We were lucky enough to catch up with Billy McCarthy, Eric Sanderson and Rob Allen from We Are Augustines backstage before their sold out show at Liverpool O2 Academy last week. Read on to see what they had to say on their album, the struggles they’ve had along the way, and how they underestimated the Great British Fry-Up…
Your album Rise Ye Sunken Ships was released back in March, how would you describe album to new listeners, and why should they listen to it?
ES – When we were working on the record we wanted to make something that would express what was going on in our lives and express what we wanted from life. We tried to capture as many different emotions and feelings as possible from both the audio and the lyrics. But we also worked hard on making something that people could just listen to and enjoy and not have to think about. When we first started we wanted to make a record that sounded good in a bar, and by the end when we finished it, I realised actually my favourite place to listen to it is in a car, blasting with the windows down.
With your previous band Pela you struggled massively getting into the music industry, with the record label, producers, the lot- obviously that would test you as a band but how did it affect your friendships with one another?
BM-I think it brought us closer together. We had to make decisions about how we were to move forward, if we wanted to do it again with the record label or if we wanted to take a little bit more of a difficult road and make our own infrastructure and then bring people into that. I think while it seemed a little harder, we tried the other way and it didn’t really suit us very well. I think the best way to say it is, we were independent even when we were dealing with labels and managers anyway, so why not actually go forward, be independent and produce your own music; covering over your own career the way that you would like, rather than to listen to advice from people who don’t care as much as they could.
You’ve now started up your own label, how’s that going?
ES – Things are going great, things are going better than the old label…
BM – You use a different part of your brain sometimes but I think you just have to trust that it’s time to create and perform and can get back to the other part of your brain. It’s probably a little bit more tedious, more emails, more meetings, more organisation. I think the days of artists being kind of “free-spirits” and having the label being the baby sitter, I think they’re pretty much over. Everyone has to be kind of informed now on how everything works, and if they don’t then unfortunately that’s when you can get the wool pulled over your eyes a little. Eric and I were talking the other day, Eric was saying “Oh, you know we’re just learning our lessons”.
So would you say that everything you went through and that you learnt along the way has made you who you are today?
It’s a bit of a survival kit, every provision and everything that has gone into the survival kit was learnt by doing it the wrong way. We’ve been playing together since the early 2000’s so music has changed quite a bit, MySpace sort of came and went, Facebook is on the rise, Twitter is new. Eric and I have been playing together before any of these things existed so these are all great vital tools for the music world.
ES – I think one of the most important things that we learnt in the past few years or so, going through what we went through is to take advice from people you respect and you want in your life and not take advice from people you don’t respect. In the past we surrounded ourselves with people we thought we could get something out of for our career, that would further us, in a non emotional way. In the end we found ourselves surrounded by a lot of crap, in positions we didn’t want to be. Now we’ve been 100% steadfast on surrounding ourselves with people that we trust, that we respect and things are going really well for us right now. We feel supported.
When you first began playing music Billy you started busking in London, can you tell us about that?
BM – Yeah that’s how I started playing music. I lived in a place where I really couldn’t find many musicians and so me and my friend, we were both songwriters so we played with each other. I think he had gone to Australia and I went to visit him and we really started busking there. When you’re travelling you’re not saving you’re only spending. What most people do is they take their savings, take a back and go somewhere and just spend. Their money goes down and they have to go home. We figured that if we brought our instruments we wouldn’t spend, we would only spend what we made. We tried it in Australia and it worked really well, we got all the way up the east coast and then we came back and thought wow, let’s try Europe. We started in France then all the way through the UK to Ireland and back down right near Morocco to Spain and back through Germany and that’s how we lived. We came back and we tried to busk in America but it’s very criminalised. I made it out to New York but you need permits actually there. I was started to lose my spirit because we kept getting in trouble with the police and one day my friend Chris was there and Eric happened to be coming out of a train. I didn’t have a lot of formal band experience but he did, so then we just teamed up and we’ve been doing it ever since. My big dream was actually to come back here. I made like 5 life goals and one of them was to get back to Europe with a band, it’s so amazing.
So you were based in Brooklyn, New York – has that influenced your music, are you branching out to other areas for inspiration now?
