Interview: Those Amongst Us Are Wolves

Photo by Paul Kent

Hailing from Coventry, UK, Those Amongst Us Are Wolves are a three piece instrumental post-rock band that made quite an entrance into the scene with their unique mixture of melodies and classical atmosphere in their first release, Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour. Earlier this year they made a noticeable return with This State Is Conscious, blending new influences and sounds, distinguishing themselves from your everyday run of the mill playlist. We got in touch with them to learn more about their roots, influences and the road ahead of them.     

Before we get to talk about the music, can you tell us a bit about your lives before the project and how your passion for making music started?

Mark (Guitar): Before TAUAW I was a naive and unfocused musician. Your typical, “I want to be a musician, but don’t want to put in the work” sort of guy. I think that attitude is quite prevalent at a young age; a sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, but hold the rock ‘n’ roll. I played in a couple of bands (Dharma, Fathoms; you won’t have heard of them) for years. We would play open mic nights a lot and a handful of small gigs but there was no push to do anything more and they stopped. I am glad they did, as I do not think I would have had the experiences TAUAW has offered me and, hopefully, will continue to do so if I was still playing in those bands.

I’ve always been more interested in playing my own music than playing covers. I am an awful musician at parties. Do not request that I play a song unless it is the first part of Stairway to Heaven or one Rolo Tomassi riff. So I think that is where my passion for making music came from, the power to be able to create something original. Then when you create within a group of individuals the addiction just increases ten-fold.

Chris (Bass): I’m the dad of the band, I’m older and (sometimes, though not often) wiser than the other two!! It’s always been music and the arts for me for as long as I can recall, picking up guitars at school, friends houses etc, until buying my first acoustic, and then I’ve been in and out of bands ever since.

Tom (Drums): It was at college when I started to take an interest in music as I was on an art course, which was next to the music block. I ended up being mates with some of them and started going to local gigs and it just went from there really. I bought a cheap drum kit off one of them and started jamming with people. It wasn’t until I was at University that I got to be in my first post rock style band, but it was the usual thing of the others wanting to be in a band but not put any time and that into it so, needless to say, it didn’t last. I had a break for a while and got more into experimental stuff and really started pushing my playing and getting out of my comfort zone to what I’d been familiar with in the past. I drew inspirations from certain musician, but I’ve always liked how some drummers would have their own signature sound but feel that’s been lost these days so in a way I was and still am striving for that.

So how did your paths cross to end up with the three of you starting this project together?

Mark: Like any modern day relationship, we met on the Internet. Tom dropped me a message on Join My Band, which I ignored for a bit as I was doing some writing with an iPad DJ who fleeced me for £10 and disappeared. Chris answered our Join My Band advert after we let our first virtuoso\unreliable bassist go. Chris surprised us by coming back the next practice and he has sat in our groove ever since.

Chris: It was about 2011, I think. I was gigging with a band at the time which was fun but sporadic and lacked commitment. Mark and Tom had placed an ad on Join My Band so I answered it and went for a jam. They didn’t think I’d come back the next week!

Tom: I went on Join My Band and kind of snubbed a band I contacted, but I wasn’t too sure on them. I didn’t realize when I messaged Mark at a later date that he was in that band, haha. I think we met for a pint and I remember someone moaning about the music that was on the juke box as I’d just put miles Davis on he piped down when I said it was me, haha, but then it went to what he picked think it was System of a Down. Mark and I jammed for a bit and had a couple of bass players jam with us and one was ok but was really flakey and unreliable. Then we met Chris who I thought was too good to be true and was sure wouldn’t show up again, but it’s a few years on and he’s still here!

Listening to the two albums I have to say a great journey has been undertaken between them. This State Is Conscious shows a lot of personality and more influences than before. What was the inspiration behind it and how did your recording process evolve between the two records?

