Burn The Fleet

author AP date 14/03/10

After seeing Burn the Fleet for the first time in January with fellow scribes TL and BL, we became extremely interested in the band, and their EP release show provided the perfect opportunity for conducting an interview with a band that in our opinion, is going to be huge one day. With a reputation as one of Southampton's finest live acts, not to mention a sound that brings to mind such international heavyweights as Alexisonfire, Brand New, Polar Bear Club, Thrice and Thursday, it's easy to see why we think so. After watching Forever Can Wait's support set, we headed upstairs to the Joiners' offices and sat down for a lengthy interview about the band's story, ambitions and their opinions on the local music scene. Read on to find out what the four Solent University graduates had to say about themselves.

RF.net: Can we start with you guys introducing yourselves and your roles in the band?
Ross: I'm Ross, and I play drums.

James: I'm James, and I play guitar and I do a little bit of singing.

Andrew: I'm Andy, I play bass, and I'm the lead singer.

Jack: I'm Jack, and I play guitar, and I sing even less than James.

Ross: Still more than me...

Jack: Still a little bit more than Ross.

RF.net:On your MySpace you don't have the usual waste-of-space, hyperbolic monologue about your influences and so on as most bands do, and consequently I know only this: you all went to Southampton Solent University and you thought you'd show the world the music you make. Can you tell us a little more about how it all came together and what the band is all about?
Andrew: Yeah, well basically, me and Jack lived in the same halls together - literally over the road from each other. And James used to hang out in our halls a lot with us, and Jack and James used to jam and play guitar...

Jack: James didn't have a lot of friends...

Andrew: Yeah, James didn't have a lot of friends. And Ross lived in mine and Jack's halls, and me and Ross were on the same course together. So by that, it all just sort of came together. It started originally with Jack and James playing, and they got me in because I was playing drums for another band. We just had a jam, and I realised I was really shit at drums - the others would write really complicated stuff and I was just trying to keep a straight beat - so I said I had a good friend of mine who would love to do drums, so we got Ross in, and I was like "I don't want to leave this band", so I was like, "I'll play bass!" It ended up with me singing as well.

RF.net: So what did you guys study at university?

Andrew: Me and Ross did popular music.

James: I did graphic design.

Jack: I did screenwriting.

RF.net: Did you all graduate with good degrees?

Andrew: Yeah.

Jack: Yeah we did.

James: I did lose my work halfway through third year, a little harddrive problem. Shaky, shaky moment in my life.

Jack: He nearly failed. But the hair's growing back now (laughing).

RF.net: I had the same problem just before Christmas when I was supposed to hand in the interim report for my dissertation...

Jack: Oh, really? Unfortunate!

RF.net: Yeah. Anyway, at university one is always under pressure to think about career prospects and develop knowledge and skills that are useful in the real world. Are you applying things you learned at university in your career as a band?
Andrew: Well, I am ish, because I did popular music and record production, and I actually work in this venue [ed. The Joiners], that's actually my desk (pointing to the desk behind him). I'm involved in booking most local bands. I've got something out of that, but I mean...

Ross: James obviously did graphic design, so he does a lot of the artwork. He did the cover for the EP and all the little things you get with the limited edition, posters and so on, and he also does our t-shirt designs...

Jack: Our flyers and MySpace as well.

Andrew: But then me and Ross did music so we've got some knowledge in production - Ross a lot more than me. So like when we need a demo, me and Ross will be able to have that ready. And then Jack, with screenwriting, helps with writing lyrics. If I'm like, "how do I word this now?", if I don't want to use a certain expression, Jack comes up with other ways to put it. So, yeah, I'd say we're putting to use some of the stuff we learned at university.

Ross: It may not be obvious, but deep down somewhere it all adds up.

Jack: Yeah, definitely.

