How are you doing? Are you preparing for the new tour at the moment?
I’ve been doing interview after interview! No, in fact recently I was attempting to learn a bassline and a chant from Queen, that Queen almost never played live – which we’re thinking of playing on our tour.
Your new album Pinewood Smile has just come out – what’s it all about?
There’s no main theme behind it, there’s a lot of disparate themes; it’s not a concept album. “Pinewood Smile” itself is tapping into something vintage.
How did the idea for the album cover happen?
Just us messing around; it looks a bit like a girl’s mag, but why not have a guy’s one for change, you know?
How did the lyrics for [latest single] Solid Gold come about?
They happened with us just sitting around in the living room of a large house in Cornwall, just being childish. The main statement, “we’re going to blow people’s fucking heads off” – well, we’re in a band that’s extremely divisional. It’s a very honest expression of what it’s like to play in a rock and roll band.
On the album, you have a song specifically about Southern Trains…
We do – we wanted to keep it real, something British and close to home. We’d be arriving late [to the studio] every day because we were travelling from Horsham, and with Southern Trains there’s no accountability, no respect for the customer, no customer service. People don’t complain enough, people don’t do anything about it, so we thought we’d do our bit!
Do you have any particular technique for recording in the studio?
Well on this one we recorded with Adrian Bushby, who’s a Grammy-winning producer, engineer, so that was a big challenge for us. What we decided to do was to record the backing tracks live, all recorded at the same time like they used to do – so you can capture the excitement of the live show.
This is your first album with Rufus [Taylor] officially on the drums – did that have an impact on the sound of the album?
A huge impact. He has a sense of mischief, a great sense of humour… and beautiful blonde energy – he has a great voice. He has lovely, warm, honey tones. Which combine well with Justin’s falsetto on two of the tracks from the album; Why Don’t The Beautiful Cry and Stampede of Love.
Speaking of Rufus, would it be fair to say that Queen are a big influence on the band in general?
It depends what track you listen to – we all have different influences.
Do you have any personal influences?
I get more inspired by personalities, writers – they stand on their own and do their own thing, that’s where I take inspiration from.
As a band, you don’t tend to take yourselves too seriously. Do you consider that to be a trademark of yours?
Sometimes we like to express ourselves honestly. We’re quite comfortable with a sense of the ridiculous, and that can be serious or it can be silly. We like to bring both aspects of it to the table.
Do you think that has made a difference to how you’re received in different countries?
Yeah, definitely. In think we’re seen as more of a curious… Monty Python-esque English curiosity. In the UK we’re seen as a joke band by a lot of people. Then again, I don’t think it’s a great joke – there’s certainly more than one joke, that’s for sure.
Does your sense of humour as a group continue offstage?
Yeah, of course. How else would we get through the day? You have to keep yourself amused; if not, it’s just going to be a grind. We have a lot of laughs and we enjoy each other’s company. We’re like a family, you know? Like a big dysfunctional family.
How did you find touring with Guns N Roses?
Like a military operation. You have all these characters running the show – we met a guy who was like an army general, he was an exceptional guy, really strong-willed and sharp and witty. To run something on that scale, you can’t afford to have people who make mistakes. Everyone was just incredibly professional. Americans are so much more professional anyway than British people. They showed us some hospitality. We met Duff and Slash…
I’m not interested in meeting people per say, I think people make a big deal out of it. Sometimes it’s quite selfish to impose yourself on another person. You have to treat them for their point of view, they’re meeting all these people and it’s almost always the same. Unless you have something to contribute to the conversation, it’s quite selfish to impose yourself on someone. I’ve never asked anyone for an autograph in my life.
Like the French, they respect people’s privacy. In the punk movement, in the punk scene, people didn’t ask for autographs.
Do you feel like there’s more of a respect there for people’s personal space and boundaries?
Just generally in life. People generally aren’t self-aware, are they? They need to be educated to be self-aware, or to have gone through something that makes them self-aware.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to, or anything special about your upcoming winter tour?
Just the magical moments. Justin [Hawkins, vocals and guitar] is a great improviser; he is very intuitive. For example, when there’s an opportunity to have a kid on stage, or to improvise a song – he really does get it right. Those moments are special.
What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned from being in this band?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is… (Long pause.) Not to take yourself too seriously!
Lastly, with the band originating from Lowestoft, do you consider Norwich to be something of a home show?
Yes. (Laughs.) Not for me, but for the guys, yeah, for sure. All the friends and family are going to be there, there’s going to be cousins, nephews, nieces… It’s going to be great.