The Basement Tapes: An interview with Weirds

It’s fair to say that Weirds have been putting on a brave face this past month. The psych-rock outfit from Leeds have been victims of a virtual swindle, having their Facebook band account hacked twice in the past month or so, losing them a silly amount of organic followers in the process. To twist the knife in further, their debut album ‘Swarmculturehas had its release date pushed back (owing to an issue with artwork at pressing). It’s an onion in the ointment for sure and it’s all come on thick and fast, but prior to this Weirds were flourishing, riding a wave of hype following the release of two big singles and a signing announcement with tastemakers Alcopop! Records. Something tells me this won’t faze them.

It’s not long after the release of the massive single ‘Phantom’, the latest taken from their impending debut album, when I meet up with Weirds outside Sound Control in Manchester. At this stage, the incoming hack and media storm is weeks away, so all attention is being focused on their current tour with The Wytches, which vocalist Aidan Razzall and guitarist Zachary Thomas are buzzing about.

Later on in the evening the pit is rammed with teenagers losing their wigs and getting pure stuck in. It’s no big thing for The Wytches, but it’s a bit of a new environment for Weirds, vocalist Aidan pointing out the manic, younger crowds they’ve come face to face with thus far.
“…that’s kind of good for us and new for us, ‘cus those are the kids that will stay loyal to you for a long period of time.”
He says.

Weirds aren’t strangers to raucous live shows – though it’s normally them kicking off in a live scenario. A Weirds live show will normally see the quartet getting in amongst it before the crowd know what’s hit them, though on this tour they’ve been encountering a lot more clued up kids.
We’re not going out there every night and expecting people to dive around.” Clarifies Zachary. “Some nights it’s happening, sometimes it’s not. You can’t expect people to do it if they don’t know the songs. When they do it, it’s just a lot better for us.”

Weirds at Birmingham’s Sunflower Lounge (Photo Credit: Paul Reynolds)

Regardless of age, I think part of coming to our show is that we do like getting in the crowd and climbing about.” Comments Aidan. “ Having the younger kids react to that has been good. First and foremost, we’re a live band. That’s our big thing about what we do. We obviously love recording and writing and doing artwork and videos and all the other stuff that goes with it, but I think the thing we most enjoy is the intensity and chaos we try to put in our live shows.”

Weirds have always had a drive about them, earning plaudits for early singles and making a mark throughout the North thanks to their aforementioned raucous live show. But Weirds have seemingly been everywhere over the past six months, thanks in part to their affiliation with Alcopop! Next week will see their partnership really flourish, with Swarmculture being delivered to the world – via big wax discs and even a super exclusive leather jacket (Limited to 20!)

I think really, since we signed to Alcopop, there seems to be a lot more momentum about us than before.” Comments Aidan. “It definitely makes you, as a band, a bit more driven I think. It does feel like… the cogs are turning a bit more with what we’re doing.”
You appreciate it as well, because obviously that’s what you do it for.” Adds Zachary. “You slug it out for years… I think if you don’t slug it out then you won’t appreciate it. That’s why we appreciate it so much.”

A lucrative spot on a tour with The Wytches has obviously not gone unnoticed and Aidan and Zachary speak highly of the quartet from Peterborough. Though whilst they’ve been privy to and shared in The Wytches “ample rider” throughout the tour, the slugging it out remains as Aidan confirms with a grin.
We’re going around in a tiny van and sleeping on floors and all that kind of stuff. It’s good to sometimes debunk the myth that if you get on a good support tour it’s gonna be easy.

Back onto the topic of Alcopop! Records and their big push in momentum, singles released from the new record thus far have been racking up radio play on the likes of Radio X and BBC Radio 1 (“I remember being 15 and listening to Huw Stephens and hearing bands and being like – wow, who are they? So if we can do that for people listening to Radio 1, then that’s great.” – Aidan). It’s a similar partnership that has developed out of Tigercub signing with Alcopop. Major, major push!

After recording the album, they were the first label we sent the record to. Jack at Alcopop… he’s passionate about the record and he’s passionate about bands.” Comments Aidan. “One of the reasons we signed to them is because of the sort of love they have for physical releases – they do a lot of deluxe stuff and limited items. The art side of our band is really important to us, so that was a good thing for us to be able to do. Also, it’s great being able to say that you’ve got a record label behind you. It’s a great thing and we’re very thankful and grateful for it. It’s definitely an important milestone in our band.”

Speaking with Aidan last year at Handmade Festival, we spoke of the basement that sees most of their writing take place. The basement-cum-writing space/studio allows the quartet to crack on in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s here where they wrote the majority of Swarmculture, with initial single ‘Valley Of Vision’ being put together in an evening. Aidan has previously gone on record to say that with Valley Of Vision, intentions were around creating a pop sound that was just as heavy as it was poppy. But as Zachary explains, this too comes from being in each others pockets on the regular and knowing one another so well.

