The Wave Pictures are David Tattersall, Franic Rozycki and Jonny ”Huddersfield” Helm. This Loughborogh three-piece have gigged sporadically over the last decade, slowly crafting their witty pop songs that are shot through with Jonathan Richman’s gawky glee and Suede’s doomed provincial romanticism. Their sound is essentially a stripped-back rock ‘n’ roll that owes debts of various denominations to Chuck Berry, Dick Dale and Morrissey. On the cusp of the release of their next album Beer In The Breakers, the guys took some time out to chat to us about inspiration, gigging and future plans.
Where did the name The Wave Pictures come from?
DT: It came from an art book called Art Now, a reference book where every page is a different artist of the last 20 years. Zoe Leonard did a series of photographs of the sea called ‘The Wave Pictures’. She also did a piece called ‘Strange Fruit for David’. This was a knitted banana and two oranges arranged in the hilarious shape of male genitalia. She’s some kind of feminist artist who’s probably not very good. She gave us that title. When you’re looking for a band name you’ll suggest anything. It just so happened that I suggested something that the guys liked. You’re coming up with names all the time. The Wave Pictures stuck, it just sounded right.
Zoe Leonard, I don’t know anything else about her. I didn’t particular like her art that I saw in the art book, it was her titles that I liked. I think that a knitted banana and oranges in the shape of a cock and balls is exactly why I, and Daily Mail readers, don’t like modern art of that sort, I think it’s crap. But you know, fair play to her, she gave us those titles.
You’re known for your collaborations with other artists. For instance, Darren Hayman from Hefner helped record and produce your new album Beer In The Breakers. Are there any collaborations on your new album?
DT: No, none. The exception was that Darren [Hayman] offered his equipment and he was in the room while we recorded, which was no larger than this large dining room table. There was no multi-tracking, no over-dubs. I mean there is studio stuff, Darren has good equipment with microphones; it’s not as low-fi as I might be making it sound. In a way it is sort of a studio album, as he [Darren] has a big old sort of desk and stuff. But it is home recording as well as it’s in his house and there are no over-dubs; everything is live. It’s just the 3 of us playing and singing. It’s real. And I think it’s the album that we’ve recorded that sounds the most like what we sound like, it’s the most like us. It’s the most representative album, the least sort of different from us live, I think. I think that’s true.
When it comes to the studio, is it ‘let’s try and get it done in one take’?
DT: Yeah, most of our albums are first or second takes. I think there may have been one song where we got up to three, but there is this sort of rule of thumb with recording where you either get something quite quickly where it’s quite spontaneous, or you have to work on it forever until you have really created something different to what you came in with. We’ve never done that – I personally don’t have the patience for it. And also because it’s what we’re like; live recordings that are rough and ready. We enjoy hearing all the different musicians; we like those sorts of records and that’s the most fun for us to do.
Considering the length of time that you have been together and the prolific log of albums that you have, do you think that you are still developing your sound? Or is your latest release demonstrating a mature, fully realised style?
DT: Well the Beer In The Breakers is defiantely not the end of us developing, as I think that we develop really slowly. We make a lot of albums along the way whereas maybe a smarter band would develop, then do an album. We have an awful lot of albums as the development is direly slow [laughs] so we think that that will probably carry on because that’s the thing that we like to do. We don’t intend to make perfect albums; they’re just meant to be us playing what we’re like at that time. I like that better. I don’t like the idea of people trying to make masterpiece EPs, and I never like those albums. I prefer band’s debut albums, so it would be nice to only make debuts and not ever graduate from that.
The most recent songs have a lot of instrumental solos and are moodier, which seems different to your oevour. Is this stuff that we’re going to see in the future?
DT: Yeah, there are definitely some really long and slow things on the new album. We’ve always done dark things like that but we’ve not always put it on our albums. It was something else that we wanted to readdress because some of the songs that perhaps get slightly more noticed are not things that we intended to. I mean in particular ‘I Love You Like A Madman’ is a song that Franic didn’t even want to put on the album. I like it a lot, but it is very jolly and I think that that was a little bit misrepresentative. But that’s fine. So we’ve put some slower, sadder, darker things on the new album, as well as some jolly things as well. Franic likes those dark, slow songs in particular.
FR: The last show that we played in London was one of the first shows that we had done after recording the album, and it was nice to do the slow ones that are going to feature on it. I quite like them, and we don’t play them lots.
