The Twang IS the ‘Best New Band in Britain’ (NME). Every A&R man in the country has been hot-footing it up the M40 to Birmingham to snare the signatures of this band, and shows across the UK are selling out in record time. A growing army of fans vote with their feet and add to the feeling that we are witnessing one of those rare moments in music.
With Time Out declaring that the band are ‘set to own 2007’ and The Sun identifying them as ‘one of 2007’s rising stars’, they are the only band to have their demo played on daytime Radio 1 prior to signing a deal, Jo Whiley joining in with the moment by declaring: ‘If you like this… (snippet of The Stone Roses) and this… (snippet of Happy Mondays) and this… (snippet of The Charlatans), then you’re going to love this!’ Little wonder that The Twang are already in the award-winning business, picking up NME’s Philip Hall Radar Award (1 March 2007) for Best Newcomers as their debut single, ‘Wide Awake’, crashes into the UK Top 20.
The Twang are about to hit the road on the UK tour to play their debut album 'Love It When It Feels Like This' in full. Mark Millar caught up with frontman Phil Etheridge to find out more.
The Twang formed in 2004 in Birmingham, so it was three years until the band went into the studio to record debut album Love It When It Feels Like This. Did you have a lot of songs before you went into the studio?
Yeah, we did. We had a lot of songs before we got signed we locked ourselves away writing. We had a lot of different formations but it all changed for us when Stu our guitarist joined but we had already written some songs from the different lineups by then so we carried them over. Me and Jon had always been in the band so those songs were ours. Our manager was giving out demos to people with about 25 tracks which I was fuming about because they were getting all these tunes and they weren’t ready yet, they were still in demo form but it didn’t do us any harm because we got signed so it was all good.
Did you base the songs on the album on your own experiences and observations or both?
I have always written about what’s going on in my life but obviously I hung about with some funny characters, a lot of my friends were hilarious. I used to write about them and use them as inspiration. It was always things that were happening in our lives at the time. I think everyone subconsciously is writing about themselves.
Does songwriting come easily to you?
I don’t want to sound arrogant but I do feel fortunate that my brain is weird enough to give me some lyrics. For some reason somehow I can pen a song and I’m grateful for having that weird side of my brain.
After releasing the brilliant singles 'Wide Awake' and 'Either Way' your debut album 'Love It When I Feel Like This' was released on 4 June 2007. The record landed on the UK album charts at number 3. You must have been confident that the album was going to do well.
It was a really crazy time for us I try not to look back too much because its bad for the soul to hark back all the time but to sum it up, it was a really exciting beautiful time. We didn’t really know what we were doing and when a big record label gets involved you do lose control a bit so we just enjoyed it, it was out of our hands and we were busy having fun. The album was a moment in time and it got released and it did well. People still talk about the album like it was a big record in their lives. That’s the dream to have done that for someone and be the soundtrack to someone’s summer. It’s an amazing thing to have done. I think it still sounds interesting and fresh now because I have been listening to it recently
What are your standout tracks from the record?
Either Way, changed our life really. It’s the song that connected and got people into us and Wide Awake and Two Lovers.
Even the B-sides were great
We have just released a B-sides album called Subscription and it’s probably my favourite record that we’ve ever done. It sounds so ‘youthful.’ A lot of those tracks that were B-sides were the demos and we put them out there. Those B-sides sound to me like a band in a room going mad. I hadn’t listened to them in ages until we were compiling the record. I’m really proud of it.
What were you listening to at the time that would have influenced the record?
I guess we were always listening to the Happy Mondays although the comparisons made me shy away from mentioning them. I didn’t feel we sounded anything like them but obviously, they were a big influence and we have since gone on to play with Shaun Ryder. We have got a rule not to play certain bands such as the Smiths and the National in the studio it kind of ruins your day because we will never be as good as them. I got into the National about 2006 and they have been a constant band that we have been listening to. The Streets were a big influence and to do a track with Mike Skinner was massive for us. We also really like James and The Verve. There’s loads of stuff we listened to at the time. The 90s and the early noughties was a beautiful time for music. There were always bands coming along like The Strokes or The Libertines that were changing the face of society let alone music. That’s what Oasis did when they first came out Liam Gallagher was the coolest man on the planet.
You’re kind of waiting for that band to come along that changes how you dress and how you look and there hasn’t been one since. Someone has to come along and push things forward.
In 2007 it was hard to escape The Twang. The band were hailed by the NME as "Britain's Best New Band" and won the Phillip Hall Radar Award at the 2007 NME Awards. It must have been an amazing time.
It was but it was also like a poison chalice and I don’t want to sound negative because it was an amazing time and everyone was saying we were great. But that also can put people of you when you are put in people’s faces. I wasn’t up for being a c**t which is what I think people wanted me to be, that wasn’t what I was about. People were phoning me up looking for a quote and trying to get me to slag off other bands which I wasn’t prepared to do because I still have that same view if you are into it and it makes you happy and gives you a buzz - then who am I to say anything about it. But looking back if I had said a few bands were shit then we would have got a lot more press (Laughs). It was a brilliant time and it was fun.
Are you comfortable the way things are now for The Twang?
I feel that we earned our place and we are a good live band and have made some good records. When you blow up like we did so fast then everything after is kind of a comedown. Our second record (Jewellery Quarter) went into the charts at number 20 and all the people who worked for us at the time weren’t happy but we thought it was amazing!
What have you been up to between 2014 'Neon Twang' album and now?
Just writing and having children, I’ve got three kids now. Me and Jon have been writing one or two days a week. We are going to try and get a batch of songs together in the New Year and see if there is a record there, although times have changed and we might just put some songs out rather than a record.
In November and December, the band will be on the road to celebrate 'Love It When It Feels Like This' by playing the whole album in its entirety. Will it be performed in sequence alongside other Twang favourites?
Yes, I think we will be playing Love It When It Feels Like This from start to finish then have a break and come back out and perform a best of live set. It’s going to be really good.
Do you have a record that you always return to?
It would have been something like Neds Atomic Dustbin, The Wonder Stuff, Dinosaur Jnr or Carter USM. My brother was heavily into that indie scene. I remember him listening to the Pixies and thinking it was insanely good. I still think the Pixies are as important as The Smiths.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
Obviously, I got the new National record although I don’t like it as much as High Violet or Trouble Will Find Me or Alligator, It's not their best in my opinion. In the last few years I've really liked DIIV their 2 records are great. I really like The Drums and Mac De Marco, Jon from the band is obsessed with him so I've had to listen to his stuff a lot as well.
Full 2017 tour dates are as follows:
29 Bournemouth The Old Fire Station
30 Leeds O2 Academy
01 Manchester O2 Ritz
02 Glasgow O2 ABC
08 Oxford O2 Academy
09 London O2 Forum Kentish Town
14 Sheffield O2 Academy
15 Newcastle O2 Academy
16 Leicester O2 Academy
21 Bristol O2 Academy
22 Liverpool O2 Academy
23 Birmingham O2 Academy
Phil Etheridge – vocals
Jon Watkin – bass
Saunders – vocals
Stu Hartland – guitar
Ash Sheehan – drums