As Britain’s favourite band headed out on the European leg of their ‘Humbug’ tour, Clash discovered that Arctic Monkeys were less sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, and more cakes, ping-pong and Coco Pops...
The city of Offenbach, about twenty minutes south of Frankfurt, was once noted for its abundant leather industry, and is currently the base of the German weather service, but such claims don’t negate the fact that it’s basically a sterile, grey, typically German suburban borough. The arrival of a fleet of trucks and buses, carrying Arctic Monkeys, their crew and stage gear, heralded the notion that for one night only, Offenbach may just come alive with suitably bustling energy.
Offenbach’s Stadthalle is the smallest venue on the Monkeys’ three-week tour of Western Europe. The band have been through Portugal, Spain and France, and know how to kill time during the day while everyone works around them, building the stage for that night’s show. And so, when Clash finds them, upstairs in the Stadthalle’s back rooms, they’re in the middle of a fierce ping-pong match - the game scores being tallied up across the tour. The table, it transpires, is the band’s own, and follows them wherever they go. A set of football goals lie waiting for action, but the small white balls prove more enticing.
It’s a cold, February Tuesday, and these back rooms are where the band will spend the whole day.
Previous encounters with Arctic Monkeys have been somewhat tough - notoriously reticent and famously press-shy, there’s a tangible wall that surrounds them, which is seemingly hard to penetrate. Suspicious stares cut through you, while succinct answers frustrate you. Today, however, they couldn’t be more accommodating.
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This is an extended edit of a feature that appears in the April issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from March 4th. You can read the full issue online HERE and subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.
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Clash sits with the quartet in the band-only room, where their personal equipment is kept in a vertical flight case of drawers, and a small fridge is at hand for cold beers. Nick O’Malley, Jamie Cook and Matt Helders sprawl on the leather couches, while Alex Turner perches on the table, often pacing the room, then escaping in search of a lighter. We’re here to talk about life on the road. What starts as an interview eventually descends into louche conversation; daft chat punctuated by much laughter. Perhaps they’re glad to see a friendly face; perhaps the monotony of touring makes them crave any respite; perhaps there’s nothing better to do in Offenbach.
Are you fans of Germany in general?
Nick: Yeah. I mean, I only really know Berlin, I suppose, and Cologne. But yeah, I always have a good time in Berlin and Cologne. I always enjoy Germany.
I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve actually wanted to come to Germany.
Matt: I went to Berlin recreationally.
Nick: You did, didn’t you. You went on holiday to Berlin.
Jamie: Cologne is really good as well.
Is being on tour like real life, or does it feel like you’re detached from what real life is?
Matt: It’s probably real life. It doesn’t seem like it’s too separate or miles away.
When you go home is that normality or is it just a continuation of what you do on the road?
Matt: I don’t find it hard to settle back and switch between the two.
Nick: You feel like you’re unemployed when you go home properly.
Like you’ve got nothing to do?
Nick: Yeah, or like if you’ve got a couple of weeks off.
Matt: Like school holidays.
Alex: Does that make this school then?
Matt: Yeah, but it’s like basketball camp or something you enjoy.
This is a smaller venue than you’ve been playing...
Matt: Yeah, it looks a bit weird. It looks like a school.
The stage is very wide.
Matt: Yeah, it’s wide. It’s like the wrong way.
The more successful you get, the larger the venues you play. Would you rather do a longer tour of smaller venues or a short tour of larger venues?
Nick: It’s nice to be able to mix it up, I think. I wouldn’t like to always do big and always do one size. We’ve enjoyed some of the big ones...
Alex: Yeah, and we were a bit, like, reluctant before we did that this year, but we quite enjoyed the arena tour in England, for instance. We were a bit like, ‘I dunno...’ and didn’t feel comfortable doing it before we did it, but actually it just felt the same. It was alright - it just meant that more people could come. (Laughs)
Do you try and mix things up - can you do small gigs in between the large ones?
Nick: When we play America we only play pretty small places...
Alex: Certainly compared to what we do over here anyway. I think that provides enough of a variation, when you go over there - there’s loads of places there we’ve not even been to yet, where you do play to a thousand. You get that variation from taking trips over there.
How do your friendships cope with life on the road?
Matt: It’s fine.
