It’s difficult to remember a time when guitar based alt-rock actually sounded exciting. It’s 2010 now, and the bright future that awaited indie has long since burnt out, with the lingering remnants only serving to remind what a bitter disappointment it all was. So as Maximo Park’s Paul Smith starts his solo careers, Kele Okerere turns into the dance-hound he’s always wanted to be and The Cribs desperately try to justify the inclusion of Johnny Marr that has so expertly sedated their once visceral noise for the anthem-hungry dad market, it’s genuinely exciting to know that all is not lost, and there’s at least one band that offer a way forward.
Of course, there’s every chance you’ve heard Sir Yes Sir before. They’ve been around since 2005, but it’s only now that they’ve managed to get around to putting out their debut album. Starting out as a two piece before expanding to a trio, they’ve recently graced the airwaves of Radio 1 with their angular energetic racket. Comparisons to the brothers Jarman are probably as close as you’re going to get, but it’s more a connection to a time before they were a parody of an indie rock band. With “Reigning over Silence” out now on Hope Club records, the threesome got in contact to chat about the death of the music industry, being white middle class and, well, loads of things:
Hiya, how are you?
Dan – OK thanks
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do:
Dan – We’re in a band called Sir Yes Sir, we don’t do much but when we do we try to do it well (it being playing indie rock)
What can people expect when they listen to you?
Dan – Some good songs, played ok, ???
Your music sounds heavily influenced by the whole slacker rock movement of the 90’s. Which one record would you say most influenced you growing up?
Dan – I guess… influence is a strange idea, but if it means something that informs what or how you do or see or listen to something then I think the first proper Granddaddy album influenced me most between the ages of 16-18 (prior to that would have been oasis, super furry animals and so on)
Sam – I remember my cousin making me a compilation with Lemonheads, Silver Jews, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement on it, but I was 15 or 16 before bands like that really started to interest me. Before that probably stuff from my parents record collection, the first Ramones album andlots of Soul and Tamla 45’s, so folks like JR Walker, Curtis, Sam Cooke etc..
Why’s it taken so long for you to put out an LP?
Dan – Even though we’ve recorded and made cds for ages (for us and our friends), I don’t think the idea of doing a ‘proper’ album ever occurred to us until some fellas offered to put us in a studio for two days. But now it feels kind of easy to do, so we plan on releasing a lot.
Joe – I think the answer to this is linked to the answer to the previous question, being influenced by slacker rock. To be honest, we’ve had quite a few people offer to assist us in terms of putting out records/looking after us over the years, and as soon as the offer arrives we kind of lie back snoozing dreaming of playing loolapallooooooza only to snap out of it when the ‘carer/home help’ decides that we need to put some work in ourselves and leaves us. But finally this time it resulted in a couple of releases and could well kick start a pro active revolution in the minds of SYS, but it probably won’t.
Anyway, what’s the album about? Is there any kind of grand arching narrative to it?
Joe – The narrative could be ; white middle class male suffers from constant minor emotional hassle but is too apathetic/lazy to sort it out.
Something that’s always confused me is the actual process of making an album – how did you go about it?
Dan – It’s pretty easy… Some guys wanted to start a label and paid for us to record in a studio, so we went and recorded a bunch of songs we’d written over the previous couple of years. Then I mixed it (which took ages) and we sent it back to the label to put out, and got a friend to do the artwork. Then the label sent it to get pressed, and there was a disaster, which wasn’t in the plan, but finally the label sent it to some shops to sell.
And you recorded it with Harvey Birrell – what was he like?
Dan – He was nice, he knows what he’s doing. He was really hands-off which was weird… because we’d done loads of home recording we were used to doing things ourselves, and I thought that having somebody else record us would mean we end up sounding different, or get some input from them (like “that song is really terrible” or “stop dicking about and do another take because that one was terrible” or “lunchtime’s over boys, let’s make an album!!”) but that didn’t really happen. So don’t blame Harvey if the record makes you want to cry, that’s all our fault.
Sam – His studio’s built on the bottom floor of this anonymous looking terraced house in Wood Green, and it’s where he’s recorded the last No Age, Dananananakroyd, Penny Rimbaud records. But we didn’t really get a lot of opportunity to pump him for showbiz goss to be honest, everything was recorded in two days. It was still sweet to work with him, though. I think we’d all like to go back there given the opportunity.
What was it like doing a session for Radio 1?
