Das Wanderlust

Bill Cummings 23/05/2006

(Das Wanderlust From Left to Right: Andy, Natalie, Ian, and Laura)
Picture taken in Saltburn, 08/10/05 - By Trudie
Das Wanderlust Interview.

Consisting of the boy-girl quartet of Laura (keys and vocals), Natalie (bass and vocals), Andy (guitar and toy keyboard) and Ian (drums), Das Wanderlust are from a little blip of the north-east of England where pastoral beauty sits alongside grotty chemical works. Their sound is 100mph shouty keyboard fuelled DIY pop - think an early Bis being playfully bashed into shape by Elastica, X-Ray Spex, and The Slits. Laura's bittersweet words are alternately shouted and sung above splodgy, Crayola coloured keyboard patterns, fuzzy guitars, rhythmic skin hitting and bouncy basslines.

Not just another new band on the NME treadmill, Das Wanderlust are genuinely funny, down to earth and self deprecating people - willing to take the piss out of themselves and each other, often on stage. They're not caught up in scenes full of trendy haircuts and cheesy encores, they're too uncool and individual for the music press and don't even fit into the underground scene.

Until last year they didn't think they were that great, when comparing themselves to some of their favourite bands (The Fall, Melt Banana and Bearsuit), but gradually they've proved themselves wrong - releasing a brilliant debut EP in 2005 on Don't Tell Clare Records, and appearing on the excellent Cherryade Christmas Compilation. They've earned themselves fans in Everett True of Plan B magazine, 6Musics Phil Jupitus, and Radio Ones Huw Stevens, the latter of which invited them to play a session at the legendary Maida Vale Studios, traditionally used by John Peel. I caught up with Teesside's most-likely-to-break-out band for a four-way chat.

How did Das Wanderlust form?

Laura: Its a long story. About three years ago, I dropped out of university in London, and I was in a band before I went. When I came back to Teesside, I missed being in a band. And I spoke to the girl who I used to be in a band with and she said I know a girl, Natalie, whose just started playing bass. I sent her a tape of my four-track songs, and she said yes shed like to be in a band with me. Originally there were us two and Henry (of DARTZ!) doing programmed drums and guitar, but he left because he didn't want to be in a band with girls as he found it embarrassing. Then we asked Andy to join the band, along with another drummer who left after about six months, and was replaced by Ian.
Andy: Its even more convoluted than that.
Laura: We've had about eight members who we've thrown out along the way.
Natalie: A bit like The Fall.

How did you come up with the band name?

Laura: I looked in a dictionary and I found wanderlust, and Henry, who was in the band at the time, thought it would look good with the prefix das (German for the, but grammatically incorrect as it happens), which sounded slightly German so I liked it.

When did the final line up start playing together?

Andy: Our first ever gig was November 2004 with Pale Man Made.
Laura: We didn't start touring properly until Ian joined, though.
Natalie: Cos to go on tour you have to trust everyone that's with you, and that they're not going to fuck up all the time.
Laura: That they're not annoying, basically.
Natalie: Saying that, were all quite annoying people. I work hard to annoy everyone.
Laura: So do I.
Andy: We do it for fun, otherwise the journeys would get boring. Its to entertain each other.

Yeah, I noticed that on stage your banter is quite harsh, usually towards each other.

Laura: When we played in Bristol we weren't sure the promoter got our sense of humour.
Natalie: He seemed to genuinely think we hate each other!
Laura: Its because were best mates, its a sign of affection.
Natalie: Its not just a northern thing either cos two of us our southern.
Andy: People get a bit confused about the north/south thing. Everyone thinks were a northern band. But then on stage Laura and myself are the gobby ones, and were obviously both southern.
Laura: Everyone expects me to talk like this: (does a high pitched Reeves & Mortimer style Geordie accent!) Hallo Myaate!

Its meant to be trendy to come from that neck of the woods at the moment, isn't it?

Laura: When they wrote the Radio One session blurb they put that we are a Newcastle band.
Natalie: Its really different geographically and culturally. Its really annoying, like saying that someone from Southampton's from London.
Laura: The thing is Middlesbrough is better than Newcastle. Even though I want to move, Id never move to Newcastle.
Laura: Yeah Newcastle's a shit hole, and most of the venues are crap.
Natalie: and don't even get us started on Sunderland. Its concrete with loads of drunk people - horrid.

