Fresh out of High Wycombe, 5-piece band Coastal Cities have already made a name for themselves on the local circuit and are now in the mood to see what they can do on a larger scale. Swide's Ben Taylor met the guys for a pint in The Chandos Pub on Trafalgar Square, in London, to see what the fuss is all about.
Coastal Cities had been brought to my attention by a friend and I haven't let them leave my sights since. Even before I had met them I could see that there was something special going on and was dying to find out a bit more about them. Their 'Think Tank EP' has been doing the rounds and had found its way onto many of my playlists, with the title track 'Think Tank' taking pride of place.
The song is both fresh and unabashedly nostalgic, referencing the likes of The Smiths, Joy Division and the Talking Heads from yesteryear and also nodding a head to more contemporary artists like Trails and Ways and other beach pop flicked artists.
When I met the guys at The Chandos, it was only three of them who were able to make it; Declan Cullen the vocalist/guitarist, Dan Hardy the bass guitarist and Sean Semmens, their other guitarist. We were missing their drummer, Lewis Slade and the guy who's on synths, William Clark, but 3 out of 5 wasn't bad and they certainly didn't disappoint. These guys are seriously fresh faced, like to laugh, are confident about Coastal Cities and ready to show us all what they've got. Over to Declan, Dan and Sean.
Declan (talking about playing at the opening of a record store): It was kinda like 360 degree gig with people all around... but I guess they weren't really there just to watch us.
Dan: No, we were just there coincidentally.
l-r Lewis, Dan, Declan, Sean and Will
So, tell me about Coastal Cities.
Declan: Me, Sean and Lewis were all in the same year at school and it was a day, which I happened to staying after school had finished. There was a drum room in the music block where you could jam or whatever and I heard heard him (Sean) and our drummer Lewis playing about, popped my head in, liked what they were doing and thought it would be a good idea to start a band. Then, Lewis is friends with Dan, who could play guitar and became bass, and then we met Will some time afterwards. After that we started getting together and writing songs, we made 3 songs initially which we were playing for a while and then in around early 2011 we wrote the 'Think Tank' EP, which came out last year. From then on, we've been rolling on and we're about to release our single 'Relief'. So, basically, we've all been friends for a long time before and since we left school we've stuck with the band.
So, I want to know where Will came from. ou make it sound as though he just appeared?
Dan: We previously had another keyboardist, Jack, and, this guy, he just kept missing practices all the time and...
Dec: He was a good guy.
Dan: When we recorded our 'Think Tank EP' he didn't show up and he didn't bring up his part of the money to record, so that wasn't very good. Then Will, he was always interested in our band and he came to a few of our practices and a few shows and he kept telling us, 'oh yeh, you know, i'll be your new keyboardist'. At the time we just thought, 'yeh, great' but one show Jack didn't turn up and Will was like, 'i'll go get my keyboard and play for you' and so e played that show and that was that.
Dec: It was kind of like a very gradual transition from... not fan. He was in bands for long time but his old band fell apart and he was still interested in music. He really liked what he was doing and that's how it all came together.
Tell me about your relationship with music.
Sean: Definitely it's been something that i've loved since I was young but my tastes have changed a lot as I used to listen to gangsta rap and then like I opened up to anyting else, through meeting people.Now I listen to a lot of experimental electronic music and other stuff, strange stuff.
Dec: If we're not playing music, i'm listening to music and if i'm not listening to music then they're are songs stuck in my head. It's very constant. I guess I do find that music is the easiest way to express things. People find it in art, photography etc. I've been playing guitar for 10 years and when I was about 11 or 12 I really got into the old punk songs and my music taste has developed from there really.
Dan: I got in to music because my dad always played really old records and i got into it like that.
Dan: I wouldn't want to say the bands as they're quite embarrassing. Obviously The Beatles and stuff, everyone likes them, but then I got into what my mates were listening to, you know.
Dec: When we first started, a lot of the bands that we liked are still around now because we are so young. A lot of our influences, the same way in which bands in the 90s were influenced by bands in the 80s and late 80s, we were 15 when we started and our music was influenced by bands like Bloc Party and Foals, who are still going on now. So, as these records were coming out, we were being inspired by them, initially, which is why our sound, although it is still distinctive, it resonates with what else is going on.
The write ups that people have given you are comparing you to Foals, The Talking Heads, The Smiths. Who do you consider to be your peers?
Dec: There are a lot of new bands that are coming out at the moment and some who are actually friends and around the same age as us As Elephants Are who have got a new single out a the same time as us. Then there's also China Rats, who are awesome.
What's in the name, Coastal Cities.
Dec: Sean and Will were looking through a friend of our's iPod, just at song names and that, and they just simply put the two names together. It's because, where we live, High Wycombe, is the furthest point from the sea and I there is something quite stifling and sometimes bland about where we live.
Dan: It's kind of boring.
Dec: Some bands have a strong identity with where they are from; Manchester, Oxford etc, and we don't have that. When we say we're from High Wycombe, we don't feel a connection yet. Coastal Cities stuck because it's far away and escapist.
You've said that you want you music to be accessible nd for everyone to relate to it. Are you worried about losing your mark on your own work?
Dec: I think that there's always been a battle between the credible vs. the accessible and I think that the best bands, like The Cure, who were on MTV yet their music was alternative, manage to juggle them both. I guess that's why they're so loved and that's something that we are trying to achieve.
Sean: Keep it accessible but keep the feeling.
