The singer looks like he’s had a bucket of water thrown over him. He’s sweating that much. He’s putting that much in. He and his three teenage cohorts are giving everything they’ve got.
Tonight, immaculately dressed in black shirts and red ties, they’re determined to blow flavour of the month Nine Black Alps off stage. And how they do it. “Who are these?” someone shouts surging forward. It’s This Et Al. And right now, in 2004, in front of 250 revellers going apeshit for their indi-e-mo racket, the future is theirs for the taking.
“If I thought about it,” whispers singer Wu four years later, “I could cry myself to sleep.” He talks quietly because he shouldn’t be taking personal calls at work. He should be ordering paperclips or monitoring stapler prices. That’s what NHS supply assistants do. Wu sighs.
This Et Al – himself, guitarist Ben, drummer Steve and bassist Chris – got just as great as their promise promised. They avoided becoming My Yorkshire Romance or The Download Strokes, instead plotting a course between the darkness of Interpol, the intelligence of Muse and the pop-nuance of The Smiths. But after becoming Yorkshire’s most-likely long before The Pigeon Detectives and The Cribs made their dash for the charts, somewhere somehow they hit a wall.
If their home county loved them, the record execs were unsure. Maybe it was because nothing good – except the trains –ever comes from Bradford but they’ve been more or less in the same place since. NHS by day, TEA by night. Tours on days off, records released independently. “We’d never compromise ourselves to chase popularity,” spits Wu. “Instant popularity generally means something is shit anyway. If you chase it you’re a fake, and people will smell desperation. We’re not the Arctic Monkey, we couldn’t sing about the same old kebabs and the same old bouncers throwing us out the same old clubs. But it is frustrating because we know we’re better than most bands.” They are.
Debut album Baby Machine was black without ever being bleak, oblique without ever being obscure. In its lyrical scatter-shot sights was everything from corruption to addiction, class conflict to media manipulation. Just no kebabs. Or clubs.
Not that This Et Al are averse to the sensory pleasures of being in a band. Recording sessions are generally hazy blurs of dope and brandy, while a recent jaunt to Germany was “a wave of orgies, crack parties, bare-knuckle boxing and carrot sticks dipped in hummus.”
“Because we work going on tour is like a holiday and we make the most of it,” admits Wu. “When one day you’re getting bollocked for not ordering stationary and the next you’re talking to a fan from thousands of miles away it can be a headfuck.”
Headfucks or not, new EP, ‘The Figure Eight’, will be out this month and an album is scheduled for later this year. “We always thought we’d be a slow burn band,” says Wu. “It’d be nice if more people got to hear this one.” Nice for them, almost certainly better for them that do the hearing.
It’s 2008 and for This Et Al – still in their early 20s – the future is theirs for the taking.