INTERVIEW: Woes Reflect On Quick Rise, Songwriting Process, Band-Fan Interaction, Touring With State Champs And More
Having a fun night out with the lads – that is exactly what it feels like to watch Woes play a set. The pop punkers from Scotland have made quite a name for themselves over the past year with their successful sophomore EP “Self Help” as well as their relentless touring schedule, including performances at Slam Dunk and opening for State Champs on THE pop punk tour of the year.
So, what is it that makes the scene’s most interactive band so special? How do they feel about their sudden place in the spotlight? And most importantly, which 3 emojis describe their latest EP “Self Help”? Well, we had a lovely little chat with their frontman DJ and their bassist and singer Sean about all of the above and more!
How was the tour for you guys so far?
DJ: It’s going awesome. I’m having a great time!
Sean: That‘s an interesting question because no one's ever going to say it was a bad tour. There is always going to be something good about it. I think with this one, what makes it different from other tours is that it’s our longest tour ever. So we’ve had to learn and adapt and grow through that, because we’ve done Europe and we’ve done UK but we’ve never done UK AND Europe before. There’s lots to learn like being away from home for so long, and taking care of your body for so long, which I failed completely. So yeah it’s been good, I like being challenged.
You’ve had quite a year in general, including your first time ever playing Slam Dunk. What was that like?
DJ: It was amazing. It was my second Slam Dunk, first time that I actually played. As a performer, every time you go and watch all these amazing bands all you want to do is play, so doing that after going so many times was a great feeling.
Sean: I agree with DJ. Everybody in the UK, if you play in our kind of genre, you’re kind of like: "Oooh maybe one day I’ll play Slam Dunk". And I had a great Slam Dunk. We weren’t even playing the small stage, we were playing the stage up from that. It was really busy, we had a big crowd every single day, what more could you ever want really.
In general, comparing festivals such as Slam Dunk to smaller, sweaty club shows like this, which one do you prefer?
Sean: I prefer the smaller shows for sure. When you play festivals, it’s quite a lot of stress, because there’s quite a lot of people and you don’t have warm-up shows, you don’t really have a lot of time to prepare on the day or whatever, whereas with these shows you learn as you go. So yeah I definitely prefer longer tours as opposed to short festivals.
So you’ve released your latest EP, Self Help, earlier this year. What was the creative process like for that one?
DJ: We started writing immediately after we finished our first EP, which was a well-received EP.
Sean: It did really well in comparison to how well we thought it'd do, so it blew our expectations.
DJ: Totally. Our expectations were just to be like a kind of hobby band, that we practiced every week and played some gigs. In the middle of the creative process of “Self Help”, the band was kind of 'exploding' and was getting bigger and bigger, because we had been offered a spot on Neck Deep's UK tour. Then we booked our own tours ahead of that and you could see the band grow day by day. So the creative process started off in a place that was like "Let’s just write some more songs" to like "Okay, we’ve got to play all the huge venues" and then it’s like: "We’ve never actually really thought about that, we just made music solely for us but like let’s actually make music that is going to be enjoyable to watch in our live set." And yeah, that was the go-to thought during writing Self Help when we got to a part where we weren’t sure: We'd stop and imagine what we do at Brixton, which was the biggest show on that tour and that was how we decided almost everything.
Sean: Yeah it went from just being like “Hey, let’s release a record!" to like “Oh hey, now you’re signed and you’re on the biggest pop punk tour of the year". It goes from "Ah yeah, everything is cool” to like "Hey, everything is dead serious now”, which is quite a lot of pressure but you know, it was still cool. I like a good challenge and that was challenging but I was not the same person at the end than I was at the start, in a good way. I definitely grew.
If you had to describe the EP using only 3 emojis, which ones would you pick?
DJ: We're big emoji guys, so mine are the guy throwing the volleyball, the surfer and the tropical island.
Sean: Alright my phone's on stage and they’re doing the soundcheck thing there…
[Sean then proceeded to share his emojis via DJ’s phone, but smart as we all are, we just looked at them instead of naming them on the audio file, so they got lost along the way. We are all professionals.]
You’ve been working with Seb Barlow quite a bit on both EPs. What made you decide on him and what do you appreciate most about working with him?
DJ: I remember when I heard the first Neck Deep EP, when they had like no hype or whatever and just started out. I copied and pasted it and sent it to Sean saying "This guy's stuff is really good, we should work with him some time", not realizing it was the brother of the singer or whatever.
Sean: What happened was, we were pretty content with our producer at the time, but he was planning on moving away and we wanted to try something new. I think what I liked about Seb was that his stuff was quite popular and it had, like, this special sound, so we were like: What happens if we take our sound and take his sound and bring it together? And that’s kind of how Woes was formed. We didn’t go with him on the second record because he was too busy to fit us into his schedule. And like, we’ve changed quite a lot since then, he’s changed quite a lot since then, so he’s got a new sound, we’ve got a new sound. And we're kind of combining them again for the album. What‘s cool is, Seb‘s quite like us, he loves a challenge, he’s always growing, he’s always learning. I think that’s one of the reasons why we work so well together, because we’re never content. That’s why we work with him basically, and we’re really excited to see what he can do with our sound and our songs.
