On the Fly (Six Take No Records)
Hi guys, how are you?
Dave - Hey Somojo, feeling great thanks
Steve - Good thanks. But tired.
Would you mind introducing us to your band members?
Dave - Beats & Counts
Sam - Covers & Rhumbles
Steve - Wails & Rhymes
How long has the current band line up been together?
Dave - Been playing for about 3 years, though it’s felt like a lot less. Time flies when you’re having fun.
How did you meet each other?
Steve - Dave and I (Steve) knew each other at University but then lost touch and we reunited when a mutual friend returned to Edinburgh for a visit and decided to have a crack at being a band. I knew Sam from studying for our PhDs together and, although he’s a guitarist by trade, I knew he had a bass and roped him in.
How did you come up with the band name?
Steve - I think we were just about to book our first gig and needed to come up with a name in a hurry. We were on the bus back from practice one time as Dave’s stop was coming up fast and we had to decide. It was just the suggestion that stuck.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t yet heard you?
Steve - I always find this a hard one and have finally come up with punk powerpop. Although I think its pretty meaningless. We tend to get compared to a wide range of other bands, normally by the sound guys. We’ve had Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sabbath and Hüsker Dü - to which I tend to think “No we don’t. But awesome.”
Dave - Ball-busting melodic rock.
What music did you listen to while growing up?
Sam - I grew up in a house listening to almost non stop Jazz and Reggae. As a teenager I discovered punk, metal, and alternative indie and developed something of an obsession with music. Influential bands/artists would be the likes of Bis, the Clash, Burning Spear, Pulp, Eels, Social Distortion, REM, Smashing Pumpkins, Rancid, Stiff Little Fingers, and Rage Against the Machine
Steve - I grew up with quite 60s parent, listening to The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and so on. Then, as a teenager, I started to branch out into lots of things. By the time I finished Uni, I’d amassed a vast and varied collection but have never shed my great love for Genesis.
Dave - I was a bit of an indie-boy when I was younger, although I cut my drumming teeth by listening to the likes of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Green Day.
Which artist or track inspired you to want to make music yourself?
Sam - I played classical music at school but what made me pick up a guitar was The New Transistor Heroes by Bis. If three teenagers can make a record like that, why can’t I?
Steve - I learned the piano (rather reluctantly) at school but then one day tried out the school drumkit and was hooked. I also started learning the guitar. I wanted to be Phil Collins. I still do really. I think it was my discovery of Neil Young that made me think I could sing and play in a band though.
What was the last music you put on your ipod or mp3 player?
Sam - “Hardcore will never die, but you will” by Mogwai
Steve - “Laser Sword” by Laser Sword and “When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence” by Harmonic 313
What can your fans look forward to in the next 12 months?
Sam - More gigs across the central belt and hopefully further afield too. If all goes well, perhaps some more recordings...
Steve - I’d really like to do some more recording. I feel like we learnt a huge amount making On the Fly and I’d like to apply it to some of our other songs. Plus, we’ve got a couple of newer ones we’re very excited about.
What is your current equipment?
Sam - I play a beaten up Jazz bass into a Big Muff and whatever amp I can get my hands on!
Dave - My personal acoustic kit is a Yahama Stage Custom, although it is currently ‘in storage’ at my folks. I have a set of Roland V-Drums that I use for practise in the flat. My snare is a Pearl 4” brass picallo, and I roll with an array of different cymbals.
Steve - I normally play a Danelectro U2 ‘59 reissue through a Boss GT-8 and a Marshall EL34 50/50 amp. Although the Marshall is really heavy so it now only comes to special gigs.
Do you have a favourite piece of musical kit that you couldn’t live without?
Sam - Not really!
Steve - I love my Dave Smith Instruments Tetra. Its nothing to do with Supermarionation (yet) but its loads of fun and makes some really cool analog synth sounds.
Dave - At the moment I’d have to say my piano, although it doesn’t get used for SMN. It’s a refreshing break from bashing the drums. From the SMN gear, I’d say my towel. Nothing worse than a stick flying away due to sweaty hands mid-song.
If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
Sam - A Rickenbacker bass. They’re a one trick pony but what a trick! I could quite happily buy a lot of fuzz pedals too...
Steve - I’d love a Marshall JMP-1 preamp. I think they sound the business. I can’t understand why they don’t make them anymore, they could shift loads of them.
Dave - If this SMN thing ever makes us money I’ll be shelling out on some Zildjian A-custom cymbals throughout.
Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
Steve - Mostly, but Windmill Sounds (where we recorded) had some nice amps so I used those instead of mine. Mainly because we couldn't fit mine in the car.
Do you try to capture your ‘live’ sound on recordings or do you think that the ‘live’ sound and recorded sound should be different experiences for your fans?
Sam - I think that live performances should be different to the record, but at the same time there’s something to be said for a record that sounds “live”. You want to capture some energy without over producing everything. As far as SMN are concerned, I think we suit the “live to tape” ethos.
Steve - Mainly due to the lack of time in the studio.
How much involvement do you have with the arranging and production of the songs when recording?
Dave - I try and give input where I feel it is appropriate, and the drums parts are pretty much mine to do with what I want. Since Steve writes the songs though I don’t want to stifle his creative juices from flowing out and into my ears too much.
Steve - We had the arrangements pretty much nailed from gigging so it was just a case of trying to lay the tracks down without making mistakes and then leaving it up to Dan (the producer) to get a good sound.
Is the production side of things something you’d like to get involved more in the future, maybe working with other artists?
