Oxford band Gunning For Tamar burst onto the scene with the art indie sound of Deaf Cow Motel which instantly led to magazines like Rock Sound hailing the band, while Youthmovies fans like myself breathed a sigh of relief, finally a band to take up their mantel! I caught up with the extremely humble band on the cusp of releasing new EP Time Trophies through Alcopop! Records to ask all the important questions…
Firstly I have to ask straight off the bat, what do they put in the water in Oxford as it seems to be the breeding ground of some brilliant bands...
People in Oxford like to drink straight from the Thames, it’s actually a little known fact that no-one in Oxford has taps in their houses and that we all go to the river every evening to get our liquid supplies. It can get quite erotic when it’s a full moon, so you have to be careful.
Anyway, that’s the source. The secret’s out…
Have Oxford bands like Radiohead, Youthmovies and Foals had an influence on you wanting to be a band, and the style of music you create?
I remember listening to Youthmovies at university before I lived in Oxford and thinking they made this amazing music with so much freedom and unexpected turns which really appealed to me. I got into them around the same time as 65daysofstatic and both those bands blew my mind at the time. Radiohead and Foals are both bands we love too, the level of creativity and drive in both bands is inspiring.
I wouldn’t say though they ‘directly’ inspire what we write in a really obvious way but we do listen to them.
What would you say the main inspiration has been musically on the band then, and would you say that your influences have changed at all between Deaf Cow Motel and Time Trophies?
I think between us we’ve got a pretty wide set of influences.
D’Arcy our drummer is a big Deftones fan in terms of the drumming style. While recently I’ve been completely in love with a lot of different artists, in particular Alt-J and The Xcerts. I’ve always had a strong love for bands like Hell Is For Heroes, Biffy Clyro, Million Dead and Oceansize too. I was listening to those guys when I really started to want to be in a band, so we are influenced by them for sure. And Dan, our guitarist, likes a lot of electronic stuff. So yeah, we have a wide range of influences which is good I guess as it allows us to keep an open mind as to where we might take Gunning For Tamar.
Your debut release Deaf Cow Motel received some really good press from the likes of Rock Sound, did this surprise you at all?
Oh man, it was great!
I mean we were completely happy with those songs and loved them, so the fact other people were responding to them too was awesome. Rock Sound are incredibly supportive of new bands and such a vital part of the whole system of getting bands exposure.
I think we’re still finding out where we want to go with this band and that EP was the first collection we’d released, so hopefully people will hear a development on the new tracks from those.
Your new release Time Trophies is out on March 19th. Did you approach the writing and recording of the release in a different way to Deaf Cow Motel and how do you feel it differs musically from that release?
We went and recorded again with Tom Woodhead and definitely think there was a greater understanding between us as to what we wanted to do. We knew each other better this time. Plus we were fans of Forward Russia from a few years ago, so it was pretty surreal for us first time round as we were his fan boys then! Now he’s just Tom to us; an awesome dude and producer. He’s ace to work with and completely immerses himself in what he’s working on.
Dan and I write the songs, and we always approach the writing the same way for this release and the last. I think we’ve found a formula that works for us. One of us will normally have the seed of a song and then we take it to each other to expand upon, until it makes it to the rehearsal space and becomes a full band monster. It’s a pretty strong filtering process, it means that we all have to like the song or else it ends up in the corner in a pile with all the other discarded ideas. Making it completely democratic like that probably means writing is harder and we disagree more but it’s the way that works for us!
The Time Trophies release is a nifty wristwatch package. Can you shed more light on it, what the package actually involves and who came up with the idea?
We met up with Jack (Head of Alcopop! Records) after sending the tracks to him and pitched the EP idea and we all agreed that to release it on a watch would be something that we’d all love to do. Jack’s got a track record of releasing things in different formats and we’re a band who want to try different things with our music and releases, so it was a perfect fit.
You get the limited orange wristwatch and five tracks on the record that come in the form of a download code that is tucked into the pocket on the back of the watch. Two of those tracks are remixes made by Maybeshewill and Johnny Foreigner! Both insanely good! Pretty much constantly in love with all the music that they make.
I do think that the wristwatch is a great idea. Do you think that creating new innovative styles of releasing a musical product is something that new, upcoming bands should do to stay ahead of the curve and persuade music lovers to buy their product? And do you have any potential ideas of how you would like to package your next release after Time Trophies?