RF.net: Then there's the obligatory question about the band's name...
James: Basically, we went through so many names, and I just remember someone saying, "how about Burn the Fleet?", and we all recognised it from somewhere, but we weren't sure where. We googled it to be sure, and we found out it was a Thrice song. We had a debate about whether to keep the name, but we decided to keep it because, well...

Ross: We didn't have a MySpace and at the time we hadn't booked any shows. We literally needed a MySpace and we needed a name for that MySpace, and we all liked the name.

Jack: We all like Thrice.

Ross: That's the one band that all of us like, so...

RF.net: That's actually pretty interesting, because our staff thinks Burn The Fleet sound like Thrice in their early years, and that watching you live must be what it was like to watch Thrice live before they broke through. And we also mentioned names like Polar Bear Club, Dallas Green and Thursday in the review we did of the Mo'Club opening show. What are your thoughts on that?

Andrew: To be honest that review just nailed it. Best thing I ever read. I mean, comparing me to Dustin Kensrue and Dallas Green - I was pretty knocked over to read about that, that was amazing.

James: I loved the drunken sailor reference he used to describe me.

Ross: He couldn't have nailed it more on the head.

Andrew: Musically, Thrice is the band we all agree on. We might not literally go, that's how we sound like, but it's a big influence on all four of us. Ross is quite heavily into reggae and old sort of pop punk; James is into absolutely insane shit; Jack is a metalhead...

Jack: Am I?

Andrew: Yeah, you are... and then I'm more into a lot of acoustic stuff. I mean I do like other stuff too, like old music from the 50s and so on.

Ross: Between us we all like every stage that Thrice has been through. From like a post-hardcore band to a heavy rock/metal band to the experimental stuff they are doing now covers all the music we like.

James: I love the new bits, you like the old bits.

Ross: Yeah, so someone saying that this must be what it was like watching Thrice in their early years... I mean if I had seen Thrice before they were big, I would have died, so for me that's the biggest compliment I've ever been given.

RF.net: That show kicked off with Andrew stepping forward, raising his arms, and the crowd immediately responding with the opening lyrics to "Nautilus", so it's safe to say that down here in Southampton, you guys are all the rage. Can you imagine doing that at an arena size venue to the same kind of reception?
Andrew: It's a weird one. We've been really lucky here. Everyone has embraced us really well and liked us. A lot of big bands from here helped us - like Bury Tomorrow obviously put us on one of their shows, and that opened us to a metal crowd that had never heard us before, and like Viva Sleep, who are playing tonight, Neil from that band put us on our first Joiners show, a showcasing thing, and Not Advised have asked us to play a big show here every Christmas. I think we've been lucky in the fact that bands have gotten behind us, that they get us onto their shows and get us out to the people. So we've been really lucky in Southampton, but we're finding now wherever we're going people get into us really easily and ask us to come back. So I'd like to think I could see myself doing an arena stage - but that gig [ed. the Mo'Club show] was eye-opening, same as Pennyfest. At that show, I had to go walk around the block for ten minutes after we played because I couldn't believe what happened.

Jack: We were all trying to find Andy to ask him what he thought about it but he just left the venue.

Andrew: But yeah, basically Bury Tomorrow did that for us.

Jack: We also get access to a lot of random crowds, like Andy said Bury Tomorrow's, but we've also played with Twin Atlantic and Polar Bear Club. We play with a varied selection of bands because we don't quite fall into a category. We cover a lot of ground, so a lot of people get access to our stuff.

James: That would answer the genre question, really. We're somewhere in between.

Jack: Which is why tonight we've got Viva Sleep who are progressive, we have Forever Can

Wait who are pop punk, and we've got Boys With Xray Eyes who are just nuts.

RF.net: When you play shows in other cities, is the reaction just as good then?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean it's started to be now, because our name's gone out and people kind of expect it. Like Bournemouth now, we've pretty much got that show sorted. We play a lot of Southern shows where people from here travel to watch us. But like when we played in Cheltenham with Exit Ten, that was amazing. During our last song people were singing along - obviously it's an easy to sing along to, "Handfuls of Sand", but still, we're definitely getting good reactions. We're still quite a young band in touring respect, because we've very recently started doing that, but I think if we keep going the way we are, it can only get better.

