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Repomen - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 21 / 3 / 2002

Repomen - Interview


Acclaimed Sheffield indie guitar band the Repomen are about to go into the studio to record their third EP. In this interview, its four members, talk about the group's twelve year history

The Repomen are a four piece indie guitar band from Sheffield, which features regular Pennyblackmusic writer Denzil Watson on vocals and occasional keyboards ; Ric Bower on guitar and also keyboards ; Simon Tiller on bass, and James Hughes on drums. The group, which lists its influences as ranging from late seventies and early eighties new wave to nineties leftfield pop, first formed in 1990. It recorded and self-released two heavily synthiser influenced three track cassette only EPs ‘Burst’ and ‘Omen’ with original drummer Jason , before splitting up at the end of 1992, but reformed again in 1996. It has, with Hughes becoming a member of the line-up then, since recorded what it describes as two “double A sided” four song CD EPs. Both EPs, which again have been self-released, feature two electric studio recorded tracks, “the A sides”, and also two live acoustic based “ B sides”, which have found Tiller switching instrumentation to the double bass, and Bower and Hughes taking up acoustic guitar duties. The title tracks of the first EP ‘Lights Out/She’s in Love', which came out in 2000, are reminiscent with their jangly guitars of the Buzzcocks and Orange Juice, while the B sides ‘TakeAway’ and ‘It’s So Easy’ have a rustic blues sound. The second EP ‘Reel Me Cuber/Eyes on the Road’, which was released at the end of last year, has found the band swopping direction. The title tracks draw comparision with the Teenage Fanclub and the Stone Roses, while the first of the B sides “Stella’, however, has a Kinks whimsicality, and the second ‘Grey Suits is an abrasive punk number. Both EPS have met with critical acclaim and ‘Lights Out/She’s in Love’ has received air play on French radio and also on the Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq’s Evening Session. The Repomen have also played prestigious support dates with the Cranberries, Strange Sky Exit and the Solarflares. The group has begun pre-production on its third EP, which it hopes to record in May, and to release in September of this year. In an exclusive interview , the four members of the band spoke to Pennyblackmusic about its twelve year history, the two EPs and their plans for its future. PB : Why did you decide to call the group the Repomen ? DW : It was a name that I had been thinking about for a while. It comes from the Alex Cox film, ‘Repoman’. It’s a pretty cool film, and it has a cool soundtrack as well. It’s got Iggy Pop on, and lots of obscure punk bands from America. We took it from there. PB : Did any of you play in any other bands before joining the Repomen ? DW : I used to play in a band called the Poisonous Little Creatures, a sub Goth band. We put out one 7” single, ‘Head’ , but split up shortly after its release when our record company went bankrupt. JH : I used to play guitar in a punk band called the Stale Aliens. ST : I can beat that. I played in a Goth band called the Bloody Marys, and I was also in a Dire Straits tribute band . RB : I was in a group called Signet Committee, but it didn’t do anything of any significance. PB : How did you the group originally get together ? RB : It was by accident of design. Denzil put an advert up, saying “Wanted ! Wanted ! Lovely people !”, and we answered. DW : There was just me and Ric originally, and also a student and a drum machine. We were bottled off at an early gig, and the student didn’t play with us again. Simon got his chance then . ST : I saw this advert in Wavelength, a local music shop and replied to it and they both came round to my house. We took it from there. PB : Did they tell you that the last gig they had played they had been bottled off at ? ST (Laughs) : I think they did eventually. RB : (Laughs also). We did, but only after a while. PB : You vary in age from being in your mid twenties to mid thirties. You must have grown up as a result with a variety of different influences. How do you think that has affected the group’s chemistry and dynamics ? RB : None of us like the same stuff , do we ? There’s always stuff that two or three people like, but there’s lots of stuff that only one person is into, isn’t there ? ST : We are all really big music fans though. I would say that as a group that we are into indie guitar music, rather than specific bands. DW : There are bands though that James, for example, has introduced me to, and that now I like and vice versa. RB : It has had quite a powerful effect on the group’s sound. We don’t limit ourselves to sounding like one thing because there will always be somebody in the band who will want to sound like something else. We get dragged in different directions. That’s a good thing because we don’t always do the same thing, but it’s also perhaps not a good thing as well. People who always do the same sort of thing tend to do quite well. PB : Which is more more important to the band then ? Acclaim or sales ? RB : I don’t really think either of those are that important to us. We do it for ourselves. We are not particulary after a record deal. We want to make good music, just for our own enjoyment really. PB : The band from its earliest days has been noted for creating “a wonderful party” atmosphere on stage. Denzil, you’re also known for your stage antics. What does the average live show involve ? ST : Lots of fairy lights and atmosphere, and as many balloons as we have got the energy to blow up as well. A smoke machine too sometimes, and lots of general banter. We’re not very serious. RB (Laughs) : A new wave pop quiz never goes amiss, does it, Denzil ? DW (Laughs): We had a new wave pop quiz, which I put together. ST (Laughs) : A very hard new wave pop quiz. RB : I think three out of twenty won it PB : Do you see the group as principally a live or studio act ? DW : I think both