Interview: Some Villains
An in-depth interview with Burnham-on-Sea's rising rock band Some Villains, full of insight and brilliance.
Let’s dive right in. What are you working on right now that we can look forward to?
Luke: As always, we’re working on new music. We’ve got the basis of a few tracks in the recording stage which we’re excited about releasing soon. As soon as we’re done with what we’re working on we look toward the next thing. There’s no time for standing still and admiring what you’ve done, you’ve always got to move forward.
So what music gear do you normally use? Is there any other music gear you dream of having?
Luke: Absolutely yes there is, there are no end of lovely guitars that I would like! I go through phases of pining for certain gear and then it moves on to something else, I think a lot of guitarists are the same.
I play a custom made guitar built by Lewis Guitar Works who is based in our home town in Somerset. I call her the Fat Lady as she’s serial number 8. She has a honduras mahogany body and neck cut from a piece of wood that’s older than I am! The fretboard is ebony and the pickups are Lollar p90s. The neck profile is quite thick but not overly clubby. For some reason I thought that 23-frets was a good idea!. Anyway, she looks and sounds great and is my pride and joy.
Amp-wise I play a Victory v40 Deluxe. It’s taken me a while to find the right amp that does exactly what I want but this is ticking all the boxes so far. Tonally, it’s quite versatile and there are a few switching options which are really effective in a live situation. It has the power and headroom I need for what I do and the tone is fantastic. It’s built like a tank; you can really appreciate the quality of manufacturing and design that has been put into the amp. I think they’ve done a great job with it.
My pedalboard is often changing, I’m fortunate enough to own an Analogman King of Tone which is really great and was worth the wait. My other main source of gain at the moment is a Tanabe Dumkudo. I’m using a Strymon Mobius for all my modulation and a Wampler Faux Tape Echo Delay for delays.
ED: I’m a little bit less educated about my guitar gear- I tend to find something that works for me and just run with that, though what I’ve got does have its limitations sometimes. I’ve got a red fender jazzmaster (the Red Shark) on which I’ve replaced the white pickguard for a tortoiseshell one, and I’ve replaced the stock bridge with a mustang one to try to prevent some of the string slippage. Doesn’t work all the time! So I’d love to get a mastery bridge, but they run a bit steep so that’s going to stay on the wish list for a while!
I run it through a Roland jazz chorus (Jc 120). I’ve had so many disdainful comments throughout the years. Yes, it’s solid state, but it’s robust as hell! And the distortion sounds gets knocked a lot, but to me it sounds great. It sounds like someone has taken a razor blade to an old speaker, and that works for me.
I’ve got some standard pedals (delay, tremolo, line boost etc), but I’ve got a couple of gems- Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork Pitch Shifter is a recent addition which I love. Octaves, thirds, fifths - whatever kind of interval you want it’s got. With the expression pedal it creates some awesome lead sounds! And although it’s in the shop at the moment - I’ve got a beautiful hand made fuzz pedal created especially for the band the duke spirit which was gifted to me. It’s called the ‘Spirit Fuzz’ made by ‘Ray Gun FX’ ...and it’s like a big muff but clearer, less noisy, and just overall a bit more awesome!
My pedalboard is worth mentioning, it’s a hand made ‘Holey Board’ by Chemistry Design Werks out in the states. It’s curved so sits in front of a microphone better than a rectangular pedalboard, it’s got a shelf for extra space, and as the name suggests it’s full of holes meaning you can zip-tie pedals on in any configuration/ angle setup you can dream up.
I’ve been dabbling with adding a Korg microKORG synth in to the mix, but I’ve only got two hands so that doesn’t make an appearance at every gig.
Jake: I’ve only really just begun expanding my kit. I’ve been using the same Ernie Ball SUB Series Stingray bass for years, and despite not being able to afford anything fancier, I have been more than satisfied with the hot, growly tone it puts through my Ampeg SVT 450h. I’ve been playing around with a Dunlop MXR Bass Distortion pedal to add even more grunt to the lower end of the mix and couldn’t be happier with the versatility of it. I’ve just bought a Fender Standard Precision Bass, which so far seems to be adding a little more clarity and sustain to my tone - I think we will be good friends. Overall I want to achieve a bass sound that the audience will feel in there bones, while staying coherent to the rest of the band’s sound.
Stu: I use a Gretsch Maple Renown Drumkit with a Natal Bubinga wood snare, I love my Gretsch, it has a nice warm sound really brings out the dynamics of playing and the Natal snare is very versatile and has been great in the studio. With cymbals I like to mix it up a bit, with Zildjian K hats and 18” dark crash and I also use a 16” Paiste 602 crash, not sure how long that’s gonna last though as it’s a bit thin for my style of playing, my ride cymbal is a Zildjian Z custom, it’s great in some situations but I could do with something a bit more musical
What is your vision as an artist and how do you convey it?
