the bands and mates mums’ parties and aunties’ parties. We started the proper way, we played to no one for about six years, it was the proper grass roots way of earning your crust.”
The Family Rain were also, rather surprisingly, into some rather macho hobbies. “In our early teens we were really into wrestling and skateboarding. We weren’t any good at wrestling because we were all about four foot two, and we were shit at skateboarding. As soon as we started playing instruments we were half decent at it, so we stuck with it.” The Bath music scene, however, left much to be desired according to Will. “Miniscule would be the word, it was tiny. It’s full of good people but there aren’t enough of us, and there aren’t the venues to support anything major.”
Will’s passion for what he does is undeniable, and when asked to weigh in on the current state of rock ‘n’ roll and guitar music, he makes an interesting point. “I think a lot of music and in part guitar music currently is based around looking cool, and people listen to stuff on the basis of looking cool. Because it then goes out of trend, that form of guitar music is suddenly discarded; it’s a very throwaway scene at present.” This is what he is passionately fighting against, and an ideal the band seek to incorporate into their music. “We’re very conscious of coming from our own place, and not worrying what other people think about it.”
The interview then moves onto the subject of the band’s genesis, and Will expounds a very interesting fact about the band’s name. “I found a video of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, she did a song called ‘Didn’t It Rain’, and when we were forming this band one of the main things I felt was that the band needed to come from a place similar to where this girl was, because she is absolutely slamming it. The ‘Rain’ part came from that song, and of course we’re all family.”
It seems the band are certainly on the up at the moment, with the debut album doing well with both critics and fans. A tour beckons next month, including a headline spot on the coveted NME Awards tour. Will is staying grounded however, and responds to the question of where he sees the band in a year thus: “just another step up the ladder, the main thing we want to achieve is longevity, we don’t want to be a flash in the pan.”