The Automatic, Interview
Deep in an undisclosed building in an undisclosed city at an undisclosed time and with a highly undisclosed odour, 'The Automatic' are anxiously awaiting the release of their debut album.
Contact Music caught up with them and set against a whirlwind of constant touring and press events, we ask them how life has changed since their days as school kids, the making of the album and their upcoming festival appearancesâ¦
How you guys doing?
Really good thanks.
Your debut album is out next week. How have the pre-release press been treating you?
Brilliantly well. Well at the start we got some pretty poor reviews and had a couple of bad ones early on but now we're getting some good seven and eights out of ten.
Reviews are very much that you have to take them with a pinch of salt. It's all subjective and it is only one person. It kind of gets annoying when a reviewer doesn't like something and they get quite selfish about the way they write it. They're just like "I don't like this so it's got to be bad." I always try and find the positive things if I don't like them. There's a difference between shit music and music you don't like.
How long have 'The Automatic' been together?
About 3 or 4 years now. We formed at school, but towards the end we all sort of checked out a little bit. We were the only band in our year. We never particularly thought let's not go to University; you don't think you're gonna be in a band because this is a great career move or anything like that. We kind of thought wouldn't it be really cool if we could make some money being in a band and carry on being in a band for the rest of our lives.
And of course that meant we were mates first and in a band second.
Monster has dominated the air waves recently, how do you feel about hearing your music on the radio/watching yourself perform on tv?
It used to be like a special occasion. We'd all get round the radio at the same time or we all got a copy of the show and we'd all watch it. You know â crack open the wine and stuff. Now it's sort of getting hard to track, and yeah it is amazing, but the more depressing thing is we're getting used to it, which is a really weird thing to do â like to get used to seeing yourself on television. When we hear ourselves we usually turn it down now, or we just turn it up and dance ironically. One or the other.
with being on tour for so many months now, do you get the sense that you're developing your live set?
Oh yes definitely. There's no way you can get worse really unless you run yourself into the ground. *The beer arrives*
And are you missing all the people back home?
I suppose we do, and it's nice to see them when we get home, but we're so busy. You're gonna miss people when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep and shit like that, but you don't sit around and go "I miss this person". All our friends and family always make an effort to come to gigs when they can. We've got mates all over the country now because they all went to Uni.
The Carling weekend is basically the biggest festival happening this year & you've scored a great place on the line up. Are you excited?
This'll be our third year now. We went twice as punters, but now we're playing and we're really happy to be on the bill. I think we're playing with Forward Russia too which is cool. They'll watch us, we'll watch them and then we'll all get pissed.
Do you have any hopes for America?
Not as yet. We're sort of concentrating more on this tour and Europe at the moment. We've got a couple of club gigs and Fuji Rock in Japan as well. And anyway, Frost wouldn't be able drink out there - that'll be really really interesting!
Would it not be one of the perks of being in 'The Automatic'?
No, apparently in the states the laws really matter; they'll escort you out the venue. You can go in with a fucking zimmer frame and they'll ID you.
Tell me about Fuji Rock.
Yeah we've got that coming up and that should be a great bit of culture. I think we'll be playing with Milburn and there'll be some Japanese acts, but the main headliners are the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Strokes - it's like their Glastonubry.
We'll be playing in the hills and mountainsâ¦maybe we'll need an Oxygen tent.
And we have to get a bullet train there too. It's gonna be another world. They also have absolutely everything in vending machines. Like ipods, and girls' pants and dirty books apparently and stuff like that. I heard you go inside the vending machine and they've got a person in thereâ¦ *Frost's anecdote breaks down*
So you've just recorded 'Laterâ¦with Jools Holland' and rumour has it that you were a last minute replacement for Keane. What was that like?
Basically we poisoned Keane's food. They got food poisoning in the BBC canteen, and it was amazing: awesome to replace them. They were the band we would most liked to have replaced. And what was also good was their lights were already up so we just went straight on, and we got to play three songs because we were the headline band. We got to play in the show and play out the show.
You recently covered 'Gold Digger' on radio one, which other songs did you practice covering but leave out?
Basically we were like "shit - what are we gonna do?" and we basically spent two days practicing it, even though we were given two weeks: twelve days to decide what to cover and two days to hammer it home. We had just one sound check and time in a hotel room the day before.
We were thinking of the Ordinary Boys' '9 to 5' but we didn't do it because there was no excuse for where we get to rap.
It didn't come across as too stupid - 'Gold Digger's a really great song anyway and it's really well written. It was quite nerve wracking playing it live considering there's so many lyrics to it, but it came to together well and I guess we're quite proud of it.
Are you a band that minds people downloading your music illegally? You know teenagers. Do you sympathise with them?
Well I didn't think I would mind, but then when there are people on the internet saying "I've got your album already", I just think "why are they telling us that?"
If I downloaded an album from a band and I thought, "Wow, this is an amazing album", I'd go out and buy it anyway, because if you like a band you want to support the band. And sometimes it takes that; sometimes it takes people to download the album and think it's really good, and then they go out and buy it.
So what are you up to now that you've finished the album?
All that's left is like gigging, press, programmes, write the b-sides, record the videos. There weren't any tracks left over from the album, so we're choosing to write the b-sides now but then we'd only ever write them to a standard that we'd be happy to put on an album.
It's all about the way we did the album. We did it while we were touring, and we wrote it in about two weeks. The album was very split up and recording in a few different studios. We had 3 or 4 songs that needed finishing off and we did them all between Christmas and New Year. We work best under pressure. Hopefully for the next one we'll have the chance to be in one place for about a month to write.
Holding On ft. Gregory Porter
Alla Turca (From Piano Sonata in A, K.331)