The Utopiates Interview

Dani had the privilege of interviewingLondon quintet, The Utopiates before their set at the notorious London venue, The Water Rats earlier in September. With a stage that has a reputation for hosting legendary artists, The Utopiates added their name to the headline spot to a packed out gig and a fantastic reception.

The Utopiates: Ed Godshaw – Keys, Joe Jeffreys – Drums, Luke Nottingham – Bass, Dan Poppelwell – Vocals, Josh Redding – Guitar

How did you all get together and where did the name come from?

DP – It started from my spare room, basically. I started writing a load of tunes and I started getting quite alright with these demos I was making. I’d known Luke a while so he was onboard and then the rest of it, we put out ads online. I wasn’t expecting anything that good sort of straight away. I’ve joined bands through gumtree and you never know what you go into and I found these absolute legends who are all fucking mint musicians. The name was me and [Luke].

LN – Dan liked the word Utopia and he was playing around with that word. Remember that series from channel four, Utopia? He was like “I like this name”

DP – And I hate seeing these angry dickheads on Facebook who are all like “you’re always living in your woke utopia” I kinda feel like yeah fuck you, I wanna live in Utopia, why not? So I kinda liked that word and what it stood for.

LN – For me it was like the idea of wide-eyed, psychedelic, loving life, something better to come from life. It organically came around.

DP – It’s the first time I’ve been in a band with a good name.

EG – I just saw this ad and Dan had this private Soundcloud link that just had these amazing demos and I was like…how have these not actually been released?

JR – It was lockdown and I was so bored and I HAD to play in a band. I was in a band previously that I felt wasn’t really going anywhere. The lockdown obviously gave all of us a chance to think about what the hell we want to do with our lives. So I just went on Google, Gumtree came up and I just typed in “band” and I was looking at “guitarist wanted” and I was scrolling through and I saw Dan’s and I sent him a message and then he text me back asking to meet and it turned out that we lived like 3 minutes from each other so we met at the local pub.

DP – It felt like fate, honestly. By that point, Ed had already come but we didn’t have a lead guitarist or a drummer. It was [Luke] that first watched Josh’s videos on his Instagram and he text me saying “he’s really fucking good by the way.”

JJ – I put up a Gumtree ad myself looking for a band in the Finsbury Park area and I had two auditions and they went on board with me.

DP – I was just happy to be in a band again. I made him jump through hoops. The way Joe plays in the studio has really added to it. We started the album for next year and our producer who’s a hard man to please. He’s a brilliant producer and he looked at me straight away when Joe was playing drums and said as much. Joe’s added a lot of force to our music which is great.

What was it like to play your first gig when restrictions were lifted?

EG – Terrifying.

LN – We’d have been practising for a number of months. I went into it actually really nervous cos this was the first time I’d played live with any band for years.

JR – We’ve got a lot of tech in the band now. We were hoping it would go well because if one thing goes out then it all just falls like dominoes.

DP – Ed’s got such a set up. The reason Ed says it’s terrifying is because we rely on him so much. He’s controlling a lot and if his laptop fucked up…We weren’t sure how to do it at first. It was all a bit new but we’re glad we took the time to do it because basically, we’re trying to be “groovy.” It means it keeps it dance-y. We wanna make people dance basically. That was the thing from the onset. We wanted to make tunes and I’ve always been in normal indie guitar bands and I always liked Manchester music. I’ve always liked bands that can make me dance.

If you could only listen to one album for the rest of you life, what would it be?

DP – We’re very varied us lot. We get into arguments down the pub all the time, it gets heated.

JJ – (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory

JR – Animals by Pink Floyd

DP – Abbey Road by The Beatles

EG – Abbey Road by The Beatles, I just love McCartney’s piano.

LN – I’m gonna be left field, I’m gonna say White Pony by Deftones. I’m a massive Radiohead fan though. They all take the piss out of me but they are one of the most influential bands.

DP – The bold statements he comes out with…

How does it feel knowing you’re going to support The Pigeon Detectives?

LN – It’s exciting because this is a band that I remember listening to when I was growing up.