BM – I think we’re always exploring as much music as we can. I was listening to Maria Callas who sings opera, she’s a legend in opera and I was listening to her just yesterday. We’re big on world music, we don’t listen to as much contemporary or rock music as you would think. Well, what defines influence? If its musical influences then I would say no, maybe not so much from Brooklyn. But it’s definitely influenced our lives, when I look back a lot of our music was very urgent, there was this urgency to it because we never knew how long our sets would be, we had to open for a lot of people, so that’s influenced us. Now we get to sit back and do it the way we really like to whereas before we could get it out fast enough.
ES – The band were living in Brooklyn but none of us are actually from Brooklyn. We had an entire lifetime of development before Brooklyn and I’m realising these days more and more that the years before Brooklyn are starting to come up more. I feel like it’s those that define what ever style or sound of music that we make is, like what we grew up listening to as children.
Rob, you’re originally from London, how did you guys meet?
RA- I lived over there for 2 years or something, their old drummer from Pela is a good friend of mine and its simple really. These guys were going to continue and he put me forward, we went out for a day, played a little bit, then two weeks later we’re playing in front of a thousand people in London. It was pretty quick!
BM – We got pretty lucky with Rob. It’s funny because our friend introduced us, who is also a very talented drummer and Eric and I auditioned him and we just started laughing and then the same thing happened with Rob, we were like wow, we really gotten lucky.
ES – It’s also like a testament to this idea of taking advice from people that you respect. Our old drummer Tom is someone that is very near and dear to our hearts, so when he came to us and said “I have the perfect guy for you” then you listen to that. And Tom was absolutely right.
BM – He passed on the goodness he brought into our lives and handpicked someone that he thought would be great for us, and it worked really well.
Do you pick up each other’s accents? Can you do a British accent?! This is a challenge!
BM – I can’t!
ES – Rob you do a great British Accent…
RA – Ohhhh yeah!
BM – Just, “alright mate!”
RA – I’m working on it, I’ll get them fluent.
BM – I’m learning vitamin, schedule, pram…
ES – Pants…
BM – …knickers, bonnet, boot, fag. It’s funny if you just use the word you know people don’t always understand you.
ES – It’s like potato chips and chips
RA – You’re saying the exact same thing as when I got to the states. We have American TV, it’s on all the time so it wasn’t so hard for me!
BM – You never want to sound like Madonna, when she moved she has like a mid-Atlantic accent – we have to turn it off when we get home!
Have you got them into Fry-Ups, Rob…and Yorkshire puddings?
ES – Oh boy… Yorkshire puddings are amazing.
RA – When we first came to the UK we had like a fry-up marathon for a week, that wasn’t good…
BM – I was impressed with how gassy your food is, I travelled through Mexico quite a bit and have eaten my fair share of beans and spicy foods but nothing could have prepared me for that good old fry up!
RA – Especially with beer involved…
BM – Yeah beer and oh you don’t want to be in the van with us…stay away!
Now the Brad Pitt look-a-like thing, do you get this a lot?!
BM – Oh, they call me Fat Pitt. That’s not very nice. I need to wear a big cloak or a cape, “here comes chubby Pitt!” Chavvy Pitt!
ES – Oh that’s awful, Chav is another word we learnt!
Okay so here comes the cheesy question of “What song have you heard which you wish you had written?”
BM – There’s a Muppets song, Rainbow Connection? I’d sing it but I can’t do the Kermit voice… Oh there’s a Monkees song, “Cheer up sleepy jean, oh what can it mean, da da da da…”
RA – Doesn’t that have a connection with Liverpool?
ES – *whispers*
RA – No that’s The Beatles.
ES – Everybody keeps talking about this band called The Beatles can you tell us about them?!
BM – They’re from Liverpool?!
ES – Their name is like the bug, like “The Cockroaches”?!
RA – Ha!
The cheesy finale question. What was the record that changed your life?
ES- Oh, “Nevermind”!
RA – I was just thinking that!
BM – I’m not trying to be cool here, but I’m really serious, I bought Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols because it was pink and just looked really serious. I though this is pissing people off, I’m going to keep listening to this!”