Talking to Will Simpson about music is like opening up a Pandora's box of indie influences. Placebo, Feeder, My Vitriol, Muse, AC Acoustics, Biffy Clyro, My Bloody Valentine are just a few of the names that spring to mind. Take the family tree back a couple of hundred years and you'll see ancestor and all round critically acclaimed composer Sir William Sterndale Bennett. And while many of you will know his brother is Charlie Simpson from Fightstar (and Busted), most of you won't know that a 3rd Simpson sibling Edd is also in the process of getting a band together. As Brigade to prepare to play their first gig in the North at the Witchwood in Manchester, Designer Magazine got on the blower to Will to get the lowdown.
Q: I guess we better get the introductions out of the
way first. It was September 2003 that Brigade first launched its tentative
steps out into London wasn't it?
A: September 29th last year and we've been going since then. I suppose if I look back we have come a long way. Now though is a really exciting time because we're starting to get some label interest. We've just recorded some new tracks and its getting to the point where its really starting to go somewhere now. We've got a really big fanbase building up now and coming down to ours shows now, which I suppose has been helped by playing with Fightstar because we've been able to to play to a lot of people. Now its just a case of the industry interest turning into something more solid.
Q: So how did Brigade actually come to be?
A: It came to be through me moving to London after a failed attempt in Bristol at getting a good band together. I was there for a year and it just didn't work out so I moved to London and started looking in Loot and found a Japanese drummer. We started playing together for a few months, got a good set together and then I found randomly a Japanese bassist who was working in a bar with a mate of mine. I didn't mean it to end up being Anglo-Japanese band, but it did.
Ever since then we've been trying to find a fourth guitar player that is permanent. Even now we haven't secured that part of the line-up, but it enabled us with a friend helping out (one of the guys in The Ghears) to just get out there and start playing. So then in September we started playing and have gone on since then really.
The line up, as I say, is not something I expected but
it works. They are two great guys. Up until recently when we've parted
company with the Japanese drummer and got a long term friend from Suffolk
who is now playing with us.
Q: We have to ask why the hell of all places did you
move to Bristol to form a band?
A: I was at Leeds funnily enough at University and I always had a band back home. I really enjoyed and wish i'd have spent more time trying to get some stuff going up there. A friend of mine was working in a recording studio in Bristol and I thought I've got to go somewhere after uni and I don't want to go back to Suffolk so why not Bristol. It was a great year, but you just find luck or you don't find luck getting people together and it just didn't work out.
London was the best place to be. It's hard because there
are so many bands doing it, but if you can get a bit of luck its the best
place to be really.
Q: So what's the thinking behind the name Brigade?
A: We were called Homespun, which is a bit of a wanky name I appreciate now. At the time we realized there was someone else signed called that. We had a demo that you guys received and it was called "The Brigade EP" and someone just said to me it would be a great band name. It just stuck.....I can assure you it was nothing to with my time in the CCF, the Combat Cadet Forces, at school (laughs)
Q: When I listen to Brigade I hear bits of Feeder /
bits of Placebo. What were you're influences growing up?
A: That's exactly what I used to listen to. I was a massive Feeder fan even though i'm not so much anymore...I really liked their first album but the direction they've gone in i've not really followed since. Placebo, My Vitriol and Muse and then I also love bands like Granddaddy, Snow Patrol and Postal Service - more of the lo-fi post rock stuff. And then I like more metal stuff like Deftones, Fugazi and At The Drive In...but I suppose the things that come through are still Feeder and Placebo
Q: Obviously Brigade aren't your first band. Were previous
bands the rough draft of what you're doing now or were they totally different
A: (laughs) To be honest I think we just sounded a bit shitter in the other bands. I hope in the sound that the guitars are a bit more washy like My Bloody Valentine and AC Acoustics whereas before it was really standard, wanting to sound a bit like Ash and pop punk and it didn't really work. I hope now that our influences are a little less obvious.
Q: Listening to those original demos and the new clips
you've got on the website, there's a real change in less than a year. You've
bolstered up and got a meatier rockier sound going on now
A: Rocks my thing and listening to those first demos they're fantastic but they weren't rocking as much as I would have liked. If you listen to Placebo's first album, even though it isn't a massive rock album but its got a hell of a drive behind it. We just wanted to get that live energy on the recordings
Q: Bands always have an idea of what they want to be
and do. When you moved to London and got Brigade together what did you
want Brigade to be?
A: Good question. I wanted to be a hard rocking band with lots of melody. Originally I loved the idea of being a 3 piece because of bands like Muse and Biffy Clyro who do it superbly. I had this image of this rocking 3 piece, but I just realized if you write songs that need an extra guitar in there then it would be stupid not to use it.
