'Post-rock follows us everywhere.'
Not many exciting things happen in Guildford, but the development of the Words & Works Rejected label is certainly one of them. The label has released some fantastic records from a varied selection of bands from Surrey to Australia. The announcement that the label's co-owners, Fourth Quartet, were to tour with one of its most intriguing acts, Pavo, was therefore met with great anticipation. Both bands are completely different, Fourth Quartet being melancholic, sublime songwriters, whilst Pavo specialise in producing abstract post-rock soundscapes, but the pair are united in their determination to play intelligent, highly emotive music. The bands had only met each other a few days previously at the time of this interview, but they already seemed close friends...I hope this relationship lasted till the end of the tour! Anyway, Pavo are a mere duo, comprising of Jason on guitar and another Jason on drums (who I will refer affectionately to as 'Jase' during the interview). Fourth Quartet are Noah on guitar and singing, John on bass and Ben plays the drum kit.
[I began the interview with those quiet chaps from Pavo...]
You're from Texas, so how did you end up on a label from Guildford?
JASON: Simon [Words & Works mainman] e-mailed me and I sent him a CD with three tracks on it I believe, they really liked it and we moved from there.
What do you like most and least about England?
JASON: I like John and Noah the most, and Ben the least [laughs]. No, I love England, I think it's great. I've got nothing bad to say about it.
Are there any differences between US and UK audiences?
JASON: You don't get so many Korn shirts over here [laughs]. It's not too different actually. It's basically the same, the venues seem a little bit larger perhaps. The amount of people that show up are about the same.
How popular do you think Fourth Quartet would be if they went over to the States?
JASON: I think people would like them very much. In fact, we're going to do that in August, so we'll find out then.
[I then moved on to Fourth Quartet, who were considerably more sprightly than I expected...]
You've got a new album out; how different is it to the last one?
BEN: It's got different songs on.
NOAH: I think Ben has referred to it as the 'grunge' album.
JOHN: We pushed the boat out and recorded a whole new batch of songs, all different from the last lot, much noisier on the whole. It's different, it's sort of more varied really.
BEN: It does go quiet bit, loud bit, quiet bit, loud bit, as is the proven formula. I like it.
What's the title, 'How The Swiss Wrestle', all about?
BEN: The front cover has a picture of two Swiss men wrestling and so any other title wouldn't be strictly relevent. You have to really see the picture.
JOHN: It goes with all the pictures inside to from a sort of theme. There's a little booklet inside with loads more of those type of pictures.
Last year you said that you didn't like the local scene. Do you think the bands have improved since then?
BEN: The little fellas soundchecking in there; Caretaker are a tremendous band, really good.
NOAH: It was sad to see the Essenes go.
JOHN: Kilter have split up haven't they? They were on our being-nice-to list.
NOAH: Ursa are good but they're not really local are they?
What have you got lined up for the Words & Works label in the next few months?
JOHN: We've got three releases coming up, one of which is ours. Another is by an Austarlian band called 2 Litre Dolby, which is a title I can't pronounce...'El Cabela Rojo'. It's a good record, instrumental mainly again.
BEN: Five out of ten in the NME if that counts.
JOHN: I read a good review in the Wire today, did I tell you that? The other band is another Australian band called Art Of Fighting, and that's a really mellow thing, more in the vein of what we do. That is just terrific. It's their second album, the first one came out on Half A Cow.
BEN: You can listen to extracts on the website if you so choose. You can tell the kids...www.wordsandworks.com
You received a good review in the NME for your debut single, then an average one for your mini-album and then, as you said, the 2 Litre Dolby album got five out of ten. Do you feel let down by the NME and feel you should be given more support by the press?
JOHN: I don't think they've ever supported anyone, apart from people who know them as journalists. It was nice to get a good single review, and it was a shame she didn't like the album, but that's what they do for a living.
NOAH: We now have a press officer, and she suggested that we should be doing favours for the journalists...
BEN: Like clean their house or something? [laughs]
NOAH: ...Like drinks and gigs and money and the like. That's really what she was advising us to do, but she can tell them to fuck off because we're not getting involved.
JOHN: It's what they all do. You feel like complaining about it, but they do it to everyone. They like you and hate you, and unfortunately it's the only press there is that gets major distrobution.
BEN: We got a good review in Sleaze Nation, but nobody reads it and the people who do are just interior designers.
JOHN: Any small press we do get is great though.
[As this was a joint interview, I thought it would be good to ask a few questions that both bands could answer....]
