I caught up with Ewan Merrett from Bad Sounds last Thursday evening, I’d been given some time for a Q&A session by phone. Bad Sounds tour the UK this November and it brings them to The Bodega on November 14th, I wanted to get to know them a little… get you to know them too.
Any questions I’d mapped out (and any ambition of an interview style) got lost as I got drawn into free and easy conversation. I was struck by how relaxed and how earthbound the whole thing became. We covered ideal shows, Bad Sounds in boxes, influences and inception. A part of that phonecall went something like this:
Will Wilkinson: So… for the record, who else is in Bad Sounds
Ewan Merrett: So the band is Me and Callum who are brothers and we are sort of the writers of the band. Then there is Sam Hunt who plays Bass, Olivia Dimery who plays drums and Charlie Pitt who plays guitar.
WW: And has this been the same line-up since inception?
EM: Yeah, kind of, I mean the original demos were me and Callum when we were writing in the bedroom, but since we started as Bad Sounds we’ve been playing with that line up. But we’ve been playing with Olivia for years and years, she’s always been like our go-to drummer.
WW: The can be hard to find, for every 10 guitarists there’s almost one drummer?
EM: It’s funny you should say because me and Callum, our first instruments were guitar, but it was easier to find a guitarist than it was to find someone who could play samples and keyboards. And it’s the same with drummers – you’ve kind of got to hold on to the ones who are good-eggs.
WW: From listening to tracks you’ve put out to date, there’s a wealth of influences, from ‘Here Now’ Marvin Gaye, some later Family Stone, funk and disco sounds, would that be fair?
EM: Definitely. We love all that stuff. Sly Stone is one of my heroes for sure and Cal is like a massive Marvin Gaye fan so definitely.
WW: And does everyone share those influences?
EM: ….ummm…. I think so. I mean it definitely comes out in the writing because me and Cal bring that. And lots of people comment on the influences but I thinks that’s down to… because when me and Cal were writing stuff together, before properly as Bad Sounds, Cal went away and learnt recording in studios and I got into, don’t really know how but maybe through Youtube, making more sample based music and got really into the idea of looking for samples… looking for cool nuggets and cool music from all these different genres and using that. So I feel like we’ve taken that way of making music and using it in what we write now. It’s kind of like taking the best bits of every little thing we like instead of being ‘so we’re going to be a rock band’ or ‘oh we’re going to be a hip hop band’, we like trying to merge all that stuff.
WW: …Reminding me of lots of early 90s hip hop where they’re all taking samples from left, right and centre…
EM:…Which is weird because when I first started doing my own thing and finding out new things for myself, it was that era of hip hop. So when I was like 17 – that whole way of doing things just spoke to me if that makes sense, it shaped the whole way I think about writing, I took on that way of thinking so it influenced us in a big way.
WW: Again, that sounds like a nice fluid way of doing things…
EM: Ah cheers… and to be fair, because we’ve been doing this all our lives anyway, you kind of get used to it, like… I mean we’ve tried to do that thing before where have tried to write a ‘proper’ song and it never happens. It’s always something shit and sounds shit, and sounds really try-hard. We prefer to try write something just because we’re passionate about it.
WW: And I wanted to ask about some of the things that have happened with Bad Sounds. You’ve played Glastonbury, had support from Annie Mac, you’ve been on tour with Rat Boy and I’ve seen you as listed as new band of the week in NME and Guardian and many other papers, how did all this come about? When did this start taking off?
EM:…Again… it’s all been… quite organic. I mean Glastonbury seemed to turn a lot of people’s heads. Which is weird for us. Because we’re from the Westcountry, Glastonbury is half hour away from where I live. I guess I’d always thought of Glastonbury as a big deal but I never knew it was such a big deal to the rest of the word and the rest of UK.
It was, we got on through the (BBC) introducing thing, after Annie Mac had given us some support and then after all the blogs and magazines and papers and stuff just, I mean I guess they look at the line up and see what they don’t know and then they look into those bands. That was definitely a massive point. And it seems since then that a lot of those guys have kept a tab on what we’ve been up to – which is nice – and again, it felt like we’d never really gone after any of those things. We just felt really grateful and lucky that it happened.
And again, probably if we really were going for it and trying to flog it and target people they’d probably be really put off by that, I’d imagine… making it a bit of a pointless task. I say that with literally no experience so that might be a sweeping statement.
