Reportage junky Celestial Broc caught up with indie songsters The Wave Pictures during their latest whistle stop tour of the UK. This crew boast a magnificently impressive back catalogue of witty pop songs, the beginnings of which started in their teenage bedrooms. Settle into your seats for a dissection of Dave’s prolific song writing process, the beauty of recording onto cassette tape, what could possibly get Franic up to dance, and the best time of year to go to Hull…
Celestial Broc: Tell us who you are then…
CB: Right, good that we’ve established that you’re all in the Wave Pictures. Do you have any nicknames?
D: Yes, they used to call me Tatty.
F: but you prefer DJ Tatty T, don’t you Dave?
DJ Tatty T: Yes I do indeed.
J: Frango, or Hot Fudge, for Franic.
Frango: Yes indeed also, and the Helmster or Helmaloid for Jonny.
Helmaloid: Thanks for that, Fran.
CB: …and, importantly, who do you like best out of the band please?
F: I learned diplomacy from my mother, and as she would say, they’re both as bad as each other. So I don’t, er, have a preference.
H: Because we’re a three-piece, there is always one of us getting two-on-one bullying. We’re all as bad as each other. But Dave, who do you like best? It’s your band!
DJTT: No preference.
H: Come on! He loves Fran, they’ve known each other since they were four, It’s not really a competition…
CB: OK, great context setting.
DJTT: Yes, me and Franic grew up together, but The Helmaloid is part of our family now.
CB: Where’s your dad, Dave?
DJTT: What do you mean?
CB: I saw you play at Long Division Festival last summer and your dad was there with you.
DJTT: Oh yes, but, you know, I don’t bring him everywhere with me.
CB: Shame. So, what do you think of The North?
CB: How did that come about, that you were recording in Sheffield?
DJTT: Well, Charles from Slow Club is also in my band The Surfing Magazines and he got us here for recording. So really, my only experiences of Sheffield are being in this place, being in that studio, and then once, years ago, we played in bar somewhere and went down extremely terribly, they hated us.
F: Yes, so we didn’t play Sheffield. For ages.
CB: Can you remember the name of the bar?
DJTT: Ummmmm…. No. It was 12 years ago and we’d been banished, basically, until recently. And all I can think about is The Crucible, because I love snooker.
H: Can I just say that I LOVE The North?
CB: Yes, yes you can.
H: Last night we played at Parish in my home town of Huddersfield, and it was, just, great.
DJTT: Jonny does bully us two a lot for being southern softies.
H: Well, they are! Bless them.
F: But we’re from Nottingham…
CB: Ahhh, Notts. Their music scene is certainly eclectic.
DJTT: Me and Fran grew up very close to Nottingham and we used to go into the town to get records from places like Selectadisc and other equally amazing places, but only Rob’s Record Mart is still going. As far as I know.
CB: Tell me about the beginnings of the band. You started from your bedrooms, so tell me about the importance of a DIY scene to you.
H: I think I speak for all of us when I say that we never felt part of any scene really. Dave and Fran were making home recordings when they were 16, and the first Wave Pictures album that I feature on was made in Cardiff in Franic’s front room, but it didn’t ever feel like we were making any kind of choice to do things like that, we just did it. If anything, I would have said that we were more part of the anti-folk scene in New York, but purely because they were our friends.
DJTT: I always liked the idea of doing something yourself, but we never really knew any DIY bands so that wasn’t the reason we did things like that. When we didn’t have record label interest, we would always send stuff to record labels, but at the same time we would be making it ourselves and printing it and selling it at our gigs. We’ve done a little bit of both really. I mean my idea of DIY would be Daniel Johnston or Guided By Voices, and that’s going back a very long time.
H: In principal, I think DIY is a really really good attitude, and a good thing.
DJTT: Yeah, and this isn’t based on any evidence of actually listening to anything [CB: so disregard the following…] but when you had to record yourself at home, in your parents kitchen, just using a four track cassette machine and old analogue technology….just to sound like a really old man for a moment… people did get really good results out of the limitations of that type of equipment. It created a sound that was informed by being independent because they didn’t have the money to get into a studio. Now, because of music technology I can’t imagine it being formed in quite the same way because you have no limitations to the sounds you can make with computers, and I think limitations are good for Rock and Roll, generally. I think there is just something really cool about the sound of tape.
CB: I can’t speak for other places, but I do know that in Sheffield right now there is quite a strong DIY scene, and they are recording onto cassette tape.
DJTT: Well, they press the sound in a way that is very pleasant, it’s very warm and nice and natural. We are a fan of that sound for sure.
CB: What prompted your latest tour?
