So, The Twang. Rarely has so much highly strung verbiage been expended on a band that’s only just released their debut single. Colliding with the lads in mid March, they’re bang in the middle of their first UK tour, flirting with a top ten singles position by virtue of the mid-weeks, and are all across the media as 2007’s band most likely. Hell, they’ve even managed to develop their own internet originating mini backlash already.
Yet by their lead singer’s Phil Etheridge’s admission, “we ain’t done nothing yet. We ain’t started yet. We’ve just got to carry on, get the record out, keep doing good gigs, and keep our heads.” Aye, fine purveyors of retro baggy chic they may be but this down to earth Brummie firm of geezers are refreshingly unassuming and modest about the whirlwind that’s been surrounding them for the last six months. When even John Squires is describing you as the “Brummie Mondays”, one might think they had their work cut out. Well they would have, if they weren’t any bleeding good that is.
“It’s all been a huge compliment, aint it?” Phil ponders. “It’s what we’ve always worked towards so it’s just nice that people are listening to it and enjoying it.”
Without sounding arrogant, we knew we were good enough and we knew we had the tunes to get out there and at least do something with it.
Jon Watkin, Twang’s bassist, adds: “We’re just having a crack really. You don’t really notice it but maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet. To us, we’re just doing more and more gigs and everything.”
Rocking up to meet the band in Manchester, it seems highly pertinent to be ensconced on the Northern Quarter / Oldham Street circuit, itself the stamping ground and haunt of most of the bands they’ve been compared to and influenced by thus far. The Happy Mondays analogy, brought about by their lolloping, wide open, late Eighties styled grooves has been well advanced but though they share a style and musical attitude with Shaun, Bez and the boys, it’s actually another, later Manc band who kicked this shower into action. First to the Mondays, and one senses a faint embarrassment from Jon with some of the praise coming The Twang’s way. “It’s a mad thing for us. You do feel a bit stupid when they say stuff like, “They make the Mondays look like fucking nuns”. How we can we make the Mondays look like nuns?”
“Big Mondays fans and that’s no secret”, it was nonetheless the brothers Gallagher who provided the watershed, lets-form-a-band moment for Phil, John and the rest of the gang. Back to Phil: “That was what made me pick up a guitar cos there were lads like Oasis that made me think we could do it. All that changed the face of Britain for me, especially Oasis cos they were normal lads and I think that’s the comparison with them and the Mondays cos we’re normal lads. Maybe we say fuck too much.”
Yet, easy going and charming, The Twang display none of the surly, chip-on-your-shoulder arrogance so associated with Oasis’ rise to prominence. Exceptionally personable round town, they flex with assorted Mancunian characters and come across as a bunch of decent lads, the sort you’d see hanging round any old man’s boozer in their area and appear far away from the brash, Brum bandit stereotype that’s being put around. Their chirpiness and Brummie humour is perhaps being mischaracterised as cocky bravado but when Jon observes that “you can’t really come up to Manchester and give it the big ’un”, Phil follows it up succinctly, “You can’t go anywhere giving it the big ’un cos you get sussed out. It’s bullshit.”
He continues: “A tune’s a tune, a nice lad is a nice lad and it’s a smile for a smile innit. If someone comes up and they’re sound you’re gonna have a chat with them, intcha? That’s how I work and even before the band I wanted to be able to go into all the pubs round me and get on with everyone and it’s the same now. You want to go somewhere, have people go away and say ‘he’s a nice lad’. I don’t wanna come on stage giving it the large, I want people to enjoy the night and think they’re good lads and if they come and speak to us after, it’s the same.”
So to the rest of the band, with Phil and Jon’s intros done and dusted, rounding up the quintet there’s the band’s co-vocalist, sort of their Bez or Leo, Saunders, guitar hero in waiting Stu Hartland and a fearsome rhythm section with Matty Clinton on the sticks. Pretty much left to their own devices in the photo-shoot for this piece, they all breeze around the locations with the minimum of fuss or bother, something some bands with lower profiles would do well to learn. Holed up over pints in the pool room at the back of the Castle Hotel, the chat of bands, football and birds is hugely amiable. Linking well with people, they’re also nicely surrounded at the gig by a posse of Brummie mates (including local support band The Priory), family and the like, something that the band like to adhere to, Phil’s best moment so far coming supporting The Charlatans on The Twang’s home turf.
“We had all our families there, brothers, friends and stuff backstage,” he remembers, “and we were on this balcony watching The Charlatans go on stage, starting ’aving it and I remember looking at me brother all hugging people and that was kind of the moment for me, thinking that they’ll remember that forever. It ain’t everyday you get backstage at a Charlatans gig and just to see everyone proper happy there was top.”