Ed: Well in the early days, my original vision was to be like a blend of Queens of the Stone Age meets the beach boys. So: heavy, rich guitar based music with really intricate harmonies. We’ve moved away from that a bit lately, but harmonies are something we try to work on whenever we can, so bringing more intricate vocal arrangements into the mix is still on the horizon for our future.
More recently, as a band what the real goal has been is to try to create intricate and complicated music which appeals to musicians, but doesn’t sound like we’re up our own asses, so is still accessible and melodic enough for non musicians. We work so hard to add in touches and elements to our songs which will mean you can keep discovering new things upon each listen, but at the same time not boggle people with prog-rock structures and musical naval gazing. I’m a huge fan of the concise pop song writing of people like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and those folks at the brill building in the 60s (Neil diamond anyone?).
Being concise is a skill in itself, but if you listen to those songs they never suffered from a lack of musicality and exceptional musicianship...quite the opposite actually, those songs remain relevant because they were able to have mass appeal and were written and performed by extraordinarily talented people.
Wearing your influences on your sleeve is okay, but what’s better is putting them in a blender and seeing what the resulting mix sounds like.
What are the biggest problems you had to overcome as an artist and what is your advice for artists facing similar problems?
Ed: I think, regardless of the business side of things, the biggest problem facing any artist or band is always going to be: finding your voice. By that I mean finding that unique set of parameters which defines (not constricts) you, and makes you something instantly recognisable. I mean, everybody can tell when Nina Simone is singing with 5 seconds of hearing her voice, but she didn’t necessarily sound like that to begin with. Wearing your influences on your sleeve is okay, but what’s better is putting them in a blender and seeing what the resulting mix sounds like. So having the broadest possible influences can only be a good thing because when it goes through the filter of whoever’s in your band, it may end up adding to an incredibly distinct sound. I think (if I can say this) that we’ve been lucky to be able to quite quickly identify our musical voice and forge ahead deepening those channels. We know what is and isn’t ‘us’, and luckily that doesn’t ever limit us, it just helps us to write and develop more quickly.
So if you’re starting out in an original project...absorb and study the history of what you’re doing. Have a listen to Les Paul & Mary Ford, hell, go and digest some of Rachmaninoff’s preludes in C sharp minor...it will only benefit you in the long run.
How are you breaking through the noise? Live shows, image, music? How are new fans primarily discovering you?
Luke: I’d say mainly live shows and music. We’ve got a really big show coming up at the end of August - we managed to beat 30 other bands to be selected to play at the Pilton Party - an event held by Glastonbury creator Michael Eavis as a ‘thank you’ to local residents for allowing him to hold the festival on their doorstep. He was among the judges panel that selected us to play. We’re going to be supporting an icon of British music, although we can’t reveal who yet! This is our biggest opportunity to break through the noise and bring our music and live show to lots of people. [Editor's note: the interview was taken in July]
There’s a lot of noise out there and it often seems like you need to fit into a certain ‘box’ - look and sound a certain way - in order to get coverage. Sometimes I wonder where we fit in; we’re not indie enough for the 6 Music types and we’re not metal or emo enough for the ‘rock’ outlets.
We’ve had a bit of coverage from community and internet radio stations across the UK and they’ve been kind enough to play our music. There are also daily hashtags on Twitter where people can discover new music, so we try and contribute to those. They’re worth checking out - #MusicHourUK and #UnsignedHour.
Other than all that we will just keep plugging away and doing what we do and hopefully we will reap the rewards in the future.
How are new fans primarily discovering you?
Ed: I think it’s a bit of a combination..the ground work of trying to gig often and in different venues, coupled with press such as this, other blog reviews and radio plays. And lastly I think a bit of luck on our part...for whatever reason Spotify added us to one of their main playlists (Fresh Finds: Six Strings) for a while, and that seemed to really help reach a wide audience. I think we know we’re mainly going to be a grass roots and word of mouth band for the time being, but hopefully we can keep converting people one at a time. Villainy can be for everybody, kids.
Ok, so the next one may sound irrelevant but it’s really not. What are your favorite movies?
Ed: I totally get it, they are not mutually exclusive at all. A lot of what gives me inspiration are original soundtracks from movies and tv, and luckily I’ve been able to branch out and try my hand at composing for tv recently. It’s all art, just two different sides of the same coin. I inhale movies...can’t get enough, so this list could be quite long. Instead of that I’ll just say a few which have permanently changed my perspective or understanding of what can be done with a piece of art. Charlie Chaplin - Could put the great dictator here as it’s so poignant, but for me it’s Modern Times. It’s still incredibly relevant. It starts with a man who can’t keep up with the industrial production line and gets swallowed and enveloped by the machinery...I mean that’s not even a metaphor anymore is it!?
On the same tack Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is also about the proletariat struggling against an imperical industrial society, but it also showed me how aesthetics when used well can be a shorthand for exposition. It’s a silent movie but speaks so clearly (it also informed the lyrics and subject matter of our song ‘burn me down’ from our new ep).