Nick: Yeah. We know how to not annoy each other. We’ve never really had friction, because we’ve all got a similar outlook on how not to annoy people, I suppose, so there’s never really been any problems.
Alex: (Mock nastily) That’s what you think, man.
Nick: (Laughs) So yeah, we’ve kinda got a system. We know how to not do each other’s heads in, or not to shout at someone just cos you feel a bit claustrophobic, I suppose.
Because you’re all going through the same thing and feeling the same way.
Nick: Yeah. And I suppose if you see the same people every day, after a while you’re bound to get a bit annoyed, but as long as you keep in your mind that it’s just because of the situation and not because you don’t like the person, then you can kind of avoid outbursts that you might not mean. It’s never really been a problem so far.
Is a tour easier at the start or at the end?
Nick: I don’t know. That’s hard to say.
Matt: It’s always exciting at the start. At the start you’re like, ‘I can watch a film on t’bus. I can play on t’computer’, but then you can only do that so many times.
What do you miss most when you’re not at home.
Nick: Wagamama, probably. (All laugh)
Matt: A routine.
Nick: I suppose, like, your own bed, your own teapot...
Matt: Clean water. You know you can brush your teeth with it.
Nick: Guaranteed a good shower. It’s like a shower lottery when you arrive at somewhere you’ve never been before. Today’s quite good - good showers.
Do you notice a huge cultural difference between touring Europe and America?
Alex: Even between places in Europe. I mean, often, to be honest, certainly at this stage that we’re at, days like today aren’t uncommon, where you’re out of town and you don’t even really see where you are, as I’m sure you’re aware. But you can really tell the difference just in the show, from the crowd. We did Madrid and Barcelona over t’weekend, and last week Portugal, and they were really excitable and there was like a frenzy going on when we were playing. Whereas I think crowds elsewhere can be a bit more reserved, can’t they, depending on where it is.
Is that because those cities are a bit more cosmopolitan and they’re more used to having a good time?
Alex: Yeah. I dunno. I reckon one of the best crowds on this tour was a gig we did last week in Porto. We’ve never played there before. There was this real appreciation or something just from the start. You can just sort of feel it, can’t you; ‘We’re all here to have a laugh’.
Do you have any say in which places you play?
Alex: Yeah, a little bit. We tend to keep out of that though.
If you’ve had a bad experience in a city can you say that you don’t want to play there again?
Matt: Oh, well, we only did Coventry once. (All laugh) If you feel that strongly about it then yeah, I suppose you can.
What happened in Coventry.
Matt: Nothing, I just don’t like it. (Laughs) It weren’t like a bad gig particularly...
If you wanted to visit somewhere for a bit of a holiday can you request a certain city?
Matt: “Put in a break.”
Jamie: Yeah, they’re kinda good to you like that. They know when you want a day off or something.
Matt: We know in advance where we’re gonna be and stuff. We can slot things in.
Jamie: We had a day off in Barcelona before we came here, which is always nice. Go for a walk on the beach and stuff!
Alex lives in the States now. Have any of you considered moving to somewhere you’ve visited on tour?
Matt: Yeah. It’s good that you do get to see places that you might consider moving, like Berlin. I could imagine living there.
Isn’t it cold there?
Matt: I think it’s hotter when it’s hot and colder when it’s cold. It’s the extremes. It’s good though.
Does living apart make you appreciate each other more when you’re back together?
Jamie: [Long pause] Mmmm...yeah.
Gone are the days when you’re living round the corner from each other.
Alex: Yeah, I suppose that’s true. You’ve got to sort of organise to be in one place. I suppose that is a bit of an inconvenient drag.
Is your place in New York the new place for the band to crash, or do they have to get a hotel like everyone else?
Alex: Oh no, yeah, they can.
Matt: One at a time!
Are there any essential items that you have to pack before you come out on tour?
Jamie: One of them rolly things that gets fluff of your coat. (All laugh)
Alex: I feel like you’re a lot better equipped than the rest of us with things like that.
Yeah, you’re looking very bobble-less.
Jamie: Ah, cheers. Yeah, I did it this morning actually. A quick roll.
Matt: A skipping rope - except I forgot it this time. I’ve lost mine.
Nick: DVDs, stuff like that.
A ping-pong table?
Jamie: A ping-pong table is essential actually. I don’t think we’d go on tour without that.
Alex: Some kind of series...
