Touring is fun! It’s good to get out there. I could just play in front of the sound man and the band that we’re touring with and I’d still be happy.
Rain, January and London’s ‘fucking finest’ traffic jam! Not the perfect combination. I’m heading to Hackney to meet unparalleled Indie band Pet Grief, who give me a very warm welcome considering I’m nearly an hour late! When an email dropped with a link to their EP S/T back in October, it’s fair to say I’ve rinsed the hell out of it ever since. With a new record in the making, I’m looking forward to finding out more about the band who ingeniously managed to create noise [the good kind] throughout The UK, without releasing any music.
So you’re a three piece?
Pete: Yeah, Will can’t make it today because it’s his big birthday week.
You’re already in another band?
Pete: Yeah, Water Canvas, it kind of isn’t a thing, it is a thing, but it isn’t a thing. Paul from Water Canvas moved up to York last year, so we’re not really doing anything at the moment because he lives so far away.
Is that why you decided to form Pet Grief?
Josh: It was a bit of that I guess, I knew Pete from the Eastbourne area, we really liked other songs, other music, other than what Water Canvas did. Even though Pet Grief doesn’t sound like the band I’m going to say, I said “Do you like Interpol?” and he said “Yeah I do” and I was like “Do you want to do another band?”
Pete: I know we spoke about doing another band. Josh and I live literally over the hill from one another in London. The way that Water Canvas works is we are all split up everywhere. I don’t know why, but we practiced in Brighton. Basically, it was a bit of a nightmare travelling and I was like “Do you just want to do a band where everyone lives in the same place?”
Josh: We started out as a two piece with no recordings, for ages. Pete was playing through two amps – the bass and the guitar, then we started songwriting. Our first show was with WallFlower in Croydon, it was after that we realised we needed a bass player. Me and Pete looked at each other and were like “it’s time that we got a third member.”
Pete: That show was terrible. We were really bad! Way before, we said that if we were to get a bass player it would be Will. It was a pretty natural integration really.
You didn’t want to record any music initially, why was that?
Pete: When we first started doing this we just wanted to play gigs, that was the whole point really, so why record stuff. Luckily a lot of our friends helped us out when they really shouldn’t have because why would you book a band when you haven’t heard them yet. It was like “What do you sound like?” “I don’t know, kind of like this and that,” “Okay, have you got any recordings?” “No!” “Okay I’ll give you your first gig” like “alright!” [Laughing]. But then after a while it kind of became a thing like, you have to go see them live because you can’t listen to them recorded, so I think we kind of played on that a bit. It got to the point where friends were going to our gigs and recording our sets and then sending them out for people to listen to.
Josh: Big up Michael Hemming for getting us our first show at Power Lunches, RIP that venue, he’s a real superdude and we were just like “Hey man, we haven’t got any music out yet“ he was like “when are you recording stuff” and we were like “we don’t know, can you put us on a show?” and he got us on, it was really cool. I think it was one person who said, “just record” and we were like yeah, it’s getting stupid now, we should just record, it’s bonkers when you think about it!
How would you describe your music? You’ve been characterised as goth, indie, punk, post-punk, I even read emo somewhere?
Pete: Yeah, I think a lot of those are from people who know us from Water Canvas. I don’t really know how I would describe us? Just a bit of a middle of the road rock band really [laughs].
Your music is pretty relevant right now. The EP S/T offers something people can relate to socially and personally.
Pete: The songs are just about shit that happens to me, basically.
Josh: When Pete shows me the songs and lyrics, I’m always like yeah, they’re to the point, every time he writes. It’s more of a down to earth band where we just talk about things, like growing up. I feel like I can relate to it, especially Marks The Spot.
Marks The Spot seems to be a favourite track all round…
Pete: It’s kind of weird because it’s not a very nice song. It’s about a person I used to live with, and a lot of the lines in that are straight quotes from things we would say to each other. Yeah, it’s not very nice. I guess that’s quite a grungy one though. I think a lot of people get the post-punk thing because of the vocal style in that track, I sing quite low. I think the best thing someone said about it was “It’s like the The Cribs covering Interpol”.
Are you touring at the moment?
Pete: No, nothing as of yet. We’ve been writing our next EP. Some of the new songs we’ve been playing live for ages, the rest are almost pretty much done. So we’ll get the next EP finished, go and record it and probably do a tour later on in the year and just see what happens really.
Where do you take your musical influences from when you’re writing as a band?
Pete: Literally anything. The thing about the way we write, its very rare that I would say to the others “that doesn’t work.”
Josh: As a drummer, probably every other genre than the band I’m playing in. From old tracks, I straight up rip some pieces and incorporate them, I go through phases, like discovering the Tears for Fears back catalogue now, some of the drumming on that, nailing it. When we’re playing down in the basement where we practice I might throw a bit of that in, and if I get the nod from him I know I can get away with it. Someone said, that our EP sounds like Blur’s first record Leisure, especially the tracks Birthday and Wear Me Down. You’re a Damon! [Pointing at Pete]
Pete: Yeah people do say that my voice sounds like his. I don’t think the music is like Blur though. When we recorded the first EP with our friend Tom, we wanted to make it dark. We recorded with him because his ear is perfect for the emo, goth sound.
Josh: That’s where the emo, goth references come from I think. He’s in a band Never Mind Me. It was cool recording with him. Where he lives, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.
Pete: Yeah! It’s like in a massive forest. When we were driving down there it was pitch black and we were like “Where the fuck are we?” He has a nice studio, really good sound in that room.
So, did he produce your EP?