There’s a company called ACDSleeve and they’re amazing for helping you make packaging for your releases and have really cool ideas to make the package more interesting. So there are people out there willing to help you make a more appealing object if you want to go a bit further than just a plastic wallet for your CD. It definitely makes it more appealing for music fans if what your buying looks like you’ve actually put some love into it. I mean, that’s why people still buy vinyl, as the format itself is so beautiful with all the artwork and everything. And now that you can add downloads to these type of releases, there’s really no reason why you can’t try and make it special.
Saying that, I have no idea what we’ll do for our next release.... maybe a Tamagotchi?!
There is a tour to promote Time Trophies, where are you playing, and what can fans expect from your live shows?
We’re playing around the UK in March with label friends and dangerously good looking rogues Jumping Ships. Then in May we’re taking in Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany before heading back to play more shows in the UK. A portion of the May shows have been announced but got a few more to come before we set off!
Hopefully fans will love us more after the live show, else we’re not doing our job very well! When I go to shows it really makes me switch off if who you’re watching looks like they’d rather be at home. So we definitely don’t look bored. That’s what to expect first and foremost. We’ve been told we’re heavier live too. That’s probably true. To be honest, we just ignore our own songs and play 30 minutes of death metal every night!
Beyond this release and the tour supporting it, are there any plans for a full length release?
In all the build-up to the Time Trophies release and the preparation for the tours we’ve been writing a lot and have been into the studio to record some demos that are intended for a full length. We’re trying some new songs out on the tour, so there will be some songs that people won’t recognize.
The music industry is in a terrible place right now, how important are indie labels like Alcopop! to underground bands and fans?
I guess if you look at it from a top down view, I can see where people think that the ‘industry’ is in a bad way. Perhaps the ‘industry’ side of it is struggling but from where we’re sitting, there’s a crazy healthy amount of amazing bands coming up through the underground. So at a certain level at least creatively, it’s in an extremely healthy place.
If you put it in monetary terms, of course it’s not great but if you want to start a band, making money shouldn’t be your primary goal in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I think anybody that is seriously committed to any form of art would love for it to allow them to survive and not have to work shit jobs in an office or a shop, me included, but we don’t sit around waiting for loads of money to come into our bank accounts. We do this because we love making music, playing shows and hopefully giving people something to enjoy.
Labels like Alcopop! and Big Scary Monsters give people reasons to commit and support the bands. Music fans will support labels and bands, pay for music and build relationships with them if they’re given enough reason to and I think that’s where those guys work so well.
What do you think it is about labels like Alcopop and Big Scary Monsters that get people so commited to them? I know music fans who will literally buy a record from a band they haven't heard just because they are on a specific label. Why do you think there is such a passion?
I think they’ve built up a level of trust with fans of their labels, where people believe in the judgment of these guys maybe? And for these labels to continue to release the next potential favourite bands of music fans they need the support of passionate people and people are consistently coming through and supporting them. It’s really great - genuine music fans wanting to support new talent.
And labels like Alcopop, Big Scary Monsters and also our previous label Walnut Tree aren’t run by assholes. They’re run by awesome guys just wanting to get good music out to people and I think that can play a part in people wanting to support them.
You have some fantastically talented label mates, as well as many other up and coming Oxford bands around you. Who is most exciting you right now, who are you tipping for big things in 2012?
Well, they’re really great friends of ours but even if we didn’t know and love them as men, it’d be Spring Offensive. Absolutely amazing band and they make incredibly exciting music.
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Spring Offensive, they have just grown as a band and this year could be huge for them. Okay, last but not least, the most important question. You have five words to sell Time Trophies. What are they? Go!
BUY IT OR YOU’LL EXPLODE!
You can check out the band and buy new EP Time Trophies via http://gunningfortamar.co.uk/
or catch them on tour at these dates:
19th - Beercart Arms, Canterbury, UK
22nd – Avondale House w/ Jumping Ships, Southampton, UK
24th – *ep launch* The Cellar, Oxford, UK
25th – Old Blue Last, London, UK
27th – The Hope, Brighton, UK
28th – Buffalo Bar, Cardiff, UK
29th – Trinity Bar, Harrow, UK
30th – Shipping Forecast, Liverpool, UK
31st – The Chameleon, Nottingham, UK
2nd - Cellar Bar, Gent, Belgium
3rd - Kulturkaffee, Siegen, Germany
4th - Rockbox, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
5th - Musikbunker, Aachen, Germany
8th - TBA, Hannover, Germany
9th - Emokeller, Essen, Germany
10th - Den Trap, Kortrijk, Belgium
11th - The Great Escape, Brighton, UK
15th - The Croft, Bristol, UK
18th - Tubman, Hastings, UK