Matt: A box-set.
Alex: Kinda really discovered that this last year. It was summat I’d never really got into before.
Nick: Any HBO series.
Alex: (Laughs) Yeah. I’ve really learned to appreciate that sort of continuum, because you can follow a thread.
Matt: You know what you need to do the next day.
Is that what you’re thinking about on stage between songs, ‘Fuck, I wonder what’s going to happen next in that programme?’
Matt: (All laugh) Yeah, cliff-hangers!
What have you been watching?
Alex: We’ve got into Deadwood a bit on the last tour. That’s what’s been missing, I think, for me on this tour, some sort of thing like that.
Have you done The Wire?
Alex: No, not The Sopranos actually.
Matt: That’s like a long tour though.
Jamie: How many series is that?
There is seven series, with about a dozen episodes on each. It’s the best.
Alex: Do you think that’s better than The Wire?
Absolutely. The story lines, the characters, the writing - it’s completely faultless.
Alex: I went Wire mad on that tour. I just got so greedy. I get so greedy with them things.
Matt: I couldn’t catch up.
Jamie: Yeah, he ditched everyone. I got ditched on t’second series!
Matt: Six in t’morning, I could hear him.
Jamie: You’d get up and that [theme] song would be on. It’d just be crisps all over, a bottle of...
Nick: ‘Wire Beast’s been up all night again!’
Alex: ‘Where’d you get that dressing gown from?’
Jamie: Just laying there with crumbs all over him.
I’m looking for another series to watch. My girlfriend introduced me to True Blood, but really it’s just HBO for girls.
Nick: It’s a bit like Hollyoaks with vampires in it.
Have you ever had any scares at customs?
Nick: I got searched yesterday actually.
Matt: It was your squeaky wheels, just as I’d said. I said, ‘Them wheels are gonna attract attention.’
Nick: In Germany. A very thorough search, but luckily no glove action.
Jamie: They probably wanted to mend your wheels for you.
Matt: ‘I’ve got summat for that, some GT85.’
Nick: They were really suspicious of me. They really took everything apart and didn’t put it back as neat as I’d put it in.
Alex: At this end, yesterday?
Nick: Yeah, when we arrived in ‘Munchen’.
Alex: They’re quite, like, strict, aren’t they, Bavarian authorities.
Nick: Yeah. They had a look at me belt, everything. All me case and bag. Took everything apart. Then he were like, ‘Where have you come from?’ I went, ‘Barcelona’. He were like, ‘Have you had any contact with drugs in Barcelona?’ I went, ‘No.’ He went, ‘What do you do?’ I said, ‘I’m in a band.’ And he went, ‘Ah’, and then, like, swabbed everything.
Alex: When I got in t’car yesterday, the fella were like, [German accent] ‘If you like to do drugs, do not try and do it in Bavaria.’
You should have replied, ‘Why, are they shit?’ Why did they just single you out, Nick?
Nick: I don’t know. It’s random, innit?
Matt: I’m telling you, it were t’squeaky wheels. I said, ‘Them wheels are gonna draw attention’, and five seconds later he were pulled out.
American customs scare me most.
Matt: Yeah, it’s a load of questions.
Alex: ‘What are you doing here?’
Jamie: New Zealand were quite funny. We all got pulled...
Matt: We had to sit in them chairs for a bit...
Jamie: And this guy was asking us directly the last time we ever did drugs. Then someone came over who worked for us...and he soon disappeared rather fast. We were fine. (All laugh)
Do you know everyone that’s on tour with you, all the crew?
Nick: All the regular crew, yeah.
Matt: Because you get, like, ones that come with the PA or whatever, but then there’s the regular ones...
Nick: That we’ve had for years.
Alex: I’ve come to quite enjoy the American customs people. (All laugh)
Matt: They’ve always got weird names.
Alex: They’re like, [American accent] ‘So you’re in a band, huh?’ You go, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ ‘What do you do in the band?’ ‘Oh, I’m the singer.’ ‘Yeah? You don’t look like a singer to me.’
Nick: ‘Do you sound like Coldplay?’
Alex: Yeah, ‘What kind of music do you guys play?’
Jamie: ‘Do you sound like Staind?’ I went like, ‘Staind? I know them... Fuckin’ hell!’ It took me ages. ‘Yeah, yeah, we sound a bit like Staind.’ When he said it I were like, ‘Yeah, a bit.’
