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Repomen - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 14 / 11 / 2004

Repomen - Interview


Sheffield indie act the Repomen, who first formed in 1990, recently released their fifth EP in five years 'Out of Here'. Olga Sladeckova chats to front man Denzil Watson about their longevity, the new recordand why he sees change as a good thing

If you have even thought of packing up your bags and getting the hell ‘out of here’ then you have at least one thing in common, quite possibly, with the rest of the world, and certainly the 4 members of Sheffield-based band The Repomen who have just released their 5th EP ‘Out Of Here’. The Repomen were first formed in 1990 and feature vocalist Denzil Watson, guitarist and keyboardist Ric Bower, bass guitarist Simon Tiller and drummer James Hughes. Influenced by late 70's and early 80's music they released 2 three track cassette only EPs ‘Burst’ and ‘Omen’ but split up in 1992. Fortunately, 4 years later, they decided to start things up again and to reform The Repomen . Since then they have released 5 CD EPs including ‘Out Of Here’ which came out in November of this year and has already received air play on the BBC radio in Yorkshire. The Repomen's first EP ‘Lights Out/She Is In Love’ was proof that they were on the right track reforming the band. The Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq picked it up for his acclaimed Evening Session in 2000. Its music, which was full of jangly guitars and reminiscent of the Buzzcocks and Orange Juice with an extra fiery spin on it, was simply irresistible. The following 3 double A sided EPs ‘Reel Me Cuber/Eyes On The Road’ (2001), ‘Safe Yourself/Lauren Bacall’ (2002) and ‘Moonlight Driving/The Finest Line’ (2003) built up on the Repomen’s growing popularity in Sheffield. The durability of the band was emphasised last year when they were offered support slots with the Undertones and Chumbawumba. Across the course of the band's history, it has been through various changes. Denzil started playing more keyboards and Ric now occasionally sings. Simon and James moved out of Sheffield but that didn’t have any impact on the band being as creative as ever. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Denzil Watson about all those changes, ‘Out Of Here’ and the band’s plans for the near future including their forthcoming appearance at the Penny Black Music Night at the London Spitz on the 22nd January 2005. PB: You've just released your 5th EP. I know Ric does majority of song writing. Was that the case on ‘Out Of Here’ as well? DW: I initiated the first song, ‘Out Of Here’, on the keyboards and then Ric arranged it. PB: What is ‘Out of Here’ about and how did you come up with the title for the song? DW: I watched the TV program ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. And I thought “This is shit!” I thought about real people who really want to get out of bad situations. I think the first part is about someone who is terminally ill and wants to die. The second is about somebody who has been kidnapped and wants to be released. And the third one is about people in a country that is the middle of a civil war and they want to get out of there. PB: The song also has a very powerful and encouraging tune. DW: Yeah and it’s quite catchy as well. It is about getting somewhere better. I just thought ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me out of Here’ was just rubbish. I thought John Lydon who was in the last series was about the only person who was OK. PB: Yeah he got himself out of there… DW: (laughs) Yeah he did. Ric wrote the second song ‘Love Me’. It’s a real rocker isn’t it? PB: Yeah, I first thought because of the title ‘Love Me’ that it was going to be quite slow and perhaps romantic or something like that. DW: Yeah! And it’s like “Wham! Don’t blink otherwise you'll miss it.” PB: I like the lyrics because you can always make up your own meaning to them. DW: Yeah I think Ric likes that it’s not obvious what it’s about and you can put your own interpretation on the song. Sometimes he likes to write stories but a lot of them you can put your own spin on them. Sometimes you write songs and they are not quite what you wanted them to sound but I think with those songs I think we’ve nailed it. PB: You recorded the EP partly in a studio and partly at home. DW: The first three songs were recorded in a studio here in Sheffield and then we did the last two in my house in the attic. PB: I think it worked well on the EP because it gives it a slightly different sound and every song has something different about it. DW: Yeah. You know how some bands have a sound? I don’t think we really have characteristic sound. PB: I think that’s good because that makes you more unpredictable. DW: Yeah, it’s less constrained. I don’t like being constrained but I don’t think we are. At the moment we are already thinking about the next EP. You know when a band release an album