Who've you enjoyed supporting most so far?

Natalie: The Retro Spankees in Brighton. It was nice also playing with Help She Cant Swim in Brighton too, because they're nice people. Everett True from Plan B came down and said he liked us, which was lovely. We were dead chuffed to get a review, but then he spent half the review saying Das Wanderlust are dead good cos they're like Help She Cant Swim but not crap and basically dug at them as a band. I had to go up to them and apologise!
Andy: It was especially embarrassing as Help She Cant Swim really helped us out filling a little hole in our tour.
Natalie: I've been a fan of theirs for ages...

So they made it a bit of an adversarial thing? Which might be a bit lazy?

Natalie: Maybe I really respect Plan B though, and we were chuffed to get a review in there. He said Help She Cant Swim were too much of an NME band, which I didn't get. They've hardly been in the NME. That's the thing with the DIY underground, you get scene points. Do you have a lesbian in your band? 2 points. Have you been in the NME? Lose 2 points, etc.

I read somewhere that you were described as some kind of crazy version of Bearsuit, The Pipettes and Help She Cant Swim.

Laura: The Pipettes? I don't get that.
Natalie: I wore a polka dot dress once.
Laura: I think any bands with girls are going to get compared to each other.
Andy: We get compared to Bearsuit a lot.
Laura: But I cant see it cos Bearsuit are a lot better than us.
Natalie: They've released two albums and everything!
Laura: We've had people on MySpace say were like Bearsuit but not as good.
Andy: Or like Bearsuit on crack, whatever that means.

I think MySpace might be a bit misleading because, although its great for bands, people can often make snap judgements based on one song. In that way it promotes a low attention span.

Andy: Wed probably rather we weren't judged on our first EP anyway.
Laura: Cos its crap. Well the songs are good but we can play them much better now, and the recordings aren't that great.

What else have you released so far? You appeared on the Cherryade Christmas compilation didn't you?

Natalie: That one was alright
Andy: It was a bit of a rushed job, we recorded it in half an hour.
Ian: We did about eight takes and Phil, who recorded it, cobbled the best bits together.
Andy: The intro, the middle bit and the end bit were all from completely different takes... that's one of the reasons it sounds a bit odd!
Natalie: We recorded it live on Radio Cleveland but we got taken off air cos Laura did a swear.
Laura: I said words I wouldn't ever usually say. I said the word wank - but it was after the watershed so I thought it would be okay! All I said was, I'm sure grannies have heard the words shit and wank before.
Natalie: We kept playing oblivious and we got to the end and went yay! and it didn't even go out!
Andy: We squeezed a couple out on air though, including a cover version of I Like The Way You Move by The Body Rockers, one of the worst songs of recent years. Its difficult not to improve on the original really.
Natalie: We're recording our single this month and its going to be our first 7. Its going to be out in June.
All: On Dont Tell Clare records.
Natalie: If you go to our MySpace you can find them there. We were the third thing released on their label, and were going be the fourth thing too.

What influences you, musically?

Laura: When I was writing the early songs from the first EP, my boyfriend made me a million Fall compilation tapes, so that's what I was listening to at the time. And I also like nursery rhythms.

What bands are you currently into?

Laura: I like the Fiery Furnaces.
Natalie: I like The Slits, Elastica, and Pulp. I used to be a big Nirvana fan.
Ian: I like stuff like The Foo Fighters and Snow Patrol when they first came out.
All: Ewww! Snow Patrol?!
Laura: You dirty boy!
Andy: Ian's a drummer and like all drummers he likes drummer bands. I like bands who we don't sound like: the Beach Boys, Nick Drake.
Natalie: Andy's from the land of St Albans were they don't wear make up.
Andy: Natalie Boxall has been horrid to me during this interview.
Natalie: Ah shut up Andy, stop having a man period.

Do you bring your songs to the band and bash them out or how does the song-writing process work within the band?

Laura: The early songs were already formed so I had to just tell them how to play - whereas now I bring them to the band incomplete and Ian, Natalie or Andy says this or that might work.

