Contributor Antigoni Pitta bumped into the three Californians that make up The Whig Whams at a gig late last year. Intrigued, she decided to don her CUB hat and hung out with them a couple of weeks ago to have a much needed musical chat.
If you haven’t heard of the Whig Whams yet, do yourself a favour and check them out in due time – NME’s Radar is already on their case! Hailing from San Diego but based here in London, they’ve been having the time of their lives playing their loud, beachy, beer-fueled music in venues and parties around town for the past few months. My first encounter with them was in the audience at an Orwells show in November, but of course then I didn’t know they were in a band, they were just a couple of kids having fun. Flash forward to February, and they’re the first band on the bill at the amazing warehouse party hosted by London darlings Thee MVP’s with Twin Peaks and ex’s. I was immediately smitten by their infectious sound that echoes other California bands like together PANGEA and FIDLAR – a breath of fresh air music-wise and attitude-wise from what you’d expect to hear on any given night in a London music venue.
Earlier this month I sat down with vocalist/guitarist Joel Currie and bassist Tyler Moot over a couple of pints to chat about their life in London so far and got their California, laid-back, tie-dyed point of view on the music scene, and some sick music recommendations to boot.
We’re halfway through our first round of Guinness when I start the interview, and we’ve already covered topics ranging from homemade tattoos to animal cruelty at Sea World. Time to get down to the serious stuff.
“We’re just a bunch of kids who are trying to put off adult life for as long as they can, play rock n’ roll, work shitty jobs, party with a lot of people…and write some good rock n’ roll tunes!” says Joel when asked to describe who the Whig Whams are. “We love to play music and we love people who enjoy music, so this is a good way to meet people and have some fun – basically do what we love to do.”
Then comes the obvious question, which is of course how two kids from San Diego found themselves in London. They explain that Joel got the opportunity to move to London last summer and went through with it, with Tyler joining after a couple of months. They’ve been playing with new drummer Raul Enchillada for a while now.
“For a long time I said that we weren’t gonna move because things were going so well in San Diego,” says Joel, “but after a while it just came down to doing something new. London’s a music mecca and there are so many people, so many things happening. After a while we started to notice there wasn’t much happening in San Diego and we kept doing the same thing, so we decided to just completely change it and come to London and fucking kill it.”
I mention how when I moved to London it seemed like the music scene was either dormant or just very closed-doors, and they both seem to agree. “When we first moved here it was hard to find the music scene, it seemed like there was nothing going on, and then we met Thee MVP’s and they showed us all these different bands that were in London and kind of helped us become a part of the scene that we wanted to be in, and now we know where we have to be, when we have to be there.”
“I feel like the more time you spend in London the more stuff you discover” adds Tyler, “just by going out and hearing more bands… You might go to a gig you think looks shitty and then you discover a super sick band.”
The main difference with the San Diego scene is that “there’s so many bands that aren’t really connected, but here you find one of the garage/punk/underground rock bands are all somewhat connected with each other because it’s a really tight knit community. If you can meet and get in with a couple of them and become friends with them, that will open all the doors to all the other bands that you wanna meet and see, so you just have to try and get yourself into that crowd.”
While we’re on the subject, I ask if London has changed the way they write, and if it will potentially change the way they sound.
“Yes and no because I still like the same music and he does too” says Joel, and Tyler nods in agreement. “We still write the same kind of stuff, but I think now that we’re in this situation we feel we need to step up our game. So now we really try and write great songs – and it’s the same kind of song as before, but we just put a little more effort into making it a good song. Being in London and seeing how many people out there are really trying has opened our eyes to the fact that you really need to put a lot of work into the music itself, whereas in San Diego we would just write songs because it was fun. Now we can have fun BUT ALSO work hard.”
The band’s EP Bite the Sheets came out this summer, so I ask if they’re planning on releasing anything new in the near future.
“We write all the time, but right now all we’ve been doing is practicing –we just got this new drummer pretty recently and he’s really good, and we’ve practiced through all the songs that we’ve written and kind of picked out the ones that sound best. I write 4-5 songs a week but only one of them, or even 1 every month, I really like or wanna keep. We don’t wanna record an album yet because we don’t have anywhere to really release it as of right now and we kind of need to get more rooted before we can do that. And the way I am, I don’t wanna record a bunch of songs and then be like ‘I don’t really like this one, not this one, this one’s cool, not that one,’ and then a 12-song album turns into a 2-song album.”
Both guys are pretty adamant on maintaining the California sound that sets them apart from many other bands here, but when I ask about their musical influences, they can’t settle on specifics. “Whatever bands we listen to have an influence on us”, says Joel, citing “the new generation of rock n’ rollers” that includes the likes of Twin Peaks, Ty Segall and the Orwells as their main influence. “Anything that sounds good to me is an influence” adds Tyler, adding older bands like the Germs and Black Flag to the list.
As for what made them want to get into music, Tyler is the first to answer. “I wanted to be a musician since I was a little kid, and once I started guitar lessons I’ve wanted to be in a band, and I guess I just haven’t changed my mind yet!”
“I just don’t think I could really do anything else” chips in Joel, “I don’t have any other skills. I’d be fucked if I couldn’t play music, and also, you see the younger kids like Ty and people like that doing it, it’s kind of like ‘look at that!’” Tyler reminds him of the Orwells. “Yeah, they’re so young. You see the Orwells playing these huge shows and travelling the world and you just think like, ‘if they can do it I can probably do it.’”
“They’re fucking my age and they’re doing it, so yeah!” adds Tyler.
“I think that’s pretty much it – seeing other kids doing it. Nowadays you don’t have big rock stars, you know, it’s not like the musicians are idolized as something that other humans aren’t. Now it’s like, a rock star can be a kid your age who acts like you and is down to just have a conversation with you. It’s more possible now. But there’s so many kids doing it so you just gotta work hard and hopefully you’ll be one of those few.”
As a final question, I ask them to recommend some bands they think more people should check out. They admit they don’t listen to a lot of UK rock, but as far as London based bands go, they really like Thee MVP’s, Abjects, and Shame. They also mention a few bands from California like The Frights, No Parents, and Melted.
So, where do Tyler and Joel see the band in a year’s time?
“Probably doing the same shit we’re doing right now, hopefully with more people who are into it… AND THEN THE MOON – make sure to include that!”