Cornish band Wille & The Bandits are about to embark on a new UK tour with a brand new four piece line-up. Band figurehead, vocalist and guitar player Wille Edwards took time out to discuss the reasons behind changing a successful formula and how this opens up further possibilities for the band long-term.
This is the first time you are touring with the new line-up. Are you excited?
Wille Edwards: I am incredibly excited about the change; new energy, new ideas and a level of professionalism that I find amazing considering how short our prep time has been.
Most exciting for me is how well we all get on with each other. There is a real buzz. It’s been very strange for me as the band has always just evolved, we changed bass players a couple of times, but the sound just changed as a result of us changing in our ideas about music, our development as musicians and because of what we were listening to and into at the time.
I feel that the situation of Andy and Matt choosing to take time out of music at the same time gave me the opportunity to select musicians according to a vision I had for how the sound could be.
I was delighted that being the established level we now are, touring around the world, we were able to attract top class musicians to be part of the project. I was able to select the perfect blend of musicians to take the band sound to the next level, but who I can also enjoy touring with. People who can get on board with The Bandits’ lifestyle of enjoying the music, travel and the occasional surf.
Tell us a bit more about the new band members. How did you meet etc?
Wille: The music scene in the UK is such that most people are connected in some way or another and you kind of know who is about, what level they play at and if you could work together.
Harry Mackaill was the first to be brought in on bass to perform with Wille & The Bandits with Andy and I for the Kris Barras support, so he had the most intense audition. I knew him to be one of the top bass players in Cornwall and I have always been a fan of his. Harry is from Newquay and I often see him in the surf so it’s nice to finish a jam and then jump in the sea and share some waves.
We auditioned quite a few drummers, but then my sound engineer recommended Finn McAuley, from Croyde, North Devon, and we gave him a try and he blew us away. From the moment he came in the room he had The Bandits’ vibe and after just 2 snare hits Harry and I looked at each other and just knew he was the one. The infectious groove, which the band is known for, but so much tighter, such energy; Finn is an exceptional drummer.
Now, you might notice that both Finn and Harry are West Country boys, and this was no accident. I really wanted to keep the band local to ensure that we could rehearse easily and ensure the smooth running of the band, but when it came to finding a keys player this proved far more of a challenge. Finding someone who could sit on the groove, not dominate, feel what was needed to enhance a song, and have good vocals was a real challenge.
Now Matthew Gallagher, I had met in New York when we were touring over there and he was on his own solo tour of the USA. We hit it off right away and went for a few beers and he told me that he ran an analogue studio which sounded amazing with all these vintage Hammond organ and guitar amps etc.
I knew the amount of different instruments Matthew could play and also what a great singer and songwriter he is, so if we were ever going to get a fourth member, even with the old line up it was gonna be him. The only issue, he lived in Preston, but for The Bandits gig he was willing to relocate, Geddon Boy! Matthew is currently playing Hammond organ, guitar and percussion in the band, but that list could get a lot longer.
From a three-piece band to a four-piece band; what was the reason for the increase in band members?
Wille: After making Paths we knew that we needed another member. We used a lot of keys on the album and were trying to recreate that live with Matt Brooks playing keys samples with pedals and with Andy adding extra percussion, but it wasn’t quite having the effect of an actual keys player or percussionist.
Additionally, my writing was starting to incorporate keys lines and three way vocal harmonies so either way I think we would have ended up with a fourth Bandit.
Having another melodic instrument in the band frees me up a lot on the guitar. I find I’m not having to have such a big aggressive sound and control all the melodic parts of the songs. Now I can sit back more, rather than driving the sound. With writing it gives me so many more possibilities as there is another melodic instrument to play off, which I think will only make the music more interesting moving forward.
How does an extra band member impact the sound when playing live?
Wille: It makes a huge difference as it makes the dynamic of the band much bigger, the sound with the organ is huge, but then when you drop it down just to three vocals the contrast is just fantastic.
Are you planning to record and release new music in 2020?
Wille: We are recording all the live shows to release as a live album this year, as well as working on a new studio album which will be out at some point next year.