PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE
Lloyd Carter (guitar) and Martin Smith (vocals) to find out their thoughts on their debut LP six months down the line and the trials and tribulations of life on the road
The release of debut long-player Come You Are Safe, We Are From The Bombs (Field Records) earlier this year was the successful upshot of years of hard graft from Leicester's Public Relations Exercise. Following highly successful tours with the likes of ex-Million Dead frontman Frank Turner and London hardcore mob Score One For Safety, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the widespread acclaim that was heaped upon the album upon its release would have left the five-piece feeling on top of the world (Click HERE for our glowing review). However, life has a terrible habit of throwing spanners in the works when you least expect it, and their subsequent encounter with an inept booking agent left them feeling decidedly deflated, following the wretched tour supporting the album's release. After licking their wounds the band have gone from strength to strength in the ensuing months and have just announced the release of new single 'Catalyst' for late October through Field Records. Before a recent matinee show in west London, Dan Jones caught up with founding members Lloyd Carter (guitar) and Martin Smith (vocals) to find out their thoughts on their debut LP six months down the line and the trials and tribulations of life on the road...
Starting with an obligatory one, can you explain a little about how you first got together?
Lloyd - Me and Martin started a band years and years ago.
Martin - We were crap!
Lloyd - We were really, really crap and it just evolved in about five years of playing with different people until we found the right ones to be around us. We met Danny quite early on, he's been our drummer for a while now. We were gigging as a four-piece with Tiernan our bass player, he joined the band in 2004 and we were just gigging about and played a few shows in London. Then we became friends with Spencer's band, the other guitar player who was in another band in Leicester called Queen Mary's Revenge, they kind of fell apart and we took him on board.
Martin - And we never looked back.
Do you get a little tired of explaining your name to everybody?
Lloyd - A lot of people spell it incorrectly
Lloyd - We've had Pubic Relations [all laugh], Public Relationship Exercise...
Martin - Public Relations [playing] with another band called Exercise...
Lloyd - And there's another band called PRE...
That was my next question! They're friends of a friend of mine...
Lloyd - I've actually never heard them
It's, erm, "interesting", it's arty noise fronted by a small Japanese girl screaming in just her pants and nightie!
Lloyd - Cool!
Martin - [laughing] We've got no chance!
So has anyone ever turned up and one of your shows expecting them?
Martin - Our friends Meet Me In St. Louis they had a gig on, and they were like "wow you guys are playing!" And we were like, er, no!
Ok, so your new album Come You Are Safe, We Are From The Bombs has been out for six months now and you've had time to reflect on it. Are you happy with the reception your debut got from critics? I haven't come across any reviews where anybody's had anything negative to say about it...
Lloyd - The reviews that we got were all really, really positive. In places like RockMidgets, Rocksound quite liked it, what was that metal mag?
Martin - Oh yeah, Terrorizer!
Lloyd - They gave us eight out ten, so yeah we got some quite good responses from it.
Looking back at it now, are you still happy with it?
Lloyd - Yes and no. The thing is about that album is that there's a lot of songs... there's one song on there that's like five years old.
Martin – People who've liked us for a while just say it sounds like a greatest hits
Lloyd - So there's tracks from a long period of time. Right at the end of writing and recording we kind of found our way, but that's only about eight tracks on the album. Some of them were written as a four-piece, some of them were written as a three piece...
Martin - And some were about two weeks before we recorded.
I've got a quote from Tiernan, you can refute this if you want, he called the record your The Shape of Punk To Come...
Martin - As soon as we saw that we were like, what the fuck!? The Shape of Punk To Come, one of the best albums ever, how do we get close to that?
Lloyd - I think he meant that it's OUR ...Shape of Punk To Come.
Martin - He still reckons he never said that!
Do you think bands can ever produce their best works so early? It took the likes of Refused and At The Drive-In two or three albums to perfect things.
Lloyd - I think the way we've been writing with Spencer - cos like I said we were a fully functional four-piece [beforehand] - we took Spencer on board, and it took a few songs that we wrote to find where we were confident, and a lot of those songs are on there. Songs like 'Maximiser Co-ordinator' were written as a five-piece. By the time we got to 'Parallax Error' and 'Eleven' we started finding a little bit of a groove where Spencer played more melodic parts and I think that's where we're going now.