How's your tour been going so far?
JOHN: Dreadful. [laughs] No, London was alright, but Oxford was dreadful. We supported a punk band called X1, who pulled literally no people. There was no audience, apart from a few people we knew, and it went so badly.
NOAH: I think we pulled one person...from Reading.
JOHN: And it was so bad that we all left before they played, so they wouldn't have had an audience left.
NOAH:...Played to their girlfriends.
JOHN: They seemed like nice people, but they were obviously not popular.
So when you go up and play Scotland, do you know that you have a fanbase up there who are going to come and see you?
BEN: No, it's a waste of time, money, petrol...[laughs]. But we're not telling Pavo that cos they've come some distance.
JOHN: Apparently the gig in Glasgow is quite busy usually, so I'm sure it'll be alright.
BEN: I think you just get people coming down like here, y'know, seeing whatever's on. Pavo are very concerned that they're going to get murdered! [laughs] They won't be able to bring their shotguns!
You've both got weird names; what do they mean?
JASON: The name means nothing in our case.
NOAH: There's still the things it means...
JASON: Okay...it's a constalation, it's a computer software company, it means 'turkey' in Spanish...
BEN: [laughs] You usually cross over the turkey one don't you?
Jason:...It's a small town in Georgia, um... but in our case it has nothing to do with that.
NOAH: Ours was lifted from a group of poems by T.S. Eliot called the Four Quartets.
BEN: We couldn't be called Little Gidding. We'd get beaten up down here as well as in Scotand [note for non-literary experts: 'Little Gidding' is one of the Four Quartets].
JOHN: It sounds very pretentious, but it didn't really come from that originally, it came from us trying to think of a good name for a band, which was going to be Quartet, but that had already been done in the past, so we used our imagination and came up with that. So everbody quickly read it and pretended they knew what it was, and now it's very pretentious. [laughs]
Under the big banner of music, you'd both probably be labeled under post-rock, so why have Pavo decided to be instrumental, whereas Fourth Quartet include vocals?
JASON: Well, I can't sing and also I have nothing to say, and neither does Jase. But he can answer that himself:
Jase: I save my voice for kareoke. [laughs]
BEN: We have words because we like songs, like a bit of melody.
NOAH: I'd also like to say that I don't think we're post-rock. I don't consider us post-rock.
JASON: Post-rock follows us everywhere.
NOAH: [to John] Do you consider us post-rock?
JOHN: No, I'd say we're just a song band. Unfortunately, a lot of what people have heard of us are very, very slow songs. The new record makes it sound a bit different...probably. I hope we don't get labeled as post-rock for much longer because we're not really. We're certainly not like Tortoise.
This might make my next question a bit redundant, but do you think post-rock is too 'cliquey' and should try harder to be more successful, rather than attracting the same old fans?
BEN: One initial point on that; the variation of bands labeled under it is ridiculous, the extremes of sound, y'know. Most bands sound nothing like any other band. Post-rock isn't very specific.
JOHN: I think it's the minority audience, and it's like all these things that have minority audiences. The people who like it, like that kind of thing and they're the only people who hear about it because you only find out about it in certain publications, or by being into certain music. I think it's stayed small because of that. To a certain extent, I think that if we became bigger we wouldn't be called post-rock anymore, they'd think of somethin else for us, because more people would have heard of it. They'd think of another title or fit us into another bracket.
BEN: [with irony] ...Like 'the Cranberries with a boy singing'!
NOAH: I think that if bands were allowed to expand to a wider audience, if the press didn't say we were post-rock, people would pay more attention. Like the 2 Litre Dolby review said 'not a lot of people like post-rock'...
BEN: And that they were like Mogwai and Slint, which is stereotypical.
JOHN: It's the same old thing, it's just the press that have this particular view of things.
If all the bands on the Words & Works Rejected label had a fight, who would win?
NOAH: We don't know half of them cos we haven't seen the Australians.
BEN: I think the Australians are probably criminals, [laughs] and if not now, they were once.
JOHN: I'd say 2 Litre Dolby, they're the hardest...
Jase: But we've got guns!
BEN: Yeah, Pavo have guns, they have got a lot of guns.
NOAH: Maybe Geiger Counter because I've heard that Jason and John have a bit of a short fuse.
JOHN: What would probably happen if we tried to have a fight is that everybody would be so busy doing nothing that it wouldn't happen.
BEN: Pavo would win at bowling...
Issue 6 Contents
Issue 6 Summer 2000 © Tim Bragger