The Automatic: The Interview

Love it or hate it ‘Monster’ was the track you could not escape in summer 2006 and The Automatic were the band. And with the group bagging the prestigious headline slot on next month’s sixteen-date NME Awards Tour there’s no sign of the Welsh four-piece disappearing from the radios anytime soon.

Guitarist Frost says the secret to life on the road with The Automatic is a love of booze and cult BBC2 comedy. “On tour it’s basically lots of beer, lots of wine and lots of Alan Partridge. We just try to have a good party. We’re having a great time and as soon as it stops being fun, we’ll pack it in.”

After being on an almost constant tour for the past fifteen months you’d think it might be hard to pick a standout from all the live dates, but Frost knows instantly. “Reading was amazing,” he says. “We’d all been to it for the last three years, just as fans you know, and then last year we got to play. It was crazy to be standing playing on that stage that we’d all been in the crowd watching for the last few years. Yeah, that’s probably the highlight of the whole thing really.”

Before the NME gigs the band embark on their first European tour and then in March they head out to America. “We’ve only ever done a handful of European dates before, just the odd date here and there like Ibiza late summer with [NME tour-mates] Mumm-ra, so we’re all really excited about it. Then we’re heading out to the South By Southwest festival in Texas in March and we’re staying in America for the next six or seven months after that. It’s The Automatic’s U.S. invasion!

“Cracking America’s one of our priorities for the year really, we know you can’t just play a few dates and release a single and expect it to chart, so we’re gonna spend a bit of time there. It’s really gonna be weird though going from headlining Brixton Academy to playing these half-empty fifty-capacity clubs in America.”

“I love touring,” Frost says. “Weird stuff happens, like this once I was skateboarding down a hill in Exeter with a crate of Stella Artois on my shoulder and I came off and broke pretty much every bottle in there. I didn’t break anything on me though so we just sat down and drank what was left of the crate.”

Unlike some bands who steer clear of their breakthrough song and refuse to play it at live gigs, Frost says The Automatic still love their trademark ‘Monster’ track and haven’t become bored of playing it. “We’re not tired of it so we’ll carry on playing it,” Frost says. “It is refreshing not to play it though. We did a four-track radio set the other day and didn’t do it. The station didn’t say anything but to be fair I don’t think they really knew who we were anyway. We’ll be doing it on the European and American dates though as they won’t really have heard us and we’ve gotta play our best songs. It’ll be great playing it as well because we’ll see the song again through fresh eyes.”

Its not all touring though as the band are heading back to the studio in early March to record some more vocals for a forthcoming single. “We’re going back to the Elevator Studios in Cheapside, Liverpool to lay down some vocals. We recorded part of the album there, like ‘Recover’ and ‘Raoul’ and it’s a lovely city. Its great going there because we get to go out for a few drinks around the town after as well. The rest of the album was recorded in the middle of nowhere, there was just nothing around.”
Frost also says he’s a fan of the current Liverpool scene, especially B-Unique Records label-mates The Alterkicks. “I’d heard one of their tunes on the radio about three years ago and really liked it and then the record label said they were booked to support us for our tour in October last year and we were like ‘They’re supporting us? Great, I love those guys!’ All the band were into The Coral a few years back as well and we went through a little sea shanty phase. We quickly passed it by, Thank God.”

The group plan to write material for their second album while travelling between gigs on the long roads in America this summer. They also say there may be a Radiohead-inspired change of sound on future releases. “I’d like to think there’d be some kind of big change or experimentation on the new record. We might do it solely using electronic instruments, but it depends on what we’ve written and how long we have to record it really. Hopefully we’ll have it done and ready by January 2008 and then we can just start this whole thing over again.”

And as for their fan-favourite cover of Gold Digger, Frost says Kanye West still hasn’t heard it. “We’re a little band from Wales so I don’t think he really cares, I’d like him to hear it though. Besides we’re going to America soon so maybe we’ll bump into him.”

The NME tour kicks off this month:

29-Jan-07 belfast ulster hall
1-Feb-07 glasgow academy
3-Feb-07 manchester academy
6-Feb-07 newcastle academy
7-Feb-07 birmingham academy
8-Feb-07 norwich uea
10-Feb-07 cardiff university
11-Feb-07 sheffield octagon
12-Feb-07 reading hexagon
14-Feb-07 nottingham rock city
15-Feb-07 liverpool university
16-Feb-07 southampton guildhall
18-Feb-07 cambridge corn exchange
19-Feb-07 exeter university
20-Feb-07 bristol academy
23-Feb-07 london brixton

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