Hello, how are you?
Dan: Very well thanks.
Dave: Suitably maudlin, thanks. How are you?
You are deciding to call it a day, why?
Dan: It just seems like the right time. Souvaris has occupied a major part of our lives for over a decade and it’s been incredible amounts of fun. But we’ve reached a point now where we feel that we’ve done all we can do. So, rather than carry on for the sake of it and run the risk of ending up resenting the band and each other, we figured we’d call it quits while the going was good.
Dave: There’s no more gas in the tank. Our lives are now in such different places that it’s hard to get us all together just for a drink, let alone rehearsal and songwriting. We’ve done a lot in the last dozen years and achieved all our ambitions. Why spoil it by dragging it out any further?
Does it feel sad?
Dan: Of course. But we all agree that it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
Dave: I’ll be sad not to be playing some of these songs any more. But we’re all still best friends, so in a sense all we are stopping is spending a couple of evenings a week and a couple of weeks a year cooped up in a small space destroying each other’s hearing.
You’ve been together for 12 years. Are you surprised that the band has lasted this long?
Dave: I’m surprised the band lasted every year we were together. It was hardly even a band when we started; more an excuse to jam and make noise for hours on end in the early hours of the morning. We never thought about playing any gigs or putting anything out for a while, and they were glorious times. I’m also surprised the band survived the move to Nottingham in 2003, just after we recorded I Felt Nothing At All – we lost two founder members - who remain dear friends - and didn’t do anything about it for six months.
How do you feel the band has changed over the years?
Dave: The move to Nottingham definitely changed us. When we realised that only four of us were left, we asked Dan to join us with a fortnight’s notice before our first European tour and then spent two years regenerating into something quite different, something more focused and muscular that would be captured on A Hat. Since then, we’ve focused more and more on detail, arrangement and melody – to the point where our latest stuff seems to upset some people’s brains. Perhaps it’s time to give them a break.
What has been your proudest achievement with the band?
Dan: There’s so many. I think anything we’ve achieved is all the more gratifying because we’ve done everything under our own steam. We’ve never had a manager, we’ve booked our own tours and, for the most part, recorded our own albums. Ultimately we’ve only had ourselves to contend with. We’ve made our own mistakes but we’ve also reaped our own rewards, and we’ve taken no guff from anyone else in the process.
Dave: My heart definitely swelled a bit when we heard John Peel (RIP) play our first demo on his show in 2001 and then defended it when someone emailed in to say it sounded like a Black Heart Procession rip-off. The chocolate biscuit I’d included in the parcel I sent him obviously helped.
Do you feel the band got the recognition it deserved?
Dave: “Deserve” and “recognition” aren’t words we paid much attention to. We made music to satisfy our creative impulses and fed off the reaction we got from people at gigs. Considering the fulfillment we got from travelling all over several countries, being fed, housed and delivered free booze on top of the music, I think we did pretty bloody well.
When you look back over everything you have done with Souvaris, what are your personal highlights?
Dan: Being in Souvaris I’ve been fortunate enough to share bills with bands and artists I’ve admired for years. It’s been a case of, “Wow! I have a load of your records and now I’m sharing a stage with you!” There have been a few occasions where I’ve had to try and keep my cool and not turn into a drooling fan-boy. With varying degrees of success, I might add…
Dave: My favourite time musically was always spent in the practice spaces, jamming out ideas together and building these beautiful, intricate structures of sound. The points where it all came together felt like group epiphanies. I can still remember the first time we put Be He That Lives To Telephonic Only! together and played it in some ramshackle form; we all got very excited when we realised that we might actually have a proper song that really pulled your heartstrings to pieces. That emotional charge was what really drove our early gigs onwards – I remember someone telling me that in those days, when we could barely play our instruments, let alone together, we were either terrible or brilliant live, and it seemed to depend entirely on whether we could tap into that collective inspiration.
You’ve toured extensively throughout the UK and Europe, where have been your favourite places to visit?
Simmo: In terms of shows, some particular highlights over the years have been Zurich, a small town called Athus on the Belgian/Luxembourg border, Brussels, Bath, The Buffalo Bar in London… we’ve been well-fed, well-watered, and generally well looked after by many ludicrously nice people. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve tended to make more time on tour to see interesting things.
Who is the most annoying in the tour van?
Dan: We’re all pretty annoying in our own unique and special way.
Dave: We’ve been together long enough and on tour enough times to know each other’s foibles that no one really gets agitated any more. However, I distinctly remember of Simmo almost getting thrown in a ditch in the middle of nowhere in Switzerland on our first European tour in 2004. Instead, the batteries from his keyboard were “lost” and we let him play on soundlessly. Everyone else would probably say I am, for inflicting the full hour of Sleep’s Dopesmoker on the van at some point on every tour we’ve done.
