Gunning For Tamar are out on tour! Right now! (Dates below). Before heading out, I caught up with Joe and D’Arcy from the band on a grey old night in Oxford.
Dave: Twenty twelve was a good year for Gunning For Tamar, what was the best thing that happened?
Joe: Europe was cool, and the last tour that we did was some of the best shows that we’ve played, and 2000 Trees. It was the first tour that we did where I saw people singing the words of the songs. It’s just little things like that, to get that response. At one show we were opening and asked if the crowd were looking forward to seeing the other bands, but these six or seven guys in the front row screamed “No! We’ve come to see you!” And they were shouting for an encore. And of course we couldn’t because we were opening! But you can’t underestimate how it adds to the drive when other people believe in what you do.
D’Arcy: One show we played in Belgium, it was the most boisterous show we’ve ever done, and then to play at 2000 Trees on a stage that is bigger than my house….
Joe: Yeah, 2000 Trees was the first time stage people were there to help carry our stuff, and we just very politely said “Oh yeah, no, don’t worry about it.”
D’Arcy: And I felt really guilty as well, because a really pretty French girl started carrying my equipment and I just started thinking “Oh no, don’t do that! I’ll do that!”
Joe: So I guess making a bit of a dent was the highlight. I want us to be a massive band. Not like Red Hot Chili Peppers, who make an album, and people buy it because they like the songs, but nothing else. I want it to matter to people. The bands that I like, their fans, the bands mean so, so much to them.
I guess plans for 2013 are building that audience and connection. You’ve got a new EP on the way, Camera Lucida due out on Alcopop! Records on April 1st. Where did that name come from?
Joe: A book that Dan (guitarist/keys) was reading inspired a lot of the songs and lyrics. It’s partly based on the concept where you look at a picture, and you relate a memory to it, but that’s based on what you see in the picture, and not necessarily a real memory.
D’Arcy: In the book it goes so vivid that it says you remember smells, and actual senses, and you actually create this image in your head from the picture. It has a real focus on the relationship between the conscious and sub conscious.
Joe: There’s one song which came from when I was having these obscene night terrors for six months. They were uncontrollable and horrific, and it was certain things that were happening during the day that was creating these things within my subconscious. I’d sit up in bed and start saying things at night, and my girlfriend wrote down what I was saying to show me in the morning, and we ended up using the lyrics in song, just batshit crazy things I was saying.
D’Arcy: I should probably tell you that I break into your house when you sleep and whisper terrible things into your ears.
What’s the story behind the Camera Lucida album artwork? As a band you’ve got form after the Deaf Cow Motel EP and ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single artwork for some unusual imagery.
Joe: It’s a fine line from keeping it interesting and abstract, and being pretentious. Even song titles or lyrics, it’s not done to be pretentious, it’s because we think it’s interesting. There’s nothing pretentious about our band at all, we’re not trying to be above people’s heads.
D’Arcy: We work with a lot of really artistic people as well. We give them the songs and say right, what do you get from this? We don’t tell them what to do at all.
Joe: The artwork for the new EP came from when I was drunk and at a party, and a girl showed me this picture.
D’Arcy: That story starts off so bad.
Joe: She showed me this picture of her from when she was younger that looked really odd and creepy, and I said yeah, that’s really unbelievable, and I said to her, that could be our next EP artwork. I asked her if we could use it and she’s been really kind and said yes. And it really ties in with the whole Camera Lucida thing, because it has got a really eerie feel to it, and you can create your own ideas of what’s going on.
After the incredible Lewes Herriot designed poster that came with the ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single, are there any plans to do anything similar with the new EP?
Joe: I think we’re going to be really boring and release it on a CD.
D’Arcy: Perhaps we’re being a bit more grown up.
Joe: We had fun releasing the watch (for the Time Trophies EP), and we had fun releasing the poster, but you have to be careful that you don’t fall into releasing things in funny formats as a gimmick. I’m not saying it has, but I think it can take away from what you’re trying to push. If you make it so fucking crazy, people are going to think, this is zany, and think more about that side of it. We all think that these songs we’ve written are the best we’ve ever made, and we want that to be the gimmick.
Do you think that added value with releases is important for the indie music industry? As obviously, you’d love to get the band to a point where you could make a living out of it.
Joe: You release music on a watch, because you think it’s really cool. And that’s what Alcopop! Records and Big Scary Monsters are so good at doing, they are so interesting with what they do with their releases, but they have to be. They do have the freedom to do that, because they are indie labels.
D’Arcy: I don’t poo-poo it at all, I think we’ve just hit that point where we’ve worked really hard over our EP, and we want the attention to be on that.
What are your thoughts around a possible Gunning For Tamar album?
Joe: It’s nice to develop over an EP, or two, or three. There are very few lucky bands that come into being, and know what their sound is straight away. It has taken us time to develop into something that we want to push on with now.
It’s nice hearing you say that these songs you’ve written are the best you’ve done, and it shows the value in waiting.
Joe: Impatience is probably the biggest curse of bands. The primary concern has to be, “I have to love this song.” Whether you get a major label deal out of it is irrelevant. You have to be able to look back at it in X amount of years, and be able to say that I’ve loved every song I’ve written.
D’Arcy: You have to be proud of your own work. We write the music that we write because we love it, and if anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus on top. The new stuff, we’re so proud of it, as rubbish as that sounds, and as non-indie as that sounds.
Joe: There’s no overruling. There’s no dictator in our band. If we’re working on something, and someone says they’re not feeling it, we’ll put it to the side. It might not be the straightest route to being the biggest band in the world…
Is that the goal?
Joe: Of course! Every band… unless you’re well punk, which…. we’re not. You start a band because you want as many people to enjoy it. The moment you start worrying about not being picked up or whatever, you lose focus of why you’re doing it.
D’Arcy: You start a band to play that piece of work that you are so proud of to people. If they like it, that’s a bonus.
Joe: It’s kind of more fun when they don’t like it. It makes shows more fun if you play to crowds who don’t like you. But sometimes you win people over.
UK tour starting on 16th March – EP ‘Camera Lucida’ out on April 1st on Alcopop! Records.
Catch them live:
16 – OXFORD Academy
18 – MANCHESTER The Castle
19 – LINCOLN SCY
20 – LEEDS Nation of Shopkeepers
21 – YORK Stereo
22 – NEWCASTLE Head of Steam
23 – LIVERPOOL The Shipping Forecast
25 – LEICESTER The Cookie Jar
26 – LONDON Power Lunches
27 – BIRMINGHAM The Flapper
28 – DERBY Ryans Bar
29 – BRISTOL The Exchange
30 – NOTTINGHAM JT Soar
01 – SOUTHAMPTON Avondales
02 – BRIGHTON The Green Door Store
03 – CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
04 – KINGSTON New Slang
05 – PORTSMOUTH Edge of The Wedge
11 – BATH Moles