Opera North

Without Maps

16 October 11 words: Andrew Trendall
"I’d say we’re all a lot more interested in American DIY and bands from the States than we are in UK music"
Without Maps Interview
Without Maps interview

How would you describe people’s reactions to the band so far?
Rory: Generally good. Last June we went on tour with a Cardiff band called Samoans, and that was really well-received. It was the first time we’d forayed out of Nottingham and we seemed to get good responses wherever we went.
Nick: I’m excited about the response to these new songs when we sort them out and release them because they’re definitely better than anything we’ve done before so things should step up.

Where do the tracks you’ve just recorded take Without Maps following on from the Cellar Tapes EP?
N: We’re taking a lot more time on them. Cellar Tapes was recorded in a day and that was four songs, whereas our next one will be half as many songs in twice as much time and it just sounds like a different band.
R: Musically, it’s changed quite a lot. It’s more poppy I guess. There’s some actual singing on the new stuff too.

Is the SAT NAV still off?
R: Pretty much turned off, yeah. Still no SAT NAV, we don’t know where we’re going but we’re on a different route.

So for these ridiculous people who haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe your sound?
N: ‘A macho Pretty Girls Make Graves.’
R: Yeah, we get called that a lot, which we quite like. Macho Girls for short. Our sound is very much taken from that American indie/hardcore thing.

I see and hear a lot of American and Canadian influences in your sound and even in the way your releases have been put together. Would you say that’s a fair assumption?
R: Yes, I’d say we’re all a lot more interested in American DIY and bands from the States than we are in UK music.
N: A lot of the bands that I listen to that sound a bit like us are Canadian or American – bands from the Seattle and Washington State area. You know, bands like These Arms Are Snakes and Blood Brothers who we’ve been listening to for years. We’re not as aggressive as them, but it’s definitely where our main influence comes from.

What aspects of those kinds of bands strike more of a chord with you guys than say, a band like The Kooks or Mumford and Sons?
N: Just the sound. It’s not like I’ve set out to just listen to American bands in particular – there are some good bands from the UK that I like the sound of…
R: There just seem to be more from America.
N: Well, there are more of them, so it’s just the law of averages. I like other American stuff too. I like baseball, is that weird?
R: That is weird, I didn’t know that.
N: Yeah, but they don’t show it on Channel 5 any more so it’s quite hard to follow, and the team I arbitrarily decided to support is really, really rubbish. So I’ve gone off it slightly.

I also hear a lot of humour in your music that people might not pick up on at first…
R: I’d say that’s fair.
N: That might come from the fact that we’re all secretly idiots. We take ourselves seriously in that we take a lot of time to write really good songs, but we don’t write really political songs and we’re not hoping to change anything.
R: We’re not trying to be a comedy band, but it’s good to have some humour in your music.

The Science Bastard by WithoutMapsUK

Following the recent article in the Guardian and general buzz around the Nottingham scene, there’s the question of whether having a lot of decent bands coincidentally living in the same place necessarily constitutes a ‘scene’. Would you say there is one?
R: I think that there’s a lot going on in Nottingham at the moment, and there are definitely more shows and record labels than I’ve ever noticed before. I think a lot of people have their own place in the city and their own scene that they’re part of but I’m not entirely sure there’s a unified scene. Nottingham’s in a good state musically at the moment, but a lot of other cities are too from my experience, and I’d like to think that has something to do with the fact that music’s in a healthy state, rather than just Nottingham and ‘our’ city.
N: Well compared to the US, the UK is so small and the cities are so close together that there doesn’t really need to be so much emphasis on a city’s scene. For example, Derby’s just a bus ride away and there are so many good bands over there that you can go and see in an evening and then come back. There are also great Leicester and Leeds bands and they can just as easily come to Nottingham, which is what they’re doing. So I’m more excited about all of the shows that are happening than I am about Nottingham bands in particular.

Who are your favourite Nottingham bands at the moment then?
R: We’re putting on a show with Some Skeletons. They’re probably my favourite Nottingham band right now. I really enjoy Sofa King’s stuff too.
N: I’d like to say La Boite Diabolique too but our guitarist is in that band, so that’s kind of cheating.
R: I tend to feel more of an affinity to the promoters and the people in Nottingham who do similar kind of DIY stuff to ourselves, rather than bands. People like Some Dudes, Coffee Beat and Default This are putting on really good shows and getting good bands to come here, which in turn means local bands can play with great bands.

So you’d say it’s more a cultural than a musical thing?
R: Definitely. There are more people putting on shows and there are a lot more people going to them than ever before. I think Nottingham has got quite a bad reputation for crowds in the past, but that’s changing.
N: We’ve been going to gigs on like Tuesdays, and they’ve been really busy.

What do you think it is about Nottingham that’s created such a healthy environment for all of this to exist?
N: I like that there’s a lot of students – that helps. There are quite a lot of decent sized small venues too.
R: Yeah, and that makes it easier to put shows on, which means a lot of bands from out of town can come and play a gig here even if they just know a friend who’s here. Venues like The Chameleon, the Angel and Jam Café are really good for just letting you do whatever you want to do with that space.

Do you think that you’d sound or approach things differently if you came from somewhere else?
R: I wouldn’t have thought so. All of the people I know from other cities are doing things very similarly. This is just our way of making music.

Without Maps play with Samoans and Kutosis at The Chameleon on Friday 18 November 2011.

Without Maps website

Listen to Without Maps on Bandcamp

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