With Spencer on board you're doing something novel in terms of left and right guitars rather than the usual lead and rhythm. I remember hearing somewhere that you saw Bullet Union play and it inspired you, is that right?
Lloyd - We did a little tour in probably 2005 and we played with a lot of sh*t bands all around the country. Everywhere we went we were playing with like David Bowie cover bands and we were just thinking, "we've got to see a good band". The Leicester date with Bullet Union was the last date of the tour and we were just like "Yep! [both laugh] That's cool as f**k!" Bits they were doing, it's quite simple stuff looking back on it now, but it's just the way they were bouncing off each other, and harmonizing rather than one of them playing chords and the other playing solos. So that was something we really wanted to do but couldn't because we didn't have another guitar player.
You've got a new single coming out on October 22nd called 'Catalyst', it's probably your most accessible moment to date...Martin - It's radio friendly [laughs]
Exactly! You came up with an original approach for the artwork [The band ran an online competition for people to design the sleeve -DJ] and it was won by Ed Pentelow. Why did decide to pick his entry? I think it fits in really well with your previous artwork...
Martin - Yeah, that's the thing. It was the first one where we were like, "That's cool", "That's got it", "That sums us up". There was a lot of other cool stuff but nothing was like done, complete and us in a package.
Lloyd - It was kind of reflective to some of the other artwork we've had. I'm not sure if you've seen some of the really early demos but there was lots of NASA type work.
As always on the internet on some boards...
Martin - Fucking tight arses!
You know where this is heading then! There were some people who had a lot of negative things to say about the approach. But I saw it the other way, I saw it as an opportunity to give an up-and-coming artist the opportunity to get their name and artwork known, and to showcase their ability.
Martin - The artwork thing was basically we hadn't got time to do anything. About a month ago we were like "We want to put 'Catalyst' out", so we went to the record label boss and had a chat to him and he said, "you need to write two brand new songs that aren't on the album to get people in", so we just didn't have time. Spencer, who did the artwork previously, his computer has blown up, so that's where it came from
Lloyd - In regard to the people, there was a bunch of people who said "we hate it when bands exploit people", but at the end of the day you can take it either way. This guy is now going to have his artwork credited and distributed nationwide. We get artwork, he gets exposure, and if you think we're ripping people off they shouldn't enter the competition.
Martin - The people whose work wasn't picked is going up on the Field Records website too.
As we've touched on earlier, some of the tracks have been around for years. Do you think the next album you work on could be even better as you're writing more as a group for the first real time?
Lloyd - The way we're writing is changing all the time. I used to write the music, Martin used to write the lyrics and that was kind of it. Then Spencer joined and it changed again as Spencer used to write all the songs in his old band. Now Tiernan's getting involved in the writing, it's a big mixing pot.
Martin - The new ones we just had a couple of sections and we all sat down, all five of us and were like, "we want this, this, this and this" and kind of wrote the format of the song down on the table before we even wrote the song.
Lloyd - We just work things out and let it flow now, and work it out as a team rather than it being just a couple of songwriters.
There's talk of the new tracks being a bit more proggy, I've heard Pelican being mentioned...
Lloyd - Yeah definitely, 'Eleven' got compared to them
Martin - I like the way 'Eleven' was at the end of the album and now it's like a precursor to the new stuff.
Lloyd - There's just a lot more that we want to do. We don't want to be known as a screaming punk band forever. There's more stuff that we're able to do and there's more stuff that we want to do. Like with the two guitar players, we doing new stuff, experimenting with harmonies and vocally we're expanding, Tiernan's doing back-up vocals, we're doing call and response vocals, just making things a lot more spacious and interesting.
What would you describe as the highlights of your career so far? Are there any shows or tours that particularly stand out?
Martin - Good question!
What about the album release?