Dec: we make music for ourselves. We never set out, thinking, 'oh we going to write this so that everyone will enjoy it'. If they don't like it they can go listen to Katy Perry or whoever is on the top 40. It's not really a priority for us.
Apart from music, what else inspires you?
Sean: Me, I live in a tiny little village near these guys but it's practically isolated in the countryside and I...
Dec: You like walking!
Sean: Yeah, nature. What goes on around me can inspire you... it's from being friends with hippies in the past, I think (laughing) You know, speaking about nature and stuff. I think that it's just bigger than all of us.
So, we've got a walker.
Dan: Well, I don't know if this would inspire me but I play a lot of sport... can that inspire music?I don't know if that can transfer into the way I listen to music.
Dec: Music in the gym?
Dan: Yeh, but that doesn't really help me with music, does it? I go to see a lot of shows. I come to London quite a lot, also I go to see local bands. There's not a big local scene at the moment and that's one thing that I want to make bigger. I want High Wycombe to be know for music.
Do you think it's possible?
Dan: Yeh, we know quite a few bands that are coming from our area at the moment.
Dec: I think it'll take some time, but, yeh, I think it's possible. There was a big hardcore scene there a few years ago. But now, there's nothing really going on.
So, when did you notice that things had started to change for Coastal Cities?
Dan: When we first recorded our 'Think Tank EP', like, when we first released a few songs, someone blogged about it and our management picked up on it.
Dec: and they met us in a diner in Camden and it was all very new and exciting for us. They came to see us live and said... 'yeh, you guys need to rehearse, a lot'. And so we did. We slowly got better and we wrote more songs, which meant we released more it became very rewarding. There's always something new that comes along. The other day Nick Grimshaw played us on Radio 1.
It's great to hear and I'm totally behind you guys. So what about the video process? Is it something you enjoy?
Dan: I think they're quite exciting and we're always looking forward to doing something new.
Dec: Some bands see it as a necessary evil, but that's not the case for us. We're not like that because... we're finding new ways about getting our music out to people. We're serious about what we do, but not to the point that we suffering for it. If it means that it gets more people downloading our mucic and coming to our shows, then yeh. It's no compromise.
l-r Sean, Will, Declan, Lewis and Dan
What do people say about you guys?
Dan: People have said we sounds too much like other bands, but that's expected.
Dec: Yeh, when you're new on the scene, you're open to comparison and it takes a long time for a band to really stand on their own podium.
Sean: and then some people say we're the UK's next bright young things. Not bad.
Dec: But it's good to hear what people have got to say. But it's amazing to hear. I mean we rehearse in a garden shed sometimes and to get feedback like that, is great.
Whos shed is it?
Do his parents hate you?
Dan: Well, the neighbours... there is like a barrister next door.
Dec: Yeh, we call him Mr. Government. You know our Think Tank video.
Dan: He threatened to steal all our equipment
Dec: It's only happened a couple of times. So the video. It was during the middle of Summer and people had their windows open and, naturally, to mime to a song and to have the drums going, it has be quite loud. We were doing it in the middle of the day, during the week, thinking that people should have been at work but obviously Mr. Government was having a nice day off or something. And he just got annoyed and came around and gave us a mouthful.
Dan: I know friends who have said that mates, who live near Lewis, complain about us. I don't really think we should care.
Dec: Yeh, for another video, we were drumming on a pond and someone saw a Tweet saying that, 'if he doesn't stop drumming I'm going to shove his drum sticks up his arse' or something like that. We just don't care.
Now, your single 'Relief' was released on 30th July with 'Voyage'. Tell me about the release.
Dan: Relief is the main single but I personally think that Voyage is good enough to be a single, too. But it's not a double a-side. I think that's a good thing, though, that if you put two strong songs together.
Dec: All of our favourite bands, we can listen to the whole album. Two Door Cinema Club are a good example of this. Everyone song on their album is very strong. And that's what we have. Voyage and Relief.
Tell me about Relief.
Sean: It started off with a little bit of funk influence but then progressed.
Dec: Me, Sean and Will were jamming and we started to work on something. The lyrics of Relief are about trying to achieve things but not always getting what you want but to keep on trying. It reflects the spirit within the band, too.
When listening to your music it's hard not to imagine it accompanying a beach party. Like an alternative to David Guetta or something.
Dan: I saw him before in Benicassim about 2 or 3 weeks ago. It was pretty good. I was there with all my mates from school and they all listen to that music and I didn't want to be out of it. I enjoyed it but it was just like listening to any other DJ, he didn't stand out, which was sad. I heard all this hype about him but he didn't stand out. He kept turning it off and getting everyone to sing along, and I was just thinking... 'why don't you just play the song?' Like when he got to Titanium, he kept pausing it but I just wanted to listen to it and get it over and done with.He's done well for himself though.
Dec: We respect all music, no matter how generic it is. You've got to... well...
So, what's the next step for Coastal Cities?
Dan: We've got another single that we want to release around October time, which we waiting to mix and master.
Dec: It's very good. It's called Roots. We've played it live quite a few times, now. It's more pop melancholic, if you know what I mean. It's one of my favourite songs.
Dan: It's the next step. We want this to sound like it could be in a factory, a bit darker. Nice.
Dan: Well, we want to right more so that we have the best selection of songs to choose from before we start doing the album. We want to right as many top hits as we can.
Dec: (laughing) Top hits.Yeh, we're going to have our greatest hits album out next year.
Relief is out now on Once Upon A Time Records
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Interviewed and written by Ben Taylor