Jamie Bowman

21:26 25th September 2003

The Bandits
can be a life changing experience for many a young psychedelic warrior. Whether it’s that first chemically assisted vision, the realisation that ‘hey hippies are ok’ or simply an unfortunate encounter with some mushrooms and an overflowing chemical toilet, it’s the place where dreams are dreamt, plots are planned and weed is smoked. For The Bandits, Glastonbury 2000 was their very own ‘road to Damascus’ experience. A hazy map was drawn up of what the future would be like: a club that would play the music they liked (anything from Creedance to Beefheart and back via Augustus Pablo and Lee Hazlewood) and would feature both their own band and those of their mates. As Gary Bandit strummed the perfect pop of ‘Take It And Run’ it all seemed so simple. For your humble witness to these events it all seemed a bit of a stoned laugh.

On return, it seemed the best laid plans would go the way of your typical holiday romance, but here we are three years later and on the day the Bandit’s debut album is released there’s an overwhelming feeling of job satisfaction on the face of John Robinson, singer and songwriter with the Bandits. Since that momentous Glastonbury we’ve seen the rise and rise of  the Coral, assisted in no small part by their mates The Bandits and their trail blazing Bandwagon club. Now it’s The Bandit’s turn to eye up the prize, with the release of their fantastic debut album ‘….And They Walked Away.’ Gigwise sat down with a cup of tea and spoke to a tired but excited looking John about the year in the life of a Bandit, all the while keeping one eye on the footy results…

The new album’s out this week – tell us a bit about it?

I’m made up with it but it was kind of an ordeal to make. Different studios and different producers! In the end we decided to come back to Liverpool and record the whole thing live. I did my vocals with Chris Kimsey who’s worked with the Stones, Jimmy Cliff – people like that who were obviously a huge influence on me. Listening to the album now I’m just so pleased with it. I don’t care how many it sells becaue I think it will stand the test of time.

How do you feel the album reflects what you’ve gone through in the last year?

It’s been a hectic year! It’s definitely a snapshot of where we’re at but also were we want to go as well. Gary (Bandit’s guitarist) has described it as ‘hormonal’ which I like! It’s very energetic but there’s a low kind of feel to it which ties in with coming from Liverpool. It sounds hectic and exciting to me which reflects some of the times we’ve had. Debut albums are like that – you’re finding your feet and there’s pressures from the record company and with the producers we worked with there was certainly an element of too many cooks! You had the whole thing of  ‘let’s overdub this and let’s ad another guitar here’. Gary’s parts  were taking a week when the way Gary plays they should only be taking a few days! Things were taking too long and we wanted too keep things a bit rough round the edges. Some of my favourite songs sound crackly but that’s probably because I’m listening to them on a record player! When we came back here to Liverpool we ended up banging it out in three weeks. We never wanted to do the album in Liverpool because there’s just too many distractions – and that thing of well I can get the bus into town a little bit later!

How did you end up working in Noel Gallagher’s studios?

That came about from doing some gigs with them and I think he wanted to use his studio a bit! He’s a lovely guy and he made room for us to stay in his house. I never really worried about that whole thing about being Noel’s ‘pet band’. Y’know he likes the Stands as well. If he’s into us and wants to help I’m not going to say no becaue there’s a possibility we could be seen in the wrong light.

As well as the Noel connection people are always going to talk about in the light of the Coral’s huge success. You must want to break out from that whole bands from Liverpool thing?

Yeah, it  depends what side of the bed you get up on. I think really there’s not a lot we can do. People will always mention the Coral and we’ve just got to concentrate on what we do. The joy of being asked about this whole ‘Cosmic Scouse’ scene is that we all like the other bands and we all get on.

You’ve played an important role in the rise of this scene by starting the Bandwagon club. You must be proud of that?