it’s new to the listener but for the actual artist it’s quite old. By the time the album comes out you're already on to something new. PB: When you started the band you were originally just singing but now you play more and more keyboards and Ric is doing some singing as well. Is that right? DW: Yeah, that's true. The next EP is going to be a bit different, funnily enough (laughs). There are two tracks that have me playing no keyboards and just singing on. That’s different from EP5. Then there is one song that we've already partly recorded that Ric sings on. So it will be little different again. PB: Going back to ‘Out Of Here’, the EP has a shark on its cover. Where did you take the photo from? Is it just off the internet? DW: No! I went to Belize last Christmas. It’s just below Mexico. We did some snorkelling and I had one of those disposable cameras with me and took the picture under the water. PB: Were you actually that close to the shark? DW: Erm, yes, but it was a vegetarian shark so it wasn’t going to eat me. (Laughs) PB: Do you always design your own covers? DW: Yes, we do it ourselves. The packaging of our EPs has always been very important to us. We're quite pleased how it came out. That's James the drummers graphic design skills for you. PB: You've been around for a long time. Do you think you have changed a lot, and if so, in what way? DW: Ric now has two kids now and so is quite busy. When he gets a quiet moment he picks up a guitar to write. We already have four songs for the next release. We will probably record three in the studio and then we have one to do at home in the attic. It’s quite good to record at home because you can try more things and you have more time. When you are in a studio you have the clock ticking above you and it can be quite expensive. PB: Two of you live in different cities. Does that make things harder for you when you make music and rehearse? DW: Yeah, Simon lives in Manchester and James in Leeds. Me and Ric live in Sheffield. It can be a little fragmented sometimes. We tend to meet up about once a week and me and Ric try getting together more often to record. Once you get a stable line-up you want to keep it and that's never really been a problem for us. We have had the same line-up since 1999 which is quite a long time. So many young bands change their line-up or break up all the time. We're all quite stable and realistic about what we can do and want to do. PB: You made a video recently as well? DW: Yeah! Have you seen it? PB: Not yet. I only just noticed it on your web site. DW: I have to admit I was surprised about the video as much as you. We were playing with a Sheffield band called The Ape Drape Escape and they are friends with this guy called Mr Feesh a.k.a. Ren of Sheffield band CD retailer The Laundrette who does videos. He did us a video for ‘Love Me’. We were thinking of including it on our next release maybe. It’s really good and we were very impressed. PB: Last year you played with the Undertones and Chumbawumba. Have you got any more gigs planned in the near future? SW: We don’t really have anything planned beyond the Penny Black Music Night but I think we'll go back into the studio in March and try recording the next EP. It would be nice to get that out in September. I think we know what tracks we want to put on it. PB: Do you play the new songs already? DW: We have played the 2 potential A sides, 'Dead wait' and 'A different situation', which you will be able to hear when we come down to London in January. The two possible B sides, 'Oxygen' and 'Get in the car', are acoustic songs that we have practised but we're not too sure if they will work live. PB: What about putting your songs on compilations with other bands? DW: Yeah, I think that has worked really well for us in the past. We just want to make sure we have some new stuff to put out. We have couple of tracks that we put out on local fanzines. ‘Stella’ appeared in the Sheffield based Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation fanzine which is also a record label and fellow punk-poppers The Ape Drape Escape also have a fanzine which released ‘Love Me’ on its free compilation CD recently. I think the ‘Sunset False’ compilation (featuring the Repomen's ‘Songs They Never Play On Radio’) was reviewed in Korea and they gave it 3 out of 5 starts so it was really good to be known in Korea! (laughs) PB: Have you got anything else coming up? DW: We are going to be on radio in conversation with Alan Raw on the BBC North network tomorrow (the interview has by now already been broadcasted). It’s a local branch of BBC broadcasting over Sheffield, Leeds, York and Hull. We have done something similar before. It’s always good for exposure for us. PB: Do you have any wishes for the next year? DW: Playing at the Sheffield Boardwalk with the Undertones would be great. If by magic that could happen next year, that would be great! (laughs) PB: Thank you.

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