RF.net: So tell me about the self-titled EP that this whole shindig tonight is about.
James: Basically we released an EP about a year and a bit ago, called "The Mistress". We just wanted to see how well it would do really, and quite a lot of people took interest in it, so we thought we'd give it a proper release. Fix up the tracks, add another track on, and tour it, get people involved in it.

Ross: We didn't want to write off the new material. We were tracking new demos, but because we only played our first like a year and a half ago, we went to the studio to record the EP before we played the show. It wasn't in our minds to go out and play shows, we just thought about writing music, and we wanted recordings of it. We pressed a hundred copies and it sold out pretty quick, so instead of just writing off an EP that we're all still proud of, we, as James said, reworked it to give it a proper push so that we could tour the country with that, and then come back and give the faces we played to on tour something new as opposed to just going out with something new and having to write off the old EP.

Jack: It's also because we're promoting ourselves. We're trying to sort of start up a little bit of a business, make it a job and try to treat it like an investment, so that other people get involved through doing gigs and contacts and what not. Like we are now affiliated with Walnut Tree Records, which has got like Tiger Please and Viva Sleep - purely through experience and time you just work out these contact relationships, and they want to help you out. So it's that whole professionalism we've added to it as well. Now it's like a full package.

RF.net: The EP is limited to just 1000 copies, which seems like a pretty humble amount jugding from the crowd reactions I've seen?
Ross: It's impossible to know how many people like your band until you've played every venue in the country. You can't judge it, and a thousand EPs to us, if we sold them, we'd be fucking blown away. So maybe it sounds like a humble figure but, I don't know... Whether or not it's just a few hundred at shows and a handful here and there or if it takes all year to sell them, or whether or not by this time next year Walnut Tree will press 5000 copies, we just don't know.

RF.net: Are you offering it as a digital copy as well?

Andrew: Yeah, it's going digital on the 5th of April.

Ross: There's a pushback to get it online and stuff.

RF.net: Some might argue that you have a fairly accessible sound that might go down well with major labels, however, you're signed to the small indie label Walnut Tree Records. What landed you on their doorstep?
Andrew: Well, basically, mine and Ross' housemate Thomas used to be in a band called Waiting For Sirens who got signed to Walnut Tree, and basically this guy Tom just kind of doing it out of his own pocket in his spare time. Fortunately Thomas our housemate hooked us up with the label, and we've always known about the label in the back of our minds. It's always been a name, because we've had some associations with it.

Ross: When we were looking for a home for the CD, we didn't know what we wanted to do, if we wanted to hole down and get a big independent or what, and I think we all just kind of felt that we wanted someone who cares enough about it. We knew that Tom had been to a couple of our gigs and was a fan, and basically we just said, "what about Tom?" So we had a meeting, we sat down and we said, "we don't want you to have all the financial risk on this", so we put half the money in. I think that respect - that he could see we were serious about it, is what did it for us. As opposed to just going, "we want 1000 copies, you print them, and we'll sell them", we put in half and he put in half and we all worked on this thing together. He has been nothing but amazing. He's worked his arse off on us, and he's got so many contacts and stuff.

Jack: About a year a go he rounded us all up and asked what we thought, and we didn't know what the hell we were doing. I could barely play my instrument, let alone think about trying to organise gigs. We were sitting there going, "as much as we respect the offer, we have no idea what we want from this band." Then as soon as the year went on, we just thought we were a lot more focused, and was just there and he loved it.

