The Departure

Designer Magazine were going through the archives and happened to chance upon this unpublished Departure interview from way back in April 2005 on the Hot Hot Heat Tour. Since the interview happened guitarist Lee has now left the band in mysterious circumstances which make some of the quotes below highlighting the underlying tension take on a Nostradamus like prophecy. As this interview goes to press the band are set to debut demos from the forthcoming second album on Myspace which makes this interview a timely reminder of one of the most underrated bands of the last 12 months

Q: It's been quite a while since we last met up. So what have you been doing since then?
David: Feeder tour, The Tears tour, Graham Coxon gigs, Gang Of Four and a few gigs of our own.

Q: Who's idea was it to sent you on tour with Feeder of all bands, you just don't fit it with them at all
David: It didn't fit at all and I don't think people liked us that much at all on that tour. Their songs are proper happy singalong songs and we're dark moody songs. I said that right at the start when I found out about it

Lee: He always says what it actually is and then we agree and we get slated for it.

David: They're massive now though. Apparently dull boring ballads is what the people want to hear though.

Lee: I'll be quite honest i'm not a huge fan of Feeder, but I respect them because they're still going and have had a lot of shit to put up with.

David: It's hard for them because they've got a lot bigger since their drummer died.

Lee: I don't think it's necessarily because of that. It inevitably gave them press which is a horrible thing to say but what happened is it gave them a kick up the arse to say we wanna be huge. And they are.

Q: What was it like for you, going on a tour like that, because until that point you'd had this wonderful journey where it all came together so quickly. You never had to prove yourself to this point
David: It's easy to lump us with the whole Killer and Bravery scene and write us off. For everyone person who slags us off there's a few more coming round to us.

Lee: NME didn't even like the Killers at first, they gave them a shit album review and then all of a sudden they decide to put them on the cover and pronounce them the biggest band in the world or whatever.

Q: With the Departure there's 3 separate sections - the epic guitar riffs, the Motown-esque rhythm section and your dark lyrics propel it all forward
David: I guess. I just hear the song and then we write the rest of the parts around it.

Lee: There are certain bands that we may have in common that we actually like. We're big fans of the Cure and The Smiths and that whole 80s movement as well. Bands like the Killer and The Bravery you can see are into the whole New Romantic side of things, but for us it's always been about dark pop music like Depeche Mode and The Bunnymen and U2.

David: When we're getting the songs together I just record the initial idea on a 8 track - the main melody and the lyrics of the songs and then they fit themselves around it.

Lee: I'll try and explain it a bit better. Dave doesn't stops writing which is great. Every where we are he'll just sit down and record onto his 8 track and once he's happy with it he'll show it to one of us. We'll put our comments on it and we'll change it around a bit. We usually come up with some really good ideas straight away so Sam will write a riff of that and then Ben will write a bassline. We all add our parts but the initial idea always comes from Dave's melody and we find it's the best way to write. It's all about the song and it's not about anyone's ego's.

Q: It's quite hard to imagine it stripped down to just guitar and vocals really isn't it
David: You can. We did it on BBC Midlands and I played two songs acoustic. It's just because there's so much going on that you can't always hear it, but the next album is going to be a lot more stripped back. The only way we can go with our music is better pop songs and that means less parts basically.

Q: How do you differentiate between the recorded versions and the live shows because I remember the last show I saw you prior to this you really went for it, it was a rock beast. It almost sounded like Mogwai doing pop tunes
David: Really. Someone said that the other day. Are you big fans of Mogwai? I was like they're allright. It depends when you see us though really. Some nights we'll be really energetic and you get people coming up to us after the gig saying we sounded really heavy, and we're not a heavy band at all. Other gigs people think we're really poppy and catchy so it depends what show it is really. It's kinda cool that we can attract different types of fans and people think that there are those different elements to our music. That's what pop music is about, people's different interpretation of it.

Q: Would you like to have that for each tour - an individual sound or mood for each set of shows?
David: No. I like the fact that when you go and see us you get a different version of each song though. I think what this album shows it our potential as a band, we've got amazing players in the band, so all it is now is about keeping at the songwriting and raising the standards. We'd love to turn round next year and say we've sold a million albums, but we'd be happy if this time next year we've sold 100,000. I always pitch myself with the best, but I also want to put an album out a year. Instead of having a big gap I want it to be in 3 years time we've done 3 albums or something.

Lee: We're an ambitious band. We never want to repeat ourselves, put it that way. We always want to better ourselves with each album because if not, what's the point in doing it. You're only as good as your last album so if the second one isn't as good as the first then what's the point.

Q: I get the sense you're all individually quite competitive as well
David: Yeah. We are. Well they are

Lee: (laughs) Ok, yeah mate, whatever

David: Well they're willing to compromise

Q: David, you like to keep control of the band don't you
David: Not really. I'll say an opinion and then Sam will say a different opinion. And then we'll meet in the middle somewhere. And then Lee will throw in a total red herring.

Lee: The way I look at it is we're really passionate about what were doing. We're a band, but we're also 5 different individual people. With 2 people there's going to be arguments and takes and going to be difficulties. That's what makes the tension and that's what makes the band great. All the best bands have had tension within their members. We're the best of mates but we argue.

David: We argued before and you bought me a beer.

Lee: We've got a lot of different influences. Bands that we all agree on are The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure, U2. Basically anything that's got a lot of passion and soul to it, stuff that's dark, but it's got very pop sensibility to it.

Q: All the bands you mention took a while to break through
David: Yeah, it doesn't happen now though. Everyone wants success on that first album. We obviously do as well, but it's weird. I don't really know why it's changed. Is it the internet?

Q: I'm not quite sure. Some bands breakthrough who I just don't get like Bloc Party
David: And they're not even that poppy are they. The thing is you think they're not that catchy and then you go away humming the melody so there must be something there.

Lee: What we tried to do is write this album where every track is good, but it stands up as an album


* Just Like TV - we're saying the Orb meets the Chameleons
"Don't say that man. The Orb - you got a bong" David
"It's probably the least cool track. I like it and it's one of the tracks we took ages to finish. It was one of the first tracks we played live that was quite grand and I thought are we ready for this" Lee

* Only Human - the obvious pop tune
"I came up with the idea, it sounds weird, but after hearing an Ordinary Boys track on the NME CD. I was loving the guitar sound. It sounds really different on the demo version, but that's where the guitar stabs come from. It just tells a story and I Am Only Human is a great statement to make. It's just how people perceive you and some people look at you a bit strange sometimes. I'm quite a paranoid person really and it's probably reflected in that." David

* Dirty Words - the title track
"The lyrical content on the whole album is what goes on in people's heads but they're afraid to say it. The album is like my dirty words. All the words going around my head are dirty words and sometimes you say them and regret it after a few pints" David

"It sounds kinda cheesy but it sums up our music as well. If music could talk our music would be dirty words" Lee

Words: Alex McCann
Photos: Karen McBride

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