• Charlotte Hardman

Louder with Woes

While the rest of us are still shaking off the January blues and slowly grinding into gear for the new year, Edinburgh quartet Woes are already up out of the blocks and going strong! Riding off the back of their stint supporting Neck Deep on the UK leg of their The Peace and the Panic tour in the autumn, where they were the underdogs whose name was on everybody’s lips by the tour’s conclusion, the band are showing no signs of slowing down with another tour already underway, this time in support of Canadian pop punkers Seaway. Down to earth as always, their vocalist DJ, bassist and backing vocalist Sean and drummer Ryan met with us at Starbucks before their show at Manchester’s Rebellion to have a chat about the tour so far:

Sean: ‘I think we can come to the collective decision that tour has been fucking ace! It’s been really fun, the shows have been packed out for Seaway, but the crowds have been awesome for us as well, we’ve been loving every second of it! And we’ve had a lot of people coming up to us and saying ‘Yo, never heard of you before, but I checked out your set and loved it’ which has been a really rewarding thing to hear as well!’

As soon as the doors opened to the venue that night, the level of support that Woes have gathered in a relatively short space of time became apparent as a cluster of enthusiastic fans filled the room, humming with an excited chatter. You might not think it, but the band are still incredibly early in their journey under the Woes moniker, with only seven released songs to date. The rarity of their position is not lost on the boys, but they appear to be confident in their abilities to take it all in their stride:

DJ: It’s an incredibly nerve-wracking thing to contemplate- every time we release a song we’re always wondering ‘Are people going to like this, is it too this or too that, did we produce it right, are we releasing it at the right time?’ etcetera. The way we’ve released music so far has been just one song after another, so it’ll be good when we can put out an album and just say to people ‘Here, go and enjoy this body of work’, compared to the way we’re releasing songs at the minute which does make it more stressful.

Sean: There is an element of stress to it all, but you’ve just got to try to not overthink it- we’ve made these songs, we love them and hopefully other people love them too!

Stressful it may be, but songs like the recently released ‘Losing Time’ went down a storm with the crowd that packed itself on to Rebellion’s surprisingly un-sticky floor, as the sprinkling of fans in the crowd sung every word with plenty of accompanying finger pointing at the introduction to each chorus!

According to the band, the recording process for that song was far less streamlined than the final product suggests, however:

DJ: It started in the studio, we had this guitar riff which became the intro of that song and then we sort of built it out from there. We were staying in this cottage together while recording and we were trying to decide what the song should be about, and I had a few ideas but they were all very negative, and Ryan was saying no, it needs to be something that you can get pumped about because the song is so upbeat! So we started jamming with some more positive ideas and because we were in this cottage away from family and friends we decided that’s what the song should be about, and it grew from there.

Sean: When we wrote it, Stu our guitarist was like ‘This is so poppy, it sounds like Busted!’, but then when we spent some time on the words, especially the chorus, and that’s when it all came together. What I like about ‘Losing Time’ is that the lyrics touch on the tougher parts of a relationship, but then you’ve got that big beat behind it and it creates this weird mix of emotions and I think that’s part of the reason why people dug it.

A huge part of the attraction of Woes comes from the individual nature of their sound- the quartet have managed to blend elements of classic pop punk with a more emotionally driven undercurrent that drives their songs and connects with their fans on a more intimate level than some of their more traditional pizza-and-pogoing peers. In the eyes of bassist Sean, that amalgamation comes from a range of influences, from the band’s individual music tastes and collective as well as personal experiences:

Sean: Our sound is formed from a bit of everything I think- we always try to write good songs in the realm that we’ve chosen to write in, but if anyone wants to have success and longevity then they need to branch out and be as unique as they can. Songs like ‘Losing Time’ sound quite simple but they’re actually quite technical and hard to play, and while the chorus sounds quite poppy, when you start reading the lyrics you start thinking ‘hang on, this is actually deeper than I’d realised’. That’s what I like about the meaning behind ‘Losing Time’ because it kind of creeps up on you.

That close emotional connection that the band have formed with their fanbase was evident in the cluster of eager fans that lined the barrier of Rebellion, as well as in the many daily interactions the band have with their fans online. Both individually and as a community, these fans have had a huge impact on the guys themselves, and for drummer Ryan, one story sticks out in particular as having changed his viewpoint on his band’s music:

Ryan: I remember once a guy told us once about how his friend had taken his own life, and he resonated with ‘Worst Friend’ because he felt like he’d been the worst friend by not being there when his friend needed him, and I’d never thought of our music like that or seen that song in that way before. The good thing was though it turned what was a negative situation for that guy into more of a positive one because he was able to relate to the music and know that others have felt that way. That’s the most important thing- as much as you want to make money off your music or whatever, what’s important is you want people to feel a part of something or understand how they’re feeling.

