With new single 'Jennifer / Blood Gets Thin' set to go racing up the chart, it's perhaps a good time for Reading indie group Pete And The Pirates to reflect on their swashbuckling adventures.
The band formed an astonishing five years ago, undergoing a long gestation period before finally signing with Stolen Recordings last year. A series of mouth-watering singles led to debut album 'Little Death', a stunning collection of bright and breezy pop anthems. Bittersweet to the core, singer Tom Sanders is capable of crafting together vicious couplets to the sweetest of melodies.
With the group about to begin 2009 with a bang, Clashmusic.com though it only right to sit down for a chat with Pete And The Pirates Tom Sanders as he tells us of the band's beginnings, their future plans and how they are coping with an avalanche of acclaim.
...we had good songs but we were crap, really crap
'Little Death' is a great album but it's been a long time coming hasn't it?
About five years. I think we all met is because there’s very little to do in Reading, if you’re a like minded musician and want to write songs then its not really the town to do it in, or at least it wasn’t six years ago. We naturally gravitated to each other through a shared love of making noise.
What’s the music scene like in Reading?
I’ve not really found one! There’s a few individuals, a few promoters who are trying to bring forward the music scene, or maybe try and pretend that there is one. I think culturally, musically it is kind of void. It’s like a black hole musically. I’d like to think that there’s kind of a niche in the market for someone to step in and fill that hole but it feels like there’s just nothing. Dark times, dark times for Reading!
Why the long gestation period?
We had a plan with five points. Point one was to do a gig, then the second point was to do a gig outside Reading and so on. But we never really wanted anything, we weren’t ambitious as a band we didn’t have any ambitions like getting money or national recognition or anything. We just wanted to make our songs really good and that took a long time, it really did. We were pretty bad when we started out – we had good songs but we were crap, really crap.
How did the deal with Stolen Recordings come about?
They came to us really, we didn’t know who they were. We played a gig, and were supporting a band called Wet Dog. They came and saw us, I think they were there to see Wet Dog, and they signed us. It was a very quick thing. They saw something in us, and we saw something in them.
‘Little Death’ sounds almost effortless at times. Was that the case in the studio?
In some senses it was. I think we did it in ten or twelve days, and we were really rehearsed – we spent a long time making sure we were ready to record those songs. There was a sense of urgency, I think, we knew that really was all we had. There was a budget that we couldn’t go over, and that gave a sense of pressure, which made us work really hard. It gave us a little extra. That could have been a luxury in a sense, as a lot of bands don’t have that. They spent a lot of time thinking ‘what the fuck am I going to do in this middle eight’ whereas we didn’t have time to think we like that. We just had to hammer it out and make it sound great.
The album was received very well. How do you react to all this praise being showered down on you?
I didn’t know what to expect, as we recorded it so quickly and it was released very quickly. We were all blown away by the result, and then everyone else seemed to love it so we were just blown away. I only ever read one bad review, but that was great as well, in a way. Its been overwhelming.
‘Jennifer’ isn’t on the album. Was it written as something separate from ‘Little Death’?
It wasn’t written at the time, I wrote it pretty soon after we released ‘Little Death’. We’ve just finished shooting a video for it as well, a really, really great video – really sexy! It’s about a girl I used to know.
It was effortless, in a word
What was it like working with Dave Allen?
It was a joy! It was effortless, in a word. It’s the second guy we’ve ever worked with so our experience is quite limited in terms of producers. Obviously he’s an old cat, he’s been doing it for a long time. We’re so new to the game, and he’s old to it so it was an interesting match of people. We’ve got this sense of respect, we could sit back and watch, just let him do his thing. He was very understanding and appreciative of our efforts, there was never any sense of disagreement. There was a sense of mutual respect. I mean, he approached us! He told us ‘I really like the album I want to work with you’. We recorded both songs with him and they were brilliant.
Is that a partnership that you’ll be looking to keep going in the future then?
Well this is the question! I would say yes. But its not set in stone, and basically I don’t see why not. I really enjoyed working with Dave Allan and I think he’s the man to record the album. But it’s all up in the air at the moment.
You seem to be quite productive how do you work? Are you always getting things down, or do you set aside creative periods?
I don’t really chose when I write a song. What normally happens is that I get a few days of intense activity, brimming with songs and I have to stop and write them down. Then I’ll get a couple of weeks of total blankness. It’s more like the songs just come to me, it might sound wanky but I don’t really have any say in when there’s going to be a song.
You’ve been touring a lot this year, what’s been the highlights?
Seeing a few cities, and countries that really stood out for us. Actually it was really nice to go back to London and play. I’m not sure why, but it was. Anywhere’s a highlight where you can get some space and make people feel welcome, and you don’t have to break down a barrier to get in touch with people who come to see you.
As the venues get bigger what differences have you noticed in the shows you play?
I don’t notice a difference, I really don’t. If it’s a big venue, or how loud the PA is – I don’t notice these things. I think about how personal the energy is. As a band we’ve all preferred the smaller shows, I mean there’s a venue in Reading which has a 70 capacity and its one of my favourite venues. When we’re on stage the band are at the same level as the audience, and the audience are staring at the band – basically you’re in someone’s lounge. Those are my favourite kind of gigs, and as they get bigger the excitement goes up but you need that personal kind of touch. You need a certainn kind of intimacy, and you can still achieve that kind of intimacy with 30,000 but you have to do it in a very different way. It certainly doesn’t get any worse, but you need to maintain that intimacy.
What are you aims from the coming year?
At this moment in time touring isn’t on our minds, though we know its something we’re going to have to do. Today is literally my first day off! First day off in about seven or eight weeks. We are really excited about recording, as most bands only get a chance once year, or even once every two years, to go into a studio and that’s what we’re really excited about at the moment. Our aim is basically to record an album which is better than ‘Little Death’ – and we’re pretty confident of doing that.
Pete And The Pirates release their new single 'Jennifer / Blood Gets Thin' on December 15th through Stolen Recordings.