Mark: It is worth noting that during the writing process for Chaotic Love Stories and Irrational Behaviour our fourth member joined. Joshua played mainly synth and keys as well as some additional guitar and drums on both of our releases. A band grows together over time and you start to understand how each member works musically. That collective personality grows with the band and that can either make you more complacent or push each other more. I prefer the latter approach so that we can explore ideas outside of our comfort zone and I think we do that.

The biggest change between the two albums is that Joshua wrote on top of what we had written for the first release and then became more integral to the writing process for This State Is Conscious. You can hear that there are more structural harmonies and melodies from the synth and keys in TSIC whereas those parts in CLSAIB are the proverbial cherry on top.

This State Is Conscious, I think, is still just a collection of songs. I wrote the majority of CLSAIB’s main melodies whereas TSIC is more collaborative in that Chris, Joshua and I each brought a song idea to the table for us to work on and then the final track was a jump into the deep end of all our imaginations; a massive experiment.

We recorded both releases at Flipside Studios in Coventry and the process, overall, was very similar, as you would expect using the same team of people. The big different was that, on TSIC, we spent more time after recording the tracks experimenting with additional parts and guest musicians. We were all really happy with the finished product, but it certainly has made those tracks difficult to recreate live, especially as Joshua is no longer in the band.

Chris: Yes we sort of flipped the second album syndrome in that our second release is in some ways the one that was written in a real purple patch, and MIGHT be deemed the stronger. We were a four piece also at that time, so Joshua’s (since left) keys added a top layer both of dynamics and melody to what the guitars and bass were doing.

Tom: I think with the first album we were still in our infancy and our sound was maturing, but I still like the older stuff as it had a more direct feel which, when mixed in with the newer stuff, can be rather nice. The last album was a big departure in a way compared to the first but I think that’s just a natural progression of us as musicians and as a band I think it would be mighty dull if you simply stopped moving forward and pushing yourself both as a group and as an individual.

Your last album This State Is Conscious featured many guest musicians, such as Ahmad Moslemifar and Gareth John. How did you find the experience of collaborating with new artists and do you plan to work with other artists in your upcoming projects?

Mark: You hear a lot about pop artists collaborating with other artists and never seeing each other in the studio. With Gareth John (Trumpet, Placebo Affects) this was the case as he was already traveling up to the studio to record some parts for Luna Kiss’s latest EP, it was convenient for him, but we couldn’t get out of our day jobs to meet him.

The Cello part on How To Level Water was recorded and fleshed out by Gwyneth Reid who recorded it somewhere in Ireland (I think) and sent it across to us, but the main idea was written digitally by our producer Matthew Cotterill. Matt lives and breathes each project he is part of and he was certainly a driving force in TSIC’s conception.

The best experience was working with Ahmed to add Santour and Kamancheh to the record. Only Matt and I were in the studio that day and we spent a lot of time with dropped jaws and tearing up eyes while we watched Ahmed work. He was completely responsive to what we asked of him and everything he plays is beautiful. We certainly aim to work with him again. You should check out his Persian Fusion project, Second Episode, if you enjoyed what you heard on our album.

We have talked about collaborating a lot and have talked about putting ourselves out there to work with artists of different mediums to make TAUAW much more than just a band. We have a few ideas up our sleeves that could make 2015 an interesting year for us.

Chris: Ahmad is a personal friend and we met through music some years before. He’s an excellent musician so I was absolutely confident that his contribution would be amazing and empathetic to what we’d written. We are always keen to collaborate with other musicians, if the track demands it. Only yesterday I met a sitar player, so watch this space!

The UK scene seems to be the right place nowadays for a post-rock band, with tons of bands coming out and huge events taking place every day. How does that affect you and does it make your job easier reaching out to fans, or did it make it harder to find a place for yourselves?

Mark: It is an absolute joy to be part of the scene in the UK at the moment, but it can be difficult to make yourself heard. We are Coventry based and we seem to have a monopoly on post-rock as there does not seem to be any other bands doing what we are doing in the city (if you are reading this and you are a post-rock band from Coventry get in touch and let’s do something). That gives us a unique place in that area, but also means there is not a lot of post-rock happening. So we have started to put on gigs on ourselves and we are very slowly building the scene.