Simmo: Probably me. Or Ian, who has been known to ask, “can we listen to the Bladerunner soundtrack?” Only for us to discover that it was actually just a rip of the audio from the film. “It’s great because you can make up your own pictures to go with it!”, he claimed. I think after 12 years you more or less learn exactly what each person finds irritating and how to avoid doing it. At least, most of the time…
What’s been the best gig you’ve played in Nottingham?
Dan: I really enjoyed playing The Rescue Rooms in 2007 when we supported Kieron Hebden and the late Steve Reid. We played really well and the crowd were disturbingly enthusiastic. It was just one of those shows where everything came together nicely.
Dave: Good question. Playing with Thee More Shallows at Bunkers Hill was a great experience considering we co-promoted it. Supporting Bardo Pond at The Maze was also fantastic; I’d never really dug their records but live it made total sense and I was blown away. They were lovely folks too. Throw in our appearance at Damn You! Christmas Covers 2007 and a few gigs with Sincabeza and we had many a fantastic time. Just don’t ask us about Junktion7.
Have you had any nightmare performances?
Simmo: Believe me, there have been a few. When we were young teenage upstarts way back when we played a gig in Hitchin in a venue that had a noise limiter. We never made it more than three minutes in to a song without shorting the power to the whole venue. There have been a few shows over the years where there have been more members of the band than of the audience. But after a few years you genuinely stop caring – in fact, I’ve enjoyed some of those shows as much as any we’ve played.
Dave: How long have you got? There was the time we tried to play a triumphant “spiritual homecoming” gig in Coventry on the last date of our first UK tour and got stiffed by the promoter over the soundsystem in a huge space; then Ian’s bass amp broke and he was forced to play through monitors; it sounded appalling. We once played a gig in Reims where Ian was forced to build the sound system himself whilst we all slowly cooked in the sun outside. We went onstage seven hours later, only to find that Aaron had drunk himself to the point where he couldn’t really play drums any more. There was the time Dan collapsed from heat exhaustion in the cellar of a Moroccan football bar in Amiens… But nothing compares to the only time we tried to play an “actual homecoming” gig for charity in Hertfordshire and found that the venue had failed to inform us of the sound limiter that cut all power to the building for five minutes if volumes exceeded 90dB. After half a dozen false starts that plunged people into total darkness, we limped halfway through one song and gave up. We were the headliners. We ended up offering to refund everyone’s costs and have denied the existence of the gig ever since… until now!
You are playing your last ever show at Nottingham Contemporary. What can we expect at it?
Dave: What, Low Point Records guru Gareth Hardwick coming out of retirement to play another triumphant onslaught of ambient beauty and Kogumaza boring genius stonerdronerifforama into your skull isn’t enough? What about the DJing skills of Matt Gringo and Hemulen Sounds? Well, the bar will be open ‘til 2am, so you can expect us all to be smashed drunk and emotional before we go home. Parents, family, old friends and ex-members are coming, so it will probably get messy.
How do you think you will be feeling as you play the last song of your set?
Dan: Sweaty. I suspect the emotions will pour out about an hour later.
Dave: “How the f*ck do we finish this?” It’s still open to debate how we stop.
This isn’t completely the end though, is it? Some of you are carrying making music under different guises...
Simmo: Dave, Aaron and I are currently trying to work out how to indulge our krautrock, afrobeat and disco addictions simultaneously in a pop band called Cantaloupe. Dan is making excellent experimental electronic music under the name Apalusa. And the four of us are playing in a covers band at my brother’s wedding the week before our final show. And probably enjoying it more than any other musical venture we’ve ever undertaken.
What other music coming out of Nottingham at the moment do you like?
Dan: I‘m digging Kogumaza a lot. Anyone who plays so few notes at such high volume is ok in my book. Simmo: I’d second the mighty ‘Maza. Also, our comrades in Fists. Then there’s Grey Hairs, Hhymn, Rattle… Nottingham is generally spoilt for good bands, and all doing such different things. There are also some fine labels doing great things including Low Point, Hello Thor, Denizen, our beloved Gringo.
Dave: Kogumaza and Savoy Grand are our favourite bands, which is nice when they’re good buddies and practice space sharers too. Also add Fists, Gareth Hardwick, Moscow Youth Cult, Grey Hairs … the list never ends. There’s always good stuff happening, it’s just finding it that can take a while – but it’s always worth the effort.
What do you like to do on a night out in Nottingham?
Simmo: Night… out? I think I remember those. Do they serve real ale? Because if they don’t, I’m not going.
Dave: Luxuriate in the surroundings of Broadway cinema, go for a posh meal somewhere and then go down a decent pub - we’re spoiled rotten for ‘em. If there’s a decent gig on; even better.
If you could play with any other musician, who would it be and why?
Dan: I’d love to play with Slayer. Why? Because it’s f*!#ing SLAYER.
Any final words for the LeftLion readers?
Dan: Thanks to everyone in no particular order.
Dave: THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.
Souvaris play their final show with support from Kogumaza and Gareth Hardwick at Nottingham Contemporary on Friday 17 Febriary 2012.