WW: I was wondering if that kind of success or support has any effect on yourselves or on the music you make or how you look at what you’re making?
EM: It’s a weird thing because we write so much, like every day, and because we do it so often you almost detach it from the band? I feel like when we try and write something for the band we end up writing something we don’t like. The stuff we write that we like is when we try to cater for the people who already like us… and then just go fuck it lets write something we like. That’s the stuff we end up keeping.
I think we’ve got quite good at just ignoring the whole ‘what we’ve done’, trying to almost see it like it’s the first song we’re writing again. I think maybe there was a time at first, like when we had that hottest record by Annie Mac, obviously you want your next single to at least be that or something
similar. I think we got a bit nervous about the one we put out second, but luckily we got the same support so we thought ‘nah, fuck it, let’s just do what we’re doing’.
And also, I don’t want to be in the situation where I feel like something went bad because we tried to cater from someone else. I feel like if people don’t sort of respond to something we put out, but we really like it, I’d be OK with that. But if it was something people don’t really respond to and we weren’t that keen on it anyway, I’d find that a lot harder to swallow.
WW: is there any point to date that has been ‘this is my favourite point?’
EM: Do you know what? I think my favourite point so far was the last London show we did, our last headline show. We played this place called Omeara, it was the first time where we’ve been able to put on the show that we wanted to put on. Especially because my main passion when I was getting into it, I’ve never really been that into to like ‘live gigs’, or that idea. Because I think the only bands I’d ever seen were all like shit rock bands in a pub or shoegaze bands who never really do anything.
We had a bit more of a budget for it and it was the biggest show we’d done yet, it was our show so it felt like we could do what we want. We totally went all out on it. we did this thing where we filmed this video before, of this delivery picking up two massive boxes, filled with stuff that me and Callum liked, like I’m a massive Missy Elliot fan so we had loads of Missy Elliot records and Call had loads of weird clothes and stuff he’s into, and the video was literally the delivery guy picking up these two boxes and delivering them to the venue and it ended with the boxes arriving at the venue. And the show started with the driver pushing out this trolley with the boxed into the audience and me and Callum were in the boxes. We started the show in these boxes and did the whole first song in the audience. We had a show, we had a set change half way through the set, and then everybody got dressed up and there were feathers, balloons, it kind of felt like the kind of show I’d want to go to.
WW: So there’s a big theatrical side to it?
EM: Yeah definitely, I mean those are the kind of shows we always want to do. And sometimes you don’t always play a venue that can handle that stuff, especially if you’re doing something small, they almost want you to get in and get out, it was the first time we could really do that. And now every time we get the opportunity to do something like that we’ve really had more ideas and been able to try stuff out which is like, awesome for me. I feel like it was, I don’t know, I just felt really proud of me, what we’d done – in the least ass-y way possible.
WW: How much of that did you get to do with Rat Boy?
EM: None really, it was before then. And when you’re a support band you literally make zero money. If anything it costs you sick pounds to do it, and you’re kind of like the underdog of the whole set so we didn’t really get a chance to do anything like that. And plus it was the first proper tour we’d ever gone out on so we were bricking it the whole time. But we’re doing another support tour early next year, and I feel like maybe now we’ve made a bit of… y’know… it doesn’t just feel like we’re just some band supporting a band people have heard of, we feel like we like we’ve got more of our own thing going on and that’s definitely something we’d like to do whenever possible.
WW: And you have a tour starting in November, imminently, and I was wrong about the album but am I right in thinking this is the first headline tour?
EM: We always get this weird stuff, people get these strange things, like …everybody thought we were from London so I take no offence… We did one around spring I think, and now we’re doing a lot of dates we didn’t do. Last time was 5/6 shows and this 9 or 10 so should be cool.
WW: So I’ll be coming to see you in Nottingham, and now that I know your ideal show – what should I be expecting?
EM: Hopefully it will be a good set. We’re planning, we’re going to take a lot of gear with us and it depends on the show. I mean I know the Bristol and London shows are bigger than the rest of the others so we know we can get away with putting a lot more up. I guess it completely depends, we won’t know until we get to the venue.
I’m really looking forward to playing, we’ve been there as part of a Rough Trade event but never played our own show there
By Will Wilkinson