This Et Al - Unlikely to Ever Be a Logo
Time's a cracking on; I've just been informed that the bar I'm waiting for Wu and Ben in will be closing in the next twenty minutes. Fortunately for me, This Et Al have a reputation for getting in, getting the job done and getting out before the second foot even lifts. Fast, loud (apart from the quiet bits) and forceful - that's This Et Al of late. But it wasn't always thus.
'In those days we were way more wanky than we are now,' says Wu of when they formed in 2003, 'we are a little bit wanky, but in those days we were complete fucking seven-minute, 15 million time changes...'
Ben, co-guitarist and fellow This Et Al founder member picks up where Wu lapses into nostalgia: 'it was much more pretentious then than it is now...' To recap on This Et Al's shady past, Wu, Steve (drummer in absentia) and Ben met at school, formed a band and pulled the name This Et Al 'out of their arse' 'It sounded really uncomfortable,' says Ben, 'which is quite apt.'
The name may still be 'uncomfortable,' but This Et Al have... I'd hardly say entered the 'comfort zone, but eased off in some aspects while upping the ante in others. 'We don't want to make Wu sweat too much,' laughs Ben, 'but it is pretty intense - short sharp bursts of pretty powerful energy mixed in with quiet ethereal things.' Ignoring the sweating comment, Wu nods his agreement: 'We used to be a lot louder and moshier, but as we've developed we've got much more refined.'
Ben smirks. 'It's really easy to just put your Big Muff on and get all wanky.' The interview goes south at that point as none of us are able to speak for laughing. Noise may disguise many a mistake, but there's nothing like a cheap innuendo to break the remaining ice.
Regaining my composure, I begin to probe them about their forthcoming EP, 'Figure Eight' and how it compares with their debut album, 'Baby Machine.' 'The problem with Baby Machine,' says Wu candidly, 'is that we'd toured with those songs for three years and we knew them inside out, so we just played them live... I think this time we didn't want to do that. 'Figure Eight' is very much a live track, but the other songs... we didn't even finish them before we went to James's to record them.' An unusual way to go about recording, but Ben is quick to explain. 'We wanted to make them more studio based,' he says, 'it's more of a constructed recording.' That makes more sense, and also goes some way to explaining why they've done an EP. 'We went for an EP,' chuckles Wu, 'because we didn't have the time.. or the money to record a whole album.' Ben continues: 'Not only that, but I think to do a whole album would have been far too off the radar... and we quite like the idea of having really good artwork, really good package of four songs. We wanted to do a... work of art...' Preventing Ben from delving any further into these uncertain depths, a smiling Wu butts in. 'We had a change of bass players and went to Germany,' he says, 'and that took up a lot of time. And before you know it, a year's gone. So instead of doing a rushed album...' They're doing an EP.
Having self-financed their first album, This Et Al were coaxed into the stables of Leeds' indie label, On The Bone, run by James Brown. I ask why they've stayed indie. Wu laughs at my unintended joke. 'People ask that a lot - why we've gone with him and not with a major label. It's because we're not like courting any major labels. I think James had helped us out a bit and shown real enthusiasm about it.' Ben nods his agreement. 'he was just really, really into it... and an excellent blagger. He's good at what he does and he had some money to do it. And it was local, easy, we had total control of everything - it made perfect sense.'
'When we did the album,' says Wu, 'I was doing everything - I nearly had a fu**ing nervous breakdown! I think this time it was sensible to go with James, and it is gonna do well.' So no to the majors? Wu laughs again. 'It's not like we can go to Sony and say 'We're This Et Al - they'll go 'This Hotel?'' Ben joins in this time. 'The most uncomfortable name ever... and the sound is unmarketable... let's throw lots of money at it!' Okay, point taken. 'I think a lot of bands have to stop viewing it in career terms sometimes,' says Wu. 'I think you have to just think about what's good about it, because there's not much money to be made and once you stop worrying about all that then you do start to have more fun... I think that's the stage that we've got to.
This revelatory stoicism appears to have come hand in hand with new bassist Chris Wall, so it is only natural to ask if I am even tepid about my deduction. 'We did Download Festival with Simon,' says Wu, 'and after that he could too busy with work so we had to get a new bassist. I think now we've got to the point where we're quite comfortable and can go ahead and do stuff a lot quicker.' Ben is in complete agreement. 'I've got to say, this is the most stable I've ever felt - everything's working - the sound's there, it's really solid and everyone gets along... It's been brilliant ever since Chris joined.'
With stability has come maturity and, dare I say it, a work ethic. 'I think what we normally do is after we do a release is...' Wu falters, looking slightly foxed; 'it's so stressful that by the end of that six week period, you need a rest. But I think this time we'll get back in the studio again... I think our next release won't be fucking years after this one... more like a matter of months.' It all sounds very immediate. 'We've got about five songs,' he says, 'so ideally, if we can manage it, we should have it before the end of the year. November time, or something like that.'
It's all sounding very propellant, but there's one last thing I need to know: what was it like playing Donnington? Wu grins at the mention. 'It was a good experience, because festivals always are... but the gig was pretty fucking awful. I don't know how we went down - we got one K in Kerrang, the lowest mark. So we probably didn't go down that well with the heavy metal fans. But you've gotta take the rough with the smooth... it's only Kerrang anyway...'
'...only one of the biggest music magazines in the UK,' quips Ben.
Their not taking their festival experience to heart, fortunately, and are looking out to play any festivals they can, spreading the word about the EP.
'I think it was an honour going to Donnington though,' says Wu before we are gently reminded that the bar is closing. There'll be other Donningtons and who knows? Maybe the honour will be Download's next time. Though if I said that to Wu and Ben, they'd probably laugh me out of the place. Again.
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