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Matt Woosey Interview

Cafe Rene, 29/07/12

Fast, powerful, and full of rich blues-y narratives, Matt Woosey’s songs have been entertaining the Midlands for years. His high-spirited sound has also captivated on European tours and London venues. The blues king talks about gigging five or six times a week, a hair-cut and a van impounding.

Ketchup or mayonnaise?

Both, mixed.

If you were on Mastermind, what would your specialist subject be? (Can’t be music.)

Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

I was listening to a Bristol Radio interview you gave in 2011 where you said you were really pleased you could survive just on your music alone. Are you still surviving now?

Yeah still getting from place to place and doing five or six gigs a week, so yeah. 

So has performing full time always been your aim then?

It has since I started doing music, yeah. I’ve been doing it full time for about two years, and before that it was pretty much full time, the only difference was that I had a job as well.

You seem to spend a lot of time traveling around gigging and your style can be really intense. Do you ever find you get to the end of the week and you just can’t keep it up?

Well, I get up late, so that helps. I don’t think people realize just how physically demanding it is to do a two hour show. I mean my stuff is full of energy. I do do gigs when I’m not feeling on form, I’m not as energetic as the rest of them, but mainly it’s…it’s just have a couple of beers and it’s fine.

Is there anything or anybody you think about when performing, or are you just totally lost in the sound?

If I’ve written a song about something or someone then sometimes I try and think about why I wrote it and the circumstances surrounding the time in which i wrote it. But I do it so much now that it’s kind of like changing gear in a car. You don’t really think about it, you just do it.

There’s a comment on one of your YouTube videos [busker–Playdar] that says ‘I love you Matt, have my babies’.


Are propositions like that quite common for you?

Only from my friends. Umm, no. Whoever wrote that, you do not want my babies. It’s not going to be good. 

I was watching some other YouTube videos from 2007, what brought on the dramatic haircut?

I was doing a tour of a hundred gigs in a hundred days and it was an extremely difficult tour for lots and lots of reasons. My van got impounded and that was the last straw really. I had to pay to get it back and I ran out of money, so I couldn’t finish the last eleven gigs of the last eleven days. So I moved back with my parents, but before I did that I thought ‘right, well I need to start all over again. And that involved a haircut.

It was a good look. Any plans for music videos?

I’ve just done two official videos in Weston Super Mare College, high definition ones, which are really nice. I’m recording with the band in August and we’re gonna make some videos of the recording. So it’ll be live stuff.

You went to Uni, did you find you were constantly putting down the books and picking up the guitar?

Yeah, it was a massive waste of time really, except for the friends I met and the good times I had, it wasn’t for me. But I’m not sure I’d change it if I could go back in time. I was out three or four nights a week, gigging or doing open-mics or traveling with the band, so my work definitely suffered. 

How does your present band’s style differ to the first few band you were in?

Well the first couple of bands were kinda pop-rock, and I just played some nice twinkly guitar over the top, occasionally some backing vocals and occasionally a song that I’d written would be in the set. Then I moved on to doing solo stuff, and then I got my own band together. So I started writing all my songs and it became an acoustic thing as opposed to an electric thing, like it was with the other band. They’ve changed and grown as my material has changed and grown.

It must feel great to now have the Matt Woosey Band.

Yeah it’s nice. It doesn’t have a set personnel at the moment, but I’m hoping to be in a position where I can offer a band constant employment over the next couple of years.

How did you get involved with Songs From the Shed?

I’ve got a friend who books me a few gigs here and there and helps me get interviews, and he was touring an American band called ‘The Watertower Bucket Boys’ from Oregon. They got a show on it, and I was supporting them at a gig in the evening. Al said ‘you might as well have Matt come and do one of your sessions as well’, so that’s how I got a session too.

If I gave you 14 million pounds what would be the first thing you’d do?

I’d probably give away thirteen million of it and buy myself a nice van.

Good answer, thanks Matt.

Check out his site:

Dry the River Interview

Frog and Fiddle, Cheltenham, 16/06/12

With their track sweeping hooks, tender vocals and artfully assembled sound, Dry the River are an increasingly cited band in the world of…folk…rock…just in their own world– they’re just too modest to admit it. Peter Liddle and Matt Taylor talk about restraining their acoustics, releasing those acoustics, the possibility of Dad the River and what they’ve experienced from condiments.

If Dry the River were on Mastermind, what would your specialist subject be?

Peter Liddle: Probably power metal. We know quite a lot about power metal, certainly Scott and John know a lot about power metal. John had a band on in the van yesterday called power wolf– It was amazing. Lots of shouting about satan and vampires not dying. 

Matt Taylor: Or condiments. We know quite a lot about condiments. 

