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Aristazabal Hawkes - Guillemots PDF Print E-mail
Written by George Shaw   
03 11 2011
ImageSince their formation in 2004, Guillemots have become one of the most captivating live bands in the UK. They are also one of my favourites. So, understandably, I was excited, and rather nervous, when I had the opportunity to speak to Arista, the band's bass player. Nervous in case I bored her to death with the sheer amount of questions I had prepared. I needn't have worried, as what I got, after receiving her voicemail a couple of times, was a lovely chat about touring South America, the new album and the, erm, Little Chef menu. Here it is.

Hi Arista. What are you up to today?

We're just, erm, waking up and going to Little Chef for a glamorous breakfast and then driving to Falmouth.

Nice. It is a bit early, sorry about that.
No it's fine, I don't know why I thought I'd be awake.

I wasn't sure if I would be either. How's the UK tour going so far?
(Laughs) Yeah it's great. I mean we've only done three shows, so it's early days but it's been great. Our friend Tanya Auclair is supporting us and everyone has been loving her. So good times, generally.

You recently got back from a tour of South America. How was it?
It was amazing! Yeah. We were in Brazil and we had one gig in Argentina.

It must be nice to have that as your job, a trip to South America.
Yeah, that was the first time we'd been there. Usually it's UK and Europe, which is still good, but it's such a different experience. I've travelled quite a lot...

What are the crowds like in South America? Are they any different to the UK?
Yeah, you can really tell that music is a part of culture and everyday life, instead of just like entertainment. It seems to mean a lot to everyone. They're just up for having fun; it's not just that having to have a drink to get excited, they're like that all along and they're just having fun really. It's much more a party atmosphere, I'd say.

That sounds like the best way for it to be really. People actually having fun.
Yeah, you can really feel it on stage and then you just want to play much better and as best you can. It's just fun. More fun for everyone!

ImageCool. Your third album, Walk The River, came out earlier this year. Are you happy with it?
Yeah, we're happy. We're always happy with what we do. We don't really put it out till we're happy. But it's a funny time for the music industry I think. We're going through some transitions as a band. Yeah, it looks like that's probably going to be the last one on a major label for us, but anyway, that's another story. Yeah we're happy with the record and it's really fun to play live because we recorded it a lot more live than on the last few records, so it's easier to start playing live, we don't have to be like ‘oh there's like 300 instruments playing in that song, how are we going to strip it down to four people?' But this one was more easier and fun.

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Each album feels completely different and almost totally unrelated to the last. Has it been a conscious decision to try and develop the sound into different areas with each album, or was it something that just happened naturally?
That's just how we roll (laughs). Yeah, it's been a conscious decision. None of us really want to repeat what we've done before, that just seems a bit silly. It's not like we think about it loads, we do what we feel like doing and then that's what comes out. I don't know, it's a strange process but I'm happy. Yeah and it's exciting to think ten years down the line listening to everything back.

Well I suppose it'll be more exciting and more fun if you did it in your way, I'd imagine.
Yeah, exactly. That's what it's about as well really. It's music, it should be fun.

ImageWith Red, it was so different from what listeners may have expected after Through The Window Pane, were you ever worried about alienating certain sections of your fanbase?
We didn't really realise that it was so different, to us it just seemed like a natural progression, but I mean, it's just a weird process, as I said. We didn't just think ‘oh let's make something really different', that's just what we felt like doing as a band. Red we kind of wrote a lot more collaboratively, so that's probably why it sounds like that as well because there's such different music and different people more involved in the writing. It was a bit mad.

It was like a really big pop record. I thought it was quite refreshing, to see a band go to that from where you came from.
Yeah. That's what we wanted to do. We went a bit mad, to be fair, but that's just where we were. We enjoyed it, you know, we had our own studio and the record label saying ‘you're going to be massive' and it kind of goes to your head and in you're just in this little bubble. We just got right into it. I still think it's a great record. It got pretty slated by the public but I mean, well.

No I agree, I love that record. How does a Guillemots song come about then? With tracks like Sao Paulo and Go Away from the first album and more recently Sometimes I Remember Wrong and Yesterday Is Dead from the new album. Do they come from an initial idea or from lengthy "jam" sessions?
Pretty much big jam sessions (laughs). Yeah we used to record a lot of our jams and rehearsals and stuff on minidisc. Go Away definitely was, and still is, quite free and improvised, we jam it out a bit, it's quite long. Sao Paulo also came from that, then Fyfe (Dangerfield) kind of worked on it and structured it. That's generally what happens. We make noise and are quite free and improvised, then just sit back and just keep listening back, then Fyfe usually structures it into a more proper song and writes some lyrics.