Last time I went to the South By South West festival, the customs guy was trying to be cool, trying to look like he knew the bands, and he said, ‘Yeah, we just had that girl singer come through, Duffer.’
Alex: (Laughs) Duffer!
Jamie: She’s up for the Best Album of the last thirty years [at the BRITS], isn’t she, Duffer.
That’s crazy, that list.
Jamie: It is.
Alex: ‘No Jacket Required’ made it in.
Matt: Fine. (Laughs)
Jamie: Duffer’s in there. That’s the maddest one, innit.
I haven’t looked in to what the list is - is it their choices of the best albums of the last thirty years, or are they a shortlist of the albums that won Best Album at the BRITS over that time.
Matt: Well that’s it, is it like the best of the best, is that what they’re saying?
But then did Duffy win it? You look at it and you think, ‘Where are The Stone Roses?’ There are a million you could think of...
Jamie: I know. Because I was thinking, obviously you’re not gonna like everything that’s on there, but some stuff you just can go, ‘That is definitely not - in any category - a good album.’ Oh well.
Is your tour bus for the band only, or do some of the crew come and join you for sessions?
Alex: Some of them do, yeah.
Does it feel like a big family unit?
Alex: Yeah. Like they were just saying, a load of these have been wi’ us forever.
Are there any rules on the tour bus?
Jamie: [Long pause] No.
Alex: Naked Fridays.
Matt: Lesbian Wednesdays.
You’ve said before that you wanted to try and get an album out this year. Do you get any time on the road to do any work on that?
Alex: Not really. That’s a bit of a pain in the arse, not being able to rehearse and work stuff out.
So you’re probably just thinking about stuff constantly but not got the opportunity to do anything with it?
Jamie: What you want, mate, is one of them recording buses like Linkin Park have.
Matt: And Timbaland, all the greats.
Jamie: Staind, yeah they have one.
Alex: I don’t think I write very good songs on t’road. They’re all a bit wonky. You get back and you’re like, ‘Hmmm’.
Does it detach you from what we were talking about earlier, ‘real life’? Does it detach you from the things that you want to be writing about?
Alex: I dunno. You can still use your imagination, but I just think, yeah, in your surroundings there’s always about to be something that’s going to happen. You can’t think. I always write wherever I am, but I dunno if the things that come out when you’re touring around always have the shelf life that the other things do.
Have you got any songs earmarked for the next album?
Alex: Yeah. I mean, there’s some ideas, but we haven’t really had the chance to get out the fine toothed comb.
‘Humbug’ was a departure in sound from your previous albums - do you think you’ll continue in that direction, maybe bring Josh Homme in again?
Alex: Not sure, really. We would like to do something with Josh again - it was terrific for us to go on that adventure - but whether or not it’s this next thing, I’m not sure. And also, like, he’s busy! (Laughs) He’s got a schedule himself, doesn’t he?
You went to record over in his place, so do you think next time you’ll have him over to...
Alex: High Green? (Laughs) Homme in High Green? I quite fancy that.
Nick: He’d look like a superhero in High Green, all the bad genetics there are in High Green. He’d look amazing.
Matt: He’d be the biggest man there.
Does playing the songs off the new album live change the way you see them? Can audience reactions make you think differently about them?
Alex: I think, yeah, more so than ever. I almost think that were part of the design of this album, it was like so there was almost bits missing in ’em. Definitely for me with lyrics anyway; I’d not figured them all out completely, like playing them round and that. I almost wanted to, like, grow into them. Like buying a pair of shoes a size too big. I think that’s made them still enjoyable, like when we’ve gone through this year and played them. And of course loads of people always say, ‘I really understood the album after I saw you live’. People do say things like that, but I feel like there’s always a bit of that. ‘I didn’t get it before...’
Matt: ‘...But when I saw you live it really made sense’. That always happens.
Alex: ‘When I saw your trousers tonight...’
Matt: ‘...I can see why you chose corduroy.’
Alex: But I do certainly believe that they still sot of feel fresh to play. We generally get restless quite quickly anyway, but it doesn’t seem to have happened as much with these tunes.
If a certain song was proving more popular, would it lead you to think, ‘We should do another like this one’?
Alex: Um...I dunno really.
Can you include songs on an album that you can’t recreate live?