really. They’re very different mediums. RB :We do things in a different way in the studio.We arrange stuff to do it live, and then take into a studio and completely rearrange it. JH : When you go to see us live,there’s definitely an atmosphere, but I feel that we sometimes fall a bit short live, whereas in the studio it really comes together and we can layer our stuff up and make it sound absolutely fantastic.... DW (Laughs) : And also get the chance to correct all our mistakes. We are more punky when we play gigs. PB : How do you compose your songs ? How does the average Repomen song come together ? Is there a standard way ? JH : Ric goes home and writes something prolific and then we all work on it. DW : He starts the fire and then we fan it gently. ST : That’s a good description. I would agree with that. PB : Do you think the group has improved, since the early days of the ‘Burst’ and ‘Omen’ cassettes? ST : James arrived, and that has certainly helped. RB : There’s a certain power to it now that there wasn’t then. We can all also play a bit better. JH (Laughs): And what we lack in talent, we make up for in enthusiasm. PB : The most two recent EPs have both had electric, studio “A sides” and acoustic, live “B sides”. Why did you decide to do this ? RB : When we making “Lights Out/She’s in Love, we only had the money to record two songs properly. A friend of ours, Geoff Russell, who plays in another local band, the Special Agents, however, has an eight track recorder.which he was happy for us to use.We thought if we tried to produce an electric sound on that, then it would sound very weak compared to the what we had already done in the studio, so we’ decided to do something that wouldn’t compete with the studio songs. It worked, didn’t it ? DW : We had two tracks, “TakeAway’ and “It’s So Easy” which we thought would sound good acoustically. There is this big atrium in the college where I work. The acoustics are beautiful, so we set up in there and played live, and just went straight for it. PB : Is this going to be a standard feature of all future Repomen CDs ? RB : There will always maybe be an element of it. For the next one we’re thinking possibly of trying to do three studio songs and maybe one that is live. DW : It depends as well on the sort of songs we write from here. We did ‘Grey Suits’ , another of our songs, acoustically for the “Reel Me Cuber/Eyes on the Road’ CD and I don’t think that it came out quite as well as the other three. It is more of an electric track. I I am sure that we will have acoustic ones that we can do in that way though.. PB : The acoustic B sides found you Simon switching to the double bass. Had you played the double bass much before ? ST : Yes. I played it in school in the school orchestra, but I was always more happy doing the walking bass line rock ‘n’ roll kind of thing than I was bowing it.. I lived in London for a while and I played it though with a band there., who played a lot of acoustic stuff. I have also been busking with it. DW : It would be nice to use it live a little more. It’s just such a hassle carrying it around. and then lugging it on stage for perhaps two songs. ST : I don’t really mind that. It is more that it quite difficult to set up live,. Sound engineers find it quite hard to work with. PB : James these acoustic shows also found you switching to acoustic guitar. How much experience did you have of playing acoustic guitar before ? JH : I have always considered myself to be predominantly a guitarist. I started playing drums when I was sixteen or seventeen along with the guitar, but I found myself playing a lot more gigs as a drummer. I come from Chester, and there was a bit of a shortage of drummers there, so I kind of carried along with that. I have only ever played guitar in one band before, which was the punk one. My experience is, therefore, relatively extensive, but the Repomen are the first band that I have ever recorded properly with . PB : Ric, you played the twelve string guitar on both EPs? Why did you decide to do this, rather than to use a six string one ? RB : I have always played twelve strings. The first one I learnt on was a twelve string acoustic, and the only electric I own is a twelve string guitar. There’s no real reason for me using them. I just quite like them. DW : it does give us a fuller sound though. In a way, it is like having a second guitarist. PB : The band is preparing to record its third EP. Do you know what’s got to be on it yet ? DW :  The main track is going to be called 'Save Yourself'.  RB : It's very basic raw guitar, bass and drums. DW : It has  a pretty up-beat sound, and is very garagey punk. In terms of electric songs the new EP will also feature either 'Falling', a punk number and live favoruite or 'Lauren Bacall', an alt-country waltz, Ric is going to be making his vocal debut on the latter, and I am going to be playing the piano. RB  : That's going to open up  with a long piano segment, and then all the other instrumentation will come in later on in the song. DW : There's also another as yet untitled track, that features me on vocals and piano, which is also in the frame. There are two others as well, 'Overs', a longer song which we have written specifically for the studio, and 'Untethered', both of which we might give the famous Repomen acoustic treatment.There's another one as well, 'Feel the World',  which is about a minute long. It's the shortest song we have ever written. That might appear as a  a hidden track. ST (Laughs): It  goes by so  fast that you probably won't notice it. PB : Final question. What other plans do you have for the future ? Do you hope eventually to release an album ? DW : People  keep asking that, but, as we are self-releasing all our own material, and are a small band,  our financing and the actual logistics means there is no point. We will keep doing singles and EPs and then maybe when we've got enough, we might  put them together on  a compilation. Other than that, we just want to keep enjoying ourselves. PB : Thank you.

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