I just wanted to sit alongside the bands that I like listening
to. We knew we weren't trying to do anything particularly innovative, but
something that maybe you couldn't compare us to too many bands.
Q: How were those first few London gigs at the end
of last year?
A: We had a bit of luck with the Fightstar connection because playing with Charlie we got to play to 500 people pretty early on. Building up a fanbase I suppose was a little easier than it could have been. I think setting up a forum on our website where people can come and talk about the band has helped to build up a bit of a community.
Q: The connection with Charlie (Charlie Simpson of
Busted / Fightstar fame) can be a double edged sword. On one hand it opens
you up to a wider fanbase and on the other I know there are people who
are so indie they'd dismiss you straight away without hearing a note
A: That's what we were worried about. The shocking thing is that Fightstar seem to have done it - they seem to have got the respect that they need to succeed and I find that amazing. The fact that they are doing that now and people are taking them seriously and there's a lot of anticipation for their EP. Even bands like Biffy Clyro are showing a bit of interest in playing with them. If we're now associated with them hopefully it can only be a good thing, but it was worrying at first because a lot of websites just put us up as Charlie from Busted's brother and it sounds a bit shit. At the same time it depends on how far you go with any exposure is good exposure. I just hope were going to come out on the right side of it.
Q: Where does this love of music come from in the Simpson
family cos as well as you and Charlie your other brother Edd has got a
band as well. Are your parents into it?
A: They love it, but they find Fightstar a bit heavy now which is funny. I remember when Dad took me and Charlie along to Placebo and Silverchair and I expected him to absolutely hate it back in the day, but he actually quite enjoyed himself.
It doesn't really come from them in terms of playing.
I don't know where it comes from. There's this composer called Sir William
Sterndale Bennett who's an ancestor of ours who's apparently quite famous
in the classical world, but i don't know whether you can be so tenuous
as to put it that far back.
Q: You've all played together in Edds band before as
A: That's it. Which is great fun. I hope we can do it again. Edd's starting out with it now. His songs are fantastic, he just hasn't got the line-up sorted yet. At the time we just wanted to help him out while we could and it was a good laugh.
Q: So which brother was the one that first got into
music and then dragged the others along?
A: I'm totally gonna take credit for that (laughs). I've got to cos I'm 24 and if it wasn't me there would be something wrong with it. Its funny because people don't know that i'm the eldest and i'm quite a bit older than Charlie. It was me that got the guys into indie and rock and then Charlie went a bit further than that really getting into his Korn and his Slipknot. The ironic thing was it was about that time when we started walking round the house singing N'Sync as well. So he branched out and thought "Well the pop market might be quite a good one to get into" and I kinda stayed where I was. And we've all now met in the middle, we all love the same bands and its as much of a influence as they give to me as I give to them. Its nice that we don't hate each others music collections.
Q: As well as the Fightstar gigs you're also in the
finals of the Emergenza band competition. How many bands have you blown
out of the water to get to this stage?
A: It started off with 146 bands and its now down to the final 21. It would be nice if we go all the way. If you win you go off and play this festival in Germany this August and after that I think you've got a deal from Sony on the table. If it was about votes with judges i'd be confident we could win, but its not, it's about the number of people you bring down on the day. It's a great competition though.
Q: So far in the media you've been very much seen as
one of those "London" bands where us people up North get to hear about
you, but never see you. All that's about to change on Saturday July 24th
at the Witchwood in Manchester when you play your first Northern Date.
You looking forward to it?
A: I'm really excited about it because I went to Manchester and had a night out in the Night & Day Cafe. I know there's loads of venues in Manchester, I also went to see Korn back in the day at the Manchester Apollo. I know its a great city and have been over quite a few times with friends and done the Curry Mile and it's one of those cities i'd imagine would have been just as good to be in at university as Leeds. And playing the Witchwood which I believe is a really renowned venue up there as well is great.
Q: Is it hard going from London where you can command
a sold out crowd to Manchester where it's like starting all over again?
A: I think its hard with the way it works just to persuade promoters its worth putting you on because obviously they need to cover their costs. You can create a buzz in London and people know you're going to fill a crowd, but up North you just have to try your best. It's a bit daunting, but unlike London it gets to the point where you've got something to prove.
I've always been inspired by people like Biffy Clyro, and Feeder did it as well, who just do these monstrous tours when they're starting out. They struggle through trying to afford to do it, but they get all over the country. Its great that bands have done it and it shown that it works.
Brigade play the Witchwood on Saturday 24th July
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