Alex: Um, yeah, I think so. With our last one, that was almost part of the plan for it; ‘Let’s just go and try stuff and put everything on there’. Whereas in the past we’d always wanted to do recordings that sound like us, that we’d be able to play tomorrow. This time, it was more like, ‘We’ll figure out how to do it’. And there weren’t anything that we couldn’t figure out. But then, going forward, maybe we can take it further. I think it’s good to be able to put them on the stage, because then you can enlighten people so they really get it.
Matt: Well, that’s it, it’s the next stage, innit?
Alex: ‘Aw, fuckin’ hell, yeah. That’s what it was!’
Matt: ‘I never got it cos they never played it live!’ (Laughs)
What makes the live experience more enlightening? Perhaps it’s the herd mentality, or maybe it’s just the beer?
Matt: It’s the knowledge in the air.
Alex: Or maybe it just weren’t that hard to get in the first place! (Laughs)
You’ve released a couple of singles exclusively through Oxfam. What made you decide to do that?
Jamie: Laurence and Jonny at Domino came to us with that idea - a great idea for the charity reason, and then cos Woolworths and stuff had shut down, but there were always an Oxfam.
Alex: Like, in towns where there perhaps aren’t, like, an Our Price or something.
Do you have to think of more creative ways to get your records out there?
Jamie: Yeah, rather than just sat at home.
Matt: They should think about making the journey exciting - paint paths a nice colour to the record shops.
Alex: The yellow brick road.
Matt: Something that makes people want to walk to a record shop. Even if it’s just free parking. (All laugh)
Jamie: It’s just too easy to buy music now.
How do you feel as artists about the devaluing of music? Does it annoy you that you’re working hard to make something, but people can just pick it up from their friends?
Jamie: I suppose we were never in the industry when it were big money, when people used to sell twenty million albums. Has that ever happened since we’ve been around?
Probably someone like Dido has.
Jamie: Yeah, that were probably the last.
Matt: It’s like, we wouldn’t expect anything like that to happen to us, so...
Alex: I do think there is people that always will want to go and get records.
Matt: Yeah, it won’t change everybody.
Alex: I was reading a couple of months ago about there’s an idea where you won’t even have - you know like you pull songs off iTunes or whatever - but they were saying you subscribe to a database and pay to get ’em...
Jamie: Spotify, that’s what that was.
Alex: Yeah. But you can’t get them on...
It streams the music - you can’t download them.
Alex: But you can’t do that on your phone, can you?
Matt: Yeah, you can do Spotify on your phone if you pay about £10 a month. Nokia did that thing where you can just pay a monthly thing and you can have as many as you want...
Alex: The fella had a quote, he’s like, ‘There’s nothing sexy about an MP3 on your desktop’. (Laughs) He’s like, ‘There’s nothing sexy about having a subscription to a database’. (All laugh) But then you could just sort of buy a record and stand it up against your wall. Not that that’s particularly sexy, but, you know what I mean... I like things that you can stand up.
Jamie: Like you said the other day, everyone’s just gonna have an empty house.
Matt: Yeah, there’s gonna be nothing on t’shelves. Not even books now.
Jamie: No one’s got any photos anymore, no ones’s got any CDs or records...
Matt: You’ll just have a screen and a chair.
Jamie: You’ll just go, ‘Sound. This is sound.’
Matt: With nowt on your wall.
Jamie: You can just have everything [at your fingertips]; turn your fire on, open your curtains...
Alex: You’d get in it for your bath. (All laugh)
[Alex goes into the band’s equipment drawer, pulls out a giant figure of Freddie Mercury in full-on rock pose. “See, he said he likes things that stand up,” Matt says.]
Does being on an independent label give you the freedom to experiment with your marketing or promotions?
Matt: Yeah. They [Domino] have as many ideas as us for stuff like that, like the Oxfam thing. They tend to think on a similar level, and, at the same time, if we have a suggestion, they’re open to it. It sometimes is a good thing to have a label like Domino, cos they’re experienced in doing weird stuff, and have obviously signed things that aren’t necessarily to make any money or anything, so we’ll listen to them if they have a suggestion, and vice versa. They’d put records out on tins of beans and all sorts. (All laugh)
Jamie: I wanted to do it on a conifer. I wanted to put an MP3 out on a conifer.