I think every band has the same challenge in front of them though. You’ve still got to send those emails, make those calls, build your fan base and make your name heard. The more you have your head screwed on to the business side of things and the harder you work the more positive gains you are going to make. You have got to have the music, of course, and then a little bit of luck is required too.

Chris: I think it’s a classic bit of both. It’s great that the scene is so vibrant, and we are carving out our place. At the same time the fans that follow the scene will be picky and specific – they will want to hear something that elevates their listening experience beyond other bands. To thrive, we have to be at the top of our game.

Tom: I think once you do start to meet people and make contacts it does open up doors, but it’s still by no means easier. There’s a lot of hard work still in finding shows and sorting things. But having events like the ones we’ve put on are great for bringing like-minded musicians together.

You have been blessed to play some great shows in the UK among some of the most respectable names in the scene such as Nordic Giants and Codes In The Clouds. How was the live experience for you so far and is there a specific audience or a stage you wish to move your act to in the future? 

Mark: You have good gigs and you have bad gigs. I am probably the most likely person to fall over on stage and have often found myself on the other side of the stage with a trail of my pedals following me. I am trying to calm down, but I just get into the whole performance so much and personally I think that energy speaks to the audience.

The post-rock pilgrimage is ArcTanGent Festival and that is definitely a goal for us. We also want to get over into mainland Europe. At the moment we are focusing on getting back into the UK live scene, as after Joshua left we have not pursued any gigs while we regrouped and we are looking forward to playing a lot next year.

Chris: Well we don’t think we gig nearly enough, so we’re trying to put that right in 2015. Playing live is key to developing new work, trying it out etc, so it’s important to us. We’d like to play more festivals and beat a track to mainland Europe.

Tom: I think just going for bigger shows (or not necessarily bigger in terms of size but the exposure) and the chance to make it more of an event rather than just jumping up playing and that is it. Also putting time into getting things like lighting and videos up to give more of an atmosphere than can help draw you in to a little world and so it’s also a more full sensory experience.

Your music was featured  on  UK TV on an Episode of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. How did you find this step, exposing your music to new audiences? Do you plan any similar features in the near future?

Mark: Sentric Music is the company we use to sync our music and collect our performance royalties. The Hollyoaks thing was a surprise as their turnaround on episodes is so quick that you only find out they have used your music after the episode has been aired. You have to tick box to allow that in the first place of course. I can’t say that we saw an insurgence of fans from that particular airing, but we got paid about £20 so that was all right. It paid for a few seconds of This State Is Conscious anyway!

We continue to advertise our music for use in films, TV and games. I think it is a very post-rock thing to get your music attached to imagery to exemplify a mood.

Tom: I had forgotten about that! It was fairly odd to hear your music being played on the TV and sit there hearing it. I wouldn’t say it got more people listening to us but people who knew us thought it was ace, but maybe if we end up on a film and more people may get to know us. Who knows, lol.

So what have you got planned for the future? Are there any music projects or tours in the making you care to share with us?

Mark: We are currently booking shows for February and March next year. We want to get back into playing live as much as we can. We are also writing lots of new material, but taking our time to decide the best way to present it.

Chris: We’re currently booking dates for Feb and March 2015, so check our social media for updates. And we’re deep into new material that has the makings of a new album. It’s quite different to the other two releases; it’s darker, and quite minimalist in its construction.

Tom: Well we’ve currently been working on a bunch of new tracks and are hopefully going to be taken get them on a tour in the new year and then head back into the studio to start work on the new album, but that may be later next year and hopefully getting to do some shows in Europe at some point.

Those Amongst Us Are Wolves can be found on Facebook and they tweet as @TAUAWolves.
You can purchase their music on Itunes and Bandcamp.
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