Steve - I’d like to get into both things but time is a problem. I produced our first demos which we recorded in my bedroom and although they sounded OK, the difference between that and having some track produced by someone who knows what they’re doing was massive.
Do you find the process of recording enjoyable and does it get easier the more you do?
Steve - I found it very hard work but I think that’s because I was working all the time. There was a lot of time in the studio where I was singing or recording guitar and Sam and Dave we’re just sitting in the control room saying things like “That was rubbish, do it again.” Or “That was great but we weren’t recording.”
Dave - Hard work, slightly stressful, but good fun and remarkably interesting.
Do you have any new recordings planned?
Steve - Not yet, but hopefully once we get some money together.
Which are your favourite original tracks?
Sam - My favourite SMN track is a new one called “Been and Gone”. It’s like The Stooges on acid.
Dave - Lonesome Symphony. From a purely selfish point of view, the drums are immense.
Steve - I like Those Home Girls. It was written almost in the time it takes to play it and its still the first draft of the lyrics. I think it must be the best way to write but it almost never happens to me. I try though.
Who are your favourite songwriters?
Sam - Mark Oliver Everett---”E” from Eels is a personal hero of mine.
Steve - I love Neil Young. The way he takes something relatively simple and makes it so immediate is something I try to emulate.
Who are the main songwriters for the band?
Dave - Steve. Definitely Steve. He’s a one man Lennon and McCartney.
Steve - Although I’m trying to encourage the others.
Do you have a set routine when writing and recording or does it depend on each track and the inspiration?
Steve - I just tend to play to myself and if I hit on something good idea, either a riff or lyrical phrase, I play it over and try to develop it into a song. Some songs even get two ideas! I try not to force them though. If I have something I like but its not moving anywhere, I leave it for a while and try allow it to flow out naturally.
Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
Steve - It depends on how easily it coming out. If its too hard though, I tend to leave it and come back later.
Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs or performing?
Steve - I really like Joseph Arthur, I think he has a great way with lyrical ideas. I find I tend to write very wordy songs to try and cover up my limited singing style. There’s also a guy called Lee Patterson who plays some great solo blues stuff around Edinburgh. We’d love to be his backing band.
Would you sign with a major record company?
Steve - Maybe. If they were interested in forging a career rather than making a quick buck.
Dave - If they’d match my wages of our real jobs then maybe, although I’m not sure that’s how the music industry works.
Steve - Actually, just yes. I'd love to try and do it for a living
Which countries have you gigged in?
Steve - Scotland
Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
Steve - We’d like to get down to England. Small steps...
Who would you like to tour with?
Steve - I love The Last of Barrett’s Privateers, who are a folk band on the Edinburgh scene. I think it would make a nice contrast of styles.
Dave - Coldplay, but only so I can meet and do naughty things with Gwyneth Paltrow. Chris Martin wouldn’t stand a chance.
How do you promote your music and get your music out to new fans?
Steve - Mainly by blackmailing our friends. But we also try to play at places that already have an audience and then engage with them and encourage them to see us again.
Which music promotion websites do you use and do you have a favourite?
Steve - We now we have our own site- supermarionation.co.uk. After that Facebook and Soundcloud. Not MySpace, its a cliche, but its rubbish. You have to have a MySpace page though. I’m open to any new web ideas, its developing so quickly, its not clear which is going to be the best. Or if any will ever be the best as they all provide different things.
Do you think such sites and the internet are good tools for independent and unsigned artists?
Dave - Yeah. Makes it a lot easier to get the message out, although you are competing against a lot of other people who are all trying to shout the loudest.
With such a variety of similar websites that exist now for independent artist to promote music, is there something missing from them that you would like to see?
Steve - It would be nice if there was just one universal platform rather than having to maintain a half dozen different sites. I don’t think there’s any functionality missing, I just wish there was only one site that did it all.
What is your opinion on ‘battle of the bands’ competitions?
Sam - I don’t believe that they’ll ever be won purely on musical merit. But they can be a good way of getting some exposure and make some contacts.
Dave - I’ve played in many both with SMN and other bands I’ve been in. I’ve never really been convinced that it is the ‘best band’ that wins. All rather subjective I guess.
What's your best/worst experience at a gig?
Dave - Worst: Getting major forearm cramp whilst playing at a gig that was being filmed for TV. Ended up completely ballsing up the beat and accidentally threw one of my sticks halfway across the stage.
Steve - I love it when there’s good interaction with the crowd, its a real buzz on stage. Worst experiences come from technical failures, normally equipment falling apart or failing during songs. I’m normally singing with Dave and Sam behind me and so if something goes wrong, I can’t turn round to see what it is. I just have to carry on and hope they come back in.
Do you get nervous before a gig? How do you calm down?
Steve - Not anymore. There’s normally no time as we’re running around setting stuff up and making sure the technical side of things is OK. And then you’re into the first song before you know you’ve started.
Dave - Rather annoyingly I do. I must have played 100 gigs in my life for various bands but I still get more stressed beforehand than I’d like.
Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
Dave - No. But it will be I’m sure.
Is composing for film or tv something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
Steve - I’d like to try although I’ve no idea how I’d go about it or how I’d write an amount of music for a deadline. I think it would be a good challenge but I’d be worried I was just turning out rubbish to make up the numbers.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Dave - Buy our EP! It’s called On The Fly and it’s available on Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. You can also get a physical copy from our website, or Avalanche Records and Elvis/Shakespeare in Edinburgh.