F: It’s our job and we need to make a living. But also, it has been really fun. Me and Dave have worked very hard to not get proper jobs, and it’s really cool to go on tour, to get to play music and make a bit of money.
DJTT: We released two albums last year that we had recorded the year before, so we’ve been touring those. We have another one coming, but we can never release albums quite as rapidly as we’d like.
CB: So, um, you’re being a band?
DJTT: Yes, we’re being a band.
H: We have a local support act tonight and he is borrowing my drum stool, and he wanted to assure me that he was wearing clean trousers. So that’s good.
CB: Good to know [support act, John William Goodwin: wears clean trousers (and also is very good, go see him!)]
DJTT: I do think that people should come and watch the support acts, because often people avoid it. We’ve been supported by a couple of bands on this last tour called Birds and Beasts, and The Reverse, and it really made it a good night because promoters are usually excellent at picking complementary bands. Support the support, because every act starts as support, without people wanting to see you, and that makes it difficult. We did that for about ten years!
CB: Tell me a bit about what inspires your tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
DJTT: It varies. Sometimes I sit down and write a song from start to finish. In general though, I write a lot of lyrics without even thinking about if they will be a song. I tend to fill up a notebook with lyrics and then write ten or twelve songs in one go. So my notebook gives us an album, with some songs that might be discarded later. It is certainly a quantity approach [laughs], and then editing later.
CB: So you don’t just go off and jam out songs?
DJTT: Problem with jamming is, I think, that you’ve got to have something, some structured song to start with, which you can jam out and expand. Problem is when you get in a studio with a drummer, the second he sits down he’s drumming, and unless you can tell him to stop, you will just make noise for hours and hours and hours, and there are no drugs good enough to make that process enjoyable.
H [the dummer]: oooaaahhh….oh, dear.
F: We are efficient, really. If a lyric based song isn’t working straight away with us three together, it usually gets discarded pretty quickly. We’re quite lazy in that sense, we don’t put a lot of effort into pushing a brilliant Beach Boys style arrangement if it isn’t coming naturally.
DJTT: It’s lazy and it’s also a good way of editing it. See, Fran’s been playing bass with me, and I’ve been learning to write songs for his bass playing since we were 14. If it doesn’t come together quickly in a natural way, we know it’s probably got a problem in the writing. A lot of our tastes in music are Folk, and Rhythm and Blues, and Rock and Roll, and we’re not trying to revolutionise the world of harmony or rhythmic invention, we’re just looking to make something that we think is natural and has a good spirit to it. The lyrics to me are just an interesting stream of consciousness kind of a thing that I just enjoy on their own, I never think of them again once they are edited into a song. I actually don’t like a lot of my lyrics when I look back at them. I think people think that I think more of them than I really do but it’s just something I enjoy doing.
CB: I was interested in asking you about that because I wondered if you think much about how to balance the personal and collective experience of song writing.
DJTT: The truth is that when I’m writing lyrics, I don’t think of anybody else at all. Not at all. It’s a complete fluke if any of it means anything to anybody, and I never understand why they like one thing and not another thing. I write lyrics purely selfishly for my own pleasure. It’s very nice that they mean things to other people, but I think that if I thought about that as I was writing them, then I’d get all confused and nothing would happen. My friend David Beauchamp who plays percussion with us, he said to me, how do you write a song and not think that all the songs have already been written? I said, when you’re playing drums, you don’t think why would I do a drum beat, all the drum beats have already been done, there really isn’t that much to it, it’s just enjoyable.
CB: I guess that’s the beauty of it…
DJTT: I really do just enjoy doing that.
CB: Do you want to eat your pizza? It looks like it’s getting cold.
DJTT: Yeah, I really do.
CB: Eat it.
CB: While you’re eating, tell me what’s going on with your other bands.
DJTT: Well, The Surfing Magazines are about to begin a follow up album, which is very exciting. The David Tattersall group have made a debut album, which is coming out in the next couple of months, and Jessica’s Brother have just released one album and are working on a second.
H: mmmhuhuh [pizza muffled yes].
CB: You’re all super prolific in all your different bands, and this one. You are prolific writers…
H: [food swallowed] well, Dave is…
CB: What about playing at festivals – thoughts?
H: We don’t really like it.
F: It’s good for…..you.
DJTT: That’s a difficult question to answer because you want to be booked for festivals because you get to play to new people, and people often come up to you and say “I saw you at such-and-such-a-festival”, and generally there is a nice atmosphere at festivals, but it bothers us how expensive they are for something that started out as a free, counter-cultural hippy thing, and the journey from Woodstock to what Glastonbury is like now seems like quite a depressing journey for Rock and Roll to have gone on, for me. Glastonbury is a really expensive holiday, and I don’t know if it’s about what festivals used to be about when they originally started.
