The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Escape Velocity

We've Always Been A Bit Strange: We Have Band Interviewed
The Quietus , March 23rd, 2010 10:27

Ailbhe Malone talks to the dance-rock trio about married life, Roy Orbison and stage fright

Formed of married couple Thomas and Deedee W.P, along with close friend Darren Bancroft, We Have Band take the best bits of the Pet Shop Boys and mix it with a Hackney warehouse-worth of dancing feet. Or something like that. Recently signed to achingly hip French label Naive, WHB are far from newcomers on the scene. Their first release was a limited vinyl run of single ‘Oh’ in December 2008, followed six months later by an equally limited run of ‘We Came Out’ in June 2009. "In a way," says Darren when asked about the release of their forthcoming debut WHB, "this almost feels like the second album."

The trio met while all working at EMI Records - not that it was any use to them when they started promoting and working on their own band. Thomas was working on Roy Orbison re-issues, while Deedee and Darren were in the international department. Surely there must be something of worth that they’d bring back to their job, if the band fell through tomorrow? Darren hums and haws. "Obviously, EMI are working with really big, signed bands," he says. "And when you start doing this, you think ‘oh yeah, maybe I can use some of that’, but you can’t really. We only signed in January.

"It’s a bit mysterious - these days you have to kind of feel your way through it. We played a lot, we booked more gigs through that. We signed to a label just to work the album, really. It wasn’t a case of ‘we don’t want to sign’, we were doing what we were doing, and we were so busy with the gigs. We asked ourselves ‘if we had a label, what difference would it make to what we’re doing right now?’ And the answer at the time was ‘not much difference’. But the record was finished in October, so then we had a finished product."

Why sign to a French label, then, rather than a British one? Deedee, previously shy and almost reticent, begins: "We just felt that it was time. And also, we felt like we found the right label to sign with..." before her husband, Thomas, takes over. "We had a good profile in France. We did some of our first shows there, and we were on the Kitsuné compilation. It felt really nice to sign to a French label because we’d done so much there, and we were so comfortable gigging in Europe. We’re not saying that there’s anything wrong with focusing on the UK, but for us, it would have been a big mistake to do that. It felt much better to be based in Europe, and to spread out from somewhere like France."

Their profile in France and Europe was certainly helped by their inclusion on a compilation by tastemakers Kitsuné alongside a young La Roux and Two Door Cinema Club. Darren laughs, noting: “We’re not entirely sure how Kitsuné picked up on us. They tend to hunt things out a lot. We were gigging a lot, so maybe they picked up on us from the gigs. I don’t know!" More seriously, business-minded Thomas explains, "If I was a young band, the one thing I’d definitely try to do would be to get on a Kitsuné compilation. Because it means that without any effort, you’ve reached your target audience. They probably sell 30,000 copies, and then X thousand amount of people listen to it."

Last year alone, We Have Band played over 125 live shows, all over the UK, Ireland and Europe. On stage, they all wear the same colour - usually monochrome, sometimes glittered. ("Occasionally, after touring for three weeks, you go ‘I can’t put on those white trousers again’. It becomes this whole ritual sometimes," says Darren.) For shy Deedee, how did she manage to get herself on stage in the first place? She shakes her head. "I was petrified the first time we played live. I didn’t want to do it. Anything. The stage probably more. It changed because we enjoyed the experience of making music. It was quite exhilarating to create something you liked. And then, I think I felt that it would almost be an injustice not to do the next step.

"I don’t know where I physically found the push to go on stage. I literally couldn’t have imagined anything worse. I was sick the first night, and for ages after. We were in a club in Dalston. We were third on the billing. I was just in the toilets, giving myself a pep talk in the mirror, telling myself that I had to do it. It seemed to last forever, but I think we only played six songs. But it felt like we were on stage for three hours. I think it went ok. I can’t really remember. I’ve seen pictures of it, and I still can’t really remember. I think I blanked it out. It’s gotten easier now. I’ve beaten it out of myself. Also, when the crowd’s really getting into the music, you just lose yourself in that. It’s not that you’re just on stage- you’re all in this thing together, going crazy. So you forgot that you’re nervous."

127 live shows aside, even day to day living can destroy a normal relationship. As a married couple, how do Thomas and Deedee cope with tourbuses and soundchecks? According to Thomas, it’s not a problem. "We've always been a bit strange. We always worked in the same place, and we were friends for five years before we got together. And then we lived together for like a year, two years, and then we got married. So we lived together, we’d cycle to work together, we’d have lunch together. We’re not a sickly couple, we just love each other’s company."

"Darren’s with us as well," interjects Deedee, instinctively finishing his point. "When we’re on the road, it’s not like it’s a couple and Darren, it’s just a band. We’re all really good mates as well. We’re actually three separate people on the road. It’s not like me an Tom go off and hold hands."

The debut album by We Have Band, WHB, will be released on April 5.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.