Brontide are purveyors of excellent, hook-laden progressive math-rock and right now they’re on a headlining tour of the UK. Will Bowerman (who plays the drums) was kind enough to meet me to talk about pop music, Slipknot, having epic ten-minute long instrumental tracks played on drive-time radio, and playing Jakwob to the Don Cab crowd.
Most importantly though, to see if he had the skills necessary to beat the Warwickshire (North) Table Football League (WNTF) champion (1999 – 2000) over a game of foosball!
People compare you to Don Caballero and Russian Circles, which is a bit 2002, and you are way younger than those guys; John Stanier (Battles) is pushing 45! How did you decide you wanted to do math-rock?
[The whistle blows, the match begins. I rattle a goal into the back of the net almost immediately 1 – 0]
It would be very false of me to claim we weren’t influenced by them. The fact is we like both those bands. We grew up listening to that kind of music. I like aspects of Don Caballero, but some of it I hate, I like aspects of Russian Circles, but some of it is boring. We see it as taking the things we like the most and making something out of those bits…
The good borrow, the best steal…
[2 – 0 to the WNTF champion]
…exactly, but I couldn’t imagine Don Caballero getting really heavy; I couldn’t imagine Russian Circles making a pop tune.
Have you ever come up against people who are snobbish about the music they profess to like?
[3 – 0]
Totally, there can be snobbishness in the ‘DIY/heavy’ scene. We are more interested in doing it if sounds good, it isn’t about being more ‘tech.’
You play drums for La Roux, and were a founder member of I Was a Cub Scout – do you get funny looks when ‘pop’ comes up?
[4 – 0, this is starting to look embarrassing]
Well I sometimes get a bit of stick for it – not from my friends – but making music is all I’ve wanted to do, and it allows me to do that. I was 17 when I started I Was a Cub Scout. We took aspects of rock that we liked and tried to make the poppiest songs we could, it seemed [5 – 0] like a natural progression to move on with that, and La Roux seemed to be the next logical step.
I’ve done things poppier than that, and I’ve done heavier stuff than Brontide, the others (Tim Hancock – guitar; Nathan Fairweather – bass) have other projects too. If I was just in a heavy band I wouldn’t it enjoy it at all, if I was in a pop band I wouldn’t enjoy it at all. This allows us to work on different, complementary things.
‘Pop’ is often used as a pejorative term, which can seem a little perverse seeing that it’s the simpliest music ever. I sometimes listen to a Don Caballero track and certain bits seem ugly. It just leaves me thinking “why be wilfully difficult?”
For nothing more than ‘cool points.’ [5 – 1 the fight back begins?!] We want to be as catchy as possible, but with our influences pointing us where we’re most interested.
We are completely intentionally ‘pop’, we’re not scared of it. Listen to Slipknot, their biggest song was the catchiest. And that [5 – 2!] is ‘pop’ music, just because it isn’t singing about “being in the club”. The intention when we write is to be catchy. We don’t have lyrics so we need hooks. We aim to be a heavy pop band.
You could almost act as the gateway to other ‘complicated heavy’ music.
[5 – 3]
We were album of the week on Q Radio’s drivetime show, an instrumental band, playing at 4 o’clock every day! It is mad to think about the amount of people who might not think they like this kind of music and are getting the chance to hear it.
[5 – 4…]
And we’ve got ideas for collaborations with pop singers like Ellie from La Roux in the pipeline as well. We’d love to get very involved in ‘pop’ music, but we aren’t aiming for Radio 1 daytime play.
People are far more open-minded these days – you’ve had Jakwob at your shows and he hasn’t been bottled off stage?
[5 – 5. Have I been hustled?!]
Our tastes vary. We don’t understand people putting themselves in boxes. I don’t listen to much ‘heavy’ music, you know. It is mostly acoustic (so I don’t get distracted by the drums) or electronic stuff like Flying Lotus.
It’s like with people who say they only listen to, say, New York hardcore, the support at their gigs will ONLY be New York hardcore, and the crowd just want New York hardcore. Making a statement saying, “I only like New York hardcore!” No you don’t, you like everything. How dull would that be if it were true?!
[Bam! 6 – 5 and the crowd goes wild!]
Brontide play The Borderline on 19 August. Their album Sans Souci is available to buy now.
This post originally appeared on Spoonfed on 15 August 2011