DP – We share a producer with them so we’ve known them a long time and they’re top and they’re fucking mint live. It’s gonna be fucking amazing.

LN – It’s exciting to play with a band with those sort of credentials. It feels like we’re on our way. They genuinely do like our music.

JJ – It’s gonna be class!

What would be your dream venue to perform in?

LN – It’s only gotta be one for me and that’s Glastonbury

DP – Mine would be Millennium Square, Leeds for the Leeds folk. It’s cool as fuck. Obviously Elland Road as well. Let’s just mention everywhere in Leeds whilst we’re at it.

JJ – I’d say Knebworth

JR – I think Reading just because I went there when I was kid.

DP – [At a festival] I would rather play a big top tent somewhere because I always think seeing a band in a tent is much better. When you go to a main stage, the sound can be a bit rubbish.

LN – For me, if I could also play Brixton Academy with the sloping stairs. The way its set out is amazing. One of the best gigs I ever went to was Massive Attack! at Brixton and it just blew my mind and that sticks with me from when I was 16/17 and I thought if I can play here, I’d think I’d made it.

EG – The Carling Academy in Bristol because that’s where I grew up. I’ve seen so many bands there.

What have you done to survive as a band during the pandemic?

DP – Well we were formed during the lockdown

LN – That’s all we’ve known

EG – We did a lot of stuff remotely in lockdown which helped.

LN – Technology wise it’s helped us a lot.

EG – We can record stuff without actually being in a room. It’s not as good as doing it in a studio.

LN – Ed and Dan together in terms of their ability to record stuff remotely and connect has been really amazing.

DP – And it’s helped the songwriting. I’ve stopped painstaking over thinking of riffs or parts. I can put the beat and the bare bones down and the chords and the words and send it to Ed and he’ll just be at home and be putting some keys on it and send it back and I listen to it and I’m like it’s brilliant.

LN – We talked about what it would be like to write songs in a studio and actually what we think we’ve done is better and more beneficial to us as a band and this is the best way to write and record music. If we were going to the studio every time to try and write songs, I don’t think it would happen as well as we do now.

DP – We definitely will write more songs like that. We quickly record an idea on our phones but it’s nice to already have the bare bones of a track. By the time we get to the studio, everyone knows their part…we already we know we like it.

EG – Lockdown was frustrating because this time last year, we were rehearsing every week and there was another lockdown in October and we had gigs booked that got cancelled.

DP – The online stuff has obviously been a huge help to us but you need a gig.

JJ – After weeks and weeks of rehearsals, when you finally get to play somewhere and get some immediate feedback it’s such an amazing feeling.

DP – It was getting boring practising every week.

JR – You’re finished and you’re ready to go and you keep rehearsing and everyone just gets bored and we got to a point where we started thinking it sounded shit. You need to play a gig.

DP – You’re nothing unless you’re good live

LN – You need that feedback to understand that what you’re doing is actually good. Otherwise it’s just five lads in a room asking ourselves if this is still good?

EG – It was quite good with lockdown because we could warm up the audience first. We had 6 months of no gigs and being a band so we could build it up before we did a first gig.

JJ – I think it made us a better band.

What’s your creative process?

LN – It starts with Dan.

DP – Basically I write it all and then I’ll do a demo and put it out and each part gets better.

EG – They’re not just acoustic demos, they’re more produced.

DP – I’ve been able to teach myself and I’m quicker at stuff now. The first few I thought sounded a bit shit but now I can put a beat down and play pretty quickly but obviously I cannot play guitar like [Josh]. It would be nothing without these lads. Josh has put down a couple of ideas and comes round mine and we’ve done three that I want on the album. Ed’s put down this piano part that I turned into a bit of a house banger. I wanna do something a bit house-y.

JR – At the moment we’re working mainly from [Dan]. Luke can come out with some outrageous basslines, it would be nice to work from his perspective and then maybe Ed’s and Joe’s.

DP – I like doing the melodies and the lyrics. It excites me to get a sample off [the rest] or the main riff and build something around that and we have started doing that. Moving forwards we’ll all be writing.