Peter: That’s another thing we’re very well versed on. We actually have a flight case that tours with us and just has our condiments. We ask for either a local or an unusual condiment so we get a different one every night. We experience quite a lot. I’d like to think we’ve taken something from it. 

Matt: I think pickles and chutneys are our real…can you choose pickles and chutneys for Mastermind?

Yeah I can’t see why not. For fans that haven’t seen you live before, what can they expect tonight?

Peter: A shaky rendition of our album songs, like our album songs played louder and slightly worse. Tattoos.

Matt: Pretty much. Some bad haircuts. Dodgy dance moves. It’s basically our songs played louder. A bit more aggressive than what you’ll hear on record.

Peter: And faster and drunker.

So what inspired the name, Dry the River?

Peter: Just plucked it out of thin air. We often fabricate lengthy answers to this question, but the truth is there is nothing behind it at all. If you could look around the back of it..

Matt: There’s nothing there.

Peter: it would be like looking around the back of a McDonalds. There’s just bins. 

It’s nice to have a bit of honesty. So do you prefer touring in the U.K, Europe or the U.S?

Peter: As a band probably the U.S. I personally like being at home.

Matt: I don’t want to say it means more but last time we toured the U.K we had a lot of people that we’d seen at shows over the years, more people would come and sing the songs back at us. It just felt really really good. America we love that for different reasons. It’s quite refreshing going over there. We feel like a new band again because we’ve never toured there before. We just did our first tour there two weeks ago. Really small venues. That was a lot of fun. And it was really cool driving across America seeing all the cool things America has.

Peter: When we were in the U.S we toured in an R.V. which makes life a lot cooler. We basically live in it, we all had beds in it– It’s kinda novel. We like the food in the U.S. Scott and John– our rhythm section– are big fans of bad BBQ food and horrendous garishly coloured sweets, so they love touring the U.S. from a culinary point of view.

Matt: They’re both quite different experiences and they’ve both got their positives.

Peter: Touring in Europe is like touring in the U.K. just without good service stations and no data roaming.

I did notice that your video diary was quite food based.

Peter: John makes those. They were saying ‘just submit the raw footage to us and we’ll edit it to make it really professional,’ but John insisted on editing it himself in iMovie. Everyone else’s looks really polished, like the trailer for a blockbuster film. 

It looked friendly though. So what with the N.M.E article and being shortlisted for BBC’s Sound of 2012 and all the positive reviews floating around about you, do you think that fame has or will change you guys?

Peter: I don’t know, we haven’t got there. We’re still in relative obscurity, so it’s not something we have to deal with.

Matt: I also think that because we’re on tour so much we kind of live in a bubble. We’re slowly morphing into the same person, having the same conversations day in day out. It’s quite difficult to penetrate that bubble, so I don’t think we’re going to change at all.

Peter: In a way we’re so tied up in our own mythology that regardless of what people write about us, you know, whether it’s positive or negative commentary, I don’t think it influences us either way. We read a five star review in the telegraph saying that Shallow Bed’s an incredible album. We were like ‘Hmm it’s not really, is it?’ and when we read a one star review in The Skinny, some little hipster publication, we were like ‘Ah it’s not that bad’. We just maintain this myth of mediocrity in our band. no-ones allowed to be too positive or too negative about anything. It keeps your feet on the ground.

Well, you’re on the staff recommended shelf here at H.M.V so I don’t know if that brings it all to you. It looks like you guys had a lot of fun with your music videos, any plans for any future ones?

Peter: I had a brilliant plan for one the other day: I wanted to try and get all of our dads in a music video as us. So, we’d just shoot a video where my dad is playing guitar and singing in my baseball cap and skinny jeans. Matt’s dad playing guitar. That would be great. All of our dads are so normal and middle class– they’re all business men. John’s dad works for FISA, the pharmaceutical company. My dad works in oil. Matt’s dad is in insurance. Scott’s dad is an accountant. They’re all such normal middle age men.

Matt: It would be so cool to see them rocking out.

Peter: I don’t know if my dad would be game for it. I really hope he would be.

Matt: I’d like to get him to sing three-part harmonies for real. It would be hilarious.

Peter: Dad the River.

That does sound cool. So I know that you moved around quite a lot when you were young, do you think that found its way into your songs?

Peter: Yeah, certainly on the first record there’s a lot of stuff about communities and a sense of belonging to somewhere. I didn’t really realise at the time. A lot of those songs are six, seven years old, from a band I was in when I was 16, 17. Looking back on it, there’s a fixation with belonging and family history and coming from somewhere geographically, because I’m from all over. My parents are the same– they moved around a lot in their childhood. There’s nowhere in Britain, or anywhere, where I can say ‘all my family’s from here’ and I could go back there and say ‘we’ve always lived around here’. I moved around a lot. I try to address the balance in songs, in this fictional sense of community.

