Adelaide’s four piece William Street Strikers have returned with their third release putting out an EP worth of their special brand of Left of center rock. Tomatrax spoke to Andrew Matters, lead singer of the band, to ask a few questions.
It’s been almost three since since you were last interviewed on Tomatrax, what has happened since then?
Since we last spoke we’ve had a lot of cool things happen, the bits and pieces of recognition that gives a band the psychological fuel to progress. We found Amrap and that was the first stone in the pond, it introduced us to such a wide audience and as we’d written something that was liked by DJs generally in oz, we got known beyond our core group in a way we never could have otherwise as an independent band. Through that we got exposed to the surfing community, which made sense, there’s always been musical references to various surf music movements in our stuff and it got our music in some great surf clips by one of Australia’s premier surf videographers. That got us national T.V exposure backing a very well known international competition as well which bounced us around this little blue balls surfing scene a bit and we picked up a few Strikers likers that way. We also got used in motocross clips by a happening Australian motocross show and that has had a similar impact on getting us exposure and friends of the band.I guess we found our own little spot from where we can contribute our thing.
What made you decide to release an EP this time round?
Releasing an EP was really a time thing combined and caused by conflicting views within the band towards the sound and direction we wanted to take. We originally started out doing an an album and we sprinted out of the gates as we didn’t want to lose any hard won momentum. Well we started at a studio, who we all still have great respect for but we were soon realising we wanted a live sound, a raw as raw could be and unfortunately the set up at the first studio wasn’t advantageous to this direction.
What made you pick To the motel as the title track?
We picked ‘ to the Motel ‘for three reasons, number one, there was the obvious good name for an EP with matching single and artwork , there’s obviously no studio tom foolery in that song, it’s live all the way home, you can hear the uncomfortable gallop forward as if the jam could come crashing to a shameless halt at any moment, we’re all trying to outplay each other, allowing each member a bar for tricks in the finest tradition of competitive jazz, I don’t know it’s kind of just an unpretentious true rock n’ roll song, also we didn’t think anyone would play so fukn restless just because of the tone and swearing, we liked that song for a single too.
What was the inspiration behind the To the motel video?
The video tries to tell the story of the song, you have a fight with a significant other, you say ”eat dirt dumbass ”and go,” fuck this I’m going to the motel and going to get off tap, hire a hooker, gamble, tamper with my blood pressure, that’ll teach you, then all that stuff happens, it’s a crazy nightmare and you realise you like your love interest best anyway, a true beginning middle and end story.
What made you decide to offer your back catalog to on your website for free?
We decided to offer our back catalog for free because we’d made enough from each of them to fund the next and we wanted to give back. It’s funny, people probably more often take the music, then 6 months later buy something and write us saying they like the band and can’t wait to buy the next one. People can steal it anyway, which we’d take as an honor and also it’s better to have people who may not have the means to have the music than not.
According to Facebook memes you can tune your guitar with your beard, is this true?
It is true, it is one of those things that often bewilders other non beard guitar tuners at gigs, it’s something that you need to train for though, I wasn’t a natural, I worked hard to improve my time and action, also there’s a look you have to shoot to onlookers that requires a Clint Eastwood affectation, that can not be faked, you hear that pan pipe and that riff and you deliver that steely eyed gaze lest don’t call yourself a BT sic [ Beard Tuner ]
Yeah it does have a consistent focus and I think it’s due to two reasons, one, it being a live recording. If you’re not adding overdubs, all the multitudes of subtly used effects and instruments that are available , you get a true representation of a traditional four piece. With that limitation your going to get every song having a similar sound even if the song is of a different genre, which I think a couple of the songs are. We set up in one room, distant miked the drums and the instruments, petitioned me off being the vocalist and played, every bit of spill is caught, it’s a true document of our band live, I think that’s the reason for the consistency, more accident than design. Secondly it was, as twee as it might sound, it was an art imitating life thing, as in you write what you know and two of us were going through the breakdown of relationships at the time of incubation, so you get, in order of songs -the ” fuck you” song, the ” I bumped into you, you bore me, fuck off ” song, the ” oh baby, sob sob sob, it was great, you were always there ” song, the ” you’re not turning me into a clock punching corporate zombie” song and ” god I suck, still!! ” song
You’ve said that it can become very lonely if you don’t belong in any particular scene, do you feel like the William Street Strikers are independent of any music scene?
Yeah we are and it’s not helpful at all. We’re lucky in that we’ve been adopted by some really pro active DJs and our punters are really loyal and expect eclecticism from us. When we’re trying to pitch to people we have to be really vigilant as to what songs to direct them towards. It’s our own doing and thinking about your previous question, maybe there is a third reason why we got a consistency through the EP, to prove we could do that too.
Your music has been described as sounding like David Bowie, Weezer, and Pavement, does this reflect your influences?
I like all of those artists but I wouldn’t say it reflects my influences, there’s no knowledge without comparison and it’s a massive compliment. I do use the phrase ‘ look around look around the second drummer drowned a lot, this industry is, has been and always will be full of excrement so you have to laugh, maybe i’m more influenced than I know and just don’t see it!?
Do you ever listen to your own music?
All the time, I find it strange when I hear that people don’t, as a musician I like to listen and think of ways to add to the next thing i do, when somethings new, then it’s on all the time, it lessons as a recording becomes older but doesn’t stop.
What other music do you listen to?
At the moment I’m really into Billie Holiday, I’m trying to learn about her emotional quota, which is amazing. For a jazz singer she had only a limited range, just over one octave, but the it’s the singer not the song. Also scatting, Ella Fitzgerald, I try on every album to get at least one song where I can sing a lot of words fast, there’ll be a scatt song on the next album, I god damn love that stuff and if you look at how Shannon holds and plays the bass, he’s a jazz cat .
What is planned for the William Street Strikers next?
We’re working on a full length album at the moment, we want to get that done before we start out playing outside of S.A because songs have just come and that’s the best time to do them, when they’re fresh. The new album will have more songs than anything previous, it’s just been a productive period. Apart from that who knows, anything could happen and probably will.
Check out the William Street Strikers website to find out more!