Dan – That was cool – just being able to play in this massive room, and having the day off work… it felt like a holiday I guess, and like we’d totally conned our way into doing it.
Joe – The engineers were the most accommodating that two men who are constantly in each others company and working with musically inept players could ever be. They also handled the constant panning for dirt on superstars’ behaviour with a shrug of the shoulders, as they’d had em all! They refused to say anything negative about anyone they’d had in, a lesson for todays gossiping youf.
With the music industry falling apart and everything, do you ever feel like it’s time wasted?
Dan – For sure, but that’s kind of the point, it’s a good way of wasting time. I don’t think we’re under any illusion that we’re ever going to get rich, so if the music biz falls apart then it doesn’t really matter to us (although I hope it doesn’t because I like buying records)(and in fact I don’t think it ever will, just maybe the money goes out of it)(which I guess sucks if yr semi-pro and can’t work a job and tour and record, and don’t make any money from records + publishing, but for amateurs like us it’s o.k)
Joe – Personally I can’t wait for the apocalypse. If the ambition to make a ‘career’ from music was taken away, I think half of the bands about wouldn’t exist, and that would be a boon for a country that needs young people who can use their dexterity in industry ie plumbers, electricians. Its pretty disheartening when you hear some people in bands talking, its almost as if the sole purpose of creativity is to ‘make some bloody money’ or at the very least to boost their sexiness. I’m not suggesting that artists shouldn’t be able to earn enough to survive and continue to create, but when the ‘industry’ hurls cash at flash in the pan indie rock n roll I don’t know who benefits. I suppose at least we’re not in the fashion business, cos that would be an even more superficial hell- but the two are increasingly entwined, i blame stella mccartney.
In the 5 years you’ve been together, you’ve played with loads of bands, but what’s been your worst gig in that time?
Dan – Christ there have been loads… the ratio’s probably 2 terrible shows:3 ok shows:1 good show. We’ve played with some terrible bands, and to rooms of no people, but the worst gigs are when the promoter’s a dick – cos if it’s busy, he gets money, and if it’s not it’s cos he hasn’t done any work.
Also, what’s it like being in a band that’s ‘from’ Manchester? I interviewed Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds the other weeks and he was saying how good it has been to come from a country where people have a song sense of identity about the music. Obviously, Manchester has the whole Oasis/Stone Roses/whatever thing attached to it – do you ever really have to deal with that when you’re playing outside the city? (I’m more interested from my own point of view than anything)
Dan – I live in London so don’t worry about it, but I think so many people in mcr (not necessarily people we like or hang around with) have a massive chip on their shoulder (the chip has the faces of Ian Curtis, Bonehead and Hucknall and carved into it), and it’s totally boring… I’m not sure anyone outside of Manchester really cares about it to be honest.
Joe – Speaking on behalf of the band that’s based in Mcr, I don’t worry about it either until its suggested that its somehow a tag or prefix. But then I think we probably all consider this, like if a band is from Glasgow you expect that they won’t be absolutle shite but if a band is from anywhere south of Sheffield apart from London or Brighton they’ll probably be playing a kind of funky rock with influences from all over man and a guy with dreads who got them a slot at Womad. So perhaps coming from Manchester will be confusing for the out of own punter, will it be lad rock or will it be rain soaked and introspectiveness? I guess with us you gets neither, you get shoddy alty rocky.
And what do you think of the ‘scene’ in the city at the minute?
Dan – It seems better now than when I lived there (about 3 yrs ago), there seem to be lots of good promoters now, and the Deaf Institute seems to have brought some life into the town. Maybe it’s just cos I don’t live there anymore that it seems more interesting?
Joe – I think that there are more bands who are unafraid to just play music together and see what comes of it, I feel like its moving away from the stylised ‘lets be in a band and look like this first and sound like this second’ that was in Manchester when i first moved here to a more relaxed yet immediate sense of creativity, with people staring bands with people in other bands they’ve seen and appreciated locally. and at least outwardly a sense of bands supporting each other rather than some terrace rivalry. In no way should this sound like some kind of sixties spirit, I’m thinking more Dischord in d.c in the early eighties than Woodstock or free musical love.
Have you got any exciting plans for the future?
Dan – YES
Sam – Album no 2 is in the pipeline, also potentially moving sideways to a new label too. Hopefully someone will ask to play some shows before this year’s out.
Thanks, that’s about it, I think.
Dan – GREAT
Sir Yes Sir – Run Walk Jog