You’ve recently released an acoustic version of “Losing Time”. Why that particular song and is it something you’d consider doing for other tracks as well?
Sean: Because it’s just a really good song, you know. There’s no real deep reason for it. We know it’s a good song, we like to sing it, we like playing it live, we thought it sounded good in acoustic and I think it turned out really well. We’re all really proud of it. We actually produced that with nobody else, so we’re quite happy with how it turned out.
DJ: Yeah, it’s something we want to do when we do like a whole EP of acoustic stuff, it’s just when we have time rather than something we’re actively working towards.
Sean: Yeah totally, it’s just hard being in a band when you’ve got so much to do in your personal life, so much to do in your band life. So, as soon as we’ve got time we’ll definitely be doing that.
Seeing as you guys are from Scotland, what’s the (pop punk) scene like around there?
Sean: It’s getting better. I think one of the problems Scotland has is the fact that if you don’t have any bands out there breaking out, then there’s no way for other bands to kind of see how it’s done and like have a quality of "Hey, my release needs to be this good“ or "I need to make sure I’ve got a great art work.“ When we came out we jumped out the pond a little bit into a bigger pond, and I think a few bands then thought they’d need to step up their game, which is not to say that we’re like the best band musically or anything. But I think we were kind of the best band at presenting themselves as a band and I think that’s a lot of what Scotland is like. It’s got lots of really great musicians but they were just kind of not presenting themselves to the world.
DJ: I think it’s really cool to do that and inspire people, because I never thought that a band from Scotland could do what we’re doing. There’s been all these great bands that I’ve watched growing up from Scotland that were great and awesome bands but have never really done anything with their careers. One of the things that inspired me most is inspiring other people.
What are some of the essential bands that influenced the way you write or perceive music?
DJ: There’s loads obviously, but our name is a Drake reference and I think Sean and I were super hard into Drake, especially when we started the band. For me, Bon Iver is my favourite band and I kind of see all music through a Bon Iver tinted lens.
Sean: When you think about bands as well, it’s not just about their music, but also about how they write and how they present themselves. Neck Deep was also a really great influence because they came out and they were just a very professional band. They wrote songs, they released them on time, they were well managed and that’s like a big thing. Yeah, that was a big influence for me. Not that I think we sound like Neck Deep, but I’m really influenced by them in many ways.
Then again we listen to a lot of other stuff as well, like Hip Hop and like Danger Incorporated, check them out, yeah we really really love them, oh and Lil Peep, Wicca Phase… I think that’s kind of what makes us a little bit different from a lot of other bands our size in this scene.
We don’t even necessarily try to be a pop punk band, we’re just really trying to be a band with pop punk influences, but also with many other influences as well. Like, to be a truly successful band you need to be original; there needs to be something new for people to enjoy and that’s all I ever tried to do and that’s what I enjoy when I hear new music that is really original. If it’s original and catchy, I love it.
You guys are quite possibly THE most responsive band on social media. How important is it to you to be approachable and stay in touch with fans?
DJ: It’s like the absolute least you can do if people want to support you and buy your t-shirts and come to your shows. I think it helps that in our day jobs Sean and I sit in front of computers all day, we both work with technology and so for me it’s just the easiest thing in the world to reach out to those that reach out to the band and share their experience.
Sean: On a 24 hour day I’m on Twitter 4 hours a day, and that’s quite a long time to spend. I enjoy being on Twitter, having a good time, having a banter and I genuinely enjoy chatting shit with them as well. I’m just addicted to Twitter and if other people want to be addicted to Twitter with me, then fair enough. I mean you have to be realistic, if your profile grows then you can’t respond to everybody and I think that’s what makes it so good because you get a personal response from the band and it’s not just like "Manager says hey". You don’t follow a band on Twitter because you think the manager might send you a comment or whatever. Yeah, we’ll definitely try to keep up. We’re getting bigger and we still can do it and keep up, so I can’t see us stopping anytime soon.
What’s next for Woes?
DJ: We’re currently finishing off our debut album which we hope to release early next year. Beyond that, my goal is just to play as many shows as possible next year. We played a lot this year, but our ability to go out and just play shows was compromised by the amount of writing we had to do. Obviously we released an EP and we finished an album, and I want to have another album done next year, but I want to play a million shows in between then.
Sean: Yeah, I would really love to play a lot more as well, because now we’re getting to the end of a three week tour and we’re like "Damn we can do it, we can do it". We enjoyed it and had a great time and now we just don’t want it to end. I want to go for another three weeks and then another three weeks after that, you know what I mean? I mean I love my job but I’m having loads of fun on tour. I’m ill, but I’m having a great time and I don’t want it to end. Just more and more touring.
Interview by Theresa Theuerkauf
We have reviewed one of the recent State Champs shows Woes opened for, including some words and photos of their set! Check that out HERE.
You can also stream Woes’ latest EP “Self Help” below: