FFS Interview: The Woe Betides

Our attempts to be in the same room at the same time as the Woe Betides failed pathetically, so this conversation went on over email.  Learn all about this terrific twosome, who will be touring in August and September.

FFS: You run Songs in the Dark as well as being a lovely band.  Which came first, and which is best fun?

Woe Betides: Simon: Songs in the Dark came first many moons ago… A mysterious chap called Richard Dark, our friend Jeremy Warmsley and myself wanted to create a place for innovative but slightly quieter acts to play. It worked really well in a Cambridge setting but we wanted to move it to London. We came across Grundy who was promoting his own interesting nights at the Betsey Trotwood in Farringdon. He liked the idea and soon became massively involved.

We were also performing as solo artists and over the first year of doing the night we occasionally discussed what it might be like to have a jam one day. That day came and it was so easy and fun that the band just became our main focus.
Running the night can be quite stressful sometimes, particularly for Grundy who does the sounds and makes the posters and basically does everything while I take all the credit… The band is a lot easier in it just seems to work without too much meddling. But being in a band can be quite inward looking so it is nice just sitting back and enjoying a night full of other great music.
FFS: Aha, I see.  According to your MySpace page you’re dead, Simon.  How does it work writing songs with one dead member?  And how did you  die?  Was it a freak drum machine accident?
Simon:  The death was a sad case of suicide of the stage name, sadly for me my stage name was my actual name. I think everyone needs to kill little bit of themselves if that bit is rubbish and not working. Before the Woe Betides, for me, I wasn’t working. Writing songs with one dead member has worked a lot better. There is less pressure than when I was alive.
In defence of our drum machine, it behaves well and we haven’t come close to a Spinal Tap moment just yet. the only accidents involving it tend to be when the sound guy forgets to turn it up. Actually, that sounds a bit Spinal Tap now I think about it.
FFS: Thanks for clearing that up guys.  Now, for those of our readers who aren’t yet familiar with your good work, could you characterise your sound for us?
Grundy: Well, Simon and I have always had a very specific idea about how we wanted The Woe Betides to sound, but the actual words often escape us. We’ve been variously described as sounding as though we were from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s as well as having what you might call a ‘contemporary’ sound, so on the whole we seem to confuse people, ourselves included. The words ‘lo-fi’, ‘grungey’, ‘electronica’, and ‘alt-folk’ often get bandied around, but I’m not sure they do it justice. We’re keen on melody and harmony. I consider us to be a pop band, we just have a strange way of showing it. Actually someone said something like that to us recently, but as a criticism: that we are a pop band but we’re too busy fucking it up and making it weird. We said, “Great! And what’s the bad news?”
Ha. (There’s no good way to express laughter in text I don’t think,but rest assured I laughed at that last bit).  And what are you up to at the moment?  There’s a tour going on, isn’t there?  Any recording plans afoot?
Grundy: Well, we came to the end of the ‘Play Dead’ tour with the intention of having something of an extended huddle period. I guess we had withdrawal or something but, yes, we decided to do a little summer tour in August! I think we found that there were a lot of people around the country who have only just heard about us, and we had a lot of messages asking when we were going to be playing around their way. So we sat down for about… two minutes? Took a deep breath, clapped our hands and got back to it. It’s a funny time of year to be touring outside the festival circuit, though, so we’ve christened it the ‘Don’t Blame You For Staying Outside’ Tour. We’ll be circling the country pretty much, and winding up back in London for ‘Day in the Dark’ on the 9th August. 

As for recording, we’re gagging to release some more music but it has to be done properly. We have a tonne of ideas for an album so it’s just a matter of whittling, and figuring out the best way to get it out there. The Play Dead EP was pretty much self-released – with the help of a few generous friends – and that turned out really well for us. So it’s a question of whether we want to go down that route again, or keep talking to the labels. And just how generous our friends really are.

Other than that we’re always dabbling in something – we did a remix swap with our friend Rod Thomas aka Bright Light Bright Light last month which was very rewarding, and did some guest vocals at the House of Strange’s recent film launch. They’re a good bunch.

Anything else the Woe Betides want to share with our readers before we say goodbye?
Only that they’re all welcome to a free track if they’d like one.  Just go to our MySpace page and sign up to the mailing list to receive a free MP3 of ‘Sarah and the Great Glass Safety Net’.
The EP, Play Dead, is available from Amazon and iTunes now, and keep your eyes peeled for live dates on FFS in the next couple of days.
Interview: Helen True