Thursday 9th March 2017
Every so often a gem lands in my mailbox and this week it comes in the form of alternative grunge rockers Rat Face Lewey. They are an unsigned band originally from Derby but are currently working on new material and performing as many live shows as possible around London and the UK. It’s always great to hear from bands directly and after checking out their material I could certainly hear a band with great potential, and with something very inspiring about their drive to push their music further.
Have you ever been drunk and decided to start a band? I think we’ve all had that ambition, intoxicated or not, so I caught up with Jonny to find out more about the band and how their dream is becoming reality.
Tell me about how the band started and at what point it really clicked that you wanted to pursue music as a career. You mention that a drunken night in Manchester fueled the idea, but making the decision to move to London sounds as though it wasn’t just an alcohol ambition.
Ha! There was certainly some other things going on at that time. Looking back it was a hazy period. I was living in Manchester and just wanted to be playing music with people I could connect with. I played with a few different bands in Manchester most notably, the Electric Kools, but I wanted to be playing gigs on a Wednesday night and be a part of a music community. London on the whole gives you this and to me it’s the greatest city in the world after Amsterdam and San Francisco. I love Manchester, but I didn’t want regrets I don’t want to talk my life away or let opportunities slip. Me and my brother were in a pub in Manchester and we decided to go for it. We had always played music separately and around that time I had started to fill in on guitar for some of his bands shows in London. I moved from Manchester, our original virtuoso drummer Ash moved from Nottingham and we moved in with my brother in South London. The first year was amazing, playing gigs, recording, hanging out together, rap battling and loving the moments. We are really focused on writing at the moment and we are in the practice room fine tuning our songs ready to road test over the Summer.
When did you all start playing music and have you been in bands previously?
I started playing guitar at 14 and taught myself how to play songs off Nevermind and some Oasis stuff. I used to have piano lessons when I was 6 or 7, which at the time I didn’t appreciate, but that early exposure to melodies and music has definitely had an effect on me. My brother, Mav our chaotic bass player, was a big influence on the bands I listened too. I would hear Nada Surf, Nirvana, John Frusciante and the Manic Street Preachers through him and probably annoyed him by becoming a huge fan of these bands and telling him how great this or that album was, which he probably already knew and politely listened to me bang on about. He started playing bass when he was younger and has played in Origin and Mad Mush and played gigs around Europe. He can play any instrument and is the backbone of our band and his stage presence is off the charts. He loves bands like Aerosmith, Oasis, the Chili Peppers and he also produces his own solo music.
How would you describe ‘Rat Face Lewey’ and your music to anyone hearing you for the first time?
It’s pure adrenaline. Honest, simple and catchy. I try and focus on the melody as much as possible and have started to play less frantic solos on the guitar and focus on creating big atmospheres and grooves. If you saw us live you would probably go away thinking it was either a complete train wreck or a masterpiece, it depends on the gig, but we put our heart and soul into every show to ensure people feel something from it and people get their moneys worth.
What music did you grow up listening to and who are your inspirations? You say you’re inspired by “real music”, but what would you say that is?
On the whole I feel music more than I listen to it. If a song or a piece music moves me makes my hair stand up or wakes something up inside of me then I’m drawn to it. That can be anything from Classical to Rock to Punk to computer game or film sound tracks. It’s real when it connects with me. My Mount Rushmore of music would probably be Kurt Cobain, John Frusciante, Matthew Caws and Mark Oliver Everett. You probably won’t find another person on the planet that would name those four and I would love to see it! There’s many more that are more obvious, like Brian Wilson, the Beatles and QOTSA. Recently, I’ve been listening to Warpaint, Baroness, Rush and Gojira.
You’re planning to release new material in September. What can we expect to hear and how will it compare to your previous releases?
The heavy songs will be intense and in the same vein as ‘Digital Prison’ our last single release and the lighter songs have been heavily influenced by songs off ‘High/Low’, the first Nada Surf album. I have some big vocal ideas in my head and have been training my voice to sing in different styles. The songs I write are all very different and the fact that we are a 3 piece band gives us so much freedom and space to experiment. I would love to have a style and be able to write a whole record with a certain concept or approach. I love Mark Oliver Everett of the Eels who is a genius in this regard. As soon as an Eels song starts you know who it is. However, he can take you in so many different directions. He can write 100 great melodies and lyrics and then write 100 more.
What’s your writing process as a band, and how do you all come together with your ideas to get the finished track? Do you write collectively or does someone come up with the underlying pieces first?
I usually come to practice with a song idea or a few riffs, melodies and a chorus. We then come together as a band and arrange the song. I usually write little jigsaw pieces of music and then need someone else to help me put the puzzle together. Sometimes it works out great and sometimes your left chasing a song for years. The best thing is when it comes together as a band and everyone contributes and brings their own style to the table. You record the rough demo in the practice room and everyone is buzzing. I read Josh Homme say once that there’s already one of you in the band and I completely agree with this.
Have you received any airplay on mainstream radio and how are you finding the response to your material so far?
We receive the most plaudits from our fellow bands and musicians at our gigs. We have been played on XFM and receive heavy streaming activity from Spotify, Soundcloud and Apple and the song ‘Eagle Eyes Killing Strangers’, is heavily streamed from Israel. I love the modern world. Streaming and connecting with people. 10-15 years ago you would still be duplicating CD’s and praying someone walks into the local music shop and buys them. Although Napster killed the ‘business’ it also paved the way for everyone to have a go and you can find great music you like very quickly.
Who do you work with to create your music videos, and who comes up with the ideas for them? Is this something you do yourselves or do you have a team you work with?
Our recent videos for ‘Dead in the Ground’ and ‘Digital Prison’ were directed and edited by my super talented friend and acclaimed Director Jonathan K Harris. He has a great eye and we share a very similar taste in music, he also owns a Fender Stratocaster so I completely trust his vision. We recorded these two videos at the Buckle Factory on Seven Sisters Road in one day and we were very proud of the results. We have been discussing videos for our future releases and have come up with a concept we think people will love.
What live dates have you got scheduled for the year and where can we catch you performing?
You can check our webpage for tour dates. We are aiming to start playing in late April to road test the new songs. We are different to every other band live and once you see it you will know what I mean.
Do you have an ultimate aim for the band, and where do you hope your music will take you?
We played a gig in Hackney once, and at the end of our set a young woman climbed on stage and shouted down the mic ‘THIS IS WHAT MUSIC IS SUPPOSED TO BE!!!’ I want to record and play music that sticks in peoples heads and write songs that make people feel the same way I do about music. We want to be booked on festivals and have our music exposed to the biggest audiences possible.
Where there’s chaos there’s opportunity.