As hot young talent Western Sand take to the road opening up for rock legends (sort of) Black Star Riders, we caught up with them backstage after the first show of the tour at their hometown venue O2 Academy Bournemouth to talk about what they’ve been up to, what they’ve been doing and how similar the climates are of Ibiza and Southampton.
First off, how was that?
Nathan Kay (drums): Yeah that was pretty cool!
You’ve got the tour, so congratulations on that, but then to start it here as well is brilliant…
Jimmy Bradshaw (guitar): (grinning) Yeah it’s amazing.
Tyler Hains (guitar/vocals): Like I said on stage, it’s a privilege. There’s so many familiar faces…
JB: If we started off in a different city… we were really nervous beforehand anyway…
TH: It means a lot to us to kick it off here in Bournemouth.
What makes you more nervous – doing the hometown one or maybe the London date perhaps?
All: The hometown!
TH: There’s more pressure I think.
JB: You have to keep proving yourselves to people, you have to make sure you’re still on it.
NK: Because some of those people have seen us before and heard our stuff and probably gonna think “are they gonna do it just as good?”
Findlay Hotchkiss (Bass): They know if we fuck up basically. One fan even helped us write the setlist!
Do you think you might tweak it as the dates go on or is this a stock set?
TH: There’s some dates we’re doing very different.
JB: We rehearsed 10 songs so we can pick and choose.
Does any part of you wish the hometown show was the last night instead of the first?
NK: I guess that could be a good homecoming…
JB: We’re just so grateful to be on the tour!
NK: It kinda works both ways.
JB: The last date’s in Belfast…
JB: Yeah, the hometown of (BlackStarRiders‘ frontman) Ricky Warwick…
NK: Apart from Warwickshire…
JB (trying to be serious): …so that’s gonna be a kickass show. Starting in Bournemouth and ending in Belfast – you can’t get much better than that.
For people who haven’t heard the band, how would you describe yourselves?
NK: Southern Rock…
JB: …Feel good…real energetic…
NK: …Hard, in your face…
That’s a word?
TH: Southern Smoosh!
It’s a whole new genre – Smooshcore!
NK: Southern Meat Shit Mother Fucker…
TH: And then you’re roughly about there.
FH: I just say we’re a live band, coz that’s what we are.
When listening to the EP it feels very Southern Rock with some real Black Stone Cherry vibes in there. Is that how you’ve always been or has it been the natural evolution of the band? If I delve back and listen to some early Western Sand recordings will I find some thrash metal or something?
JB: No, that is how we’ve always been.
NK: Some of our real early stuff was very Southern. We didn’t intend to be, it just came out like that.
TH: We all liked hard rock bands and it took a few years before we started calling ourselves a Southern Rock band coz we realised that had happened…
JB: People were saying that anyway, without us ever saying it.
NK: We only met each other through joining the band so we had to get to grips with each other’s playing styles, influences
JB: I think the dual lead guitar also adds that massive Southern Rock element. Bands I had been in before didn’t have that
TH: Having 2 guitarists that are both lead brings those lead lines like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy made famous.
JB: And, I guess, when we write now we sometimes think “Oh let’s try and keep it a bit Southern” and then we realise what we have written is Southern!
FH: It’s whatever feels right at the time.
NK: There’s no one else really doing the Southern Rock thing locally at the moment.
TH: And it’s worked to our advantage.
I wanted to ask how it’s been going down with a British crowd. Are they sometimes a little “Who do you think you are? You’re British!”
JB: I think people like music for what it is, as opposed to where it’s come from or who’s written it. And most people don’t even know we’re from Bournemouth!
Have you got anything else recorded that’s on the way?
TH: We’ve added one song onto the EP for the tour, which is Dog Without a Bone and that’s going to be a single after the tour. We’re already looking towards an album in the summertime, we’ve got 5 or 6 songs…
JB: We’re always writing no matter how busy we are.
Obviously with the Southern style you’ve got, it would be easy to just say “let’s go play some dates in America and picked up over there”, so is it important for you to get recognised over here first or is it a case of “it costs a fucking lot to get over there!”?
JB: Where would you start? It’s a country so huge and you would have to start at the bottom playing to 5 people… I think it’s best to get a good reputation here and then get on a good tour over there.
TH: It would be awesome to play the places our style of music originated from, like Mississippi (let the reader note I spelt that right first time), Texas… it would be fantastic to get over there one day, but right now we’re just trying to please the crowds in front of us (laughs).
Do you think what you play now is what the band will always play or do you think you might grow? Is there other styles of rock you would like to have a go at?
NK: Well I’m a big fan of Prog Rock, but these guys aren’t.
That genuinely surprises me given the minimalist kit you play!
NK: Well, I do try and put a bit of Proggy stuff in there to try and throw these guys off.
TH: You do a good job of it…
JB: Nathan got hold of Dream Theater at one point and started trying to change time signatures during a standard beat and we were all like “what the fuck?!?”
The tour is 3 weeks, what have you got planned after that?
JB: We have a show at Mr Kyp’s in Poole on the 29th December…
NK (using a voice devoid of any real meaning or festive spirit): It’s our Christmas Extravaganzaaa!!
What is the 2014 plan? What are you wanting to do?
TH: We wanna do Download.
NK: Well any rock band would wanna play Download!
JB: We did Hard Rock Hell in Ibiza and that was the hottest gig we ever played. Well, that and The Joiners in Southampton.
NK: Ibiza and Southampton…?
TH: The Joiners is the hottest place to play, but Ibiza was ridiculously hot…
JB: …It was hot outside and we were playing underground…
TH: …at one point I turned round and Findlay was in the bath!
NK: I was about to pass out, I had no fans and no water!
JB: By the end, sweat was dripping off my fretboard, but then the Joiners in Southampton is very close to that…(Yeah, alright then Jimmy…)
Do you guys prefer playing live or recording?
I don’t understand people who like recording, to me it’s the most evil necessary evil.
NK: Oh don’t get me started on recording…
JB: You’re listening to a small sample of his drums over and over…
NK: Or his voice – “oh! Oh! Oh!”
“Does the bass drum need more bass?”
TH: It’s fun when you ARE recording, but when you are just sat there…it’s great when you hear your music back for the first time and it’s the first time someone else is hearing it…
NK: …But by then you fucking hate it.
TH: But when you’re onstage you know how the song should sound and what you think is catchy might not be when you hear it back.
Do you prefer larger or smaller venues?
JB: Smaller ones coz there’s a better atmosphere and everyone’s getting sweaty together…
…but not so sweaty you have to get in a bath…
NK: Those underground clubs I don’t think the crowds judge you as much, there’s more of a party atmosphere.
So coming up we’ve got this tour, then Mr Kyp’s, then some time off and then…?
JB: Writing and see what happens.
NK: Maybe a smaller tour, April time maybe.
TH: Then we’re looking at festivals and recording the album in the summertime and hopefully another good really big tour towards the end of the year.
Well that’s Black Star Riders on stage so as this is the first night I imagine you probably want to go and watch them, so thanks for your time and hope to see again soon.
For more on the band check out www.westernsand.co.uk