Is that the same for tracks like Trains To Brazil and Get Over It? They seem a lot more geared for radio, in a way.
Yeah, that's not a conscious thing, they're songs we just started playing. Most of them are from improvised, initial ideas and then listening back and turning them into something else.

Will those minidiscs ever see the light of day?
I don't know. We've always fantasised about it. I mean, we've got hundreds of them. We've always wanted to release a compilation, edit bits of it together. It'd be very, very mad listening to it but someone might enjoy it.

You could do it with the 2020 reissue of Through The Windowpane, just in time for the reunion tour.
(Laughs) Yeah, if we're all still alive and kicking. We make jokes about that quite a lot.

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What do you hope listeners will extract from your sound? Do you think the context of your work changes within the environment that you listen to it?
Yeah definitely. I mean, I don't know, I guess we want people to just feel something. I like to think we make emotional music that's moving, that's what I take out of music, you know. It makes me feel like someone else feels like I feel and that's a good thing, so you don't feel alone all the time (laughs). Every song we've recorded we've talked about landscapes and food, and strange things like that. Like ‘yeah! That sounds like... you know when you eat a chocolate mousse' and other strange things.

That's strange because I was talking to someone yesterday and I said The Godfather theme tune sounds like you're eating pizza. That was totally irrelevant, I know.
(laughs) Yeah. Cool. No, I know what you mean.

I'm glad someone does.
Yeah, and I think, like you were saying, where you listen to music does change it a lot. Like on a plane, or on a boat, or walking up on a mountain. I love that, when you're doing something and you just find the right album that totally goes with what you're doing. Fun.

ImageI found Through The Windowpane to be very good for bus journeys, to look out the window to.
Yeah, yeah exactly! Well we talked about that a lot actually on Walk The River, kind of being on a train and going quite fast and just watching the landscape go by.

I love doing that. It's a great feeling.
Yeah, the things that music does! Okay, so I'm now in Little Chef, which is really quite scary.

Do you know what you're getting?
No, I've no idea! Can you recommend anything? Do you eat here?

Is it one those Little Chefs that Heston Blumenthal did up?
Oh definitely not, no.

Oh, I don't know then, if it doesn't have frozen ice cream with frog's legs, that sounds like something he served.
(Laughs) I don't think so. Where are you?

Me? I'm in an office in Sunderland.
Oh right. I just couldn't think where that accent was from.

I'm just glad you can understand me, I've had that problem before.
Is that kind of where from The Futureheads are from?

Yeah, they're from, well not far from this office. There's a big hub of bands from this sort of area. Do you know Field Music? They're really good as well.  Check them out, that's my tip. Anyway, I'll get back to the interview and not talk about Sunderland.
(Laughs) I don't mind.

ImageIn between the last two albums, Fyfe went off and released a solo album. How did the rest of Guillemots feel about that? Was it strange seeming him out on his own?
Yeah, he always gets annoyed with me for being honest about this, but of course it's weird. We basically live together in Bath and then all of a sudden he's off somewhere else with some other people. No one resents it, I think it's great, we'd all like to side projects and different things and you can't hold someone back, if they've got an idea and a vision and they want to do something then great. I think, it was more about the way it was presented to the rest of us and it wasn't clear what was happening, so that was a bit frustrating. We were just told by management that we're starting a record, then it was like ‘err not this one because Fyfe doing this' and it's like we have lives too you know.

Did it feel like he was cheating on you with another band?
To be honest, it did a little bit, but nothing serious. Little twinges but then you're like don't be silly, it's only music, you should play with lots of people and enjoy it, so yeah.

What did the rest of the band do during the time off?
Well, (MC Lord) Magrão (guitarist) and Greig (Stewart, drummer) have a kid each so they were quite happy to be at home and be family men, be daddies. I was kind of writing. In a way it was good because we had been so busy up till then that it was nice to just do normal stuff, see your friends and stuff like that... Sorry I'm just trying to decide what to eat.

It's alright, I'll give you a minute.
Two rashers of bacon, free range scrambled eggs and two of our famous breakfast pancakes, that's an American style breakfast.

Sounds good.
Shall I just do that then?

