Interview: The Thespians

Liverpool punk quartet The Thespians chat to Richard Lewis

Posted on Feb 7th, 2013 in Features and Interviews, The Thespians / By Richard Lewis
Interview: The Thespians Slumped around a table in The Shipping Forecast, the venue selected for their single launch, if Liverpool band The Thespians look a bit knackered it’s entirely understandable.

After recording their new LP in roughly a week, recruiting a new drummer, writing and rehearsing new material in addition to playing live, the group seemingly haven’t had a day off in months.

With the band holed up in the Princes’ Park area of Liverpool in one of the dilapidated Georgian mansions the city specialises in, a situation vaguely reminiscent of The Young Ones, the present troupe clearly define the band-as-gang aesthetic.

New single ‘Under Siege’ (check out the video here) maintains the quartet’s exhilarating NYC inspired punk clatter with an additional glam stomp brought to bear on proceedings.

The track’s parent album, debut release Haven’t You Heard? set for release imminently is a superb summation of the group’s influences, the denizens of CBGBs spliced with vintage UK punk/New Wave, with the band’s songwriting chops in clear evidence throughout.

Wanting to capture the songs on analogue equipment, the band opted for Liverpool’s Parr St. Studios (previous clients, The Zutons, The Coral, Echo and the Bunnymen) and turned to PledgeMusic to raise the funds needed for sessions.

In line with the fan-funding scheme’s strict 90 day turnaround policy for hitting the set target, the group romped home with more than the requisite amount with days to spare.

‘You can only get the album if you’ve pledged’ lead guitarist/singer Jess Thespian explains of the process (all the band members have the adoptive surname Thespian, in homage to Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy). ‘We’re going to release some more singles off it though.’

Prior to entering Parr St.’s hallowed surroundings, donning the headphones and watching for the red light, the group prepared ruthlessly beforehand. ‘We did ten pre-production sessions’ lead singer/guitarist Paul recalls. ‘We went through a process of cutting the songs down and re-structuring them before we recorded it, then Ian (‘Gredge’ Greenwood) came onboard to produce it’

With the songs so well-drilled in advance, the LP was effectively thrown down live with minimal overdubs. ‘We set everything up in the main live room, as we’d do in rehearsal’ Paul explains. ‘All the amps were set up in the same room as the kit, so if anyone drops a note you’re gonna hear it on the overhead mics. You’ve just got to get it right’. ‘Frustrating ‘cos if one person makes a mistake it’s ‘Rewind the tape and start again’ Jess adds.

‘We didn’t wanna feel like the music had been put through Instagram’ Paul emphasises on opting for tape over digital. ‘We just wanted it to be the same process as the bands we’d all loved had done.’

After their funding hurdles were so easily surmounted, disaster struck somewhat when their drummer departed abruptly during the sessions, leaving the band rudderless. Dusting themselves off, a replacement was quickly sourced with Paul Weller’s sticksman Steve Pilgrim occupying the drumstool for the sessions.

‘We needed to do that album’ Paul states firmly of the group’s determination not to postpone the project. ‘It’s something we’ve been saying to ourselves, ‘This year we’ll do an album.’

Despite the interruptions, the group set-to and in Paul’s estimation ‘recorded 12 songs in two and a half days. I got ill halfway through, so that screwed the vocals up for a while. If you counted all the days of recording music and all the days recording vocals it was probably five or six days to do everything. That was the pleasure we had of doing it live. One take, if that was a good take we’d use it.’

Prior to the arrival of new tub-thumper Mark ‘We’d auditioned 10 or 11 drummers’ Paul estimates. ‘We sent Mark six songs off the demos, we didn’t have a copy of the album. He did one rehearsal. He turned up and we said ‘Right what do you wanna play first?’ and he said ‘Reason to Reason’ (the band’s best known song) and I thought ‘That’s a fucking bold move’. And he just sat there and played it and I was like... (open mouthed)’ ‘He was the only one who bothered to learn the songs’ bassist Phill agrees. ‘Everyone else did a half-arsed job and thought that was good enough.’

Following this was an onstage baptism of fire with the newly minted line-up playing their first engagement supporting punk legends The Buzzcocks at a sold-out Eric’s, Liverpool.

Settling on Haven’t You Heard? as the LPs title, the moniker is a variation on an earlier idea of Jess’s. ‘We had three pages of titles, we didn’t know what to call the album for ages, ‘Nothing You Haven’t Already Heard’ stuck’ the guitarist explains.

‘There’s nothing worse than bands going ‘Oh, it’s the most original unique thing that’s been released ever’’ Paul explains of the tagline’s inspiration. ‘You’ll listen to them and think, ‘Great songs, but it’s not original is it?’ What’s original anymore? That’s a whole new discussion I suppose’ he shrugs.

While the LP is being released via PledgeMusic, local indie Eighties Vinyl Records are handling the 45 after the boutique label approached the band with a view of doing a limited edition run of 7” singles

Wrapped in a monochrome sleeve shot by acclaimed veteran Liverpool
photographer Francesco Mellina, famed for his live portraits of The Banshees, Ramones and The Clash, the package captures the group’s scruffy melodicism perfectly.

Prior to its release however was the drawn-out decision of what track to actually put out. After some inter-band deliberation, democracy won out. ‘After a vote on Facebook everyone voted for ‘Under Siege’’ Paul explains. ‘Which is weird, ‘cos you sit there and go, ‘Fucking hell, is it that obvious to everyone else just not us?’’

Under Siege b/w Reason to Reason/So So is out now on Eighties Vinyl Records