“Nothing I like is popular,” declares Dave Tattersall, guitarist and frontman for The Wave Pictures, huddled over a pint in the corner of a cosy Stoke Newington boozer, flanked by his bandmates Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm. “We do feel very under appreciated and… not loved, but at the same time, we’re completely out of fashion, so we take a lot of strength from it, a lot of pride from it. It’s not as if it doesn’t make sense, there’s not loads of stuff like us that is popular. And that makes you feel like we must be on the right track…”
The thing is, with latest record Bamboo Diner In The Rain, they’re on album number (count ’em) fifteen. Despite constant championing from 6 Music DJ Marc Riley (Jonny confides that if Dave ever gets a text message, it’s either going to be Riley or Mother Tattersall), The Wave Pictures are still a bit of a niche concern. Much more so than they deserve to be; if there was ever a band that defined the word ‘underrated’, the threesome would stake a pretty serious claim for the title.
That being said, those that know their body of work tend to hold them in a special place in their hearts. “People are very nice to us,” Dave grins, “But it’s definitely not our intention to be a cult band rather than a popular band. That’s outside of our control, that’s circumstances. We don’t mean to be, but we don’t do the things that you’re supposed to do to be popular now.”
So they were never tempted to attempt to sell out, to be more commercial? “When we first moved to London, a lot of the people that we knew in bands – who we won’t name because they’re quite nice people – they were choosing to do things in a very careerist way and we found them very ridiculous.” Dave considers, “And we got to do things that they didn’t get to do – especially touring. Playing for people a lot more than they got to. And releasing records a lot more than they were allowed to do, as well. That was a compromise that we weren’t prepared to make, but it does surprise you how it works to do all those sell out things, and if you don’t do them, instead of people thinking, oh you’re quite cool, you’re sticking to your principles, instead you’re just less accessible. Actually, people just want everyone to do the same things, and that’s depressing…”
When it comes to releasing more records than most bands are allowed to, there’s clearly truth to that. Bamboo Diner is their second album this year, after the vinyl only release Season In Hull, which they put out on their own Wymeswold Records. We confess, we did wonder whether that meant they’d been dropped by their usual label…
“Moshi Moshi are very nice to us and understanding, but there are certain things where their priorities are very different to ours. But they were really good to us and let us do it. They could have said no. We wanted to do a vinyl only record, recorded with one microphone. And Moshi Moshi, they put their focus on download sites and streaming sites, and the whole purpose of that album was that the only way you could play it would be as vinyl, it wouldn’t be on the internet, because we were very sick of the internet. It would be the one place that it existed, and it was written and meant for that. So we asked them and they were fine. But then people really liked it, and they were a bit confused. It got more press and was more popular, and even got playlisted for one day on 6Music…”
There is a question though, with two releases within mere months, are they attempting to win next year’s Hardest Working Musician AIM award away from their friend and current holder, Darren Hayman? “That would be a terrible thing to do to Darren…” Jonny chuckles, “but if the Aim awards are listening then I’d go and accept it. We’ve discussed this though…”
“Franic wants to be the band that turns down awards.” Dave grins, “But unfortunately no one has offered us any so we can’t be the band that turns down awards. Franic thinks that if we get the Mercury Prize we should turn it down, which is stupid because they haven’t offered it to us. Our label did put us forward it for one album, but I forget which one, possibly Beer In The Breakers, they did pay to enter us. And as you know, we didn’t get nominated so we couldn’t turn it down…”
It’d be interesting to see if they’d stand by that if the award was offered though, right? “I’d like to sit here and say, we’d stand on our principles,” Dave chuckles, “and we commend Bob Dylan for not saying anything about his Nobel prize…” “He has now though,” Franic softly interrupts, “he said it was an honour…” “Well, there you go.” Dave laughs, “I take it back.”
“I think it’d be the pressure from everyone else, I’d find it very easy to turn it down.” Franic earnestly explains, “I haven’t got any interest in the Mercury Prize. I think it should be really easy, I wouldn’t accept it. But it would really upset our label, probably, because they work really hard and do lots of cool stuff for us, and it would be a bit of a pay off for them. That would be the biggest dilemma, I think. But Jonny’s prepared to sell out and go, so I’d just stay at home or go on holiday or something. That would be a solution, right?”
“I definitely think we should turn down any award.” Dave interjects, “But I definitely think we should be offered them too first. So I have a confused outlook on it. I would like to be offered so I can turn them down. We were saying that we would turn down Glastonbury, if they finally ever offered us a show, and be the band that turned down Glastonbury. They’ve never offered us a show.” “That’s not true!” Jonny points out excitedly, “We got offered a tiny little stage years ago, when the Rolling Stones were headlining. And Franic asked them for more money…” “That wasn’t Glastonbury, that was our record label.” Dave points out, “They had a stage that year… so it’s true that they’ve never offered us anything.”
“We went for different ways of trying to play blues without becoming a blues band…”
Moving away from what Jonny has now deemed to be our ‘fantasy conversation’, we decide it’s time to talk about the new record a bit. It’s more sleazy sounding record than we’ve had from them before, we suggest, especially the low down dirty bass-licks of ‘Now I Want To Hoover My Brain Clean’. “Sleazy? Yeah, bluesy, sleazy!” Dave agrees, “We wanted to find a way to play the blues, without doing the blues. So we went for different ways of trying to play blues without becoming a blues band, without changing what the band was.”
“It’s a really sincere effort to try and have soul, without doing a White Stripes and do a crap, white boy version of the blues that you can’t pull off. I mean, I like the White Stripes but you know what I mean… what I’m trying to say…” We do, and Bamboo Diner does stay authentic to the bands roots, particularly in the intricate instrumentals like ‘Bamboo Diner Rag’. “They’re not intended as filler at all, they’re very much the centrepieces… it was quite important, to express ourselves, musically. The American finger picking style, I’m not 100% sure about it, but it might be the only time that anyone has combined those sorts of instrumentals with those sorts of rock songs. Something very like John Fahey. The instrumentals are really really important to us. Especially Franic’s mandolin playing. It’s the most moving part of the album.”
Having headed back to the studio where they recorded Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon in 2015 with Billy Childish, the trio are more than happy with the results. “It sounds more like a record that I would like to listen to.” Dave tells us, “Usually when you’re in a studio and you get the playback, it sounds very good in the studio. And then you go home and put it on your stereo and it sounds really weedy. But the great thing is it sounds exactly the same, when you get the album… it’s probably a really boring detail for most people but it’s really important to us. It’s like going directly from your amplifier to someone’s house. And that’s what it’s all about really. We like to record a lot of songs and select out of that which we release, we probably recorded 30 songs or something. And then we release the 10… we have these specific concepts that we want to craft, and we often leave the very best things, we’ve left the best songs off, in pursuit of a strong cohesive concept…” You know that thing about commercial success, we remind them, do you think that not leaving off your best songs might be a plan? Dave flashes us a big smile, sinking what’s left of his pint and readying his coat to disappear into the cold autumn night. “Yes. Yes, that’s a good thought. But you do have to do that sometimes to make the best album. And I’d like to stress that the new album is definitely the best album you could buy this year…”
Photos by Rachel Lipsitz.