Pete & The Pirates
Live @ Carling Academy Oxford
December 21, 2008
Questionnaire & Photography: Steve Bateman

"Pete & The Pirates are a Godsend, providing a respite that’s as ragged and quirky as it is assured and thoughtful. They’re what a ‘Slanted And Enchanted’ Pavement were to the Grunge movement." RAGGED WORDS

“A series of mouth-watering singles led to debut album Little Death, a stunning collection of bright and breezy pop anthems. Bittersweet to the core, singer Tom Sanders is capable of crafting together vicious couplets to the sweetest of melodies.” CLASH

"These pirates know how to handle a good hook." DAILY MAIL

"There's an eminent quick-wittedness, a Reading-accented quirk, a rhapsodical down-to-earth ramshackle charm to their music that shines forth in debut Little Death." BBC BERKSHIRE

"An elixir of dreamy DIY guitar tunes." METRO

“They’ll make you realise that sometimes, all you need is a guitar, a head full of melody and a heart full of romance.” NME

"At their best, Pete & The Pirates sound like The Undertones stumbling into English psychedelia." THE OBSERVER

“Bright, young commanders of a brand of unique Englishness, their blend of smooth edged punk and pop produces music which is sweet, raw, joyous, melancholic, raucous and tender. The Pirates’ idiosyncratic and endearing songwriting puts them somewhere between the Flying Nun band Tall Dwarfs, and the wistful reflection of On The Beach-era Neil Young.” OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE

Little Death (Stolen Recordings), is without fail, one of the most insanely catchy and joyous records I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to – an absolute belter! And clocking in at 36 minutes, it never outstays its welcome, willing you to hit play again every single time the CD spins for the final time, returning the favour with its winning formula of instant gratification and unadulterated pleasure!

Accommodating 13 effortless, giddy and light-hearted golden nuggets, with ripples of dejection and a proliferation of peppy hooks / choruses that will seep into your subconscious and take root in your brain. The album states its intent right from the outset, with short, sharp, simple songs that go straight for the jugular and have bucket loads of charm and charisma, cataloguing everyday emotions hinged upon love struck relationships.

As has already been observed in the past, the ‘indie aesthetic of C86’ is unquestionably the order of the day, and Pete & The Pirates is the brainchild of Reading childhood friends, Tom Sanders (lead vocals), Pete Hefferan (guitar / vocals), Dave Thorpe (guitar), Pete Cattermoul (bass / vocals) and Johnny Sanders (drums). All of whom, have been “plying their trade together for 5 years” and also pursue individual musical projects outside of the group’s confines.

Which when quizzed about in interviews, usually leads to a typical response of: “One of the strengths of our band is that all of us are songwriters and when people ask us what our influences are, the answer tends to be each other. We all have our own way of doing stuff and we’re all massively influenced by each other’s musical styles.” Touted as “one of the last bastions of truly great independent music in the UK” and even “indie for the fanzine generation” – the quintet also put on a cracking live show, strutting their stuff with engaging and electric performances!

So, with the group releasing a brand new standalone double a-side single, Jennifer / Blood Gets Thin, on January 19, 2009 – neither of which feature on their debut LP. R*E*P*E*A*T swashbucklingly crossed swords with Tom, Pete Hefferan and Dave (albeit electronically by e-mail), to find out more about the fruits of the band’s labour, fashioning music that lilts + lifts and what else in life makes Pete & The Pirates tick!

Arrgh me hearties, let’s set sail…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.I once remember reading a review that said, “Right now, there are none-more-indie than Pete & The Pirates.” Do you feel this is a fair description, or ideally, how would you most like people to think of you and your music?
Tom: “Indie is a word that's gathered such bad connotations, it has such a lame sound to it. There is also something so pathetic about a lot of indie music – I think it's a horrible word and I'm loathed to use it. But in the true sense of the word, we're signed to a true indie label and we do everything with them in a very DIY way, so in that sense, yes, we're definitely very indie.”
Pete: “I think it's fair to refer to us as an independent band – we work with a really independent record label and have a very hands on approach to making our records. We are only really concerned with producing music and artwork which we are properly happy with, so having artistic control is vital. I would like to think that people thought of us as an honest band, who are concerned with making good records and playing good shows over anything else.”
Dave: “Well, we are on an independent label, so I guess that’s as indie as it gets technically. I guess they don't mean that though? I would like people to think of us separately from other bands around at the moment – I think we have a different outlook and perspective to many other people and I think we sound different. Perhaps different things are important to us musically speaking, for better or worse.”