“When all your mates get something out of what you’re doing that’s wicked,” Jon proudly notes.
Nonetheless, and it’s a given, in profiling The Twang it’s pretty much impossible to avoid reviewing the hype which has accompanied them in the last six months. Severely touted with references to legendary bands like …(deep breath) the Mondays, the Roses, Oasis, the Scream, The Clash, and more modern groups like Hard Fi and The Streets ringing in the public’s ears to the band it’s all a bit bewildering. Recognising that the music press’ support has been instrumental, to Phil “it’s a great compliment again. I’m just glad that they’re liking us. When bands get written about it, people come to check ’em out and it does give you the chance to prove that you’re a good band.”
We’re normal lads. Maybe we say fuck too much.
Yet, if it all appears a story of overnight success, Phil takes pains to debunk this myth as much as he can, highlighting the four nights a week rehearsals and the commitment of all the band members over time, no matter how much it might appear that The Twang have quickly landed in the land of the free ride. “There were times when it was fucking hard cos without sounding arrogant, we knew we were good enough and we knew we had the tunes to get out there and at least do something with it. We just wanted a chance and the aim was to try and get a deal. We’ve achieved that and now we want to make a good record and we feel like we have.”
It all seems that the band’s practical, day by day, brick by brick, gig by gig attitude is somewhat at odds with the surfeit of acclaim that’s been coming The Twang’s way since their demos hit the industry last November. Phil again: “It’s not like it fucking upsets me to be talked about in the breath as Oasis, or the Mondays or The Stone Roses or The Streets, especially The Streets as [Mike] Skinner has influenced me a lot. I think Skinner is one of the best artists of however many years. Just to be quoted in the same…(pause) It’s hard for us cos we haven’t done nothing yet, when we’ve got a record out, people will be able to understand who we are and the album will hopefully show people who we are.”
With something of a taste for the high life and a fondness for a good time, it has been slightly irksome for the band to be portrayed as ruffians down to the odd fighting and “Gianluca” reference when in truth, they’re just typical of normal lads from whatever city nowadays, sharing the same past-times and leisure activities as their compadres. Phil takes this up. “It’s not nice to be misquoted. The people that know me and meet me, I’d hate ’em to go away and think I was being fake. They know me, they know I don’t go out rowing and they know we’re not mad lads. We all know mad lads and they ain’t in bands.”
Given all this going on around the band, it’s certainly good to report that thankfully the music and the performance is arguably more central to the band than the considerable hype. Taking all the aforementioned ingredients and whipping them up into a spirited concoction that takes in the likes of Flowered Up and World Of Twist to boot, their indie-dance hybrid ranges across bouncily, effervescent numbers like debut, ‘Wide Awake’, next single ‘Either Way’, and the in-your-face tale of “keep yer bleedin’ music down”, ‘The Neighbour’, all of which seem to unite the older-school hipsters with the nu school’s penchant for hooks and angular mod-ish drops. All in a very “I-said-I-like-that-Turn-it-up!” style.
Signed to the Kaisers’ label, B-Unique, and sharing the same management as Editors, it seems that The Twang are in good and highly effective professional hands. By the time you’ll be reading this, they’ll be on their second UK tour in practically as many months and will have completed an arena tour with James as their main support. Towards the summer, they’re opening for Kaisers at Hyde Park with Reading confirmed and other festival slots apparently to follow. Yet all this is put into perspective by Jon’s admission that at the time of talking, “we haven’t even stepped outside of the country with the band as of yet.” (A trip to Amsterdam at the end of March took care of that).
With their as yet untitled debut album due June 5th, it seems that there’ll be plenty of opportunities to catch their energetic, feisty and high spirited live show come the summer. The Night & Day gig certainly rocked, although naturally more to the tunes that people were familiar with already via MySpace etc, rather than the newer tracks. Still there’s plenty of time for that, and closing the set with their ‘Resurrection’ moment, the jaunty, druggie haze of ‘Cloudy Haze’, the sweat was pouring off the low ceiling, thanks in part to the rather clement Spring Mancunian weather.
So despite what you may have been reading, it’s still early days for The Twang but are they to prove a ‘What The World’s Been Waiting For’ or a ‘Fool’s Gold’? I’ll firmly nail my colours to the former mast and eagerly await seeing where they go from here. The funny thing is I reckon so do they.
“We still haven’t done nothing though,” Phil stresses again. “It’s not a time for reflection. There’s still loads to do.”
Jon concurs: “Nobody can control what’s gonna happen. People keep saying, “Where do you see yourselves in twelve months?” Who can tell, really?”