CB: I guess you don’t go to festivals then, if you’re not playing?
DJTT: No, and I actually rarely even go to gigs if I’m not playing.
H: Bus mans’ holiday innit. Also, it’s rarely a good sound experience for the band or the audience really. So, festivals in essence, are a bit of a weird thing for music.
CB: Despite not liking festivals, which would you pick as your favourite to play at?
H: Walled Garden at The Green Man for me.
DJTT: End of the Road for me, and small ones in Germany are always fun.
CB: What are your best and worst tour experiences?
DJTT: Hmmmm, worst thing about touring is definitely angry sound men and crazy long journeys. Those two things together can really take it out of you. However, I almost always enjoy every gig we play to the maximum level. I just love playing because it’s a really fun and exciting to do, and I’m so happy that it’s my job.
CB: What about jazz?
CB: Do you like jazz?
DJTT: Very much.
H: I’ve listened to tons of jazz over the past couple of years.
CB: But do you like it?
H: Big jazz fan, yes.
CB: Excellent. Last person I interviewed didn’t know what jazz was. But she was an alien.
CB: Got any hot tips for the readers, band wise?
DJTT: It’s not jazz, but there’s a guy in New York called Sam James, wonderful songwriter. A cross between Dylan and The Beatles.
F: Bypass me because I only listen to old music, sorry.
CB: What would get you to dance at a wedding, Frango?
F: I am really unenthusiastic. Honestly. Only copious amounts of Booze.
CB: OK, what do you think people should dance to at a wedding?
DJTT: I think if ‘You Never Can Tell’ by Chuck Berry comes on at a wedding and you don’t feel the impulse to get up and dance then…
CB: You’re Franic.
H: For me it’s Sixties Soul.
DJTT: Yeah but that’s because you’re a very sexy dancer.
H: Aw, thanks Dave.
DJTT: No problem Helmaloid.
CB: OK, what about dinosaurs? Got a fave?
DJTT: Pterodactyl. Because, menacing and intriguing.
[Door opens, support act walks into green room…]
CB: Join us! Tell us your name and your favourite dinosaur.
John William Goodwin: Hi! I’m John William Goodwin. I don’t really know anything about dinosaurs, which is really piss poor form because I’m a primary school teacher, by heart.
Everyone in unison: by heart?
JWG: Um, and by profession. Hah. Um, shall I come back later?
H: John, say Iguanodon. And take it into your heart.
CB: Franic, do you have a dinosaur preference?
F: I’d say a Triceratops.
CB: So, what does the future hold for The Wave Pictures?
H: We’re just starting to work on a new album…[through a mouth full of pizza]…which will be…hopefully….more of the same…..but better.
CB: So what will that be, like, album number 25 or something?
H: Yeah, something like that. Dave just won’t stop writing songs. So I guess we’ll just carry on recording them, and then playing them.
DJTT: I’m also putting out a solo record next year. But as I said, we have finished the David Tassersall album, which is due out in March, we’ve got to make The Surfing Magazine’s second album, which is going to come out in October, and then The Wave Pictures will probably release this record we’re making now in March 2021. Roughly – I’m actually making this up, but it’s the schedule I have in my head!
CB: Hey, did you know that I’m from Hull originally?
The Wave Picture in unison: We’re playing in Hull!
CB: Adelphi, right?
The Wave Picture’s in unison: Adelphi. Right.
CB: My question is, what is your favourite season to be in Hull?
The Wave Picture’s in unison: Wahaaaaayyyy!
DJTT: Errrrrmmmmmm, I think it would be nicest in the Spring.
CB: Yeah? WHY?!
DJTT: Errrr, because I think probably anywhere is nicest in the Spring. Or Autumn. And maybe Winter and Summer, a little bit. Yeah, I have no idea…yeah, but again, Hull is just a place that I barely know [laughs] because we’ve just done gigs there. Then gone charity shopping, once or twice, you know?
CB [turns to camera]: Please explain your pun for the readers of Prole Jazz
DJTT: OK, there’s a book “A Season in Hell” by a French poet called Rimbaud, and I just liked the pun a lot, and I like the poet a lot, and I wrote the song, and yeah, I just thought it was funny. I mean, he’s a proper writer, not like me, he’s a huge inspiration to Bob Dylan, for example. But it did inspire the entire album, Hull did. Also Larkin is from Hull, and I love Larkin.
CB: Right then, closing remarks? Poignant statements? Advice?
DJTT: When you start as a band you get inundated with advice from other bands. My advice is learn to ignore advice from other bands and trust your own judgement. Also, don’t worry about fashion in music. Actually, that stands for everyone.
H: Yeah, be yourself and enjoy playing music and/or listening to music.