2.Can you remember where you were, and how you felt, when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?
Pete: “We were in a van in Tottenham just pulling into Stolen Recordings HQ, when Come On Feet came on XFM. Pete Dog had just got out of the van to buy us all some beer and missed it, but I was too excited to care.”
Tom: “I felt good... we all did. It feels exactly like you would imagine – you feel dead proud, but it's also a weird experience.”
Dave: “No, not the first time. Usually when I hear our songs on the radio, I don't really feel happy or sad or anything, I think I tend to just listen in a more kind of critical way, like does the snare sound good?”

3.Complete the following: I would like to write a song as good as… and make an album that equals… ?

Dave: “I would like to write a song as good as Moon River and make an album that equals World Of Echo (Arthur Russell).”
Pete: “I would like to write a song better than any other Pirates song and am currently making an album which is better than Little Death.”

4.What inspires you outside of music?
Tom: “Food & Drink. Television. Girls.”
Dave: “Kind of anything and everything, like if you hear or see or feel something that connects in some way, it can get you thinking. I guess it’s impossible to narrow it down to any specifics – sometimes seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary I suppose, if that’s not to pompous?”
Pete: “I like darts, but a lot of our songs are about pretty girls and some are about people we like / don't like. There are a lot of songs about going to bed and waking up in our back catalogue… I suppose that's because it happens most days.”

5.Foals recently posted some work-in-progress tracks online for fans to download, with more to follow soon. Do you think this is a good idea, or do you think it takes away some of the mystique surrounding artists’ creativity and that long-term, it could even perhaps diminish people’s anticipation for new albums, already knowing partially what to expect?
Dave: “I guess it depends how productive you are. I like the idea of putting a new song out every week but perhaps at the end of it, releasing an album with completely new stuff on it, so you’re not re-treading old stuff. I think it makes sense though, because as a musician, I have always written many songs and quickly, so when we first got involved in ‘The Music Industry’ it felt weird to suddenly have release dates and big gaps between writing and actually releasing your songs. So I suppose Foals are trying to kind of shorten that gap, which seems good to me.”
Tom: “I think it's nice – it's a clever thing to do if it's done well, and you don't give too much away. Now more than ever, musical trends are moving so fast and new bands come and go like common colds, so it's good to keep folks up-to-date with what you're up to, especially if you've not been able to gig for a while, remind them that you still love them. However, I would personally want to keep that new album tightly under wraps, it seems so much more special then.”
Pete: “I think it's a really good idea to stay in touch with the people who like your music and to let them have little extra things, like work-in-progress tracks and demos. I think it shows your fans that you appreciate them. However, as you say, I think there is a real excitement about waiting for a new album by a favourite band which might be lost if you give away too many previews. After all, it's the SONG I would be waiting to hear, whether it's a demo or the final version. Perhaps it would be more exciting to hear the original demo AFTER you have already grown to love the song in it's final form?”

6.Continuing with this train of thought, even though the Internet now affords musicians with more opportunities to promote themselves and their music than ever before, on the flip side, Mick Jagger believes that because of this, it’s also “a lot harder for new bands as there are so many.” Do you think he has a valid point?
Tom: “No, that's rubbish. Nowadays, is the only time in history that a band with no money, no transport, no label etc. etc. can write a brilliant song and get it heard by millions of people. Blogs can work wonders for a band. All you need are good songs.”
Pete: “Sure, there are more bands, so there’s more choice – so the market is divided. Of course the flip side of that is that there is a much higher demand for bands and music these days, and the live music scene is really booming, which is really good for emerging bands.”
Dave: “Harder in what way? Perhaps harder to make loads of money, but then there has always been easier ways to make loads of money than being in a band. We have always found it kind of easy to get gigs and things, just because there are so many people putting on shows and it is so easy to put on your own show as so many venues etc. want live music, because it’s such a big draw at the moment. It’s easier than ever to get people to hear your music via MySpace etc. like you don't have to release music in traditional ways anymore. So if you want people to hear your songs, you don't have to find a record label to release it, you just upload it on the Internet and tell your buddies.”

7.As a group, is there a typical way that you work on song ideas and do you feel any kind of music telepathy between you all?

Tom: “People tend to bring a song to a practice, we'll bash it out, and we normally know pretty soon whether or not it's gonna work. I love watching new songs (and old ones) change and grow as people add ideas and rethink how it should sound. We're all very active in this area, and remarkably, we seem to be able to complete this process without too much fighting. Sometimes it's a real headfuck though and you want to kill each other. A song can be like your baby and you don't want people to touch it. That wasn't meant to sound so weird.”
Dave: “I wouldn't say there was a typical way that we work on songs, like different people might have different ideas about each song. But usually, the songs are written before they are brought to the band by individuals – we don't really write together – so once a song is brought to the band, it develops as everyone has ideas, but the essentials for the most part, stay the same.”
Pete: “We work in a wholly telepathic way and only descend from our tantric plain for interviews and gigs.”

