the AU interview: Joe Shrewsbury of 65daysofstatic (UK)

65daysofstatic will be in Australia for the first time next year and as the excitement grows in the AU review's electronic office, we caught up with Joe Shrewsbury in preparation for their tour.

Your first album had probably the most pure post-rock elements and you were being held up as one of the next wave of post-rock, with bands like Explosions in the Sky. When people put a label on you and start having expectations of your sound, is it hard to ignore them and follow your own vision?

At this point in 65daysofstatic’s existence, not at all. I’d like to think we’d successfully exceeded those expectations on our last two records, "We Were Exploding Anyway" and the soundtrack we did "Silent Running". Ultimately, it’s not a good idea to write music based on what you think people might want to hear. It's better to try and progress, evolve, attempt to achieve things you thought weren’t possible.

That’s not to say that we don’t try and make sure our music serves the listener’s ear and is the best that it can be, but we stopped caring about genre or style or whatever a long time ago.

It seems to be a somewhat common theme in post-rock circles that people deny actually being a post-rock band or refuse to associate themselves with the genre. Any comment on that sentiment?

The term post-rock just seems to be an incredibly limiting concept, and I think while we’re largely unconcerned about whether we are or not, it’s sometimes frustrating to be included in a flabby undefined field that includes everything from the beauty and bleakness of Godspeed You! Black Emperor to the insipid vacuous epic jerk-offs of all this post-metal rubbish that people seem to be allowed to get away with. We’re a lot more interested (and occupied) in trying to get music out into the world and playing it live than worry about whether we are or aren’t something that we firstly never tried to be and secondly don’t feel any need to observe the so-called parameters of.

Is it hard to live between the gaps of genres?

I think I know what this question means, but I’m not sure. The best answer I can think of at the present time is: not as hard as being a miner in South Africa, a dissident in Russia, a single parent, a sick or disabled person in austerity Europe, and from what I’ve seen on the internet, a feminist in Australia. Broadly speaking, a citizen in an aggressively capitalist self-serving present day. I very rarely worry about genre above all those other things.

Do you get a lot of time to listen to music? What’s been on the record player or iPod recently?

Because we’re writing a new record at the moment, we tend to be listening to 65dos demos over and over and over again. In the occasional spare moment the only thing I can think of that is notable is the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" by a Dutch Cellist called Ernst Reijseger which really great.

What was the feeling like when you realised you could make a living off being a musician? And when was it?

The first time we quit our jobs and went on tour and knew we weren’t going to have to try and get them back in six weeks time was a while ago now, and it felt really good at the time. I think we’re still trying to work out of we can make a living from making music. Certainly we’re lucky to be doing this full time at the moment, but there’s never any real certainty that we’ll be able to continue doing that.

Did you have any other life plan to fall back onto, in case this music business all went pear-shaped?

No. Still don’t. I would like to see a giant squid in the wild.

As a band, you’re closing in on a decade. It’s a lot of time in the music world! During that time, what’s been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen and been involved in the music world?

Actually, there’s been a 65daysofstatic for just over eleven years. Looking back from here, the biggest change would have to be the rise of the internet and the sharing of music online. There’s lots more shit bands now as well, but I think that might have something to do with getting old.

What was the biggest problem that faced the band in its history?

I can’t think of one single problem. As I imagine it is with any band that doesn’t sell a whole lot of records and is a bit off-the-map, we’re always worrying about when we’ll get paid next, where our next meal is coming from, how long the equipment will hold out for. Stuff like that. One of the main problems in these increasingly homogenised times for a band with no singer is getting played on the radio. In Britain anyway, radio play is really important. We were lucky enough to have been given our first spin on national radio by the late, great John Peel, and while there is now a dedicated ‘alternative’ national music station in this country, it’s alternative in the way that some politicians are described as being ‘left of center’ when in fact they are firmly stuck in the MIDDLE.

We once had an incredibly disturbing experience involving a broken van key, a rainstorm and the one way system of a major European conurbation, but the less said about that the better. The head of our Japanese record label once called me fat after a particularly delicious meal in Tokyo, and patted my stomach, but I have now dropped a few pounds.

The last album the band recorded was a soundtrack to the 70’s sci-fi film Silent Running. Who’s the sci-fi nerd or film buff in the band?

Well, our band is named after the central premise of John Carpenter’s obscure Stealth Bomber which failed to ignite cinemas across the world following his much publicised fall out with Industrial Light and Magic, as well as the video nasty act that was imposed in Britain in 1984, amongst other MUCH WORSE acts.

Our first single "Retreat! Retreat!" illegally samples Matt Dillon in the film Singles, while our first record, The Fall of Math samples the Wajda classic "Ashes and Diamonds" (amongst other things). "Massive Star at the End of it’s Burning Cycle" is named after a phase in stellar nucleosynthesis, and also samples a movie called Wizards. We once managed to broadcast a government recording of the "Lincolnshire Poacher" a famous example of possible long range espionage transmissions.

We also covered/reworked the soundtrack to John Carpenter’s "Assault on Precinct 13", and our 2009 live album is named after Escape From New York. "Asphalt and Trouble", the b-side to "Radio Protector", samples the 1985 videogame Full Throttle, which has nothing to do with films or sci-fi, but does feature Mark Hamill.

So, long story short, films and sci-fi are pretty central to 65daysofstatic. Paul has an actual film degree from a British university though, so the answer you’re looking for is: Paul.

So 65dos will be in Australia for a tour in the New Year (which a number of us in the AU Review electronic office are drooling over!). When the band goes on tour to a country it has never been to before, what’s that feeling like? Is it hard to pick which songs to play, is there a greater pressure to do an amazing show or anything else?

Being able to visit places because of some music you’ve made is quite honestly incredible, and something we’re very grateful to get to do. So having never been to Australia, we’re obviously really excited. There’s always pressure to play a great show wherever we are, we try not to differentiate too much between shows as it seems better to just be awesome all the time(!).

65daysofstatic Australian tour 2012/13

Sun Dec 30 @ Peats Ridge Festival, Glenworth Valley NSW
Wed Jan 2 @ The Hi Fi, Sydney NSW
Thurs Jan 3 @ The Hi Fi, Brisbane QLD
Fri Jan 4 @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
Sat Jan 5 @ The Bakery, Perth WA

Listen to 65daysofstatic