Nihilism and jaded optimism converge as Ewan Grant (guitar, vocals) and Owen Wicksted (drums, bass, synths) meet resulting in angst driven, melodic hook-heavy pop songs with garage sensibilities.
A hunger to be creatively honest in a country so hell-bent on condemning original ideas and self expression has driven WOMPS from working supermarket jobs to playing big stages in the short time since their formation. The band have already toured Europe, UK and the east coast of the US including performances at CMJ, London Calling and Radio One’s big weekend festivals. Picking up support along the way from worldwide press including Consequence of Sound, The Guardian, and Brooklyn Vegan. Their debut LP Our Fertile Forever was released on June 10, 2016 on Displaced Records
Northern Transmissions spoke to Ewan about their latest album and what the experience was like working with Steve Albini.
Northern Transmissions: Hey Ewan, thanks for taking the time to talk to Northern Transmissions and congrats on the upcoming release. How has it been received so far?
Ewan Grant: I’m just noticing it’s doing really well in Japan which is weird. It seems to be going well in the States and Japan, and from what I’ve seen here. The scene here is so small, it’s hard to tell.
Northern Transmissions: Yeah, I know you were remarking about the scene there, and how it’s just different to judge how well received it is.
Ewan Grant: Yeah, basically just London and Manchester and places like that that are good indicators. Glasgow is just our hometown, we’ve sold lots of records. We need to order some more. We’ve got a lot of record because the label is over in America, and there’s obviously a far bigger market over there.
Northern Transmissions: Has there been any backlash to signing with the Brooklyn label, the name or the music you’ve been putting out as WOMPS?
Ewan Grant: I don’t think anyone knows who our label is, which is a good [laughs]. We’re not even sure. I know they’re tied to Sony and Domino and stuff like that. I think we’re the first thing they’ve put out, so it’s hard to judge. We don’t really mention it much.
Northern Transmissions: WOMPS is quite far from your solo venture, what made you want to shift to the new material you’ve been putting out?
Ewan Grant: Just Owen our drummer, and cause we had to do it live. We didn’t have all the nice trickery in the studio that we used to use at least. Had to learn how to sing and stuff cause I used to cheat with that all the time.
Northern Transmissions: What kind of headspace were you in going in to this album, versus your solo work?
Ewan Grant: It was more of just being in a band and documenting it. Like all those Dischord Records releases and stuff like that they liked just because they’re documents of bands, so we thought we’d do that and after the first day of getting to know Steve Albini and being intimidated by him anymore. The first day was a little bit of a write-off because he’s a little bit scary for an hour, but he’s just a lot of fun. He just encourages you to have fun making music. There wasn’t much concept behind it really [laughs]
Northern Transmissions: You mentioned that with your solo stuff you knew what it was going to sound like before you recorded it – what was your vision like going into this album and did you know you really wanted to capture the energy of a live show on the record
Ewan Grant: Yeah well I thought we’d try to make a record that was like Surfer Rosa, but the thing about doing it live is you’re going to sound like yourself, which is a good thing.
Northern Transmissions: Was that one of the main influences for doing it live?
Ewan Grant: Yeah that and we had some money saved up and we just wanted to do something with Steve, and he did Cloud Nothings a couple of years before that and we really liked the drums on that record. There was a point where we were ripping them off a lot but we scraped all those tracks from the record [laughs]
Northern Transmissions: I was hoping to get a really nice snapshot of the process of working with Steve Albini and writing and recording the album. You said you recorded it over five days
Ewan Grant: Probably less than that really. The Wednesday night we did four of the songs in a row. He just kind of keeps the tape rolling until he thinks you’re tired, he doesn’t have hours he just cycles back. He wears this ridiculous cycling outfit, and just cycles miles back home to his cat and his wife. He mixes it in like five minutes because there’s only… I don’t know how many tracks there, not many at all. And then he’ll go look at guns on eBay, or play Scrabble or something like that on his laptop [laughs] to give his ears a rest, and then go on rants about corn syrup or something like that. He thinks America is doomed by the corn syrup industry. We don’t have corn syrup here so I don’t know.
Northern Transmissions: What is the most important moment of the album for you? Or perhaps a song that encompasses the album as a whole?
Ewan Grant: My favourite tracks are “How Are You” and “Gift From God” but they’re so different. “How Are You” is like when I was starting to enjoy playing guitar. I listened to a lot of Johnny Marr and I finally got a chance to do something like that. That’s a probably an good indicator of where we’re going. I think because it took so long to come out some of the tracks didn’t really… like another band there, trying to get away from the garage rock thing. It’s good when you start though, it’s an easy entry to making an album.
Northern Transmissions: Tell me a little about the story behind the album cover I know you said that it’s kind of like a glass half full in a way.
Ewan Grant: Yeah we were looking at like Roman and Greek gods of fertility and all the male ones are just massive penis gods so we couldn’t put that on the record cover cause we’re not Death Grips [laughs] There’s a painting that’s like that photograph so we just reenacted it. A lot of people thought there was a breast-feeding thing that we were getting at behind there. We didn’t really mean that but that’s cool. The glass half full thing is just creating art to pass the time. It gives life purpose. We’re both very cynical and don’t have any religious beliefs or anything like that so it’s just something to pass the time that’s positive.
Northern Transmissions: Finally what do you have in stock for the rest of the year? What are you most excited about for the rest of this year?
Ewan Grant: We got offered a few tours in America and Canada which we really want to do, they’re just support tours. So we have to figure that out and figure the visa situation cause I know that can take a few months. So we’ll do that, maybe CMJ in New York. Start writing a record and think about who to go with. I’ve been listening to a lot of Glasgow from the 80s. I think we can do some sort of Jesus and the Mary Chain or the Pastels thing. That would be a nice road to go down, lots of reverb.
interview by Sean Carlin