Sean: Yeah, that sense that ‘there’s other people who feel like me and there are other people who’ve felt what I’ve felt and I know that I’m going to be okay’, that’s super important to all of us.

Throughout Woes’ set, that sense of community and belonging was evident, as the band’s energy reached out to every corner of the room, drawing even the most laid back of audience members into the atmosphere and making sure nobody missed a beat. Mastering small venues such as these is a skill that Woes have honed throughout their successive tours, and there are many intimate, grassroots venues that have a special place in the hearts of these guys:

Sean: Edinburgh Opium is a great venue, we’ve had some sick shows there- our first ever show with Trash Boat was there, so that’s a personal favourite!

DJ: We played Key Club the other night which is one of my favourites- we’ve played there twice and the sound is always really great, and the scene in Leeds in amazing! Also Studio 24 in Edinburgh.

Ryan: Obviously I loved playing Brixton! But aside from that, I really liked Stereo because there’s SPACE- usually you’ve got the drums and everyone’s amps squeezed in and you can’t move your cymbals and you’re hitting your hands off everything, so even just being able to get round to the back of the drum-kit makes a venue a personal favourite!

Small though the stage at Rebellion may be, the band’s staunch fans peppered throughout the crowd sang every word to every song, from the infectiously bouncy ‘Winter Sun’ to the darker, heavier ‘Worst Friend’. In anticipation of hearing these songs performed live, fans of the band have had their fingers hovering over the replay button on their Spotify playlists, a stark contrast from the way music was consumed just a few years ago:

Sean: The medium through which people listen to music has definitely changed, but as long as you’re innovative, you’re working hard and you’re keeping up to date with the trends it’ll always be fine. Personally I love streaming- I’ve always been a guy who loves discovering new bands and streaming just makes that so much easier.

DJ: I think that 6 or 7 years ago, bands who wanted to release music and wanted to reach the most people as possible would do that via YouTube, which meant that they spent thousands of pounds on just the music videos, which some of them still do. But now Spotify is the real metric for success in terms of how well the music is received by its fans, which means that fans are focusing more on the quality of the music rather than the quality of the music videos then I think that’s an extremely good thing.

Unwinding after their set and casting our gaze back towards home for a brief moment, it is evident that the Woes boys come from a proud heritage of Scottish alternative music- a scene that has given us bands like Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic and Vukovi to name just a few. However, the position Woes are in is an unusual one, as DJ explained:

Well, all the bands in that list are awesome, but they’re all from the West coast of Scotland and we’re from the East coast because we’re based in Edinburgh. The Glasgow scene is always very strong with venues and places to play, but in Edinburgh we have real problems with venues closing down so there’s not enough places for bands to play and not enough bands because of that. I’ve always felt like somewhat of an outsider in the UK scene because we’re so far away from everything because there’s nobody really near us that we can play shows with. So the scene on the West coast is great but on the East coast there’s still work that needs to be done to improve it, and there needs to be a band who can pave the way.

Well if Woes have anything to say about it, that band will be them! As the chattering crowd filtered out of the venue at the end of the night, many fans hung around to chat to each other and the band- evidence of Woes’ fanbase flourishing before our eyes. A fanbase that is sure to return in force when the band embark on a headline tour of their own! According to Sean, that might not be happening just yet, but when it does there are plans afoot for something spectacular…

Sean: We can’t really do a headliner with only 7 released songs, so I think taking the time to release some new music first and then doing a headline tour would be better! Also, when we play with bigger bands it makes us want to up the production of our shows in terms of the lighting and the backdrops and such- when we do a headline tour I want it to be a proper show! Bands like Creeper are a big personal inspiration in terms of production- when I saw them on their Eternity in Your Arms UK Tour I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! So even if it’s just to 50 people in a club somewhere, I want our headline shows to be really memorable for those 50 people, so taking the time to do it right is really important to me.

It certainly sounds like a tour nobody will want to miss out on! And as a whole, Woes have set themselves up to be one of the breakout bands of 2018- with new music on the way in the near future, more touring to be done and several festival appearances booked in for the summer, including a spot on the bill at Download Festival, Woes are definitely a band you want to get onto as soon as you can, because they’re all set to take 2018 by storm!