'The New Wall Of Sound'
iForward, Russia! got together in early 2004 - Katie is whiskas sister, and Tom and Rob were in The Black Helicopters together - all four came together to try something new. The first gig was in April, followed by the first demo recording - quickly followed by more of the same.
At the end of 2004 a single was recorded ('NINE') that was released (as a split 7" single with This Et Al) in April 2005 on Leeds' (and whiskas) Dance To The Radio label. Steve Lamacq loved (loves) it and played it numerous times on Radio One, 6Music and even KCRW in the US.
Katie finished college, the boys finished work, and in the Summer of 2005 the gigs came more and more - tour supports with Editors and VHS Or Beta, Truck, Leeds and Reading Festival appearences. A new single 'Thirteen / Fourteen' was released in August. Recorded by Jon Jacobs and Buzz Reducer of Leeds band Duels it was put out by London based White Heat Records, the label of the club night that gave them their first gig in London.
Continuing to tour throughout the autumn in support slots, In The City appearance and culminating with a 37 date tour of the UK, they found time to start working with producer Paul Tipler and start recording songs which would eventually form part of their debut album. This was mainly completed in Jan / Feb 2006 after the succesful release of 'Twelve' (Dance To The Radio) their first non-limited release, and it hit the Top 40 at no. 36.
Sitting down with Katie (drums, shouts), here is what she had to say on all subjects relating to Forward, Russia!
Who comprised The Black Helicopters and what prompted the change? Did Tom and Rob both know you and Whiskas beforehand or was it more spontaneous than that? "Rob and Whiskas were friends, Tom knew Whiskas, and I knew of Tom and Rob's band. Whiskas and Rob decided to form a new band whilst they went through a phase of following a band called Youthmovies around. Whiskas and I had just matured enough to get along as brother and sister, and Whiskas thought Tom was a wicked front man. Whiskas previous band were gigging less and less, and The Black Helicopters dissolved a few months after Forward Russia started when their main songwriter left the band."
How would you describe punk-funk to those who haven't heard your music before? How did this style end up coming from your songs? "I wouldn't say we're punk funk! Maybe, but punk funk sounds like NOFX covering James Brown to me - I think we sound more like Slayer covering the Bee Gees than that! All of us in the band listen to loads of different kinds of music, so I guess we have such a wide variety of influences that creep into our songs. It's not intentional, but if we like a bit of music we've written, then we keep it."
UK or US? Why? Just in general or on tours? "Both are good and different. People in the UK have seen us tour so many times, they knew all the songs before the album came out. Whereas in the US we've not toured so much, so when people see us live for the first time its a different reaction - like when people first came to see us in the UK. On tour it makes a massive difference, because everything is so much further apart in the US! And in the UK we're usually driving ourselves around in our old van that breaks down a lot."
What kind of music did you grow up? Favorite bands? "I grew up listening to 90's indie bands like Blur, Catatonia, Bis and Idlewild, until I discovered Green Day when I was about 13. So from there I got into punk like Pennywise, The Vandals, and then discovered Le Tigre and Cap'n Jazz when I was a bit older. I guess my favourite bands would be like Sonic Youth, At the Drive-In, Minutemen."
Tell me about your craziest touring experience. Something that didn't go right, something unexpected, something weird...any event that sticks out in your minds from touring. "There's a few! Like when we drove to Amsterdam, and the van broke down, and the recovery service were less than helpful. We ended up stranded there for a few days, had to leave the van there to get fixed."
"Other van related incidents include it breaking down on the way to airports. Another, is when our flight from Austin to LA after SXSW was delayed by 4 hours. Denis Quaid was on the same flight and gave the airline some stick! But after arriving in LA, we had to re-string guitars in a cramped car, then literally walk from the car onto the stage to begin the gig. And then afterwards, I got told to leave because I was underage!"
What you guys were recording "Nine", did you think that it would become the hit that it did? Or was it something that you had to wait and see about? When you were writing it, did it feel like a hit? "Not at all. We wrote the song so long ago. The first time we recorded it in this guy's loft studio, and we were all really pleased with how 'proper' we could sound when put down on record. It was our first single out in the UK in April 2005, a split 7" with our friends This Et Al, and we sent it to Radio 1, then Steve Lamacq picked it out as his favourite! Since then we've had loads of support from him, we re-recorded it for the album and released it again because its like the original song people recognise."
For the songs that you write, for the most part is it difficult to gauge what songs will do well? For example, did you think 'Fifteen Part 2' would be the hit or is that not something you really think about while composing? Does it help or hurt while you're writing? "We don't write songs in relation to whether we think it'll do well, we just write what we like. If we wanted to write songs that we thought would 'do well' I don't think we'd sound anything like we do. Fifteen Part 2 was one of the last songs on the album to be written. I think we went a bit mad with it, we have loads of ideas from old songs that we didn't play any more. So we took out the good bits and squashed them altogether kind of like in one megamix song. Because the bulk of the song blended with the same ideas from Fifteen Part 1, it made sense to have it follow and be Fifteen Part 2, although it has parts from Three and Five in it too."
How would you say the band has grown or changed since 2004? "Whiskas has got more stressed, Tom's hair has grown, Rob drinks more and I complain more!"
What's your favorite drink? Do you drink during a show? Why or why not? "The boys drink beer, usually have one or two on stage but I stick to coke or fruit juice. No-one really drinks before. If Tom has a couple of pints it's not too bad, but no one would get pissed before a show. But my favourite drink would be either cherry coke or chocolate milkshakes, but they're not too good for gigs!"
What are your future plans? "Conquer the world? I don't know. Tour some more. Write some songs. Hopefully visit Australia and Asia - The album has just come out there, but I think you can't really gauge opinion on a band until you've both seen them live and heard the record.'
If you could cover any '80s (possibly cheesy!) pop song, which one would it be ... and why?! "Probably 'Bat out of Hell' by Meatloaf. Our sound guy once bought a Power ballads compilation 3 CD set from a service station, and it's the last track. When people get drunk there's usually a lot of air guitar, sitting on people's faces and body parts out of the windows of the van when it's played!"
Lastly, Exclusive Magazine likes Penguins ... do you?! "They're okay, I guess. Pretty good ... I've never really got to know one though!"
Interviewed by Brian J. Hong
If you would like to win a copy of Forward! Russia's new CD, and you seriously think you know all there is to know about the band, just answer this easy question: Back on Thursday the 6th July this year, which club - located in the city centre on Albion Street (UK) - did the guys play?!
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before December 1st with your answer and the subject title 'CONTEST: FORWARD! RUSSIA CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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