Why is it that you don’t play those sorts of songs?
FR: There are songs that people request quite a lot like ‘Love You Like A Madman’, and then you sort of forget the other songs. It’s nice that people like the ones that they request, but it’s also nice to make that conscious decision to play the darker stuff. It’s fun to do something different – it’s very boring as a band or to go see a band that play the same set.
That’s a very good point – I’ve been to a few of your gigs and feel that I know a lot of your songs, but at your gigs I’m always confronted with something new.
You’ve toured a lot across Europe and America, so you must be able to tell the difference in audience engagement.
JH: Yeah, there are real big differences. In Germany, people are very good at having a good time and having a party, whereas in England people are perhaps more reserved.
FR: Whilst in Spain you can’t play the quite songs, all they want are the really loud ones.
DT: It’s wonderfully crazy. The whole country is like Camden on a Friday night.
FR: So trying to play a nice romantic ballard doesn’t really work – if you do, you find they’ve all gone to the bar and started talking really loudly.
DT: Of course, it’s not always like that in Spain, or in the other countries, but it is often. I think Germany is my favourite place that I’ve been. It’s because they seem to like the songs if they don’t know them, and want to hear your gig. Of course they want to hear their favourite song, as everyone likes that, but also they seem to enjoy just something happening, something that is new and musical. They seem to have a real appreciation of that. Whereas in England I sometimes think, or in Spain, they’re glad that the gig has happened afterwards, but at the time they’re really not sure about being confronted with something a bit new. That’s a feeling that I get anyway.
Is it true that you don’t actually make set lists for gigs?
DT: That’s true. We do that to try and keep things spontaneous, and also when we used to write set lists we ended up having an argument about what the set list should be, which is a terrible way to start your evening. But the main reason is just to try and keep it spontaneous; like you don’t know what’s going to happen. The Wave Pictures don’t improvise lots – it’s not jazz – but it’s important to improvise a bit. And not making a set list is in itself not determining what it is that you are going to do – you’re flying by the seat of your pants a little bit, which is part of what a live show should be.
It really is boring and shocking how many bands play the exact same set the exact same way night after night, as if they’re X Factor pop type of musicians. In your head they’re inde musicians, but you end up thinking you’re watching popular musicians, but you’re not. There’s far too much of that. If someone has paid to see a live show, that’s what they want to get. They want to get something that they have never seen before and never will again. And that’s why it’s also good if you fuck up or make a mistake. Anything that’s a bit different is good. Jonny sometimes sings a song and the best thing that can happen, even though he finds it mortifying, is that he forgets the words. But when he does the audience goes crazy for it. It’s like perfect stage craft; he’s not faking and they love it. It makes it more live, which makes it more exciting.
If you’re not using a set list, does the audience determine the show by requesting songs?
DT: We’ve done whole sets by requests, but it depends what mood we’re in really – sometimes I won’t do a request and sometimes I won’t play the song that the audience wants because someone’s annoyed me in the audience or I’m cross, or I’m the wrong amount drunk or just because I really want to sing something else. Other times we’re a complete sort of whore for audience affection and we’ll play everything that they want and be very happy. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just a lot to do with mood, and how we’re feeling. So everything we sing, we’re really feeling it.
So when you take requests are there clear favourites? Do people shout out ‘we want Strange Fruit for David’ for example?
DT: Yeah, ‘Strange Fruit for David’, ‘I Love You Like a Madman’, ‘Just Like a Drummer’, ‘Now You’re Pregnant’, ‘Kiss Me’, I guess they’re the main ones. Maybe also ‘We Dress Up Like Snowmen’ as well. There are a few clear favourites. But then also you get odd ones, like ‘Avocado Baby’. We’ve also had requests for ‘Cinnamon Baby’ which really surprised me, that’s happened a few times. You get odds one too, sometimes someone will shout out something really, really old and it’ll be really surprising. It’s nice.
Your lyrics are really striking; this sort of marrying of the bizarre, the mundane and the sublime to make something really quiet intricate. David, where did your inspiration come from?
