Saturday, 7 February 2009

Pocketbooks interview

Pocketbooks, eh? Aren't they fantastic? They're going to release their debut album in a few weeks time, so I thought it would be good to get the Trinny and Susannah of the band - Ian and Dan - to answer some questions.

What's it like being in the best band in London right now?

Ian: That's very kind of you to say so although I couldn't say how true that is - I think you've forgotten that Razorlight and Babyshambles are in London too. I love being in this band though, it feels like a gang. I can feel that we are getting better and better the more time we spend together, that's the best bit - that there are real possibilities ahead for us and that we could really achieve something.
Dan: Actually, I prefer group. But er, erm. Sam, you always make me blush. Ian's right though the 'gang' aspect is the best thing. I've been in groups in the past and it's never been so close knit and I think that comes through in the songs these days we seem to playing off each other really well at the moment.

You seem to play all the time in London. Does this ever become tiring - or is playing live the best bit about being in Pocketbooks?

Ian: It doesn't feel like we play here all that much, really. I'm certainly not bored of it and there's plenty of venues to play. Hopefully we've kept the sets pretty fresh with new songs over the last year so the kids don't get bored watching us. Playing the gigs is my favourite bit of being in the band, that and the 20 emails we send each other everyday arguing about what font colour should be on the album cover.

Dan: RED TEXT ON THE LP. IN BIRO. I don't reckon we play too much at all. You see some bands who look like they're playing every other week. We're actually ridiculously choosy about gigs we should or should not play. As to the London thing, the cost for us can be prohibitive when it comes to playing elsewhere. Unfortunately we haven't unlimited supplies of cash even after soundtracking the 4th 'Back to the Future' film. (I'm not sure I'm supposed to let that out yet - a little exclusive for you).

Who writes the lyrics and who writes the music in the band? How does the songwriting process work?

Ian: Andy is the main songwriter in the band and he usually comes to practices with fully formed songs. We might change a few things when we get together but that doesn't happen very often. Once I've got the chords and structure figured out I usually jangle a guitar part over the top of it when we practice until it all sounds right.
Dan: Emma and I have written a couple between us. She came up with 'Skating on Thin Ice' for the new LP alone in an Andy style and taught it to the rest of us, a couple of others I gave her some music and she sang over it and help me arrange the bare bones. These ones the band then fleshed out in rehearsals.

What's been your favourite Pocketbooks moment so far?

Ian: Easy - Our set at Indietracks 2008. I remember being too scared to look up and out into the crowd during the first 2 songs, it was quite scary to play in front of that many people. The reaction was amazing though and the little stage invasion at the end was the highlight - 3 minutes of extremely awkward dancing. I remember leaving the stage on a massive high, I felt like I could do anything - in the end though I just went for piss, I was bursting. What a waste.
Dan: Can't argue with any of that, I also enjoyed sitting in the studio and being handed the finished recordings for the LP, it was a proper High Five moment. Anyway, Ian, away and wash your mouth out. What if your Mam was to read this?

Tell me about your album. New tracks - or a mixture of old and new?

Ian: I think all the details of the new album will be out very soon, I'm not sure what we can and can't say at the moment. The album is mainly new tracks, most of which we've been trying out live over the last couple of months. We recorded the album with Simon Trout which was a brilliant experience. He's worked with Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures and The Clientele recently so we knew we were in good hands. He totally understood our sound straightaway and had loads of input into the record and came up with some great ideas. I'm really happy with the final mix, it's really poppy and 'up' sounding.

How did you all become involved in Indietracks?

Dan: The whole thing came about when Emma and I met Stuart at one of Ian Watson's HDIF shows in Brixton. We got chatting and he later came to us with this amazing idea for a gig on a railway platform. We egged him on. Stuart then worked some kind of magic and it snowballed from there. I don't really know how they do it - it's mainly Stuart, Emma, Andy and Nat who do all the hard slog. I like doing the fun bits like checking that the Ale is OK on the night.

Do you think that you sometimes underestimate yourselves as a band? I talk to so many people who think you're the perfect pop band, yet you hardly ever shout about yourselves enough.

Ian: We're just not that sort of people, I think we'd all admit to being a bit shy and reserved. Besides I can't stand people who only ever talk about their band and shove it down your throat in every conversation. I can hear that we are a great band though, If I wasn't in Pocketbooks I'd be massive fan. Anyway, I think we've done pretty well so far through other people doing the shouting for us.

Dan: We do seem to do well out of letting other people shout for us, don't we? I know for one I've smoked far too many cigs to do anything like shout. Also, it just looks uncouth.

How many drinks does Andy let you have before going on stage? Is this the secret reason why you always seem to play low down on bills?

Ian: After lots of begging I've managed to get it up to 6 pints, anymore than that and I'm a bit useless to be honest. I like a drink so in that respect it's probably best we go on early so by the time we've finished playing it's still 2 hours until closing time.
Dan: I've actually just got off the phone with Andy and he says he didn't allow anything of the sort. The problem here is that, like Ian, I like a good drink but this has lead to some pretty shambolic gigs in the past. Notice that was 'shambolic' not 'shambling' and therefore not a good thing. So having not gone 'straight-edge' is probably one of many reasons we play at the bottom of everyone's bill.

What's your favourite Pocketbooks song?

Ian: Right now I'd say it's a new song on the album called 'Fleeting Moments' - I really love the way this one has come out, it's very grand, sweeping sound to it with a fast, driving intro. Playing wise I always enjoy 'Every Good Time We Ever Had'.
Dan: I'm going with another new one 'Paper Aeroplanes' just 'cos it's got on of my best bits on it. For listening and jumping around probably 'Every Good Time'.

Who else is making your favourite music right now?

Ian: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Seeing them live (I saw them 4 times in December) is just amazing, easily one of the best bands of the last five years. They make such a satisfying noise and the lyrics are really great. To me, they're a perfect pop band - the songs are brilliantly simplistic and direct. I've been listening to Very Truly Yours a lot lately, ever since I found out about them at the start of the year. The girl who sings has got this really great Rose Melberg-like voice, this band are reminding me of all the best bits of Go Sailor and The Softies - two of my favourite bands.
Dan: I'm going with Sarandon. I can't get enough of that short, sharp, shock of theirs. That said, The School and The Pains are pretty ace. Apart from that I don't think I listen to much that isn't less than 40 years old!

Tell me a Pocketbooks secret. Or make one up.

Ian: Daniel can't listen to any Belle and Sebastian records because, when he was little, he was picked on by a boy at school called Sebastian so that band bring up terrible memories for him.
Dan: And Ian was that boy - he always looked familiar to me and I've just put two and two together. You bugger, I used to love 'Storytelling' as well.

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