Fellini’s Amarcord showed me that every frame could be a painting. Seriously...watch that and hit pause at any time and you will see a painting. That’s what inspires me to put as much effort as I can into every beat of every one of our songs. I want you to be able to take 5 seconds of our music and listen to it on repeat and keep finding extra depth each time.
Finally, Sokurov’s ‘Russian Ark’. It’s a full length movie shot entirely in one take in the hermitage museum in St. Petersburg (and unlike birdman this was actually done in one take). It had 2000 extras, 3 live orchestras, and a maximum of five takes to get it right (due to camera battery power!). What changed me upon watching this film, is that no matter how obscure, specialised, or unconventional your vision, if you are subsumed by the passion of it, and follow it through to completion, no one can deny you. It might not appeal to everyone, but those who love it, LOVE IT, and hopefully appreciate all of the blood, sweat, tears, and sheer hard work that went in to realising it.
Jake: Easy Rider, Fargo, Natural Born Killers.
Luke: Home Alone 2: lost in New York.
How are you monetizing your music at the moment? Where do you believe music monetization is headed?
Ed: There’s no real way, or at least no guaranteed way to monetise music these days, so if that’s the aim then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I know that if I stopped being in this band because it was too much hard work, and we hadn’t achieved the level of success I’d hoped for, within a few months I’d be forming a new project because it’s simply something that I do. If I’m not playing music, and by that I really mean original music, then I’m floundering. That’s quite a double edged sword really...because I’m going to do this no matter what, and luckily I’m in a band that makes music that I love...music I’d love to hear if I heard it from another source. So luckily there’s a passion for it.
On the flip side...at some point you have to earn a bit of money to cover all the expenses of gear, the recording process, mastering, producing Merch, travel costs etc. The way we’re doing that is by trying to gig as much as is feasible, selling Merch, and trying to get exposure to a wider audience by playing out of our local area.
I was working for a record label at the beginning of the 2000’s, and I can tell you that the industry has no clue how to monetise music. 360 deals had just come to prominence, so them taking a cut of gig earnings and merch while sharing the costs of production was one way forward.
The reason musical trends have become so clearly defined these days is because the industry will only bank on a sure thing. So the variety that used to exist has made way for 1-2 year trends which everybody adheres to...dubstep, trad folk revival, trap, dancehall. Those are things the industry has bet the house on.
If you’re doing rock n roll or some variety therein, you can’t think about monetisation. You’ll see the odd case reach the head of the queue...Royal Blood, the Vaccines etc. But, as somebody recently said to me ‘Talent will out…’, so just keep cracking on. If you can just about break even for the first few years then you’re ahead of the crowd in many regards.
What would greatly benefit your music career right now?
Ed: Two main things I could think of could really benefit us right now: 1) a more well known band to take a chance on us, and bring us on tour with them. 2) to get some form of management. We’ve made some pretty good waves all off our own bat, but somebody helping to fight your corner and to be able to scout gigs, festivals, radio plays etc. would be really great. Poor Luke’s doing almost all the admin single handed at the moment (cheers Luke).
Luke: Short term, I would say to get featured on prominent playlists on the streaming services as well as getting played on BBC Introducing. As Ed mentioned we managed to get onto the ‘Fresh Finds’ playlist on Spotify and that sent our plays through the roof for those couple of weeks. More of that would be really beneficial.
Also, high profile live shows. We’ve managed to score one and hopefully that’ll lead to more. I think if we can prove ourselves live on a high profile event then that’ll put us on radars elsewhere. One of our strongest assets is our live performance, we often get positive comments from people that have seen us at a gig. I think playing live is a great way to win over people that may not normally listen to your kind of music.
For all of that to happen we need some good people behind us that are like minded and believe in what we do. Hopefully the right people are out there that can help us with that.
Would you like to recommend any other local artists that we should be definitely checking out?
Jake: Quite different from us, But the crunchy, bluesy and rootsy sounds of Dry White Bones really get my attention.
Last but not least, any closing messages for your fans and readers?
Ed: if you’ve taken the time to read this then...thank you. It’s nice to be able to reach more people. If you live far away from us (we’re Somerset based) but think we should come and play in your town...please get in touch (fb messenger/email etc.) if you know any good venues you think would host us.
Luke: To those that have listened to our music, come to see us live, or generally take an interest in what we do, then I sincerely thank you and am really very grateful. There’s a lot out there and we really appreciate your attention, even if it’s fleeting.
Find Some Villains at:
Official website: http://www.somevillains.com
Outliers EP: https://open.spotify.com/album/3WIW0dDFbrIF446flTycrn
In this section of the blog we host interviews with established but also up and coming artists we love and recommend as well as music industry professionals with tons of useful information to share.
Interested in an interview, writing a story as a guest or joining the Musicngear team as a Contributing Author? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org