Pete And The Pirates
Pete and the Pirates are a godsend. With UK indie battle lines drawn firmly between the ultra-banal (The Wombats, The View…) and the ultra-hip (Foals, The Ting Tings…), the Pirates provide a respite that’s as ragged and quirky as it is assured and thoughtful. They’re what a slanted and enchanted Pavement were to the grunge movement. And sure the Arctic Monkeys are doing a fine job saving smart, populist indie all on their own but they couldn’t half do with a hand.
“There are these bands from London,” lead singer Tom Sanders says half way through a pre-Christmas chat, “that sound like they’re from Manchester or god knows where. It really fucks me off when people say they’re trying to find their own voice.” To his right guitarist Pete Hefferan, one of three backing/co-vocalists and one of two Pete’s in the band, agrees: “There’s a song out at the moment, and I won’t to say who it is (it’s those scally Wombats), but the same three word phrase is sung in three different accents. It makes me laugh.”
There is absolutely nothing contrived about Pete and The Pirates. Together with Tom’s brother Jonny on drums, bassist Peter Cattermoul and David Thorpe on guitar, all five Reading residents have been plying their trade together for six years and it shows. February’s frenetic full debut ‘Little Death’ sounds like a band itching to get out of the traps but one equally earnest and mature. And that’s precisely what strikes you about today’s two resident pirates. Indeed the above minor dig at the indie fraternity only come about through discussing their own songs’ welcome, everyday take on life.
“The songs I write tend to be about very mundane subjects and normally about girls,” says Tom. “Or really simple stuff like getting out of bed, well that’s not my song (Knots), but I like to write about beds. I don’t particularly like seeing indie bands talk about really deep stuff because I don’t think it works.” Like Knots and its preceding release Come on Feet (both cracked the Ragged Words’ singles of the year list), frank, spiky new single Mr. Understanding ticks the devilishly simple box once more or as Pete says, “It’s just nice to write about something that is about something.”
Little Death was recorded over two weeks last January with Go Team producer Gareth Parton. His brief was simple - it’s the Pirates, just record it. “It was very intense, two weeks of solid, hard work,” admits Tom. “It’s the way we prefer to work,” adds Pete “it creates a snapshot of where your band is at that moment rather than spending months and months on it. It’s much more honest.” The result is 13 tight yet raw guitar led songs with the band preferring more of the latter than former. “Ideally, we’d like it looser,” says Tom. “But you have to meet people half way when they ask ‘is this going to get played on the radio’ and your reply is ‘no way’. You have to tidy it up a little but without losing the rawness, which I think we’ve done.”
Although Ragged Words were first turned onto the Pirates via Lanzafame, a quite wonderful solo record released last year by Tom under the guise of Tap Tap, a deeper dig uncovers not one but five songwriters (all bar David Thorpe share their wares on MySpace.) “One of the strengths of our band is that all of us our songwriters,” says Pete before Tom continues, “When people ask us what our influences are, the answer tends to be each other. We all have our own way of doing stuff and we’re all massively influenced by each other’s musical styles.”
Thoughts beyond their debut and the minor stir it should cause extend to a fairly much written second record and just continuing to play together because “it’s too late to go do something else.” Longevity is another word mentioned and it’s glaringly apparent they have the resilience, not to mention the talent, for such long-term ambitions.
“So many bands get played on the radio having only formed six months ago and you think this is too soon, there’s no foundations… you’re going to burn out,” concludes Tom. “You’ve got to start at the bottom and slug your way up, playing through years of people not really liking you and that’s how you get pretty good.”
Somewhere he, Pete and the rest of the Pirates skipped a step because they’re exceptionally good.