So you had some support from BBC Introducing when you were just getting started. How did you get involved with that and do you think you would have gotten this far without them?

Peter: I think we submitted something…

Matt: Yeah, we recorded two demos with a friend of ‘Weights and Measures’ and ‘No Rest’. We uploaded them– they had an uploader as part of the whole scheme– and we got an email one day saying…I think…

Peter: Basically, we had forgotten all about it.

Matt: They said ‘Huw Stephens [Radio 1] is going to play your song.’ Then we remembered that we’d uploaded them and then from that we got invited into BBC Berkshire and did some stuff on the radio there. From that we went on to play Glastonbury on the BBC Introducing stage.

Peter: We found that to get on the BBC Intro stage at Glastonbury you had to be recommended by a panel, put forward by whatever regional BBC your with and then it goes to a panel who decides who’s going. We knew Huw was on the panel, and he was really enthusiastic, so we hounded BBC Berkshire. By that point we’d just moved to London but because we’d initially come to BBC Berkshire we just kept hounding them. They weren’t allowed to say if they would put us forward. It all had to be shrouded in secrecy, but I guess Huw helped us out on the panel and we got to play Glasto and that was our first festival.

Matt: They definitely helped us in a massive way. Most notably that they put us on at Glastonbury. 

So you’ve come from heavier, more punky bands, did you have to restrain yourself with Shallow Bed?

Peter: Maybe with recording we restrained ourselves.

Matt: Initially when we started the band, me and Pete particularly tried to restrain everybody– we wanted it to be a much more kind of rootsy, less aggressive type of endeavour. But the level of restraint since that day has kind of disintragated. 

Peter: I think we gradually let it get heavier and more intense. A lot of people were going ‘there’s millions of folky rootsy bands at the moment’ and Mumford and Sons were just becoming a popular band, so I think there was a lot of that going around and we knew that we were trying to be a very folky band, which we found very artificial. It wasn’t even a conscious decision; I think naturally we just got heavier and people seemed to really respond to it and we enjoyed it a lot more live, jumping around and enjoying ourselves a bit more. We started to get some really good feedback from labels and stuff . It was like ‘you guys have stumbled on your own thing here.’

Matt: I think your songs worked initially how we were doing them, but also when we did go heavier and we let loose with them, they worked just as well– they didn’t lose anything, in fact I think they gained something because they’re pretty epic songs. It just seemed to pan out and kind of came together a bit better when we let loose.

So you guys spend a lot of time together, do you ever get to the point where you just can’t stand one another anymore?

Matt: Yep.

Peter: I think we’re always there, always on the brink of…

Matt: Yeah I live perpetually on that brink.

Peter: No we don’t really If we’re honest. We lived together for a year when we started the band  in a two bedroom house, kind of on top of one another all the time. I think you just accept that’s part and parcel of what it is. We get annoyed with each other all the time.

Matt: We toured for so long now. We’ve been touring without any serious break for about three years, so if there were any problems to be had then we’ve already been through them. The fact that we’re together now means there are no problems.

Peter: It’s a pretty sarcastic environment to be in– everyone’s relentlessly trying to piss each other off.

Matt: We have our ways of dealing with it…just by laying into each other all the time.

Peter: When you live with your family you argue with them all the time but you never think ‘can I leave my family’ because you just accept the fact you’re stuck with them and endure it. I think there’s an element of that as well. What would we do if we weren’t in this band? We could do what we used to do and have horrible day jobs.

Matt: It’s definitely more brotherly than colleagues.

Peter: And when we’re not on tour we don’t really see each other at all, which I think helps. 

Do you have a favourite venue or festival?

Peter: My favourite venue used to be The Luminaire in Kilburn, but it got shut down. We played there a couple of times– lovely little 200 capacity venue with great sound.

Matt: My mind always goes blank when we get asked that question because we’ve played so many…

What about festivals or venues like this?

Matt: I like playing club shows.

Peter: Me too, we never play very well at festivals– Outdoor stages, the sound is notoriously bad. Everyone’s so distracted by what they’re going to see next and who’ve they seen that audience wise everyone kinda has the attention span of a rat.

Matt: You have to hit the right moment with a festival. It could be absolutely amazing.

Peter: At Reading festival last year it started to rain and we were on the Radio 1 stage, I think it has the capacity of a couple of thousand, and no-one really knew us but loads of people were pouring in. Everyone went berserk and absolutely loved it. People were crowd surfing. From that we came off buzzing, it was brilliant.

Matt: And Will [Harvey] said that was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done.

