Hello Jack! Slam Dunk Festival is only just over a week away now. Are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, I can’t wait; it should be insane. I can’t believe there’s literally only about a week to go.
What can the audiences expect from your set each day at the festival?
I’m going to try and incorporate in the piano I’m going to try out a bunch of different versions of my songs and attempt to condense that into a thirty minute set. It will be good to see what works.
Are there any other artists that you hope to see perform over the course of the weekend?
Yeah, there’s loads of stuff I’d like to see. Everything’s so hectic, so if I get time, I would like to check out Gospel Youth; because I know those guys. I also want to see the bands who won the Rock Sound Breakout competition; because they have all put in so much effort to be in that position. I like Vukovi; but they’re playing around the same time as I’m playing, so it might be tricky. I also love Enter Shikari and a bunch of the heavier bands that are playing. Last year I just sort of dotted about when I was free, so I’ll probably do that again and see what happens.
You have several festivals lined up over the summer including 2000 Trees, Y Not and Fort Fest. How important are festivals in helping to establish yourself and grow your fan base?
When I played at 2000 Trees last year, it was the first time that I’d ever played to about 500 people. That was also the first time that I had a lot of people singing back the words louder than I was singing. I was kind of looking out and thinking ‘Crap. I’ve got to remember to sing it the way that I recorded it’ as a lot of the time I sing things differently. I could hear people in the audience singing the harmonies, which was crazy! I think it does have a big impact on your own career, because a lot of the time people are persuaded by their friends asking them to check out a set with them, which means that you can gain new fans. 2000 Trees is going to be nuts this year too, as I’m opening the Cave stage on the Thursday, and that tent’s absolutely huge. My set is early in the day at 2pm, but even if the tent is half or quarter full, it’s still ridiculously busy. Festivals are great for meeting a lot of people and getting the chance to see what everyone else is doing. I don’t keep to myself in those situations, I always watch other bands as well; so it’s really important.
You’ve got your own studio, Lapwing Studio, and have quite a DIY approach in recording music. Are there advantages at being able to record music in that way? Also, what advice would you offer other artists that want to take a similar route?
It’s a tough one, because it’s cost so much money to set up my studio. It is DIY in a sense and the hardest thing really is having to learn everything; but I don’t see that as a task because I’m doing what I love. Studio stuff is ridiculously expensive. You can set up some things for fairly cheap and make demos; which was the original goal with me, but I kept getting into it and realised that I could get it to a better and better level. If someone was setting it up themself, they’d need a good interface, a good set of speakers, and a couple of really good microphones; like a condenser and a dynamic microphone. I could get super geeky with this whole thing, but I’m just really lucky with having the freedom to record in my own studio; that’s something that I hate taking for granted. It’s definitely a long process; you can’t be too naive when it comes to production, because there’s something that’s new every day. Some of the best producers have been doing it their entire life and they still don’t think that they know anything.
Did you teach yourself how to produce and that or did you study it at college?
At college I studied music performance, but then I left; because most of the guys there said ‘If you want to play music, just go and play music.’ Everything I’ve learnt production-wise, bar a couple of tips from producer friends and stuff, has been 100% from YouTube videos and trying to learn from others. It’s the only way that you can do it; you have to make so many mistakes and then you learn what went wrong.
This year you have been releasing one song a month. How do you feel that the general public reaction has been to the new material?
I didn’t know what to expect from it. There’s songs that I think are better than others, regardless of the production. I’ve tried to work so hard on my production for these. Red was the first bit of full band production that I’ve ever done; so I was fighting against the current a bit. When I released it, I was hoping for feedback on production, as I never expect anything to be perfect; but the thing I did underestimate was people not caring about production whatsoever. I’m always wanting to hear constructive criticism, but in this situation the opinions surprised me. It seems like 90% of people don’t really care about production, they just want to listen to a good song, and if it’s a good song they can hear that. I really underestimated that because I’m so picky. That’s one of the reasons I’ve struggled to enjoy new music in the past, but listening to things like Alex Baker’s show on Kerrang has given me this inspiration to listen to new music and actually care about the new stuff that is coming out. I’m happy that everyone’s got into my new music. I had no idea what to expect at all, but people seem to be in to it!
What generally inspires and shapes your songwriting?
Lyrics for me are generally inspired in the most part by relationships that I’m involved in in any way, such as friendships or whatever. Most of the time, songwriting is all about melodies and rhythms for me. I’ll always be recording stupid voice clips into my phone and then I’ll apply it to any instrument that I think it fits and create loads of layers. It can be anything that inspires me really; it’s not any particular big moment that I’ve suddenly got a song. When I started out in a band, I’d get an acoustic guitar in a random tuning and I’d just make a song. Now it’s more like I just write what I think is the catchiest or most interesting melody that sounds original. I always get a lot of weird cross genres going into what I’m doing, because I listen to lots of different types of music.
I know you adore animals and have got a few pets of your own including your husky. If you could ever come back as an animal in a future life, what would you be and why?
Oh man…. there’s so many good animals! There’s very few animals that I don’t like. Probably an Eagle or something like that, because you can literally fly wherever you want. Also, there’s pretty much no chance of getting eaten by anything, because you can just fly away really fast, and you’ve got super sharp talons. Either that or a whale, just because you could swim the ocean and no-one would mess with you. I guess I’d like to see what the ocean is like.
There are eight stages at Slam Dunk. If you could choose any eight acts that have ever existed to headline stages at your own festival, who would you choose and why?
Eight acts? I don’t know. City and Colour would definitely be one of them. Also, definitely Biffy Clyro and Brand New; I love Brand New. Thrice too. Something like Pierce The Veil would be great to sell loads of tickets. I do love Pierce The Veil and I particularly like the melodies and how they write; the phrasing and vocals and stuff are just insane! I’d also choose Pearl Jam, and maybe something like The Smiths if they came to reform. Oh man, my last act would be something super heavy like Deftones. It’d be pretty much just a heavy festival, but with City and Colour on the side. I think that would be cool. I’d also like it if loads of different genre bands were playing, like Riot Fest in America. They have pop stuff on at the same festival as bands like Brand New. For me, that’s how festival’s should work. They pick bands that you wouldn’t necessarily go and watch on their own and when you put them all together there’s just so much diversity that at least it’s interesting. I think that’s how you find new artists that you’re in to.
What’s in the pipeline for Grumble Bee over the rest of this year?
I’ve just announced a headline acoustic show at St Pancras Old Church in London. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for about a year and SJM Concerts are running it. It’s a fairly small venue, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve also got a bunch of weekenders and a few more things in July. Also, I want to release this EP as a double sided vinyl, so one side is all acoustic versions of new songs, and the other side is all full band songs. It’s just a stepping stone before I bring out an album next year. I’m hoping the EP will be done in time for the St Pancras show, but vinyl takes like a million years to turn around apparently; so we’ll see. It should be really busy for the rest of the year.