I have seen many a thing in The Facebar, Reading, in my time. From tragic but hilarious vomit situations featuring my drunken sixth-form comrades to fan-girling over the ‘next big thing’ metal boyband from school. But I can assure you I have never seen anything quite like the avalanche that Bad Sounds brought to that stage.
The audience immersed themselves in the hypnotic intro synth lines of ‘Living Alone’ and ‘Zacharia’ whilst giving a rousing chorus of ‘I Feel’ – sealing the deal with a chaotic but expected stage invasion.
The two men at the front of this party were brothers Callum and Ewan Merrett. Their effortless, stylish fashion mirrors the abundance of charisma that seems to be seeping out of them both. However the musicianship and pure skill of this band should not be overlooked – it is clear they have put in long hours to achieve their goal of putting on the party of a lifetime.
We caught up with Callum and Ewan before the show to see how the tour is going:
So you’ve been playing a lot of new songs on this tour, which of them did you think would get the audience really going? Which songs have? and is it the ones you thought?
Callum: I didn’t think that any of them would really get them going to be honest [laughing].
Ewan: One thing that I’ve noticed that’s weird is that we’re used to playing songs that nobody knows all the time. Most people who come to see us haven’t seen us before, and especially because we just did a festival run, most people hadn’t even heard of us. And it’s weird this tour that so many people know the other songs and know the lyrics that when we play the songs people don’t know, that suddenly feels very strange –when we’ve literally for the last 2 years been playing songs that people don’t know. It’s weird how comfortable you quickly get with people knowing your songs.
Callum: There is actually a moment in one of the songs though every night where I’m like, ‘Why aren’t you singing?! Oh ‘cause nobody’s ever heard this before’.
Have you got anything big planned for the Scala gig?
Both: Yeah loads.
Anything naughty you can tell us? Not even a little bit of confetti?
Callum: Of course a little bit of confetti you can have that.
Ewan: It’s been pretty stressful putting it all together. It will be the biggest definitely.
In summer we saw you play at Barn on the Farm Festival, which is very small and intimate, how would you change your performance for that to a night like tonight where everyone knows your music?
Ewan: Our whole thing was that we wanted it to feel like a party and everyone’s having a good time. We didn’t want to do the standard cool moody band thing. I think people who come to see our shows know that already and also because they know the songs, they’re getting into it and it feels like that’s already happening like we don’t need to enforce it so much so we can just chill out..
Callum: Enforce it? Sounds like we’re policing the fun?!
Ewan: [laughing] No, but do you know what I mean though? I don’t ever feel like we’re trying to get across what we’re about at our shows because it just comes naturally. So it’s nicer in that way, but then I guess there’s something nice about the challenge of a new audience.
Callum: And winning a crowd over, you do have to work a little bit harder. And also at festivals there’s always that sort of barrier, like where the actual barrier is, and the big gap. Whereas on a show like tonight, the stage is only like a couple feet up so it’s like people are pretty much on stage with us anyway.
Do you prefer that?
Ewan: I prefer the distance. But I do like the small shows and they’re fun, I think I just like having more space to move. I think I’ve always been a fidget; everyone always gets pissed off with me when I’m on the phone just walking around. But I find it hard to stay still so when we do those really small shows
where I’ve literally got nowhere to move around it gets a bit weird. And then I just ending up jumping on Callum and then that’s my extra space.
Callum: The thing is when you start in a band that’s all you get -we’ve been doing this since we were kids, playing in bands or whatever. So there’s sort of a nice sense of familiarity when you’re playing these more intimate shows. But I just really like being on the same level as the audience and it goes towards the ‘everyone being involved in our party’ thing. We’re not on stage looking down at them and they’re not looking up at us – everyone’s just sort of having the same fun.
Have you got any favourite bit of gear you’ve brought along to this tour? Or just in general?
Callum: The thing is with touring stuff is that it has to be functional stuff. Whereas with studio stuff, half the stuff’s broken and it sounds cooler but you really couldn’t rely on it every night on tour. So we’ve got some new equipment in terms of how to functionally play the songs but there’s nothing that cool.
Who’s more techy out of you two?
Callum: Pretty equal I reckon. We are nerdy about different things but we are both very into production and recording in general.
Your tracks have so much energy, how do you get hyped up in studio to make that energy happen? Or does it just happen by itself?
Ewan: So we use samples a lot, especially when we’re writing, so I think sometimes we base it on the energy from that, then that gets us excited. A big thing is not getting in the routine of sitting in front of your laptop and then being like ‘this is my relaxing time’, I feel like it’s more like when you find something that makes you think ‘ahh yeah that’s cool’ you just go for it. I feel like when people are too lazy or not inspired enough to get out a new bit of gear because it’s fine to do it on an old bit, that’s a really bad sign. If you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, you should be up and moving.
Callum: I think a lot of the energy in the recordings comes from the way that we use room sounds as well as electronic sounds. So if we were going to record a synth we wouldn’t just put the output of the synth and put it into the interface, we would amp it up or at least process it in a way that it feels like it’s a real thing. I think we do that with pretty much everything we record so that it sounds like its real and recorded in a real place so it has energy when its going in. Which is a kind of nerdy way to answer that question rather than ‘We just drink loads of Lucozade!’.
Ewan: Real instruments is a big thing for us: for some reason people think we are more electronic than we are. We use samples a lot but it’s all about how it’s played for us. We spend a long time making sure it’s played with the right amount of aggression – its more important to us that thing that someone just played sounds cool rather than correct. There’s a lot of different takes then we pick the coolest to loop.
What was the inspiration behind wanting ‘Mixtape 1’ to flow as one piece of music?
Callum: You know what I was watching a lot of Boiler Room sets, and DJ sets and stuff. It sounds really lame actually now I’m talking about it, but you used to be able to buy Ministry of Sound compilation CD’s and at the end they would have a compilation of everything, one into another without any gaps or anything. So we were like ‘What if we just made the whole mixtape like it was the bonus disc on one of those CD’s?’. So originally we wanted to put it out like on 15-minute thing but then obviously you know the modern world sort of looked at us went ‘Are you insane?’.
To be honest, all our favourite albums the sequencing is a big deal – like the way the tracks roll into each other. Even if they don’t segway into each other, just the fact that song works nicely going directly into that song. There’s something about that and I think that in great albums and great pieces of work sequencing is important. Another nerdy answer I know but I think it’s really cool when people pay attention. You know there’s a lot of time and passion gone into making it.
Ewan: Also that reoccurring theme thing has always been a big part of our influences. My main thing where I got into music was Hip Hop stuff – there’s always little skits and stuff, and Missy Elliott does loads of things like that where she has a reoccurring theme throughout the album, especially the first one. But then even Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s get it on’ has the refrain coming back in – just feel like it spans across most things we like.
Okay finally, would you rather have nipples on your fingers or fingers on your nipples?
Callum: Nipples on your fingers. Is it really bad to think that after you’ve had a packet of crisps…
After finding out a little bit too much about Callum’s nipple habits and being interrogated about if I’d rather lick Jabba the Hutt or have him lick me, I left the guys to go prepare for what was about to be, in my opinion, an absolute stellar performance.