Yeah. Do you get the syrup with it though?
Yeah. Well, this is what it says: "with Maple flavoured syrup." Flavoured.

Hmm, strange. Is that just like syrup with maple extract or something?
(laughs) Yeah, it sounds dodgy.

Is there not a Tesco you can nip to and get a bottle of proper Maple Syrup?
Oh no, we're in the middle of nowhere. Sorry, this is not very professional, is it? But it's life, live.

I'm down with the nitty gritty of touring with a band here.
Yeah, I mean, it's pretty interesting, isn't it? You can write about this. So I'm taking your advice and I'm having the American style breakfast. If it's crap, I'm going to phone you back.

Don't blame me. I warned you about the syrup, so don't blame me for that.
Yeah you did. So... what were we talking about? Yeah, it's all good. It would have been bad if he did that, split up with the band, then never came back but he didn't so it's okay. It's funny how a lot of people have been ‘oh you split up, but now you're back together!' No we didn't.

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Which of your songs are you most proud of?
That's a really hard question. It depends what mood I'm in, when you're playing things for different people, it depends.

Which song do you enjoy playing most live then?
That's hard. That depends on my mood too. I always enjoy Sao Paulo because it's quite a different song and I enjoy playing double bass. So yeah, I'd say that one. People enjoy too. Even in England we can get people jumping up and down.

Do you still use the typewriter and trash cans on stage?
No. We've scaled down on the random bits of crap on stage because it's a technical nightmare and we're not on a tour bus anymore, we're in a van, loading our own gear and setting up. It's just impractical.

I suppose you don't want a trash can in the back of the van.
(Laughs) Yeah, it's really hard to fit in efficient pack.

Which song do you wish you'd written?
The Stevie Wonder back catalogue.

If the world was about to end, what would be the last song you would listen to?
That's too difficult for 10:30 in the morning! I have to actually think, I'm not used to thinking for interviews. It depends on the situation, how it was ending, who I was with. I mean, I might not have any headphones with me.

Not everyone puts this much thought into this question.
Sorry, I'm still half asleep so I'm being rubbish. I'm going to be weird and say A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.

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So, outside of music what are your passions?
I don't have any. It's just the music.

Just the music and Little Chef then?
Yeah pretty much. Music and food. Food is a pretty big part of my life too. That makes me sound so boring, but it's true.

Eating and cooking food? Or just eating in general?
(Laughs) No just mashing it in my face. Cooking food as well. I grow my own vegetables and hope to have chickens one day.

Ah right. What would be your signature dish? If you were cooking for someone, what would you make?
Oh god. Again it would depend on my mood, I'm a girl, you know. Probably some sort of Asian food. Sushi, or noodles. That's very clear isn't it? Roasts! I like making roast dinners as well. Lasagne, I like making lasagne. And fish, I like fish. Anyway, I'm just listing foods now. Food, sex and music. That's about it, really.

That's all you need really.  The new album is called Walk The River, if you could walk on any river, which would it be and why?
(Laughs) Oh my god, I don't know the names of any rivers! Well, since I'm in Devon I'm just doing to say The Dart. It is a nice river actually.

Is it? I've never been, I'll have to take your word for it. Who would win in a three way fight between Through The Windowpane, Red and Walk The River?
Oh my god, you're making me chose between my children! That's not very nice.

Right, forget I asked that. I don't want to cause a scene in Little Chef.
Yeah, I'm going to start rolling around in the store, chucking stuff. To be honest, I'm going to have to say Through The Windowpane. Not because I think the music is better or anything. It's just the first album, first time in a studio, the first time I recorded with the band. It was really just an amazing opportunity and a great experience. People were still spending money back then, so it was nice to have a little experience of that.

I'll ask you one last question then let you get to your meal, can you describe Walk The River in five words?
Oooh, umm. Moody... oh this is terrible, I don't know! Why don't you just make something up? I trust you to, choose wisely.
Really, really, really, really good.
Yeah? You like it?
I do. I really do. Thanks for your time. Sorry for getting you up and making you talk to me so early.  Is there anything you'd like to add before I let you go.
I don't think so.

Thanks then, I'll see you in Newcastle next week.
Okay cool, come say hi to us!

Guillemots play the Riverside, Newcastle on November 8th and tour the rest of UK throughout the month. For more information about the band, and links to buy tickets for the shows, check their website here. You can eat at one of the many Little Chef restaurants across the UK anytime you like.
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