SPIRIT OF INDEPENDENCE
This Ainít Vegas - Interview
This Ainít Vegas are probably one of the most important and ďrealĒ bands in Britain. Their uncompromising stance on song writing, performance and the music industry has earned them equal respect from the DIY underground, their friends and contemporaries The Futureheads and Maximo Park and indeed, the man.
The recent success of their fellow north easterners might have shed some corporate interest their way, but This Ainít Vegas have always remained fiercely independent. Their potent mix of post-punk, DC hardcore and shrewd observational lyrics, together with their confrontation live performances have garnered them a huge reputation on their own merits. They even told an interested major label to piss off.
Dave Himelfield talks to singer and guitarist Richard Amundsen.
ManchesterMusic: Whereís the name ĎThis Ainít Vegasí from?
Richard Amundsen: Our drummerís dad came out with it as a pun referring to how Sunderland appeals to us; the fact that itís not glitz and glamour. We adopted it and turned it into a meaning for modesty, how we deal with our music and where weíre from. (Sunderland) is a very modest place. Itís the underdog.
MM: Do you think that Sunderland has been musically fertile because itís a modest town and people want to try to prove something?
RA: I donít know. Itís a case of random musicians being around at the same time (and) friends who get on. There are a lot of good people there and (thereís) a lot of talent. Itís quite small so everyone plays in each otherís pockets.
It would be nice to think thatís why. There are a lot of good bands because thereís that kind of struggle for recognition.
MM: Itís a boring question but what are the main musical influences behind This Ainít Vegas?
RA: Jordan (Hill This Ainít Vegas drummer) is really big Police fan. For me, itís Gang of Four, XTC, obviously Fugazi, and a lot of (Washington) DC bands. Now we like a lot of stuff. Weíre into Bjork. Itís kind of ballsy rock music that grabs you live.
MM: Is it fair to say that This Ainít Vegas are an angry band?
RA: (Pauses) I suppose we are quite angry but it depends in what context. A lot of itís frustration more than anything. Weíre trying to get a message across to an audience that half the time, donít know who (we) are. That comes out as frustration.
MM: Lyrically The Night Don Benito Saved My Life seems to be more introspective than The Black Lung Captain which was more about social observation.
RA: Don Benito is a bit more introverted and personal. The other (album - Black Lung Captain) is more about groups of people. Now itís about my own mind (and) Adamís (This Ainít Vegas singer) too.
MM: Apart from lyrics, what are the main differences between Black Lung Captain and Don Benito?
RA: I think Don Benito is more of an epic rock album. Itís closer to Queen than Fugazi (laughs). We wanted to work a bit more on melody and singing. We wanted to make the songs quite long and make the structures a bit more interesting.
MM: Why is there a backwards recording of ĎWe Lost Ití (Won The Race) from Black Lung Captain on the new album?
RA: A friend of ours had a tape that had the original demo version and she put it on and it was playing backwards. Something had happened to the tape and fucked it up. We were all pissed at this party and we put it on and thought: ďThat sounds amazing!Ē
MM: Have you had any reviews where they didnít realise that it was a backwards version and thought it was a departure from your normal stuff?
RA: People thought we were getting all Warp Records. We thought the melody was really distinct; quite interesting and eerie. We like vinyl and wanted it to be a break before the next half (of the album).
MM: Have you had much label interest?
RA: The Black Lung Captain got quite a lot of major label stuff.
MM: I heard a rumour that you told one label to piss off.
RA: Yeah. We more or less said that. At the time we werenít really bothered about it. To this day weíre still just battling out what we feel we want to do with our band.
Iím doing a degree. Adam is doing a degree. Weíre happy doing it as a hobby at the minute. Weíre getting quite a lot of recognition through that and I think thatís the main thing. We play to people who give a shit about us and people who enjoy (us) live.
We went down to Exeter last week we had people singing our album (over) 300 miles away. Thatís (from) our own perseverance. Itís not through big money. Itís nice to get that kind of response. At the minute weíre trying to find a middle ground; to play to a lot of people without being committed in a contract.
Tonight is great. Youíre playing to a potentially bigger audience and tapping into a crowd that doesnít really exist for bands in a smaller scene. Itís hard. You either play The Carling Academy or the Camden Barfly or you play in a tiny pub. Or, you play a gig like this (tonight) where there are more people. Itís hard to get people in if itís not been through the NME or whatever. Weíre trying to find a niche where there are more people without committing.
MM: Do think that A & R men have come up to Sunderland expecting to find another band that sounds like the Futureheads and then been disappointed when you didnít?
RA: A lot of reviews people have said that This Ainít Vegas are peers of The Futureheads and Maximo Park and they say it as if weíre following in their footsteps. But weíve been around longer than Maximo Park and weíve been on a par with The Futureheads. We played their early gigs.
It frustrates us when people assume that weíre trying to be the next big thing because weíre not. Weíve just doing what weíve always done. And (The Futureheads and Maximo Park) are doing their thing. Itís amazing to see our friends up there representing what they want to do and it makes us happy. Weíve had a few people emailing us but what does it all mean in the end?
MM: What would you do if you received an offer from a label with a fair amount of backing but also a reputable history?
RA: Thatís a different ball game. If (it was) someone like 4AD or say Warp, it would really tempt us.
MM: Whatís next for This Ainít Vegas?
RA: At the moment weíre saving for a van so we can do more gigs at weeks on our own accord. Weíre thinking about touring Spain in Easter.
Thatís why we named the album after a town in Spain. It became a double meaning like this mafia boss. In this town we imagined that Don Benito was the boss of the town. It was a big joke on the tour that he was looking over us. He was our mentor. It sounds a bit stupid.
Hopefully (weíll) get a new album in a yearís time. We donít want to leave it too long.
MM: I presume youíre writing new stuff as we speak.
RA: Yeah. We have a couple of songs on the go in the vein of what weíve been doing now but (theyíre) a bit less angry. Weíre all calming down a bit.
This Ainít Vegas is:
Adam Rose: Vocals
Richard Amundsen: Guitar and vocals
Michael Matthews: Bass
Jordan Hill: Drums
words: Dave Himelfield
pictures: (c) This Ain't Vegas Website
(c) (p) December 2005 - mbm licenced to musicdash