Tom Williams & The Boat - The IndieLondon interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
TOM Williams, of Tom Williams & The Boat, talks exclusively to IndieLondon about his current single, Little Bit In Me (out now) and its distinct video as well as the success of their current album, Teenage Blood, and its fan involvement.
He also talks about the band’s progression to date, how he goes about writing songs, one little known fact about himself and some of the best advice he’s ever been given.
Q. Hi, we really like the new single, Little Bit In Me, with its edgy instrumentals and dark lyricism. What inspired it?
Tom Williams: It was the first song I wrote for the second album, almost as soon as we had finished mixing the first one. The first record ended with louder, edgier songs like See My Evil and Get Older, so Little Bit In Me continued with that more spoken, Nick Cave vocal but also increasingly narrative subject matter. The verses detail each member of a murderous family, the fetid gene pool of which is inescapabale. I get great pleasure from telling audiences that my family is made up entirely of murderers!
Q. How did you get Ceri Amphlett involved in the striking video? And how much fun was it to film with the masks?
Tom Williams: I’d been a fan of Ceri’s work for a while, she’s the most amazing drafts woman, and had loved the artwork she did for Go! Team. I knew she made amazing animal masks, as she had been a tutor of my girlfriend when she was doing a foundation course at Brighton, and seeing as the song is about monsters, of sorts, it seemed like a perfect fit!
Q. I gather Ceri just told you what to do and you complied over the course of two hours – was there anything she asked you to do that you refused?
Tom Williams: Haha nope nothing was refused, even the bit we thought was weirdest, the ring-o-roses bit, I think turned out to be my favourtie bit of the video! The main challenge was the super-8 camera we were using kep conking out, but that’s the beauty of analogue eh?
Q. How long were you going solo before you decided to form the band? And what was the biggest lesson you learned during that time?
Tom Williams: About 18 months I think. It’s an art in itself, playing solo, and one that I realised I have certainly lost when I had to support Dexy’s solo on a couple of dates last week. You’ve got no one to follow or turn to, you also spend the whole day on your own which is very different to the gang mentality of being in a band.
Q. Why do you call yourself an anti-folk band? And why so anti folk anyway (if, indeed, you are)?
Tom Williams: No, we never did! I think it was a label that got put on Wikipedia a long time ago and it’s stuck for some reason but you’re asking the wrong guy, haha!
Q. Your sophomore album, Teenage Blood, was partly fan funded – how gratifying is that to have the support of fans in that way?
Tom Williams: Oh it was brilliant, such a rewarding way to put a record out. Knowing that there are people out there willing to part with hard earned cash for an album they haven’t heard anything from was not only mind blowing, but such testament to the faith they had in us, it was amazing.
Q. And does it enable you to be more in control of your own destiny rather than relying on record label constraints, having your own record label?
Tom Williams: We have our own label, Wire Boat Recordings, but we also work with Moshi Moshi who help us get our record out all over the country in shops. We have a very small group of people who make it all happening so it feels great when everything goes right.
Q. How is Wire Boat Records developing? What are its plans for the future? And do you have other artists on the label?
Tom Williams: In the early days, 2007/8, we used to put out compilations of local music, which was great! We’d just make 50 or so copies and number them, hand-make them, and send them out to people for two or three pounds. We’ve been so busy of late we haven’t done anything similar for ages but it’d be great to do something like that again. It’s mainly a vehicle to put our own stuff out.
Q. How important has the Internet been in helping bands and musicians make it on their own?
Tom Williams: It’s the new shop front, all the shops have closed down, so it’s pretty important yes!
Q. You’ve said you value fan interaction – what’s the best thing a fan has ever said or done? And maybe the worst (without naming names)? Are your fans particularly passionate because they’re so involved?
Tom Williams: There’s a hardcore that are very passionate, they come to about 10-15 shows a year, but what’s great is that you see them every time you come back to their town. You can see them discussing your stuff and turning friends onto it online. It’s a strange and wonderful thing.
Q. You wrote 130 songs when forming Teenage Blood – how the heck did you go about whittling such a number down and will anymore see the light of day?
Tom Williams: A couple more may yes, we may have a special Christmas something for everyone.
Q. How do you go about song-writing – I mean, what inspires you to write? And is your mind always engaged? Are you always writing something?
Tom Williams: No it’s not always engaged, its something I have to start thinking about days before for it to happen. And it’s usually when I’m inspired, in that if I’m not listening to music that excited me or seeing new things, in film, TV, whatever then I just stagnate and get blue. The internet’s good for that though, you can always find new hip stuff, on Pitchfork or something, then you can think about why exactly you hate it so, so much and go and put on Harvest or Let It Bleed on the turntable, and pick up your favourite guitar.
Q. What do you like most about the UK and its music scene?
Tom Williams: I like how localised and regional everything is, and I love the pub and club circuit… the venues just before theatres, the people that run those places keep UK music alive.
Q. What’s the greatest piece of advice or lesson you’ve learned in reaching this point to date?
Tom Williams: A friend of mine, Chris T-T told me to re-work songs, go back through the recycle bin and dig out the ones that half worked, Frankenstein them.
Q. If you could cover any track, what would it be?
Tom Williams: The River by Bruce Springsteen but I’d never have the balls.
Q. Can you tell us one interesting fact about yourselves that we may not already know?
Tom Williams: I have six toes on my left foot.
Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod players at the moment?
Tom Williams: Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go – Bob Dylan
The Old Man’s Back Again – Scott Walker
Catch The Big Fish – Sean Nicholas Savage
Sugar Man – Rodriguez
You Had Me At Hello – Mystery Jets
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman
Run Run Run – The Velvet Underground
In Spite Of Ourselves – John Prine
I Wanna Be Your Dog – The Stooges