DT: Well Morrissey is a big influence, which is odd because I went off the Smiths when I was in my early 20s because I don’t like the way their records sounded. I was listening to Hat Full of Hollow by The Smiths and I was conscious of what effect the lyrics would, had on me. I think it mainly is lyricists, I mean I remember like when I first heard Television, and the type of lyrics that Tom Verlaine sings. It’s very impressionistic, slightly abstract lyrics. And Bob Dylan, obviously. I would massively love to be Bob Dylan like any singer / songwriter. Well not to be him obviously because he’s about to die, but to have even just a little bit of talent that he had. And Lou Reed and people like that. I guess mainly that, and sometimes a book or a poem. Poetry is inspiring.
I was going to ask actually if there were any influential authors or poets.
DT: Yeah there are, I really love reading. Literary influences would be Raymond Chandler; he’s a really big influence. I’ve made the occasional song where I am literally just singing sentences from Raymond Chandler books, chosen at random and chosen because they are nice sentences, but not chosen to make up any story. Nobody’s noticed [laughs]. But he writes really great sentences, Charles Bukowski I also like a lot. Along with DH Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Raymond Carver. I’ve been reading a lot of Raymond Carver’s poetry lately; his poetry really makes you want to write songs. Partly because he’s bad sometimes, he can be sloppy, but he’s just got to do it, it’s got to come out. Sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s not. Bukowski is like that too. There are so many writers. I can’t think of any more. But that’s probably enough isn’t it.
It seems like some of your lyrics with can be quite banal. Is that a conscious choice, or is it just something that just comes out when you’re writing?
DT: I like those kinds of details in those songs, and I like everyday life sort of bits and pieces. But I, and the other guys too, also like mysterious sort of songs as well. I think those banal lyrics are the sorts of things that you notice. I was listening to an album, Tonight’s Tonight by Neil Young, and I remembered when he eats green eggs and country ham. You don’t remember when he falls in love with the beautiful girl because everyone is always falling in love with a beautiful girl. But it’s nice to put in a specific along the way; it makes a picture. The important thing with lyrics is that they make an image in the listeners mind. It’s important that they see something. A lot of my favourite lyrics are nonsensical, a lot of Pavement songs or Bob Dylan songs are nonsense really and a lot of my songs are pure nonsense, but as long as it’s throwing up images regardless if it’s about everyday life or just by being abstract, I like it. As long as it’s vivid, I like it.
What are each of your favourite The Wave Pictures song? Is there one?
JH: I like all of them [laughs]. The one that I’ve enjoyed playing recently is one that was written ages ago called ‘Lonely’. But that’s only coming into my head because that’s one that I get to sing and also play the drums. So that’s good fun. But I don’t think that that’s my favourite David Tattersall song.
FR: We’ve made a new song ‘The Inattentive Reader’, I’m looking forward to playing that one. But otherwise I don’t think that I have a particular favourite.
DT: I always like singing ‘I Thought of You Again’, I always enjoying singing that one.
Each of you have your solo projects too. For example, Jonny you have your EP Jonny Helm Sings. Are these projects completely separate from The Wave Pictures?
DT: The way that I would go about making a side project is roughly the same as I would go about making a Waves thing. Sometimes it’s intentional to make it a solo project, and then sometimes a song ends up being in two different places as The Wave Pictures end up doing it. Because we don’t tour the side projects, we end up doing some independent songs with the Waves just so that we don’t lost them. Then if you like them that way, then you record them that way as well. But my solo album [Happy For A While] was written to be a solo album. I don’t know if I was thinking of anything different, so there was less pressure for it to be a certain way – it could just be whatever it happened to be. So it was very nice to make that. I did that also to record with Stanley Brinks and Clemence Freschard who are the band on that album. They recorded and produced it and they’re close friends, so it was a way to go and stay with them for a week. That’s why I did a solo album. It was partly just a chance to do something just with him.
What’s coming up in the New Year?
DT: Well we’re rehearsing some new songs, newer than those on the album Beer In The Breakers. We’re trying to write some new songs as well, together as a band. We have seven half songs that we came up with recently, and we’re going to try and turn them into seven finished songs. I’ve also written three more songs lately for the guys to learn.
JH: After that we’re going to go to Switzerland in February: on 10th February we’ll be in Bern, on the 11th in Basel and on the 12th in Baden. The three B’s.
FR: Also, our album Beer In The Breakers is coming out in the Spring.
DT: I have another side project called The Lobster Boat which has Franic and Jonny on it. It’s with a French guy called Howard Hughes from Coming Soon. That’s coming out this year as well. So that’s two albums this year. And then I’m going to definitely try and watch the snooker finals; that’s part of my future plans.