Interview: Broken Witt Rebels

The Broken Witt Rebels have just completed a headline tour and widespread success seems to be knocking on their doors following the release of their debut album. They’ve given up their days jobs in order to seek fame and fortune, remember their values, and are prepared to work hard – but are still at a level where they’re worried about who’s going to steal their whiskey. “We piss on our amps too. No one else is going to want to take those,” announces drummer James Dudley. Having seen The Travelling Band the previous week, who famously had about £30,000 of equipment stolen from their van in 2014 (later successfully recovered), this is no mean consideration. And it’s true to say the ‘territorial pissings’ observation has us looking for tell-tale stains on their Orange cabinets as they take to the stage later on. 

The band all see the obvious humour in the situation and at the same time demonstrate the unity and comradeship of the band, there being none of the bitterness that can lay heavy on older bands. As they settle down to ready themselves for the interview, I glance over at bassist, Luke Davis, and will admit to a bit of beard envy.

I’m always really interested to know what sort of music was playing in your house when you were growing up as kids.
Danny Core: My parents were Irish so we listened to a lot of stuff like the Wolftones and the Dubliners, country and Irish music. Then we always listened to the Stones and Zeppelin as well. And growing up in the 90s, Oasis obviously were massive. My brother was always playing them.

James Dudley: My Mum played a lot of Queen – really, really mad on Queen. My stepdad at the time played a lot of David Bowie, the Clash, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin and Neil Diamond.

Luke Davies: My Mum was obsessed with Queen and she liked Michael Jackson, so that was on at the time.

James Tranter: Probably Dido and Alanis Morisette.

What are you currently listening to? What interests you?
Danny Core: Kaleo – we’ve toured with bands like Kaleo who we’re really into. Whiskey Myers, Cadillac 3, Alabama Shakes. Rival Sons – they’re the bands that we sort of like at the moment.

Luke Davies: We’re really enjoying the Nothing But Thieves album.

Given the level of record company interest you’ve had, what made you decide to sign to Spinefarm affiliate, Snakefarm Records, in the end?
James Tranter: I think it was the money (laughs). I think that’s why anyone signs to a label really – just for the money.

James Dudley: there was a lot of label interest and a lot of contracts went back and forth between many different labels. It was the team more than anything – it was the people involved at Spinefarm. It ticked a lot of boxes; they seemed friendly; they seemed approachable and they seemed really genuine. That was a key driver for us.

I understand the band’s name came from a random selection of newspaper headlines that you put together on the floor. Any thoughts about using a similar technique for songwriting as well?
Danny Core: We’re not that clever, I don’t think.

What are your real inspirations, then, for songwriting?

Luke Davies: I think most of our inspiration comes from real life experiences at the minute. I guess until we’re at that point where we haven’t really got anything to write about it would be great to look through a newspaper for a theme or something, but at the minute there’s just so many things we’ve been through that provide us with inspiration.

You’ve toured pretty relentlessly recently, including shows with Joanne Shaw Taylor, Kaleo, King King and Whiskey Myers – both in the UK and the United States. I wondered how the band were being received overseas, particularly in places likes Oklahoma, Arksansas and Texas?
James Dudley: They were great. They thought we were Australian for a while. At one of our shows we had people shouting, “put another shrimp on the barbie.” We replied, “We’re not Australian.” But yeah, great, great crowds – and we love the American people and their response. It seems like you have to wow or impress a lot quicker; or it seems like you’ve got to get their attention early and keep them occupied, whereas I think a British audience will give you a couple of songs first.

You play music steeped in southern rock/Americana but come from the Midlands. How did that come about? 
James Tranter: I think there are bands such as Alabama Shakes and other bands around who we love who have the sort of soulful Americana sound that they get across. And I think that other big influences are the Rolling Stones; they were a very Southern sounding band – while being extremely British at the same time. And I think it’s just naturally evolved over the years. We haven’t always played this style of music. It’s just something that we’ve got into – and really enjoyed it.

Have you had any backlash about being British and playing that kind of music?
Danny Core: Not really, no.

Luke Davies: Especially when you look at the heritage; you go back to Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath – it’s all based on rock music but especially when you move towards Led Zeppelin and bands like that that, you get the Americana.

Danny Core: some of our biggest exports in this country have had an American accent or a twang, or something American like Zeppelin and the Stones being two of many. I think it’s always been there – and some more American influences more than others, but I think it goes hand in hand.

And the American audiences are loving it? They don’t mind that you’re English?

Danny Core: I think we changed a few lives over there to be honest. They’d never even seen an English person in some of the places. They looked at us like we were aliens in Oklahoma and stuff, but we love the challenge.

James Dudley: One of the questions was – “in London, what are those big red buses like?” Well they’re big and they’re red; you can’t really elaborate any further than that.

So, Sonia Leigh, she’s been on tour with you for the last few dates – how’s that been?
Danny Core: it’s been great.

Luke Davies: We met her about 12 months ago, maybe more than that.

James Dudley: probably longer than that – maybe two years ago. It was great that she got put forward for it and we’d already met her and knew her – and we thought what a perfect pairing. She’s a lovely lady as well – a phenomenal songwriter. I’ve never seen anyone who in between dates is so busy – collaborating with people or seeing people. She’s pretty well connected. And just generally a nice girl. When we heard that she was going to be on the tour we said, “yeah, hands down, that needs to happen.” In fact, she just came in today and gave us a load of CDs that she’s made whilst here – that one of her friends has made up – a mix of 2017. So yeah, we’re just stoked to have her.

Are you thinking of doing any co-writing with her?
James Tranter: of course. We’ve been talking about it and that’s something we’re going to sort out in the future at some point. Hopefully, she’ll be back over as well – and we’ll try and get involved with her again.

So, what’s next for you guys?
Danny Core: another album – probably next year. We’re ready to go – we’ve probably already done about half of the album; we’ve got a great idea of where we want to go, and what we want to do. So we’ve recorded probably three out of the songs on the second album. We want to tour more; we’d love to get back to the States, which is still a possibility and get back over to Europe.

James Dudley: Play festivals – and jump onto those.

Danny Core: Just do more. What we’ve done this year, we’ll probably double the workload.

James Dudley: We really don’t like to take our foot off the gas. So whilst this self-titled album is out, we’re still back home in the studio writing other tracks, or toying with stuff that’s sort of been on the scrap heap – and we’ve brought it back and thought this riff would work here, or that melody would work there. We’re constantly writing. And it should be a good year.

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