We have a quick chat and e-coffee with Leeds’ indie-pop oddballs The Wednesday Club about their music, the importance of humour and art. We reviewed their latest album, Passing Strange, over yonder.
Noted: A lot of artists – especially those who have been around for a little while – have been charging for their releases, but you’ve made all of your records available through Cath ‘n’ Dad Records — your own label — available at a “name your own” price premium with all proceeds benefiting charity. How or why did you arrive at the decision to release your albums this way?
TWC: Well, for the past decade (which makes me feel old!) we’ve given the profits from any shows/club nights we’ve put on to charity so it’s a continuation of that. As much as we’d love to be rock stars we’re not big enough to live off of the proceeds of what we do and have no real expenses to cover so it seems unnecessary to keep the money ourselves. Essentially, we want as many people as possible to hear us and have tried various different models – self released CDs, being on a label (the wonderful Oddbox), free downloads – and find this one fits us best.
Noted: There’s a lot of stuff I’ve noticed on your website that speaks to me about you being a lighthearted group – the liner notes to Passing Strange, for example, gave me a good laugh at a few points. How important do you think it is to maintain a sense of humor while working on an album and just how seriously do you lot take yourselves as a group?
TWC: We decided on a manifesto a while back “stupid and serious are equally valid methods of expression”. I think the humour that we have is more of a reaction against the absurdity of modern life than us not taking ourselves seriously. Although post Spinal Tap I think it’s hard for any band to take them selves too seriously. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that we’ve gotten wrong in the past, being slated when we started out as being “in-jokes for them and them only” by one reviewer, which wasn’t far wide of the mark.
Noted: The lyrics on Passing Strange kind of run the gamut from art and literature to drunk Buzz Aldrin and drunk Icarus. Where do you draw the inspiration for your lyrics?
TWC: There’s 3 of us writing our own songs in the band so it’s hard to speak for everyone – in fact the liner notes were as interesting to us as to others (actually, to be honest, more interesting – we’re very self obsessed) to see where we getting our ideas from. I think we’re all coming from a “life is absurd/this is what makes us happy” point of view. Plus we’re ultra pretentious so there’s going to be some highbrow stuff in there to make us seem clever.
Noted: I read that you used to play out fairly frequently but have pretty much stopped performing live. Do you think any of that will change following Passing Strange or are you committed to making The Wednesday Club a permanent bedroom affair? (sexual innuendo intended)
TWC: Glad there’s an intended innuendo! Well we’re playing Oddboxfest and hopefully a few others this year but logistics (full time jobs/other bands/living in different cities) mean that it’s tricky. We also decided a couple of years back that we wanted to be The Wednesday Club because it’s what we wanted to do not what we felt we should do. Playing live all the time/careerism came under that.
We decided on a manifesto a while back – “stupid and serious are equally valid methods of expression”.
Noted: There’s a huge variety of instrumentation on the album – is there anything you can’t play (or don’t have a friend who can play) that you’d be interested in getting in on your next record?
TWC: So much! In the interests of pretension we say microtonal instruments a la Harry Partch.
Noted: What are some of the bands you listen to in order to feel inspired?
TWC: I think we have fairly eclectic tastes but everyone says that. We’re all Guided By Voices obsessives and Robert Pollard’s constant, constant inventiveness never ceases to inspire. Apart from that Louis Armstrong makes me very happy.
Noted: I’ve also noticed that you guys do a lot with art – from album covers to the 100 handcrafted post cards you made for Passing Strange. How do you see the relationship between art and music?
TWC: Well, for a wanky answer, it’s all about “creativity” and that manifests itself in many different ways. Whilst it’s fairly obvious that hardly anyone’s a polymath (Bob Dylans’s paintings anyone [actually I like his paintings]), we use the band as a creative outlet and as we’re not professional musicians anyway we might as well be not be professional artists as well. We have been pilloried in the past for this though – we called a previous album “an art project” and a local magazine started it’s review off with the word PRETENTIOUS in all capitals.
Noted: Speaking of art, what was the idea behind the cover for Passing Strange and was the photo for the cover taken at any particular crossroads?
TWC: It was taken on THE FIRE ESCAPE at HENDON CATHEDRAL, obviously.
Noted: What plans do The Wednesday Club have for the future? Any expansion into meetings on Thursdays as well?
TWC: World domination, natch. Adam would like to be on the front of Pitchfork again (star of SXSW 2009!), so there’s an aim. More realistically an offcuts album from Passing Strange and an EP of covers of bands from Leeds before the year’s end.