LN – The songwriting process keeps developing and changing but ultimately, the crux of it is Dan with a central idea or lyrical idea, writes a song, has a kind of idea about the sound direction and we make it happen as a band. We make that kind of vision come to life.

DP – Like Love Salvation. The way that developed was beautiful. I had the demo and the melody but I had simple ideas and we struggled a bit because it’s a long song and we didn’t know where to go with it but we proper persevered with it. Sometimes it’s hard work but we proper persevered at every part and the way we did it…the way that’s gone from the demo to what it is now is ace. Josh was round mine doing all this trippy guitar work and Ed did some keys and I parried it together. It was like these two were telepathic!

Did you notice any difference in atmosphere when you performed at Leeds in comparison to performing in London?

DP – Yeah it was miles better in Leeds. Miles better. It was sold out.

LN – It really was.

DP – We had a great crowd, it was Saturday night and we had a banging night out after. Seretones were a really sound bunch of lads. It was a perfect mix but I was more anxious about Leeds than any other. I basically say to this lot that Leeds is the best place in the world a lot so I was determined to prove it. They came away from Leeds saying it was “fucking banging”

Is there any particular style of music that you would define yourselves as?

JJ – Well…It’s really hard [to say]

DP – The first couple of tracks were a bit New Wave. The EP sound was a bit New Wave

LN – We adopt those sounds that we really enjoy from that era. The New Wave sounds and synthesisers but we really love guitar music from the early 90s.

JJ – I think we avoided slipping into the Oasis cover/Blur cover band category.

LN – We love those bands but we don’t wanna be that or be sounding like them.

DP – We took in Getaway and the demo was decent but we had a few different ideas. I wanted the bassline to sound like The Cure and generally it sounds like a bit of an Oasis song and [the producer] was like “we’re not turning this into an Oasis song.” I know it’s 80s/90s and I just hope we’re not too eclectic and too much of a throwback. I know we all borrow from there.

LN – We always want those influences from the 80s/90s to come through but we don’t wanna be a carbon copy of a band.

DP – As long as we do enough different bands from that era which we are doing. You need a reference but I’m happy we don’t just always say New Order or The Cure.

JJ – I think one thing that’s good about our music is that we’re up for creating something that gets people moving and dancing. A lot of bands take themselves quite seriously and are moody which is their style but we like to get people moving…have a bit of fun.

LN – When we went into the studio recently, we were very conscious about this going Pop and then we were like fuck it, we wanna be a popular band so essentially we wanna be a Pop band but we hope that our music can be part of a generation of changing the way the modern Pop aesthetic people view pop music and it’s not just all about Rap or Hip-Hop. I think that’s had it’s time now and I think there needs to be a move towards guitar music again. All the music that I love was Pop music. David Bowie was making Pop music, Duran Duran was making Pop music because it was what was popular at the time.

What have you got planned for the next 12 months?

DP – World domination! We’re talking to a lot of booking agents right now and there’s a lot of people interested in taking us on. This Feeling who are amazing at promoting the next big thing love us. This is one of our second gigs with them and smashed the ticket sales. I guess we’re just keeping our options open on the gig front. I’m hoping there’s plenty of festival slots. Our main focus is whittling down these demos that we’ve made and recorded together.

LN – Hopefully this time next year there will be some shape of an album. We’ll have a few singles between now and then I reckon but also we’ve got Pigeon Detectives gigs, Shine On weekender in November which is gonna be huge for us.

DP – I know we’ve got about 40 songs ready and waiting. I wanna get as much music out as we can.

LN – We’re a DIY band so there are no rules. Labels aren’t putting any rules on us so we can do what we want and that’s kind of a beneficial element of being on your own. We can put a few of the singles that we had and remix them before putting them on the album or we won’t.

The Utopiates had the pleasure of opening up for indie legends, The Pigeon Detectives – not just once but twice! The second time, closing a momentous tour with a mental, beer-chucking, bra-throwing, Manchester crowd at The Ritz. They have recently announced that they will be doing a small UK tour with This Feeling in December as well as a Halloween special London show at The Grace. The way the band perform and gel with each other clearly demonstrates their joint love for music and considering they were formed in a time where the future looked bleak, it certainly wasn’t bleak for them.

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