[21 May 2010]
PopMatters Interviews Editor
The Wave Pictures are what many would call a “hidden gem” of a band: a group who write amazing songs, quietly release brilliant albums heralded by the likes of Daniel Johnston and John Darnielle, but still have gone relatively unnoticed outside of (or, hell, even in) their native UK homeland.
Yet, at the same time, frontman David Tattersall doesn’t seem much to care. Although many of the indie-rock templates are evident in his music—the swaying strings, the group singalongs—what makes the Wave Pictures different is its entirely homespun feel. These songs sound like they were recorded in an open-air kitchen at time, on the porch another. The Wave Pictures pride themselves in not being studio fetishists, letting the songs speak for themselves, and, as such, each album from the Wave Pictures has its own lo-fi charm, a sweet naiveté that almost makes you forget just how well-composed the tracks in question are.
As such, Tattersall is no doubt excited that his band’s two most recent albums—Instant Coffee Baby and If You Leave It Alone—are finally getting wide-spread distribution in America (a first for the band), coupled together in a glorious double-disc package that shows just how fun, crazed, and downright enjoyable the Wave Pictures’ music truly is. o celebrate, Tattersall took on PopMatters’ 20 Questions, and reveals an out-and-out love of D.H. Lawrence and Bukowski, an aversion towards sci-fi, and reveals which Lou Reed album is truly the greatest of all time ...
1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
The last book that made me cry was Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence. I would still say that it is far too long a book and for the same impact you should just look at his poem “Sorrow” which is about exactly the same incident, but in twelve lines instead of 600 pages. Still, to give it its due, I bawled like a baby at the end of Sons and Lovers.
2. The fictional character most like you?
I’m a lot like Columbo in many ways. I’m often thought of as quite similar to him. For one thing, I smoke cigars and squint a bit. But the main similarity is that I am very unpretentious and friendly, which often means that people don’t take me seriously at first. But this facade hides a deep, vast intelligence and ability. The people who know me well consider me to be a great genius, much like Columbo’s work colleagues. However, it is important to be able to relate to the man in the street, and like Columbo, I manage to retain my humility.
3. The greatest album, ever?
Well, obviously, obviously, this a stupid question and you know it. Nobody has a favourite album! Just for the sake of answering ... one album that I always go back to and enjoy is Set The Twilight Reeling by Lou Reed. I like it because it is chaotic and noisy and fun. It makes me smile. I know all the words. It’s really great, the best kind of Lou Reed: light and smart and fun rock and roll Lou Reed.
4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
It’s difficult to choose between them for me since I was never all that captivated by either. I’m not that into all that outer space stuff with robots and aliens and what have you. Even as a kid, it kind of bored me for some reason. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve always just preferred stuff about people doing regular everyday things. For instance, I like the TV show Friends very much. And I always liked reading stuff like Charles Bukowski and John Steinbeck and the Lawrence stuff, like I said before. I’m just not into fantasy type stuff myself.
5. Your ideal brain food?
Well, I guess for me it’s never been politics or social theory or philosophy. I used to think this was wrong and I even did a degree in sociology because I thought it was more important, but I can’t concentrate on theory for very long. I seem to be able to think about a film, any film, for ages afterwards. The last one I watched was Hang ‘Em High, this Clint Eastwood film that really stayed with me. The same with books and music. So I guess I’d say films and novels and songs were my ideal brain food.
6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?
I don’t understand this question really. I’m not a particularly proud person. I don’t have anything much to be proud of. I just want to keep going and keep writing songs and playing them with my friends. I guess I could say I’m proud that I manage to do this with friends, rather than hired hands. It’s a good feeling to have kept my friends with me.
7. You want to be remembered for ...?
When I’m dead? I guess it would be nice to be remembered fondly. But my grandfather always taught me to not spend too long dwelling on the dead, and not to feel sad about it too much. He told me that in the last few days of his life. I guess I’d like to be remembered fondly, but I think he’s right, I wouldn’t want anybody to really think about me too much once I was gone. I’d rather imagine they were happy and getting on with things.
8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?
I guess I’m most inspired by the great American guitarist/singers. Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, etc.
9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?
No, no, nothing particularly. I’m pretty focused on making up my little songs and doing my own little bit. I don’t wish I had a piece of someone else’s work.
10. Your hidden talents . . .?
I am largely talentless outside of music. I can play pool OK and I did OK in school. But nothing else much. I’m not very practical.
11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?
That advice from my grandfather was pretty good. I went to his funeral and I cried that day. And then we all got drunk. And the next day it was business as usual and when I think of him now I think of him fondly and I smile and that’s that. Good advice. I wouldn’t call that “best advice”. Who ranks the advice that they’ve received in their life? Nobody. I’ve been given lots of good advice. But that one will do for an answer.
12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?
I stole The Post Office by Charles Bukowski. I was a teenager. I went through a phase of stealing things. I can’t understand it because the idea of stealing anything would absolutely terrify me now. I don’t know why I stole things and I don’t remember what made me stop. I never got caught so I must have come to my senses on my own. It’s certainly nothing to be proud of. Anyway, the theft is shameful, but I did enjoy that book. I also stole lots of CDs from places like HMV. I remember stealing The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace. I liked that.
The best thing I like to buy now that I buy things is the Lentil Soup that they sell in the Turkish restaurant I frequent on Leyton High Road, near my flat. It’s delicious and it’s only three pounds.
The best thing I borrowed recently was The Wire. A friend lent me the first three series of The Wire. I enjoyed that.
13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?
I don’t know anything about clothes. I just pick up things in charity shops. I don’t look at the labels. Clothes are very boring to me. I know I like check shirts. I feel good in a check shirt, and you can always find them in charity shops. It’s cheap and it goes to charity and I don’t have any reason to buy clothes anywhere else.
14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?
It would be interesting to get some writers together and ask them about writing. I could learn something that way. Dylan Thomas and D. H. Lawrence and John Steinbeck. I would also be curious to meet Foucault and Marx and Wittgenstein, but I think they might talk over my head a bit and also monopolize the conversation. So maybe I’ll stick with the first three.
15. Time travel: where, when and why?
I would just go back to when you could smoke in bars.
16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?
I like a nice hot bath.
17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?
Cigars, like I said before. Cigarettes. I like lager too. And cups of sugary tea. Fried food, especially sausages. All the bad things.
18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?
I’m happy in east London just now.
19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?
I wish that they passed fewer new laws, that there was less surveillance, less CCTV, fewer rules everywhere. I feel like civil liberties are being eroded. I don’t think the individual is respected enough. I fear this more than anything else. I also believe that laws ought to exist to protect us from our very worst behavior, not to guide us towards our best behavior. But my opinion is very unpopular. Still, that’s what I would want to say. I also believe that a top priority for a Labour government ought to have been to reduce the gap between the richest and the poorest person in this country. Instead, it has got larger. I would encourage the leader to tax the rich more and give more to the poor. I’d like it if they evened things up a bit Robin Hood style. It’s not fair that some people are born with so much more than others. I would also want to tell the leader of the country what a crock of shit our education system is. People like him have literally no idea what it’s like to be a teacher or a pupil in a comprehensive school. I’d have a lot to say to him, but none of it would be helpful and none of my suggestions would be popular. I’d just be wasting his time.
20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?
I’m always working on music, I’m writing songs, I’m thinking things through. Nothing important, ever.