Lloyd - Yeah, the album launch party in Leicester was really, really cool. We promoted it ourselves and put it on in a venue we really like, Firebug in Leicester, we're really friendly with the owners there. It just felt really cool cos we've done a lot of gigs in Leicester for a long time and this was quite a big deal for us. The album launch in our home town and it was rammed, the busiest gig we've done in Leicester by far, and the busiest I've seen that venue. So I'd say that has been probably the highlight.
Martin - The night when we played with 65daysofstatic, Youthmovie Soundtrack Strategies, that was great and the tour with Frank Turner.
Ok, so on the flipside of that has there been any low points?
Lloyd - [Immediately] Oh big time. The album launch itself, that night apart, the tour was the first time we've used a booking agent and he was sh*t!
Martin - He was a shower of sh*t!
Lloyd - We thought the next step for us would be to get a booking agent who could work with us booking tours, [that we could] get into decent venues if we paid an agent to help us, and it was awful. We played five gigs, four of which we were the only band playing in cities that we'd never been to and never heard of. We broke even, we didn't lose money but it kind of took the wind out of us. It was just before the album came out and we were left feeling really, really low. That was the lowest point for us which was weird because we were all really excited about the album coming out but it was falling on deaf ears.
Obviously you guys hail from Leicester, what do you make of the current scene? For most outsiders like me, we think of Leicester and we immediately think of Kasabian and feel ill...
Martin – YEAH! [laughs]
So defend your city!
Lloyd - There's a lot of things if you've got your ear to the ground
Martin - There's a lot sh*t in Leicester, and it's very, very cliquey among sh*t bands in their thirties playing their Gallagher-esque trash
Lloyd - There's a lot of that and people making scenes just by going to see their friends, which is kind of sad as there's some f**king awesome bands. Leicester bands like Her Name Is Calla are f**king incredible but they don't really belong to any scene. We've started playing lots of gigs with them as we're really good friends with them, but they're taking off now as they've got their album coming out and they're getting support. Bands like Herra Hidro are getting their name about and Fight Fire With Water are bands we really, really dig and like watching.
Martin - The sad thing about it is that the good music around in Leicester isn't being heard and the only bands you hear about are Kasabian-esque.
Lloyd - There's just not the exposure for underground bands. But there's some really good gigs put on in Leicester. If you looked at gig listings for a couple of weeks there's some pretty good bands playing some pretty good venues.
What do you make of the outbreak of bands like Gallows and Enter Shikari? Do you think it's good for the British underground scene or proof of the importance of a good hype machine and the power of MySpace?
Lloyd - I think it's good in the sense that it's got more people going to gigs. MySpace is showing that there's more on your doorstep than you think. For example you were saying you think Leicester and you think Kasabian, but there's more going on. Not only are there bands on MySpace but there's promoters that gather good bands and put them on together.
Do you think it hard for emerging bands like yourself to compete against American acts for people's attention? Certain major British magazines seem to prefer pushing fashionable US acts rather than up-and-coming home grown ones. Do you feel like it's an uphill struggle?
Martin - It's an uphill struggle what we're doing anyway, because we're not being backed and we don't have money to throw at these things. Whereas these bands from America on Victory Records seem to be p*ssing money. I don't know, they must pay for all this PR cos a lot of the bands I hear are dogsh*t!
Lloyd - The sad fact is that if you've got money it will help you a great deal.
Martin - And if you're emo you're going to get written about all day long!
What are your plans for the rest of the year then?
Martin - There's an October thing going on with this really cool Irish band And So I Watch You From Afar - they're a bit like 65days but not glitchy. We're going on tour with them in October.
Lloyd - The single release is something we're all really looking forwards to. We're going to try and put some PR into it. We've just shot a video for 'Catalyst' which we're going to try and get pushed by a promotion company. So we're hopefully going to try and get a second wind as we didn't really tour the album.
Martin - There's talk of doing something with Frank Turner again, he has said something about Europe.
Finally, where would you realistically like to see yourselves three years down the line? Have you got any set goals?
Lloyd - I'd like to play some pretty decent festivals, I think we'd all like to. We take everything one step at a time, we always have done and things just keep happening. There's no five year plan.