Do you find your songs change when the rest of the band have their input?

Laura: Yeah. With a song like It Will Never Be Yours when I recorded it at my halls it was much more twee and quiet, but when we started doing it as a band it was like an angry loud thing. And I part of me was like Nooo! I want it quiet and twee again!, but everyone told me to shut up. So some of them change but some of them, like Puzzle, end up sounding exactly like they do in my head.

How do you come up with the songs then? Just you on a keyboard?

Laura: Yeah, or me on a guitar. I don't play the guitar very well. Puzzle was written on a crappy blue acoustic guitar.

Is that the one you played twice in Cardiff?

Laura: Yeah. We never normally get asked to do encores.
Andy: We saw the Marble Index at the Georgian
Laura: this really awful Canadian band
Andy: they came on and insulted the audience, and they insulted the town. Then they played and everyone hated them.
Laura: So when they went off nobody clapped at all, but they stormed back on stage and played a really bad cover anyway!
Ian: We WILL play an encore!

Would you say you're anti-encores, then?

Laura: If there's anything I hate with a passion, its encores. Its obvious the band are going to come back on because the DJ doesn't start again and the lights don't come up. I just think its pompous and stupid, and I hope we never have to do an encore again.
Andy: I think they're fine in their place, if you've played your whole set and haven't deliberately held any of your big songs back to force the audience to ask for an encore.

How was doing a session for Radio One's Huw Stephens?

Laura: It was dead good! We sent them a CD a million years ago, and they eventually listened to it and said they were going to play it, and Natalie went Oh my god that's fantastic! Then they also said wed like to give you a session too if that's okay? and Natalie went Oooooooh! Then she phoned me and was going Blubdedblubde HUW STEPHENS ooooh! Eventually I got the gist of what she was saying and I went oooooooh! and told my boyfriend, and I cried in the car all the way back home.
Natalie: We played four songs. It made us sound like we could actually sing.
Andy: I think we really pulled it out of the bag somehow. We went into the session really under-prepared, and having just completely changed one of the songs, but when we listened back to it we all said wow, how good are we? We were always labouring under the idea that we were a bit crap.
Laura: I knew we were good, but sometimes you're not quite sure.

What would you call a racehorse?

Andy: Can we call it Marzipanic?
Ian: What about Dave?
Laura: Lets call it Laura Is The Best IDST
Laura: Andy Elliott Has Dog-Poo-Eyes.
(Later on in the interview)
Andy: Why is it not sensible to call a horse Fondant Fancy?
Laura: Well call our racehorse Stroke My Beard. It works on so many levels.

What do you think having keyboards adds to your sound?

Laura: I write all the songs on the keyboard. Sometimes, if I cant write a keyboard line or Andy hasn't written one, I panic.
Andy: Sometimes well have a recorder solo when you've got a silver medallist from the Saltburn Recorder Festival then you'd be a fool not to exploit it! I think one thing that keyboards add to the band is that it helps it distance ourselves further still from the deluge of boring indie-bloke guitar bands.
Natalie: One of the only bands that I can think of that uses keyboards as an integral part of the sound in the way we do is Pulp.

Some bands see keyboards as an effete bolt on, whereas they seem integral to your sound.

Laura: Yeah, they're a big part of it. Sometimes live we have to tell the sound guy to not turn the keyboards down. They should be at the same level as the guitars, if not louder. A lot of bands have keyboards in just because it looks good
Andy: where the keyboardist is just playing long notes, and you cant even hear them, and they just stand there
Ian: looking bored.
Andy: Its difficult to look excited if you're just playing one note every four bars.
Natalie: They need it for the Kaiser chiefs though, that button that goes ohhhH!
Andy: I read an interview with them recently and they said that on the next album they're not going to be able to get away with going ohhhH in every song!
Laura: Its not even a good gimmick.

What are you plans for the future?

Laura: In the summer were going to record our second EP, release through Dont Tell Clare in conjunction with Cherryade. And were going do as many gigs as we can, even though, the others don't have any holidays left!

There's an exclusive for you: Das Wanderlust haven't got any holidays left!