Ross: He's got the same ideas as us. We've not signed with him for any contracts. He seens the potential in us, and he's said on many occasions that if someone big comes along, he's quite happy to let us go. And it's so much nicer to pick up the phone and call the person that's in charge of the label you're on, than do it via a manger and just be a small fish in a big pond. It's much nicer having someone whose label is getting bigger, and growing as a band as the label grows, than to be dropped in with a bunch of guys that don't really give a shit about you personally, that just want money from you.

Jack: We all have jobs and pay rent and stuff, and maintain our lifestyles here, but we are doing this as something we want to potentially take on to be our life. And what he does is he doesn't sit there and tell us "by this day you have to do this", he urges us, he really does subtly help us in every level. He is literally a legend.

RF.net: Over the years I've lived in Southampton, I've noticed that the local music scene is not only extremely active but also unified, in that all the bands and band members work together and work the venues, the bars, the merch stands, and even the wardrobes. So I'm interested to know what your opinion on the local scene is.
Andrew: Pennyfest was the day that opened my eyes. You just can't ask for more. I mean, to be honest, that's the reason I got the job here, because of Davyd from Bury Tomorrow. Bury Tomorrow are doing real well for themselves, they're touring in America at the minute, and Davyd knew he was going to be out [of office] and so he said, "I'll give Andy the job", so I got the job here, not to mention that those guys are always putting on shows. And you know like tonight, Forever Can Wait e-mailed me and said they were really big fans and would love to do the gig and I said, "that's amazing, let's get you guys on the show." And they wanted us to do another show. So you can't beat it, I reckon. I've been in bands back home, and it's like there's about three bands you get on with. At Mo'Live, I was literally friends with every member of every band that played at that show, so I had the best night hanging out there.

Jack: You can't in any way have a go at the community here. It's like Tom. Basically it's a city of Tom Beck. It's nothing but supportive, it's really healthy and you know everyone. When you see other musicians you don't go, "oh, look, it's that twat", you go "oh hey, how you doing, you alright?"

Ross: There's no competition, everyone's out to help each other.

Andrew: The great thing is that everyone comes to the shows. I can name you like five bands that are here tonight for example.

RF.net: You mentioned Bury Tomorrow a couple of times already, and they recently broke through with a fantastic debut album, and now they're touring the States, even doing festivals and stuff over there. You've got the sound and the showmanship, so can you see yourselves in a similar position sometime in the near future?
Andrew: I'd love to be where they are. They've been at it for a long time. They've had like ten line-up changes and stuff.

James: They pop up on Facebook - big arenas - and I'm just like... I'm trying to report the images.

Andrew: They've done really well for thesmelves. Davyd was a very big supporter of us from the early days. He got us on the shows and stuff, and he sings our praises all the time. I never actually realised it before I got phone calls like, "one of the from Bury Tomorrow mentioned you." I'd love to see myself in the position that they're in right now.

RF.net: As for the future, do you guys have a full-length album in the works?
Andrew: Yeah, that's why we didn't want to write the old stuff off, with the new stuff taking such a more mature direction. We wanted it all to be together. What we were going to do was piece together the old EP and the new stuff and make a full-length out of them, but we realised it wouldn't sound coherent and it would sound too different.

RF.net: More touring in the future as well?

Andrew: I mean, at the level we're at, we're at the level where people are coming out to watch us, but it's a double-edged sword. Our name is not out enough. We're trying, and Tom is obviously helping us out, and Ross' brother manages us when he's not working his job, he's doing everything he can. We've got two great guys who support us and try to help us, but the thing is it's one of those things where it's about getting on tours and stuff. Once we've done it off our own back, because we've never really toured properly, we'll see what happens.

Jack: We'd love to take like four weeks off and just play every venue in the country, but it's just like, picking the right time and the money.

RF.net: I'll let you have the last words, if you have anything to say to our fans and readers.
Andrew: Thank you very much. If you want to check us out, we're at myspace.com/burnthefleetband. You can preorder our CD there if you want to, it's free postage. And... yeah, just thank you very much. I hope we can make it to Denmark one day.

Jack: I'd love to play in Denmark!

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