Matt: Or just seeds. Christmas tree seeds.
Alex: Yeah. What did they actually do?
Matt: There’s a Jewish guy, I forgot what his name is, and they did it on a kosher chicken noodle soup or something. You buy the soup and you get the code [for the MP3]. Which is good in a way, because he’s just poo-pooing the fact that there’s not much point. It’s an incentive, but it doesn’t get it in the chart, you see. It’s a give-away. So you can sell anything and just have an MP3 code on it. You can sell a car and you’d just get one song.
Jamie: But then it doesn’t count towards t’charts?
Matt: No. The Oxfam thing don’t either, does it. Only the download bit does. You’re not allowed to give away incentives like free stuff, because that’s obviously encouraging people. See, that’s the thing - people might buy the soup and not download the song. ‘I wonder if they make good soup?’
Jamie: When you see a good cover sometimes...
Matt: Yeah, you buy it for the cover.
Alex: Perhaps the epitome of that is you buying a Lady Gaga picture disc. (Laughs)
Matt: Yeah, I did. I’ve been a fool.
Alex: It’s great, cos she’s wearing like a fuckin’ box of Coco Pops or something. (Laughs)
Matt: You could buy that Freddie Mercury thing and get a Queen album, for instance. You don’t need to put it on or owt.
Jamie: You want to make it awkward.
Matt: Buy a chair. Buy a flat pack piece of furniture and you get a code for an album.
Jamie: You have to put your furniture up and send a picture to someone, then they send you the MP3.
Alex: That would make a good video: playing in a bowl of Coco Pops. (All laugh) Remember that kids programme where they used to have to go swimming in a bowl of cereal...
Jamie: Ah yeah. Didn’t they used to do something like that on The Big Breakfast?
Matt: They did, yeah.
Jamie: It were a massive cup of tea and you used to have to get the sugar lumps...
Matt: Yeah, yeah, that was it: One Lump Or Two.
Jamie: One Lump Or Two, yeah!
Alex: It would be great: kid comes down, he’s having his breakfast - Coco Pops - and then, like, Arctic Monkeys are in his cereal. (All laugh)
Jamie: Hot milk, though.
Matt: Hot milk in t’afternoon.
Alex: (Laughs) ‘Why not try Coco Pops after school?’
Jamie: (Laughs) I love that advert!
Alex: It’s the best!
Someone from Kellogg’s came in the Clash office the other day to hand in a box of their new cereal, which was called Krave, but we’re going to call it K-Rave. It was little corn parcels and inside was Nutella chocolate...
All: Oh, yes!
Matt: That’s Andy Nicholson’s favourite ever cereal already, I can tell. He has pretty much just Dairy Milk with milk on. It’s like chocolate for breakfast. I was like, ‘That’s intense!’
Alex: Can you get K-Rave Light?
Jamie: They’ll become illegal.
Matt: Kids will be flying to school. Maybe they’ll fly to record shops. That’s another thing - they’ll think, ‘I’ve got all this energy, I might as well go and buy it.’ We’ll sell way more!
Jamie: Cereal! We could put things in cereal like you used to get. You don’t get that anymore, like, the free toys in cereal.
Matt: Put it in healthy snacks.
You could put an apple inside a box of cereal?
Matt: Yeah, and then in t’middle of the apple is the code for a free download. But it’s not a code - you’ve got to take it to the record shop. So that’s a different way of doing it - we can do free give-aways, but you still have to go and get the physical thing; it’s not a download.
Nick: People should do it so that if you recycle all your stuff, you get a free download, or something like that.
Matt: Yeah, you bring your carrier bags.
Nick: It’s a great idea.
Matt: Another thing to stop the fat ones, do a pedometer and if you do ten thousand steps you get a free download.
Nick: They just have to really want it.
Jamie: Latitude Festival, that’s good. You have to pay for your pint glass, and it’s only like £2, and you think, ‘Aw, I’ll never keep this’ - but you do! And everyone does! They’re like, ‘Fucking £2!’
Nick: There’s not a single cup on t’floor of that festival. It’s great.
Jamie: A £2 deposit on your cup. That’s a good idea. I didn’t think it’d work, but...
You’ve got Mystery Jets supporting you on this tour. Do you guys get to choose the bands that come out with you?
