Following the release of their second EP, Miscreants, Peter Dennis spoke at length to Northampton alt-rockers Deaf Trap. The band comprises of Matthew Wetherill (guitar), Rob Gray (drums) and, rather confusingly, the band has two Tom Wrights: Thomas (vocals) and Tom (bass). The lads tell New Boots about their songs, their scene, and their plans for the future. Plus, the new video for Miscreants track ‘Real Nice Night’ is below.
How easy was it to find three other guys with similar musical tastes who you could tolerate?
Matthew Wetherill: For me it comes down to genuinely being really good friends. It’s probably a clichéd thing to say…
Thomas Wright: We basically met up as mates and then Matthew started playing guitar and we used to cover things where I’d sing along and then we used to write songs about the hotel that we worked for and how much we absolutely hated it! [laughs]
Matthew: That was it. It was almost like Billy Bragg protest songs about a posh conference centre. We’d go for a night out and because we didn’t have any money we’d go round someone’s house, drinking, playing guitar, singing…
Tom Wright: Many years later…here we are! [laughs]
Thomas: We’re late bloomers.
Tom: It took us a long time to get our first gig. We were practising for over two years.
Matthew: That’s one of the good things. It’s like a slow build. You’re not forcing anything.
Tom: You see all these young bands, we play with them and they’re awesome.
Thomas: It’s depressing, isn’t it? [laughs] That band who were on at The Lab [The Keepers], they were really good and The Barratts were saying how young they were and The Barratts are younger than us! The Barratts were getting annoyed at how young The Keepers were and I thought, ‘Shit! That’s exactly how I used to feel about you!’
Matthew: That’s it. We have a closeness. I say it all the time but you have to be comfortable falling out with people. And that way when you do fall out with people, although it’s not always nice, because you’re comfortable enough you just go past it, because you’re that good friends, you’re happy to tell each other what you think. It means you don’t hold things in so much, there’s no tension. It’s a much more natural progression because of it.
Thomas: There is the occasional strop in this band and it usually takes a couple of beers to get over. [laughs]
Rob Gray: That’s a Deaf Trap recommendation. A good conflict and resolution solution. Always resolve it.
Thomas: [laughs] No punching!
Can we talk about your musical influences? What do each of you bring to the Deaf Trap sound?
Rob: My pretentious answer to that is everything I’ve ever heard. I know the stuff I like but it doesn’t necessarily influence what I’m doing here. It’s whatever you hear at the time. Within this band the style I play there’s a lot of Chad from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the way he whacks those drums. I can’t think of a nice way to say it but he slams those drums, he fucks them up, he really hits them. I’m influenced by hip hop and trip hop beats, it doesn’t play out in this band apart from some break parts. More recently Foals or Bloc Party, they’re both heavily tom-based, they don’t just do the straight beats, they’re almost dance beats with some rocky bits and then a lot of tom’s to make it sound tribal. The Trail of Dead do some awesome stuff and Ginger Baker is one of those guys with that swing.
Thomas: I suppose in terms of things I listen to, it’s traditional indie. I like a lot of Britpop, I like indie bands. These guys write some basic music first and I have to adapt and put my mark on it so… I kind of experiment with my voice and then it just comes out. I don’t draw on anything specific. I’m not a musician! I just keep trying until something good comes out. Sometimes it doesn’t!
Matthew: For me very, very early on it would have been The Cribs and The Libertines, that’s the age I was when I first picked up a guitar. I’d go to watch bands at The Soundhaus and always be a bit in awe and when I saw those bands and the carelessness with which they played but still generated more emotion out of me than any of the other bands did that made me think, maybe I could do that. As I got older I really listened to The Pixies and Sonic Youth. That’s where, if I need a bit of inspiration, it’s down that route. I wouldn’t write a whole song and come to practice and say ‘Right, how can you guys add to this?’ I might start off with something and then it will change so much from what it was with everybody’s input. It doesn’t come from one particular influence. By the time a song’s finished you can’t trace it back to anything because the ideas are so collected now.
Tom: This might come as a shock to the band but I listen to a lot of Nirvana, Foo Fighters. I listen to a lot of Rolling Stones, I like the bass in Royal Blood. I get a lot of my bass riffs and ideas from Royal Blood and stuff like that.
Rob: That drummer is sick, the Royal Blood drummer. I saw him live. Solid.
It sounds like you all have disparate influences. How do you bring them together and make them work cohesively?
Matthew: It tends to to be, I’ll have a guitar riff, Tom will have a bass riff and then we’ll loop and throw guitars and things over the top. In doing that and having a bit of a jam you can usually work out two or three different ways it could go because we don’t fall out as much now.