I think it’s just maturing, when we were writing.” He says. “I think it literally just boils down to that. We didn’t consciously go – that’s gonna be a pop song. That’s just how it comes out. We are poppy anyway though. We might add a weird fucking kraut thing in the middle of summit, but the general way we write is a pop structure anyway.”
We’ve pretty much always written verse-chorus-verse-chorus kind of stuff. That’s the music we like as well, we like music that treads the line between weirdness and pop accessibility – we’ve always liked that.” Adds Aidan. “But as Zach said, it’s not conscious, it’s more… We’ve known each other such a long time that when we’re writing stuff we know where things fit into place. We know if something will sound bad as well.”

“I also think recording the album has definitely helped, ‘cus we did it for about six weeks,” Continues Aidan. “…so being in the studio for that amount of time – especially with Matt Peel, who’s like a really seasoned producer – you kind of become aware of your songs a lot more than you would just writing them and then recording them for two days or whatever. It’s good to have that luxury of time.

Swarmculture was recorded locally with Matt Peel in Leeds at The Nave – A studio built into a converted church. The aforementioned ‘seasoned producer’ is just that – and then some. Top 40 hit ‘Blood’ from Pulled Apart By Horses was one of his, as were both wonderful Eagulls records. Notable for its surroundings and décor, both Aidan and Zachary comment on its high ceilings and vintage equipment having a definite creative impact, the actual nave of the church itself hosting the sessions and providing added inspiration.

Although you’re quite spaced apart, there’s definitely a weird… you know when you get a feel for a place? That came pretty quick.” Says Zachary. “I think it comes across on the record.”
In terms of sonics as well, the size of that room and the way things get mic’d up in there really gives it… you can almost tell when a record’s been done at The Nave, kind of through the drum sounds, in a way.” Adds Aidan, quick to clarify with a laugh. “That’s not a criticism. That’s like a really good thing. It’s got a bit of a trademark stamp, which is cool.”

As for Matt Peel himself, Aidan notes his honesty being a major plus point for the band, with the producer not being afraid to tell the band exactly what he thought.

He’s very honest I think.” Comments Aidan. “…I think the vintage equipment he has also helps, so we used a lot of space echoes and weird synthesisers and stuff, which kind of really helped us do that. The main thing is his honesty and he works really hard on the songs. Often he would come in in the morning and say what he was thinking the previous night, after we’d finished, about the tracks and stuff. He’s really switched on and doesn’t stop on a project until everyone’s happy, which is something we’re thankful for. It’s good to have that – something to push against, in a way. We’d much rather have someone that we can be honest about and have a creative discussion with, rather than someone who just pressed record and there you go.”

In Swarmculture, there’s been murmurings of a light at the end of the tunnel, a slightly more delicate side of Weirds not really heard up to this point. Following 2016’s Weird SunEP and its brutal, chest crushing nature, Weirds pulled back on the throttle somewhat.
“…It’s got a slight softer side to it in the second half.” Confirms Aidan. “It kind of mellows out, gets a bit sadder, more trippy and ambient.”
“I’m excited for them to hear what we can do with some softer things.” Beams Zachary. “Obviously our live show is quite intense, but there’s a softer side that definitely comes out on that towards the end.”

With the album release scheduled for a week away, Weirds are, fingers crossed, rounding third and getting ready to smash out a belter of a home run with their debut. People are taking note and the raucous live shows are seeing Weirds pick up real momentum. Whilst its release is imminent, as is often the case, the idea of a follow up is niggling. So, back into the basement?

This year, obviously we’ve been busy with getting this album ready, so we’ve kind of tried to write the new stuff but I don’t think we’re quite in the right headspace yet to really get involved with it.” Smiles Aidan.
We’ve got tons of ideas and stuff, it’s just about putting them all together. We don’t want to write the same record twice.” Adds Zachary. “We wanna have some clout about us and take a risk, providing we like that – what we’re doing. That is conscious… We want it to be a bit more natural, so that’s why we’re gonna take as long as we want to properly put it together.
I think with that as well, we sort of discussed the rough idea of going away somewhere for the next writing period. A couple of weeks – no phones, no computers, nothing.” Adds Aidan with an excited look in his eyes. “Just really try and give it a go.”

Read our review of ‘Swarmculture‘ here!

Listen to singles from ‘Swarmculture’ in our Now Playing Spotify Playlist!

Like what you see? Why not stick around and check out the other articles and interviews!
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