8.Do you have any favourite Websites that you would recommend to us, and to date, what’s the best YouTube clip that you’ve seen?
Dave: “I guess nothing crazily unusual for me; e-mail, music, news and sports websites… I saw this great documentary on YouTube, ‘The Alchemists Of Sound’, check out Part 1 here:”
Pete: “ and are two personal favourites and the YouTube clip: ‘German Guy Swallows Microphone’ is a band favourite.”
Tom: “The best YouTube clip that I’ve seen is: ‘Atlanta Grapes Thwart Cheating Attempt‘”

9.When it comes to music on Pete & The Pirates’ Tour Bus, which artist / group do you all agree on, and if you were asked to compile a ‘Back To The Bus’ CD, which acts and songs would you include?
Pete: “I think it would be quite a weird CD – we don't tend to agree much on what music to listen to, usually opting for listening to iPods. Tom made a sort of indie / world music compilation with a Scott Joplin piano rag separating each song for us to listen to in the van, but we quickly realised that it had been a bad idea.”
Dave: “We tend to like to listen to different things, so we all have headphones on when listening to music. During a game of Top Trumps, we usually have Radio 2 or Radio 4 on in the background.”
Tom: “A lot of the bands we all love to listen to are acts we've toured with, most recently Connan Mockasin and the Ex-Lovers. It's music that you grow to really love. Aside from that, our TM often puts on Mark Lamarr on Radio 2 late at night for some ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll education, which we don't normally argue with. The truth is though, is that we can be a bit insular on the bus and hide behind massive headphones plugged into our own music choices.”

10.What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Pete: “I forgot it, but it was really good advice…”

11.Years ago, tours always seemed to be given unique and memorable titles, but if Pete & The Pirates had to name your next tour, what would you call it + if you could play a show anywhere in the world, at any venue, where would it be?
Dave: “I'll let the others decide the first one. I think my dream venue would be some lovely outdoor venue in hot weather – there’s one called Red Rocks in Colorado, which might be fun. Also, the other day, we were talking about how we would like to play a show in the severe cold and wear fingerless gloves while playing.”
Pete: “If we had to name our next tour, we’d call it 'The Unique And Memorable Tour'. My dream venue would be on a massive ship sailing past all the great harbour towns of the world. Maybe. It would also be great to do a gig underwater with waterproof amps etc. We are still working on the details of this plan, as logistically, it is quite a challenge, drowning etc.”

12.Do you have any special memories of places you’ve visited, bands you’ve met, or standout gigs so far?
Tom: “Touring round Germany was very memorable, as we'd all been looking forward to going for a long time. We love those Germans – 24-hour bars, crazy food, very liberated people. I had a wonderful time.”
Pete: “Yes, it's been a fun few years.”
Dave: “Yeah, fo' sure, we have had some fun times. A particular highlight for me, was our time spent in Europe this summer and playing a gig on the beach in Italy was pretty special.”

13.Your songs are renowned for their catchy pop hooks – but which song hooks have most stuck in your head?
Pete: “Feather By Feather (Smog).”
Dave: “There’s this song called Freedom Rock by Frank Black, which has like three different really catchy riffs all in the one song, which isn’t too bad.”
Tom: “When I was much younger, I always loved the riff at the beginning of There's No Other Way (Blur) and wanted to write a riff like that. A good riff can be enough to get a song stuck in people’s heads for a lifetime.”

14.What are your biggest hopes for Pete & The Pirates, and do you see your sound evolving in the future?
Dave: “To write better and better records. I think it is impossible for our sound not to evolve, however, I have no idea how it will evolve...”
Tom: “I don't think our sound is gonna change much. If it does, it wouldn't be intentional and I probably wouldn't even notice. At the moment, all I'm thinking about is album No.2… I tend to keep my aspirations based exclusively in the very near future.”
Pete: “Our songs are always changing and evolving, cause we are never really happy with them. Most of the songs we play from Little Death have changed a lot since we recorded them. I think it's important to retain a fresh perspective on your songs and never let them go stagnant. The new material we are working on at the moment feels very fresh to me, and if it wasn't, I would be very worried.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Tom: “Absolutely.”
Dave: “Chips.”
Pete: “Chips please.”

A very special thanks to Tom, Pete and Dave, and to Merida @ Stolen Recordings, for all of their time and help.

“You can hide behind sunglasses
It’s not as bad as it seems”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?