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WE HAVE BAND: Elephant Music?

UK’s trippy-Pop ensemble We Have Band make a sweeping return with their sophomore LP, “Ternion”. See why their stateside arrival peaks an energizing comeback for the alternative band, as STARK explores during a one-on-one with the London trio.

Words: Laura Smith
Images: Courtesy of We Have Band

With the seemingly hundreds of buzz bands that crop up each year during festival season, it’s easy to get burnt out on our country’s gross-domestic musical output. Sometimes all it takes is fresh reinforcements from across the pond to get us refocused and our feet moving again. Returning this year with their sophomore album Ternion, the arrival of We Have Band’s LP stateside is just as emphatic as their name. It’s a declaration to be heard, and as I learned, appreciated. Already a household name, filling up stadiums and dancefloors alike overseas, WHB is peaked to do the same here following the footsteps of many of their Manchester forbearers.

Ternion, the Latin term for “a group of three”, is an obvious departure from their last self-titled album back in 2010. They’re serving up rhythm-driven moody Pop but with the same danceable sensibility that they’ve come to be depended on. Keen to prove their staying power, WHB made an effort to make a timeless record that could not be pinpointed to any particular scene. This multi-tasking trio takes turns when it comes to the instruments and vocals, each bringing something different to the performance. While some of the vocals sound more melancholic and disinterested on the more synthesized tracks, strip it down and their vocal chops can’t be denied.

Amidst their Spring European tour I managed to finagle a correspondence with the trio of Brits that are: Darren Bancroft, and husband-wife duo Thomas Wegg-Prosser and Dede Wegg-Prosser to talk about their double-album Ternion, their trippy music video and how they really just sound like a bunch of elephants.

You’re currently touring all over Europe to promote the new album. Will you be doing any shows in the states in the near future?

We’ve played a few times in NYC and L.A. as well as a pretty full on SXSW in 2009, but at the moment nothing is scheduled. Our European tour is taking us everywhere this side of the Atlantic and we hope to be in South America and Mexico in early summer, but North America is a big hole in our plans—we’d love it to be filled.

What is it about the American music market that makes it so hard for a lot of acts that are huge in the United Kingdom/Europe to crossover?

I think the size of the country dictates there are so many musicians, so much new and amazing music and probably rightly so America initially goes to its own. Obviously, there are many exceptions and you guys welcome good music with open arms when you hear it, but for a band like ours to get over there and have the time and money to introduce our music to the potentially “WHB” sympathetic public is not easy. Dull things like tour support make a huge difference and a band like us inhabiting “indie world” does find it difficult to reach across the Atlantic.

We have to talk about the music video for your single, “Where Are Your People?”. As a group, it seems you have a great appreciation for the creative freedom of the music video medium. How did you come up with the concept? How did you get hooked up with director Alex Turvey? And what does it feel like to burn effigies of yourselves?

We LOVE making interesting and unique videos. We’ve been lucky to have worked with great directors like David Wilson and Price James—Alex Turvey was just the same. He got hold of the track and came up with the concept: a riff on The Holy Mountain by Alejandro Jodorowsky. The most intense part of the process was making the effigies themselves. We had to hold a position for about four hours as we were covered in blue latex stuff and then covered in plaster cast to form supports for the mold. The wax models were made a week later and then destroyed in the video. All that exists are the heads, which we have in our homes and Dede’s torso, which Alex asked if he could keep.

I like the idea of having an additional record of remixes as with Ternion Aside. How did you come up with that idea?

We did the Ternion Aside which has featured on it a couple of the editions of the record, as well as a mix of the first five tracks from the album. We hope to do the rest of the album during this tour period, so hopefully all the records will have been reinterpreted by the band pretty soon. The idea of the remix record came from The Human League “League Unlimited Orchestra” version of are. That is a classic piece of Pop reinvention and it was fun to re-imagine our own material without the traditional verse/chorus/mid-8 structure.

I really like the stripped-down acoustic versions of some of the new songs. It really shows how well your vocals play off each other and how you draw off each other’s energy.

It’s interesting that for a double-album that places a heavy emphasis on remixing and production, you chose to include tracks that are the opposite of that. What made you want to showcase these two opposite styles of recordings?

Thanks! We were really pleased with them too. We’d always liked broken down recordings of more electronic artists material and thought we could do the concept justice. Beyond just a basic acoustic guitar/voice version, it was nice to expand with percussion, organs and piano. The fact that the songs held up really makes us happy, as often with all the bells and whistles of production songs can be forgotten about, but we’re proud of our efforts and it seems people are digging how the same songs can breathe in very different ways.

When describing a band or record, most people and the media want to compare the sound to another group, how would you describe your music without using the crutch of band references, especially to an American audience who may not be immediately familiar with your music?

That is always the hardest question for us. So much so that when MySpace was alive and well, we had our sound description as “Elephants”. But to have a slightly more serious go, we sometimes describe our sound as “Pop with difficulty”.

We Have Band’s new album Ternion is available on iTunes now, HERE.

Follow We have Band on Twitter, @WeHaveBand

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