We are definitely but it wasn’t a conscious plan or anything. People point at the name bandwagon and of course it’s ironic now, but I never thought about it as a wagon of bands. It was just something I’d written down and sounded good. I took the credit later! To come from the humble, shit beginnings of only having the ma and das at the gigs to where we are now with packed gigs that are too hot! We used to joke about putting on the posters that you’d have to be in before 11 ‘cos they’ll be a lock out and now it kind of is true. It’s not just about having the Coral or the Stands on either. We’ve had the Libertines, and Soundtrack of our Lives which was a brilliant gig with the Big Wheels wrestling the singer on stage!  The night Noel played, of course was amazing.

Why do you think this scene has taken off in such a big way?

Well obviously we’ve benefited from the media attention, but basically there’s just a great vibe. It was the Coral really who exposed what was going on and hats off to them.

I remember watching the Coral down at the Cavern 3 or 4 years with you and even then you knew they were a bit special?

Yeah! They had the three guitarists and they were doing versions of ‘Electricity’ (Captain Beefheart tune from ‘Safe As Milk’) with Tramp Attack! There was an excitement back then and even if there hadn’t been the attention I still think something would have happened because they’re all good bands y’know?  I just hope there’s room for all of us. I think we’re all just going to have to accept that we’ll be judged by the Coral. Maybe people will be judged by us. Hopefully now we’ve got the album out that might lessen a bit but that’s how the media are. What’s important is that we don’t become competitive with each other. As soon as that happens you start looking at people in the wrong light and you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Football’s enough competition for me! (right on cue Liverpool score against Leicester!)

You’ve had such a busy year including loads of gigs. With the problems you’ve mentioned with the recording is playing live a release?

I think so. It’s a chance to let loose, but we’ve got to get our heads around recording a bit more. We’re a bit behind in that respect. I mean the demos for the album were just me on an acoustic singing into a minidisc and we’ve got to be more sure of what exactly we want the songs to sound like. I’ve been listening to more and more music learning how songs ‘work’. I like to be quite methodical about things. Music is something I love and all of us in the band are obsessed with the history of it all – we want to hear the demos of this and the original version of that. One of the great things about being in a band is the access you get to things you wouldn’t usually hear. What’s amazing at the moment is the pro tools masters of ‘What’s Going On’ . You can hear Marvin’s voice separated and things like that are just mind blowing. It’s an education listening to music and you can’t confine yourself  to one style or era. If you don’t emerse yourself in the history of it all it’s like only picking your lottery numbers from 40 to 49. It’s not just the last ten years. Y’know you hear the Rolling Stones and you hear what they’re into and you keep going back until you hit a brick wall or you hear something that’s shit. It’s so easy to say we’re retro but that means everything that’s gone before. Are you talking about the ‘60s, the ‘70s or all of it? To sound like Radiohead’s third album that’s also retro.

Has there been a moment this year when you’ve just stepped back and thought bloody hell how did we get here?

I think Glastonbury. It was just surreal with everyone backstage, it was like walking through town, y’know? I think we’d been there so many times and we kinda formed there as well. Then to cap it all Arthur Lee (legendary singer with Love) told Swee (Bandits drummer) to fuck off! Then of course the first Oasis shows. That was like ‘woah’! We’d walked around the arena and just try and get used to it. When the album was getting made there was such a lot of emotion coming from us, the record company and the manager and there was a feeling that this was special and worth sticking with. As I’ve said it’s been a struggle and even the gigs can become tedious as you trek from town to town to play you’re 30 mins but so many things make it worth it. Even all the partying – there’s been a few moments of wreckage but we’ve tried to keep a lid on it. It’s been proven that as soon as you’re out every night and it goes to your head you lose something. You lose you’re mojo! I feel the pressure and I have noticed that I’ve started to drink my rum straight which means I’m getting pissed very quickly!

What are the plans for the future?

We’re demoing up in Scotland and then we’ve got this tour in October which will be great with bigger venues and the album being out. Then we’re going to New York which I can’t wait for. We haven’t got a deal over there so I don’t know what’s going to happen. They don’t know over there about the connection with the Coral and the way we get stereotyped over here so there’s a feeling we can escape from all that. Then we get down to recording and I want the album out next Summer. You’ve gotta move fast – Otis Redding recorded ‘Satisfaction’ in a night!

Photo by Shelly Turner

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