Josh: Yeah, he definitely put his mark on it. He came up with that bit in the second verse on Melt, that effect on it, like “beep, beep, beep…” You see, that’s the sort of things Never Mind Me drop when they’re live, but then he put some of that into our music. Bonkers! I love it!
Pete: Oh, yeah that’s Tom. Because we’d never recorded anything, it was just a genuine conversation where, he was like “what kind of tone do you want?” and I was like “I don’t know? We don’t have a sound yet.” So we worked on what it was going to be and how we were going to do it, and to be honest I pretty much went “do what you think sounds good” and I knew it would be alright. We were tracking the guitar and he was like “turn on your pedals and don’t play anything, just turn everything on but don’t play anything” and there was this noise…
Josh: Everyone was intrigued, he just started recording it and it just fitted perfectly. With him you can experiment, and because we knew him as a really good mate, we could sit and throw ideas back and forth.
Would you say you’re perfectionists?
Pete: I think it just gets to the point when you know if it’s going to work or not.
Josh: I remember recording stuff with Water Canvas, and feeling like it’s never ever going to be right. You’re always evolving because you’re constantly listening to new music, so you think I could put that in there now. I mean, you’re not exactly going to do a Kanye album – Life of Pablo; he just kept on doing new versions didn’t he? It would be a constant thing, like “Here’s EP version number four!” [Laughing].
Pete: That’s never going to happen!
Josh: I’m joking!
Do you ever come back to the tracks you scrap?
Pete: Little bits, because of the way we write, that’s a good thing, we trim off pieces. When we were writing Accidents, a track from the new EP, we had written a whole song but only took one little bit. It was like once we’d written that one section, we were like “Scrap the rest and let’s keep this and write a new song with it.” Scrapping stuff is all part of the process really.
Josh: We can do that, because we’ve got Pete’s basement in his house, which is really lucky, so we can go down there and practice for hours. Rather than booking out a space and trying to squeeze everything into three hours.
Pete: And play really loud! My neighbours are super chilled. We are lucky.
Are you signed Hanger Records? What’s the deal there?
Pete: Hanger is our mate Nick. We were trying to work out how we were going to put the first EP out, and literally the day after we had sorted it he asked us if we wanted to release through Hanger, we were like “If you had asked us two days ago the answer would have been yes!”. But he is taking care of the distribution.
Hanger have some seriously good releases on their label like The New Tusk. You toured with them last year?
Pete: Yeah, LEGENDS!
Josh: We knew them through Water Canvas because we were at a lot of the same shows. And then we went on tour with them to promote our EP, it was just like loads of mates in bands hanging out really, brilliant!
Pete: It was like the longest tour ever, but it was good. We’ve always had this rule when booking tours to have maximum three hour drives in between gigs just to make it easier on Will, because he does all the driving. That just kind of went out the window on that tour, because we were doing stupid miles, like Manchester to Glasgow to Leeds.
Josh: [To Pete] Remember when we were in the Lake District? We stopped off between Manchester and Glasgow, I was like “Boy’s we need to set off in a minute, we still haven’t got into Scotland yet.”
Pete: We were sat at a lake and it was like “What time have we got to be at the venue? – “oh it’s a late show, we’re not on until nine” and he was like, “Alright, well it’s seven now and Glasgow’s three hours away.” Literally we all just sprinted to the van.
Josh: Touring is fun! It’s good to get out there. I could just play in front of the sound man and the band that we’re touring with and I’d still be happy. Working a full-time job and doing a band, you’re straight back to work and then post-tour blues kick in, you don’t get a day off really.
Is the aim to do the band full-time?
Josh: I love my job but I would like to play music and not have to work. It just sucks that you have to pay rent, bills and maintain a life in London.
Pete: The whole point of why we started doing this, was for the love of it really.
Josh: My dream venue would be Koko in Camden, love that place.
Pete: We played Brudenell Social Club in Leeds and that was a massive thing for me.
Josh: Funny thing about that gig, Pete broke a string at the perfect moment, right at the end of the song. It was like “give us five minutes”
Pete: That’s the only time I’ve ever broken a string. It’s always my fear because I play a baritone guitar, and if I break a string I can’t just swap for another. It’s like “We have to stop now and I have to re-string” I can’t afford another one as a back-up. When we were on tour with The New Tusk, their guitarist Max broke a string and I ended up giving him mine, I was like “this is dumb, there’s so many other guitars here but you’re using the one that you have to tune up.”
So the Baritone is your choice of guitar then?
Pete: Yeah, it plays a much lower tone so it suits my vocal register. It also meant initially we could play as a two-piece.
Josh: I think that’s what makes the sound, it gives it more of an umph with that guitar. [Looking at Pete] His dream would be to own a second baritone guitar.
Pete: That would be the dream.
What next for Pet Grief besides the new EP?
Josh: We’d love to do a European tour. That would be absolute class!
Pete: I really tried to get that to happen before we released anything, but strangely enough you can’t tour Europe when you don’t have any music out. We would’ve earned bragging rights like “We toured Europe without releasing anything.” But it didn’t happen. Promoters don’t seem to want to book a band from another country without recorded material. I mean why would they? To be honest it feels pretty lame, trying to sell your own band, I was like “I think we’re okay, I mean people come to our shows in London so why wouldn’t they come to a gig in Berlin, I don’t know?” It was never going to work. If we ever get the chance with the second EP, we would just do it.
Europe doesn’t know what they’re missing! Hope you get the opportunity to prove why that was a bad choice on their part. All of us at IMN are looking forward to hearing the second EP and seeing you out on tour again.