Durban (South African) born and bred – yet London based – the rocking trio WHAT NOW release their full-length studio album ‘Move Like a Sinner’ on 11 March 2013.
RAMZINE met the band at London’s fabulous venue The Lexington this January. We chatted to Tyron (vocals and bass guitar) Ryan (guitars and vocals) and Adam (drums and sampling) about travelling from South Africa, making their new album, and murder weapons!
RAMZINE: So what is the inspiration behind ‘Move Like a Sinner’?
WHAT NOW: “Well the song is just about sex in general (Laughs) Yeah. To put it bluntly. We hope that it’s ‘less’ sleazy than that- but it is still a raunchy sound.”
RAMZINE: Was that the theme for the whole album?
WHAT NOW: “No, not necessarily the whole album, but that was the idea for the first song. In the past we’ve kind of really been safe – with what we write about – and in this one we wanted to do something a bit more grown up . That’s why we wanted to write about sex. We wanted to write about things that ‘balanced’ with us at the moment – or kind of related to us – we didn’t have any rules for this album.”
RAMZINE: If you’re moving from safe themes to adult themes, does it means that there’s some kind of transition going on?
WHAT NOW: “Yeah, the music’s definitely evolved and matured a bit more… I think we just never really experimented before. We always just kind of played what we knew about and grew up listening. Then we started exploring new [musical] territories and we got really excited because we found something basically different, something that we’d never done before.”
RAMZINE: Yeah,we wanted to ask you about that because you have said, in the past, that your influences were Green Day and Foo Fighters. And yet the new material on “Move Like a Sinner” is a whole lot different to that.
WHAT NOW: “Yeah! We don’t even really know (how to describe) our sound now. It can’t really be compared to that other stuff. We can’t really say ‘this song is like that band’ or ‘that song’s from this (type of) album.’ We say “Just listen to us” And you’ll see what we mean. We are unique.”
RAMZINE: So how do you write your songs ? Take us through the process.
WHAT NOW: “Well we basically [start out] with an idea… we could be just walking around- thinking about music and then writing stuff in our heads. Then we sit down in the studio and write a piece of music. We all sit together and then kind of evolve the song. We do this as a group. We just sit and build it and build it … until eventually we have the whole song.”
“We also sing it out. We’ll sing a melody, there won’t be any lyrics yet. But we’ll just go (sings) “da da da” and then, when we get the melody just right, we put it all the music round it …. and if it sounds cool then cool. [Only then] do we write lyrics to it … but sometimes we’ll just combine the two after a few plays.”
“Because we record ourselves, we kind of have the ability to track something really quickly just to see if it works … (The band record all their own tracks in their own home studio).”
RAMZINE: So who writes the lyrics? Who puts the words in?
WHAT NOW: “It comes from a different place. Sometimes we do actually write together. It might be like, “OK. Lets put this line in.” And we’re all sitting around and writing. All the band all writing together. But, at other times, you know, Ryan will write a couple of lyrics and then Tyron will finish off the chorus or vice-versa, there’s no set rules on this. But there are songs where we have, you know, ‘A story’ to tell … and then we have to all sit down together and kind of try to work it out.”
RAMZINE: So are you happy with the final result of “Move Like a Sinner”?
WHAT NOW: “Yeah, very happy”
RAMZINE: Do you consider that this is a progression from anything that you have recorded or released before?
WHAT NOW: “Yeah- Before, we didn’t really try to be creative … We felt very safe with or work. Whereas, on this album, we kind of wanted to try to do something completely different. We really were trying to be ‘ourselves’, like unique … We wanted to create our own sounds – so we just acted like there’s no rules.”
“We set out like, “Let’s just write whatever we want to write….” We wrote twenty songs – or something like that- and at the end of [the process] we just put together the best ones – to make up the album. There were so many songs – and they all had their own unique kind of sound to them – that sticking the album together wasn’t easy.”
RAMZINE: How are you going to expand your audience? You have got friends all over the world (a large contingent of fans came over from Poland to see the Lexington show.) So are you gonna tour with this new album?
WHAT NOW: “Yeah, We toured in Europe last year. So that’s probably gonna happen again. It’s predominantly going to be the UK, Europe. South Africa as well …”
RAMZINE: Of all the countries that you have visited (so far) where do you find your most enthusiastic crowds?
WHAT NOW: “We would say it’s between Poland and the Czech Republic … for some reason. (All laugh.) And we haven’t even played in Czech yet! We’ve just got feedback from the internet, and we have got some crazy following there … it’s just starting out there!”
RAMZINE: So tell us about coming to the UK. Why did you come over here to play?
WHAT NOW: “We all got on the plane together, we all consciously decided we’d going to London. We decided that we were going try to crack it … you see.”
RAMZINE: Oh I see, because it’s so hard…
WHAT NOW: “Exactly! We worked, like, three jobs each – just to try and pay for the trip here. Every muso will tell you: If you can make it in London you can make it anywhere. It’s because it’s such a … It’s such a hard place to make it! Here, they’re very picky about what they like. Success doesn’t come easily.”
RAMZINE: Tell us about what you did for the TV show C.S.I ( Move Like a Sinner by What Now plays when the character John Curtis leaves the interrogation room and the forensics start. Episode 9 of Season 8 of the CBS TV show CSI: NY “Means to an End”.)
WHAT NOW: “Yeah, C.S.I. told our publishers that they wanted this kind of track, the kind that is sort of spontaneous. And er, we started doing this song… (we actually wanted the song for ourselves. ) And they said they wanted it.”
“And then they only wanted to use the music (no vocals) so we kinda put our vocals to it [later] and so it turned out really nice for us in the end.”
“But the experience kind of inspired the album actually. It kind of inspired the rest of the songs that we wrote. It was quite surreal for us watching it. We grew up watching C.S.I. … so hearing our own music on a show (like that) was, like, unreal.”
“It was quite interesting that the episode actually had some South African connotations … The murder weapon was, um, called a Knobkierrie , the same as a Zulu weapon from South Africa.”
RAMZINE: Will you ever go back to South Africa again to live and work?
WHAT NOW: “No. We all think that this [London] is our home now. It’s been for six years. Seven years actually. We go back once a year, though. We played a festival last year, one of the oldest running music festivals in South Africa … Splashy Fen… it was amazing. But we were glad to get back here to London.”
Good luck with your new album. We hope to see you at your Launch Show at The Water Rats (London) on 11 March.
Thank you, What Now!