After a series of false starts in other bands, the members of Manchester’s The Whip finally realize their dance-rock dreams.
Since The Whip formed three years ago in Manchester, England, they’ve been on a nonstop touring schedule, bringing their dirty, sexy, sweaty, and infectious dance-rock to all corners of the world. While they’ve rocked clubs and festivals from Tokyo to Austin, two boiling hot outdoor gigs last summer stand out for them. The first is opening for The Breeders at McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “I still can’t believe how enormous the pool was. I kept trying to imagine how it would look filled with water and people,” remembers drummer Lil Fee, sitting with her bandmates backstage before a gig at New York’s The Fillmore at Irving Plaza. The other gig was in September at Norman “Fatboy Slim” Cook’s yearly Big Beach Boutique held annually at Cook’s native Brighton, England. (The band is signed to Cook’s Southern Fried imprint in the UK.)
“That was the loudest gig ever! The [power of the] PA’s they even surprised our tech, and she always turns everything way up to 11,” gushes Fee. “[Norman Cook] must’ve given the local council thousands ‘cause it was so loud you could hear it in neighboring towns. By the end of the night, when Fatboy Slim went on, the Salvation Army were going around giving out earplugs!”
Keyboardist Danny Saville and bassist Nathan Sudders crack up. Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Bruce Carter, who is suffering from a nasty pre-show case of laryngitis (he later sung his heart out anyway), heads outside to find a remedy to his temporary ailment. The rest of the band—all veteran players who’ve known each other for ten years from around the Manchester scene—don’t seem worried.
Sudders goes back to the beginning and relates the band’s history. “Me, Danny and Bruce ended up working in an instrument shop. They were writing stuff, and they played me songs that sounded interesting. So they asked if I wanted to join this band they were doing, and they were looking for a drummer, so I suggested Fee, because I knew it was perfect for what they were writing. She was into Daft Punk at the time, and it was a perfect match.”
While Sudders was going back and forth between The Whip and another band who had a record deal, the relationship was cemented after the band rehearsed in Fee’s bedroom and started to gig. Before long, promoters from all over the UK started booking The Whip, and they quickly gained a following beyond their core group of friends. Says Sudders,
“Playing dance music with real bass, guitars and drums has been very interesting to us for years, youknowwhatimean? We’ve all played this type of music in other bands, so the style wasn’t new to us.”
During this early period, Saville was working a day job selling insurance over the phone and Fee was doing office work. The band would undertake a four-hour drive to play a late-night show, then drive back and Saville would go straight into the office with a half-hour of sleep. They roar as they recall the old days. “If I was in the office on my own,” admits Fee, “I mastered the art of hand-on-my-mouse-in-the-hand while facing away from people so I could sleep at my desk. I’d even sleep on the toilet for five minutes.”
Perhaps it’s having similar music interests from Daft Punk to Fleetwood Mac is what keeps the creativity flowing. Maybe it’s playing five nights a week for nearly three years hasn’t hurt either. Whatever the case, their debut, X Marks Destination, came after a brief association with Parisian label Kitsuné. Produced by Jim Abisss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele, The Editors) during a six-week period where they continually gigged, the album spawned deliciously nasty anthems like “Trash,” while mega-hit “Sister Siam” conjures up a heady stew of acid lines and electro handclaps. Though their debut album is first-rate, their live shows are equally captivating.
“This is a true statistic: this band has been going for three years, and I think we’ve had only five rehearsals,” says Sudders. “ We learn the songs on our own because we’re all busy and just do it.”
Fee: “Five rehearsals? It’s more than that.”
Sudders: “Okay, it’s no more than ten. I think it’s more like five or six.”
Saville: “The bottom line is that you can over-rehearse songs to a point. You play them so many times that a fog comes over you.”
Fee: “I used to be a band, and we’d rehearse all the time. Then an important gig would come along and by the time it came to the gig, it wasn’t fresh.”
Saville: “We’ve never had agendas when it’s come down to writing songs. We just wrote music to dance to and the sort of songs we’d like to hear in a nightclub. It was a natural thing for us to do.”
With X Marks Destination finally getting a US release in early 2009, the band is elated with their success and don’t plan on getting off the road anytime soon. They’re happy to be touring in a larger van and seem to take the knocks of life on the road in stride.
“Doing this now is the best job in the world,” says Fee. “Before we had a shit job for a living and fun. Now we’re just having fun for a living. We still got drunk and stayed up late, even when we had day jobs.”
Sudders: “The story of this band is nonstop. The album wasn’t a relaxed process. It was late nights while doing gigs. In the past two years, the longest we’ve had time off is when Bruce got married in August. Then there’s Christmas, but that’s it.”
Fee: “Having time off was strange. I’d ring these guys up and say, ‘What are you doing?’”
The Whip say they generally get along like brothers and sisters. The love is usually there, even when it’s occasionally delivered in a four-letter word. “We’ve earned where we are right now,” concludes Fee. “If it was given to us on a plate, we wouldn’t appreciate it.”
as featured in Issue 25