in conversation // The Whybirds

Interviews "Some people might have been expecting Cold Blue Sky II, but they didn’t get that. But we’d undergone a line up change, we’d matured as people, and that obviously came out on the record."

This week sees Bedford three-piece rock ‘n’ roll outfit The Whybirds play The Portland Arms, tickets available here. All three members (Dave Banks, Ben Haswell and Luke Tuchscherer) are singer/songwriters, giving the group a diverse range of songs and vocal styles, but without straying from The Whybirds’ brand of Americana. With their sophomore album out late last year and with Tuchscherer prepping his own solo release we had plenty to chat about when we caught up with The Whybirds…

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How has 2014 been treating The Whybirds so far?
Luke: It’s been pretty quiet so far really. We toured Spain in February, which was amazing, but we’ve just been doing the odd gig since then.

You’re playing The Portland in August, what can punters expect material wise? New/old?
Luke: We like to mix the setlists up, so we haven’t decided yet. But hopefully it’ll appeal to people who’ve seen us before, and those who haven’t. Come one, come all.
Dave: It’s the first gig in a long while so we’re all really looking forward to this one.

How did the band get going?
Dave: We all watched The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show and that was it. We all knew we wanted to be in a band!

You put ‘A Little Blood’ last year, how did you find its reception?
Luke: For the first time in our career, we had a mixed reception. Which is totally fine, we did something pretty different on that album. Most of the reviews were positive, but we did get a couple of stinkers. But that’s to be expected when you try something new. Some people might have been expecting Cold Blue Sky II, but they didn’t get that. But we’d undergone a line up change, we’d matured as people, and that obviously came out on the record. And I’d still say it’d be 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dave: I think the new sound helped gain us some new fans and widened our audience without offending our existing fans.

What plans are there for the next release? And what would you like to do differently on the next record when compared to ‘A Little Blood’?
Luke: None set in stone yet, but it’d break my heart if we didn’t do one. I think we’ve got a lot more left to say as a band. I think because we expanded our musical palette a bit on A Little Blood, it’s opened up lots of different doors we could go down. We’re only at the “kicking some songs about” stage at the moment though. But I think it will be good, when we get down to it.
Dave: Agree with Luke here. We have given ourselves a bit of time off this year but now we’re at that very exciting time where some ideas are starting to stick out and there are lots of interesting roads we could head down.

The band is fairly unique in how you all share lead vocals, how did this come about in the first place and do you ever find a part of a song you fancy singing gets earmarked for someone else?
Luke: Well, originally it was just Ben and Dave who sung. That’s why there are songs on the first EP and the first album that I wrote but don’t sing. But then me and Taff – the original bass player – gradually started singing our songs from there. We’d both sang before, me on my own, Taff in a band at uni, so I guess maybe we missed that. Once I figured out that I could sing and drum at the same time, that was it. These days, it’s pretty much a case of whoever wrote it sings it, so we haven’t had those kind of feelings about wanting to sing different parts!

Luke has been working on a solo album recently, how easy is it to return to the band and pick up Whybird duties after different ventures?
Luke: I’ve always done solo gigs since the band started, so that’s not too strange. It has been a bit weird trying to promote the album and getting the backing band together, but the boys have been very supportive, which I deeply appreciate. But it won’t be difficult at all doing Whybirds stuff again, it’s what I’ve been doing for seven years or more! It’s been a while since we’ve played and I really miss playing drums. You can’t top the feeling of battering a drum kit. But then I have to carry and set the kit up… actually…

You can hear a lot of influences on your last album, but who would you say are the main songwriters who genuinely influence your sound?
Luke: The main ones for me have always been and probably always will be Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Pearl Jam and Neil Young.
Dave: I would add Ryan Adams, Tom Petty and My Morning Jacket to that too.

And any you disagree on?
Luke: We’ve never really agreed on the Eagles or Skynyrd references we used to get, but they’re pretty much out the window now with this new album. This time we’ve had everything from Britpop, which hasn’t really had much of a direct influence, to Blue Oyster Cult, and I only know one of their songs.

Being localish, what are your thoughts on the current Cambridge scene and anything good coming out of Bedford we should check out?
Luke: From Bedford, there are lots. Bands like Pearl Handled Revolver, CC Smugglers, Buzzard Lope and solo artists like Danni Nicholls, Johnny Parry, Sunsinger, Joff Lincoln… loads. All worth checking out.

Hypothetically you’re gonna DJ a disco for us, what is your go to dance floor filler track?
Luke: This is easy. It’s actually a proven fact. Stick “You Can Call Me Al” on by Paul Simon and everyone gets up.
Dave: Good choice! For me it would have to be “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants. An underrated diamond of a song!

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