Thomas: Sometimes it does reach a point where, say, two of the band have got completely different ideas and at the end of a practice everyone’s a bit disjointed because it keeps going round because nobody can decide. Usually everyone goes home, has a sleep on it, comes back and says “Actually, that’s a good idea after all. We’ll try that”. There are certain points where there’s a bit of stubbornness .
Matthew: You have to draw a bit of a line, don’t you? But when you do come back to it and everyone thinks there’s two different ways we can do it, retry everything. That’s the thing these days, there’s no “We’re not doing that”. If one person thinks something and another the other, we’ll do two different ways. It’s very rare at the end of that we don’t agree.
Tom: We tend to go through at least ten ideas before we get to a song.
Rob: We do drop a lot because there’s too many things going on in there so we can’t agree so what’s the point in sticking with it if we can’t agree? We move on and we end up with the stuff we can agree on and when we have that one idea we can all agree on, that’s what makes it cohesive.
Thomas: I think that because everyone’s a bit different does slow down the process of writing a song, but it adds to the end product. We’re all usually happy with the way it sounds and at the beginning nobody thinks it’s going to sound like that, it’s always something completely different.
Matthew: Obviously when you listen back to some of our songs and you know the influences then as much as you wouldn’t say “That song sounds like Foals” or “That song sounds like Sonic Youth” if you really pick it apart and pay attention you can see where those ideas were spawned.
Your recent single ‘From the Floor’ is quite dark, and not what I expected.
Rob: I wasn’t aware that ‘whore’ was a swear word. It’s not in America.
Matthew: The interesting thing with that is, it’s worth putting on record, it’s a song about having struggles with alcohol, drugs, that sort of thing.
Rob: It’s a massive metaphor.
Thomas: Actually the core line in that came from Rob.
Rob: It was the first time we really started to sing together. That’s what really pushed it as a song. The original lyric was ‘Need somebody to love’ – it was too George Michael for us. So I sang ‘Please stop being a whore’ instead. It just sounded a bit rougher, a bit rock and about not going too far with things.
Thomas: We toyed with the idea of changing it to something that would be played on the radio, and then we thought ‘Fuck that!’; we’re not pandering to society. The thing is everybody’s offended all the time about whatever and to be offended is somebody’s choice and how they interpret our lyrics is how they interpret our lyrics. If they’re offended by that it’s because they’ve taken something from the lyric and it reflects on them rather than us.
Rob: It’s not necessarily talking about a woman. It could be talking about yourself, about a friend of yours. It’s just a general sense of going to far.
Thomas: When I sing it I think of it as a kind of battle. A first person singing to himself: “I’m going out tonight, I don’t want to do this, I’m always a whore when I go out”. That’s the avenue I take mentally when I’m on it. Obviously it’s a fictional character…I’ve never been a whore! [laughs]
Rob: We’ve got to make it clear that it’s not a re-imagining of The Police’s ‘Roxanne’. It’s not that. You don’t have to put on the red light. It’s not the same thing.
Thomas: No. We’ve got a lot of respect for whores and we’d never sing about them in a derogatory manner.
Rob: We’ve got respect for all ladies of the night!
While we’re on the subject of ‘From the Floor’ it’s accompanied by a great video. How involved were you in that?
Rob: We did it all. I tried to take the lead because I’ve got a little bit of video making experience, but it was all of us.
Thomas: Jack, the lead in the video, always comes to our gig dressed as a hot dog so we thought that because he’s been so committed to the band we’d give him a lead role in our first video.
Rob: He was really creative in that, he was full of energy, God bless him, he was up for anything and always available and we can’t thank him enough really.
Matthew: We all really like it. It came out really well considering we had no budget.
Rob: Zero budget. It was just an idea to do something like Peep Show. For me it’s a bit like a cheap version of The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ video. Someone goes out and gets wasted and we just tried to put an extra element to it…a hot dog!
Matthew: The point being, not being able to get over your addictions. You fall into it at the start and at the end you are trying to recover and you fall back again.
What do you think of the local music scene?
Thomas: It’s underrated. There’s loads of great bands around. It’s not just Northampton, it’s Kettering, Corby and all the surrounding towns. I think we’re overlooked towards this end of the country.
Tom: Northampton’s really strong musically.
Matthew: We’ve got so many good bands like Monarchs, Thomas mentioned The Barratts earlier. The Keepers are doing really well.
Thomas: And they’re all nice guys. We get along well with all the bands. There’s no egotistical band where they’re all wankers and they don’t talk to or want to have anything to do with the other bands. They’re all really decent, sound people who’ll have beers with everyone.