Matt: Yeah, unless we leave it too late, but yeah, a lot of the time. We’ve done a few tours with them [Mystery Jets]. We did one when t’first album came out, and then we did a European one with them again.
Alex: And then they were just in your cereal at the start of this. We were just like, ‘Come on!’ Yeah, we’ve known them for a while. When we did that tour, what was that, four years ago? They were on that. That was our induction to touring life.
Do you keep a mental note of bands that you think would work with you guys and then sound them out when you’re about to tour?
Alex: Yeah, cos obviously half of it is having someone you want to hang around with, but then also you don’t want them to stink.
Do you test them out? Take them out for a pint?
Matt: Yeah, like an interview.
Do your fans give you CDs of their bands?
Matt: They throw them on t’stage! Imagine if you got one of them in t’eye! Fuckin’ hell! Remember in America, a kid got on stage and he had a handful [of CDs] and someone had to grab him to get him off, but he threw them. So he were getting pulled away and he threw them.
Alex: I’ve been getting less CDs though...
Matt: Now they’re throwing download cards at you!
Alex: I got a pair of underpants...
Jamie: People are chucking downloads at you. You’re like, ‘What the fuck?’
Matt: People are throwing zeroes and ones at you - it’s like the credits of The Matrix!
Jamie: You can’t get any flick on a download.
Alex: They’re chucking Spotifys at me. Maybe that’s what them pants were - some sort of code.
I think it’d be a totally different sort of code! Do you listen to the music that fans give you?
Matt: I listened to one that someone gave me the other day. It just were at home though, he just gave it me.
Alex: No more than I’d wear that pair of pants! (Laughs)
Matt: It were just convenient - I were getting in me car and there’s a CD player there.
What’s the strangest thing a fan has given you?
Matt: Just in Japan - everything you get is weird! Like, a monkey hat - it left your own face in but it’s got ears and a tail.
Jamie: And sweets.
Matt: A lot of sweets.
Jamie: We once said, ‘Oh, we like these sweets’ in an interview...
Nick: There’s someone that makes baked goods.
Matt: You got a good one, where it were like a picture of you...
Alex: Yeah, I got like a diagram of myself...
Matt: A diagram, pointing at every bit, and then asking to fill in, like, what his favourite brand of jeans were.
Alex: Hand it back, and then she’d sort of kit me out.
Matt: She’d buy it all! So, like, ‘Favourite shoes? Trainers or boots?’ It would be like that. He’d fill it in and send it back and then she’d buy it. ‘Will this do?’
Alex: Back it came with this jumper that were perfect actually. She really knew me better than I knew meself.
Nick: With baked goods, I know it’s not [spiked], but you never know... It’s probably fine - it’s more than likely fine - but it is a gamble.
Matt: It’s innocent, but someone might have seen that opportunity.
Jamie: I don’t think I’m ever gonna eat a baked good that some stranger’s made. You learn about that. There is a story there...
Matt: It is intriguing though.
Jamie: Puppies, on the other hand, though...
Nick: You’d eat a puppy?
Jamie: That’s a weird one to get taught, innit?
Jamie: Like, someone comes round and says, ‘Do you want to come and look at my puppies?’
Matt: It’s like, ‘Well yeah, I’d love to. A BMX would be better though.’
Is Japan the best place to go shopping?
Matt: Well it is, but the clothes are too small. I bought some great shoes though, but they were only in small, medium or large. They weren’t in shoe sizes, but medium happened to fit. I were like, ‘Eight or nine?’ They were like, ‘Medium’.
Nick: I once saw a coat I really liked. In the western world I’m a medium, and that were like an XXL and it was still too small!
Jamie: Someone who works for us were after a Gilet out there, and he’s quite a big guy, and yeah, they were all laughing, weren’t they? I think they were ringing t’next shop.
They probably thought he was Godzilla!
Jamie: (Laughs) Yeah; ‘Wait ’til this guy comes out!’
Nick: But then, when you’re there you see these Japanese guys that are the same size as you, so it’s like, ‘Where are they going for their clothes?’
Matt: They’ve got a Big And Tall, but it’s just normal.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home after the tour is finished?
Nick: See your friends and family that you’ve not seen.
Matt: I go and get my photos developed. That’s actually one of the first things I do.
Alex: I usually pick up me guitar. Honestly. It’s a deep breath.
Words by Simon Harper
Photos by Jason Joyce