Moke Interview [Birmingham, UK Zine]
Imagine the perfect night out - nice warm summer evening in a beer garden, you turn up on a scoot and get admiring glances all round, someone you've had your eye on for ages comes up to YOU to say hello, the night spins past in a flash, suddenly you're riding home again with this warm feeling in your heart. You get back and try to find the perfect sound to encapsulate this mood - If I were you, I'd put on "Wide Awake With The Pills". Listening to this album, you can believe in a perfect world!
OK - get the predictable stuff out of the way first - most reviewers say that The Pills sound is based around that of XTC/The Who/Kinks/The Jam - and how right they are, but those comparisons only scratch the surface, of what is undoubtedly the freshest sounding new album I've heard this year. Sort of like Blur's grown-up American brother, taking the same influences as Albarn and co. but with a far heavier sound. Weighing in at just under 30 minutes, with not one single wasted note on 11 of the tracks. Can't be bad! (deep breath, press PLAY)
Kicking off literally with "All That Way", jumping all over the shop, stopping starting, yelping into track two "Real Real Gone" intro of Special-reggae leading into driving bass (best bit) every verse has me turning up the stereo that little bit louder, just to hear the singer's voice-box shred itself that little bit more. "Wide Awake" next, amphetamine Faces-speed psychedelic pop, crunching guitar squeals of feedback, bit of Big Star/dBs harmony ending up in a delightful thrash!!! Ringing guitar, grumbling bass (reminiscent of the best Ruts) heads into an early Andy Partridge "The Devils Song" (think "She's So Square") and some more Special off-the-wall reggae, has Dave Thompson taking over vocals from Corin, finishing with a little bit of "Butterfly Collector". Cool as shit, next up is the natural-born boogiefied "Call Me" with a nod or two to Britpop, thrashing itself into a tremelo-arm frenzy, tape compression (see interview) heavy Jam sound. "Molly & Me" bright as sunshine with showers possibly leading to thunder later. Jeez Corin's grates through "Something About Nicola" (what does he smoke "Camel"?), and more excellent early new-wave/XTC riffing. "Butternut" is almost a comedy-observation essay, something that Ray Davies used to excel at, some sections borrowing from early Jam (circa. "Modern World")bass runs, an American cousin for Billy Hunt? "Back Of Your Head" is over almost just as soon as it's begun, built round a certain stop/start Who riff, delightful as fuck. Leaving the best two till last - the anthemic "Soft", capturing that feeling you get riding into town on a white GS on a sunny midweek day-off (no shitting!), speed and grace encapsulated like sitting in the back seat of an old Jag. Almost an 90's scooter anthem, if not for the final track "Scooter Gurl", very Alex Chilton meets Colin Moulding. Without sounding cliched or forced, your singing along before you know what's happening, and the album finishes on it's Blur-esque coda. Suddenly it's over, and your left wanting to hear it all again. That perfect feeling, captured in a bottle, yours to keep. We got this album from the sharp people Monolyth Records (The Pills record company), and out of the blue, it hasn't left my Discman since! Naturally I was impressed enough to want to know more.
Take it right back to the beginning, about 3 years ago. The band is the brainchild of Corin Ashley and Dave Thompson. In the beginning, it was two men armed with guitars and an arsenal of pop songs that they could only imagine in an electrified form. Other members were drafted in via a press ad with a large picture of The Knack (the band, not the film) and extra-loud guitarist Corey Harding applied.
The original drummer lasted about a year and current drummer Jamie Vavra was recruited, by Corin. "We create the music we make," says Corin, "because there is something lacking in the music that we hear on the radio. We create that music because no one else is doing it. This is music that we want to hear. I'm a big believer in pop culture resonance. People need to buy a record and in ten years time be able to put it on, and not say "Oh I can't believe I liked Asia!" It's just in the last couple of years, the stuff that you hear on the radio sort-of cookie-cutter bands that have one funny, goofy song. We try to make music that has more resonance. The stuff that we recorded with producer Dave Minehan's really got an interesting sound because it's got tape compression. That's when you hit the tape level so hard that the tape freaks out and the weird freaky guitar stuff that Clyde (Corey's bandname is Clyde O'Scope) does, is like a sledgehammer coming down the middle and sending the needle to the red, which distorts a bit. This is what we were hoping for. After doing this for 15 years I still feel my toe shoot up in my shoe, the second that Clyde plugs his Les Paul into his Vox AC-30."
MOKE- Now that the album is out (since about May
'99), how has it changed the perceptions of how people view the Pills?
MOKE- What kind of guitars do you use? Do the
B-52's (whom you toured with) still use 12-gauge heavy strings (in homage
to The Ventures)?
MOKE- Has Corey (or anyone else in the band),
ever considered using an e-bow?
MOKE- I know you are into XTC, have you heard
The Dukes of The Stratosfear?
MOKE- Any musical skeletons in your album, that
have shaped the sound of The Pills?
MOKE- Any famous look-alikes in the band?
MOKE- Do you all have record-players at home(and
if so, which kind), or are you all staunch fans of CD?
MOKE- Can you remember the last paperback you
bought from a thrift-shop?
MOKE- Which album was the first album that you
(and the others) heard, which first made an impression on you (mine was
a toss up between The Who's My Generation album & The B-52's first album,
when I was 13!)?
MOKE- Artschool from Spain, are probably the closest
sound to what The Pills are doing right now. Will you be checking them
out, when you tour Spain, in the near future (they were on the Spanish
MOKE- Have you got any more tour-stories, like
the 4 day tour-bus acid/pot/booze binge?
MOKE- It's a good album, when will we see a follow
Can't wait! Half an hour listening to "Wide Awake With The Pills" is half an hour never wasted. The album is on Monolyth Records (and available through the website www.pillsrock.com which also has more info on the band). The Pills are touring Europe, and looking for a UK record deal, so all the best.
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