The Wave Pictures Q&A: “We’re really against chord changes…”

David Tattersall on their new LP, his folk roots and why music should be fun

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Your albums each have their own identities – do you consciously plan out what they’re going to be like?
You don’t necessarily think about the ending when you start writing, but you might when you record. Brushes With Happiness and A Season In Hull were recorded as specific projects, but Bamboo Diner In The Rain could have been quite a different album, but we wanted to make a blues album that didn’t really have blues on it – we had some blues that we didn’t put on it, and we had a lot of songs that weren’t really quite the same. We’re all really obsessed with albums, and albums are more than the sum of their parts. So that’s what you’re trying to make happen, but you might do that at the end with the decisions of what you put on them, or you might do that at the start – with A Season In Hull we decided to do it all acoustic instruments, and everyone playing into one microphone, and then I wrote the songs knowing that’s what it was gonna be. I had this romantic idea of a message in a bottle, thrown out to sea. It would only be on vinyl, not on anything else. So that influenced the writing a little bit. With Brushes With Happiness, in a totally different way, I knew how I wanted it to turn out, but with Bamboo Diner and Look Inside Your Heart, they were more like recording 30 songs and then you see, ‘Have we made an album here?’ I like albums a lot. You’re trying to make a space, a world, that someone can be inside. I love it when you get stuck on an album and you listen to it over and over again, so that’s what you’re trying to make each one of them be.

One great thing about The Wave Pictures is it always sounds like you’re having fun.
Having fun is kind of the most important part. It’s what keeps you going and makes you make up more stuff, and want to keep doing it. And so few bands seem to prioritise it, it’s really odd. I think that’s got to come first, otherwise what are you doing? Making something so great that you’ll sacrifice your own happiness? Because music is the happiest thing to do, that should be important. It should be fun, first and foremost.

I think the audience can see that.
Yeah. If you’re trying to lyrics for instance, if you’re just trying to have fun it’s easy. What’s hard is getting rid of everything else. I was always think of that – Quentin Crisp said something like, ‘Happiness is easy to achieve, it’s getting rid of everything that gets in the way of happiness that’s hard.’ I like that rule, and it’s a little bit true of this, in the sense that it’s quite easy to do this, but it’s difficult to get rid of all the things that stop you. Self-consciousness is a big problem, people are very critical, so you have to kind of wade through that. Try and keep every album like a debut album, where you’re just happy… the first time you record, it’s like, ‘Wow, we made a song on this tape, I can’t believe it!’ You’re so happy, and then that goes away. Miserable people will say, “I don’t like that one…”, and you start worrying and you want it to be amazing and things like that. it’s good to keep it like a debut every time, where you’re just really happy to doing the thing. I think that is important – I do feel lucky in that Jonny [Helm, drums] and Franic [Rozycki, bass] are the same. Jonny’s in several other bands and he’s always saying to me, “People don’t enjoy playing music… it’s not fun for them to do.” It’s as if they’re wrenching it out of them!


How do you write songs? Are you writing lyrics regularly?
Yeah, I go through bursts, and then I write all the time, fill notebooks, then it’s about editing. Then it’s a burst of writing the music for them. In the case of Brushes With Happiness, we improvised the music. But there tend to be bursts of time where I’m writing everything down, where I can’t watch a film without writing down lines of dialogue, or I can’t read a book without ripping it off. But it’s nice, because you’re quite open – you hear a conversation on the bus and you write it down… But I’m not like that all the time. I’ll have a couple of months in the year where I’m like that, and I’ll amass this huge pile of rubbish that needs editing. Generally that’s how I’ll do it. So I’ll write far more than you could ever possibly sing, then edit it down. It’s rarer that I’ll sit down and just write a song, but it does happen. I tend to find that a less interesting process.


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