Matthew: That’s true. I can’t think of any band in the town who I don’t like. I mean there’s obviously styles that you don’t prefer but in terms of any band we’ve played with I can’t think of anyone who’s been iffy.
There’s some cracking small venues in the town but what we really need is a good, medium size venue that has bands on every night.
Thomas: Bring back The Soundhaus basically. That’s what we all feel like. I was devastated when it closed.
Matthew: The Lab, at the moment, is the best venue in town for bands being able to play. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to get a great sound system set up, it’s really starting to take off and that’s why we’re here today. It’s Independent Venue Week but the only other real venue I would say is The Roadmender, but that seems to be club nights.
Rob: They’ve got the main hall and a side room. If you want to do a bigger gig in that type of venue then… The Picturedrome have had their entire room refitted. Our next video is due to come out, it’s done at The Lodge with Max, and he renovated The Picturedrome for it’s acoustics. I can’t wait to hear a band there. It’s a difficult place to play because it was originally a cinema, so I can’t wait to hear a band there because if he’s done a good job then that would be a major higher class venue rather than a pub.
Matthew: It was a travesty when The Soundhaus closed because that was 380 capacity and that was perfect because you used to get bands who were about to break playing there and they booked some great bands. The list of bands from The Arctic Monkeys to The Libertines and so on. They all played there and whoever booked them at the time had all the contacts and we’re crying out for someone who knows what they’re doing. The town’s missing that. The Lab’s great but it has a lower capacity.
Rob: The town is fine for that: The Garibaldi’s putting bands on, The Lamplighter putting bands on, you can get a couple of hundred people in there but they’re all squashed. They’re not venues that are originally designed for that.. The main venues are shutting down because of neighbours who’ve moved in and want quiet and venues are also struggling financially.
Thomas: I think that’s where a lot of local bands get their break by supporting touring bands and there’s no major bands passing through. That’s where you get most of your exposure. When our old band supported Space at The Picturedrome we had a whole new crowd to play to. It was a great opportunity and it got us loads of new fans but without the touring bands we never would have had that. That’s what it’s like pretty much all the time.
Rob: I think if you look at what some of the surrounding towns are doing like Corby, Bedford, Milton Keynes even, they’re always supportive of their bands. Some of those things are out there which we’re keen to play this year to open thing up for us. My friend Karl was saying it’s a shame Northampton’s got all these bands coming up but unfortunately the surrounding areas are doing more. I think in time it’ll come up. The Lab is doing a lot. I don’t think it’s dying, it’s on its way up but it’ll take time. For the time being it’s worth driving to play 20 miles out of town to play somewhere that’s got venues of a decent size.
How do gauge your music development between the your two EPs? Is one an extension of the other, or is it more a quantum leap?
Matthew: We talked about this not so long ago. The first EP felt more ‘demo-ish’ because we needed something to go “Right! We’ve got new music, we’re technically a new band, here’s what we’ve got for you to listen to”. It wasn’t rushed but it was a case of, you want to give people something to check out, to decide if they want to come and see you, there was an element of that, whereas with the second it’s a lot more precise in the way it was written. We could have done five songs again but, no; these three we’re really happy with.
Rob: At this time it’s also an economic thing as well, to get an album done in a top recording house it’s gonna cost you hundreds of pounds, that’s realistic. We’re lucky to get the bargains we have, working with the people we have. We can go in there with a short time frame and they do great jobs. I think now the reaction we’ve got from these EPs…in a way people are waiting for an album and I think that’s next on the cards.
Thomas: We probably won’t release any more EPs, will we? We’ve done physical copies for the two EPs. I think now, until we get to the album stage, we’ll release things as a digital single.
Matthew: we can go and record a song in two or three hours because we live-take it generally – then we sing the vocals over the top. We don’t do it bit by bit, we have it quite organic and because of that we can do it really quick. So if we wanted to get something out there it won’t cost us a fortune. It’s working out the best way to do it. We’ve got a good amount of material out there [with those eight songs]. I don’t feel we need to jump into something straight away.
That was going to be my final question. What are your future plans?
Rob: We haven’t really talked about it so we may disagree. I’d like to record more this year, stick everything on that because we’ve got enough EPs. Maybe double down on them and get a couple more singles out this year. Then we could work more on them, rather than doing them in a day, if we can have that luxury of doing them in a week or a month then we can concentrate on getting our best sound, then maybe next year look at getting a full album out.
Thomas: I think it’s important to stay on the radar releasing smaller amounts of stuff more often so people don’t forget about you.
Matthew: That’s a good theory. Whatever the end goal is, along the way making sure people don’t lose touch with you.
Rob: Like we said, go to other places and raise our fan base and this year we’re going to concentrate a lot more on festivals, to enjoy that element of it.