Louder with Sammy and Boots from WSTR
The UK’s pop punk scene has exploded over the past few years, and one of its best success stories is that of Wrexham-founded quartet WSTR. The band have had an amorphous existence since their inception in 2015, however, with a solidified line up and sophomore album ‘Identity Crisis’ under their belts, WSTR have been making full use of that forward momentum, touring almost constantly since the album’s release at the start of the summer. We caught up with vocalist Sammy Clifford and guitarist Tom Hawkes (better known as Boots) at the Manchester date of their current UK tour to discuss the album, life on their three month US touring stint and the best gifts they’ve received on the road:
You guys have recently released your new album ‘Identity Crisis’- how have you found the response to that record so far?
Sammy: It’s been amazing- we’re slowly starting to feel like we’re a band! It’s amazing seeing people from across the world who are tweeting about it and who actually care about it, and seeing people who have said that the lyrics have helped them out is a really nice feeling. We were a bit worried because we thought that because we were experimenting and changing a little from the first record, we thought it might put people off, and it probably did put a lot of people off, but luckily most people got what we were trying to do after a few listens. On the whole we’re really happy about it.
You’ve come a long way since your first EP- are you happy with the way your sound has grown and changed over the years?
Sammy: There’s nothing we can do about it really because it was all just natural, but I definitely feel like we’re more comfortable in our own skin now and we’re just doing what we want to do. Not that we weren’t [doing what we wanted to do] then, but we’re also just doing what we want to do now. We’re definitely happy with the progression we’ve made- it’s been quite a quick progression, but that’s just the way it’s worked.
Do you feel like this album and this new line up have helped solidify your identity as a band going forward, or is there more room for you to grow and expand with your sound?
Sammy: I think the line up now is a lot stronger than it’s ever been before, and we’ve also been a lot busier too- we did three months in America which really brought up together and helped us realise a lot about ourselves and the band and how to learn to cope with each other!
Boots: Yeah, America was great, but there was some very testing times- being stuck in a van together for three months was a challenge, but we’re still here and we’re still together!
Lots of this album centres around the theme of relationships- is exposing that vulnerability something you ever find to be difficult, or is it more cathartic?
Sammy: I feel like I’m getting a lot better with talking about how I feel, whereas in the past I haven’t been at all. The way I write songs, it just comes straight out of my head rather than sitting down and thinking about ‘this is what I want to say to the world’, because a lot of the time I don’t know what it is that I want to say. It wasn’t until I was listening back to a lot of these songs that I realised that this is my way of talking about this stuff. Now I’ve realised that though I feel like it’s going to be a lot easier and I’m excited to write deeper stuff.
Boots: That was a conversation we had a few weeks ago in America, where Sammy was saying that he hadn’t realised that a lot of the words he was putting out had such deep meanings, and it’s only now that you’re realising what they mean to you.
Sammy: It was almost a cry for help without knowing it when I wrote them, and afterwards I really understood ‘oh, that’s what that means!’.
As well as this new album, you’ve also recently embarked on an epic US tour lasting nearly 3 months- how did you find that experience? Do you have a favourite show you played on that tour?
Sammy: It was two very different tours very close together so there were so many mixed emotions. There were a lot of highs, and a lot of time spent reflecting on how lucky we were to be out there, but there were a lot of lows and stress too, I felt very on edge a lot of the time.
Boots: On the Neck Deep tour we were in a van smaller than the one we tour in over here, and we had all the gear in the back of the van too, so on the 20 hour drives we’d have to try and sleep sitting up! But then when we did the Pvmnts tour, Sammy convinced us to get a trailer, and it did make things a lot easier!
Sammy: Both tours were amazing in their own right- the Neck Deep tour was big rooms and the crowd reaction for us was amazing, and then the next tour was a lot more DIY because it was both ours and Pvmnts’ first US tour, so none of us really knew what to expect. What I will say about the US is that we were blown away by the reaction! The shows were like therapy after the drives, and a lot of the places we felt like we were at home.
Boots: New Jersey was amazing, 2000 kids, it was sold out front to back, so that was a special show for us.
Sammy: There was weird little places like Lancaster in Philadelphia that were insane-
Boots: Salt Lake City too- it was this weird little venue, it was like a little back garden with what looked like a garage!
Sammy: Seattle was great too, with the glitter shirts that those girls made us
Boots: That happened a few times, this girl brought us floral shirts so we all wore them onstage
Sammy: We seemed to constantly be receiving gifts- we’ve always had people bring us cakes and flash art that they’ve made which is really awesome, but this was getting silly! In Atlanta, people were sending cookies to the venue, properly gift wrapped, every flavour you could imagine!
Boots: I preferred that to any of the shows actually!
What are some of the things you like most about being on the road and is there anything you miss while you’re away from home?
Sammy: It’s the routine for me that I miss, because I don’t have one at home! Normal life now is weird, because I feel like we’re like travellers- you come home and all your friends are going off to work, and you sort of forget how to function in normal society almost! Because we’re always travelling at night you sort of go unseen, apart from when you’re onstage, other than that you’re just travelling and nobody can really pin you down, so when you get home you don’t know here to go or what to do- I get a bit bored to be honest!
Boots: Nobody has jobs anymore because we just don’t have time, so before when we did have other jobs you had a bit of a routine
Sammy: But now all I have is the band and my girlfriend, which is great, but I do miss the routine.
Boots: The main thing I miss about the US is the weather! It was different all over, but the heat in California was amazing- it was a bit of a shock to the system coming back!
Once this tour is over, are you guys finally planning on getting some rest? Or can we expect more surprises on the horizon?
Boots: There’s things being planned at the moment, and next year pretty early on we’ll be going again!
Sammy: We’ve got a couple of weeks off over Christmas and then we’re back at it again planning things, which I’m happy about to be honest- I’m excited for Christmas, mainly to eat loads, and then we’re back to it!
If their mammoth year of touring had taken its toll on WSTR, they didn’t let it show for a second, as that night they put on a riot of a set that left the entire crowd dripping with sweat but beaming brighter than that much-missed LA sunshine! The band that never sleeps added another venue to their ever growing checklist, and as the juggernaut rolls on, we can’t wait to see where it will take them next.
There are a few dates left of the Identity Crisis UK Tour: dates can be found below:
Check out the video for the album’s lead single ‘Bad to the Bone’ below:
Connect with WSTR on Twitter: @wstrband