Peter: But then we’ve done a lot of festival shows where it’s been like…especially with the smaller European ones where you get off a plane and bus straight to the festival and we immediately go on stage with no sound check– it sounds horrible and no-one knows who we are. Then we get on a bus, drive back to the airport and fly somewhere else. Whereas club shows are reliably fun, you can have a couple of beers and you don’t have to think about what you’re doing after the show you can just go and have fun and see what happens.

Thanks Peter and Matt.

The poets of Wychwood– Sally Jenkinson

Sally Jenkinson

As an active member of Bristol’s poetry scene Sally knows how to make her poems memorable– she performs as if infatuated with every word. Her pieces are revealing, relatable, and powerful. Sally tells us about the importance of reading out your work and eavesdropping at every opportunity.

You’ve cited eavesdropping as an inspiration, do you find you get a lot of your poems that way?

Yeah, I work in a pub so if you’re the barmaid then you’re incidental. You get to hear all kinds of conversations: people breaking up and getting together and gossiping, and you just start thinking about other people’s stories and that’s how it gets going.

So, did you always have the confidence that you’d make it as a poet?

No, and also it’s not really a concern of making it or reaching a certain end goal. It’s really nice doing things like this, getting to meet other people and talking to them about their work and stuff that they’re reading. It’s a nice thing to do– it’s not a competitive process of trying to get somewhere. It’s just a lovely way to spend your weekend.

How long does it take you to construct a piece and what are the first stages of it?

Right, so, the first stages are always like mid-conversation, or listening to somebody else’s conversation, or watching something, or having read something, or…on a train– you got talking time and you got thinking time. Making notes, scribbling it down, notes of just words that go really well together, or a nice couple of sentences, but then they can sit for ages and not be made into anything else. Then there’s the editing process of getting them formed and gathering them into a proper structure. I have to do it at home or somewhere quiet– that’s the work. You can’t just scribble stuff down and it’ll be wonderful. It might be two or three months later that I’ll be like ‘right, I have to do some work on it’ and properly sit down and make it into a real thing.

So do your pieces go through quite a few drafts?

Yeah, loads. And also saying them on stage– that’s another important thing. Sometimes you think something’s great and you’ll say it on stage and realise it’s not. It’s not so much that peoples’ reaction matters, cus you’re not writing for an audience, but just having said it out loud or said it in the context of other people listening to it, you realise it’s not communicating the thing that you wanted it to. So that’s definitely part of the process. I’ll say it on stage and realise it’s not finished. 

What’s the Bristol poetry scene like?

It’s great. There’s loads of brilliant things. I run an open-mic called Poetry Pulpit and we have two performers and some music and everything else is open-mic. We made it to encourage people to come who’ve never performed before, or if they’ve got new stuff and they’re not sure if it’s ready. It’s on a Sunday, everyone’s really hungover. I also work for a spoken word collective called Hammer And Tongue, which is national, so I run a night in Bristol, and there’s two in London, one in Oxford, one in Brighton, one in Cambridge. So when we book poets for that they get a national tour out of it. You’re more likely to get an experience out of performing in six different cities. 

Where is your open-mic in Bristol?

It’s at The Left Bank, on Cheltenham road, which is on the end of Stokes Croft. 

Any advice for poets just starting out?

Go to open-mics, just read stuff, see how you feel about it. And talk to other people as well, cus everyone is always as nervous as you. You think you’re the only one and you get talking to people and you realise they’re just as nervous and it means you can give each other a nudge, and you’ve got someone to give you a hug when you get off stage. You’ve just got to do it.

What do you think the image of poetry is for the average person today?

I think it’s either nothing, and they just don’t have an impression of it, or they have a memory of it from school. I had a great English teacher, so I remember it being an exciting thing, but I’m sure a lot of people just remember being forced to do it and not really understanding it, and that being the end of that. Sometimes you get people along to nights that I run that have never been before and they’re like ‘I thought it’d be shit.’ They haven’t been exposed to it and realised it’s not shit, but I’m sure if they were, we’d have loads more people getting involved and coming down to watch. People like films, they like stand-up comedy, and it’s just an extension of that. It’s storytelling and interesting language and entertainment. But for some reason it just goes under the radar of something you might want to be doing with your day.

Would you say your poetry had a particular aim?

Not an aim, but it’s definitely part of working stuff out for me, stuff that happens to me or stuff that happens to people that I know, stuff that’s interesting or affecting. Part of processing it and working out what it meant is writing about it and dissecting it. It’s not an aim; I just like language. I think it’s a thing to be explored in different ways by different poets. I like the breadth of different things that poets do with words that can be so…polarised from one another. I see other poets perform and I think ‘I wouldn’t have ever done that. I wouldn’t have been able to do that.’ So I think if there is an aim then I it’s to see what you can do with language.

Thanks Sally

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