65 Days of Static
words: Jacky Hall
pics: Chris Saunders
They have big plans but still want to be down with the kids. Just don’t mention Mogwai to 65 DAYS OF STATIC.
Mystery precedes 65 Days of Static. It isn’t a band name regularly appearing on local gig listings and message boards. It’s time for the mystery to be solved. When we meet in the pub at 2pm on a Sunday, in what is hopefully the post-hangover period, all four members of 65 Days are polite and eager for a conversation.
Outspoken guitarist Jo pulls a chair out for me and ruffles his elaborately gelled hair throughout. Drummer Rob and bassist Gareth are quieter but begin to chat once they relax. They talk enthusiastically about everything (it was flapjack for breakfast, Paul dreamt Jo abandoned him to listen to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Gareth thinks a hungry bear should be unleashed on the Big Brother house), so my recording of the interview lasts 65 minutes. It must be an omen.
Ooh, they are cheeky boys. Halfway through the interview, Jo asks whether the band doing all right as the process of being interviewed is still unfamiliar. After reassurance that they’re articulate and providing plenty of worthy material for a feature, they relax. “There’s some awesome footage from about two years ago of me and Paul in a barn feeding some cows while some guy tried to interview us,” Jo reveals. “We attributed everything to a band called Dinosaur Counting,” Paul continues. “…who don’t exist.” Other dubious statements in previous interviews have related to Japanese poetry. Hopefully they only told the truth and nothing but the truth to Sandman, and their wide eyes seem sincere. If not 65 Days will now be shamed fully in print.
The elaborate story of the band’s name seems only just plausible, but it’s too shrouded in mystery to check. It apparently derives from a film made by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell in Alaska, but was shelved after an argument with Miramax. The band’s previous bassist found a fragile copy while on holiday in Prague, but after one viewing the tape was chewed to pieces by a beta player. Set over 65 days of static, the original concept for the band was to write a soundtrack. “But that was when we were pissing around,” Jo says. An elaborate idea, but one that has provided inspiration for the band’s experimental sound.
“We’re constantly linked to Mogwai and this really needs to stop,” Jo complains. Maybe that should be left there, but the experimental space-rock similarities are undeniable. They also speak with reverence of New Order and At The Drive-In (and feel cheated by the band’s post-split interviews). When asked to describe their sound, Paul says “electronic beats, straight beats by a robot drummer, guitars that are usually noisy, fuzzy fuzzy bass” while Jo adds “quite epic but also quite punky”.
Gareth’s simpler response is that “it’s just a bit of a mess, really.” Although aware that their mixture of electronics and guitars is not new, they still want to push those musical boundaries and want to make records for people to dance to. And Paul wants to appear on Top of the Pops. “CD:UK, please,” Rob responds. “A bit more class.”
Debut album The Fall of Math is set for a September release and with mellifluous song titles including ‘install a beak in the heart that clucks time in arabic’ should be an interesting listen. Recording over four days with Alan Smythe at 2Fly, the band feel proud of their work. Hoping to avoid being anonymous shapes behind banks of equipment, they tried to capture their excitement at being in what is also a rock and roll band. Super-produced American pop has influenced their songwriting, with Kelis, Christina Aguilera and N*E*R*D mentioned. “A tune’s a tune and a beat’s a beat,” Jo concedes. “All we do is start with that then cover it in loads of fucking noise.”
Although they have kind words for Sandman (so they should), the band are anxious not to be defined by the city they happen to live in. They would “never hurt our Sheffield kin” and praise Future eX-Wife, Fake Ideal and Pink Grease. But becoming famous for being on the local scene doesn’t interest them. Although Jo loves him home city, he would prefer to live elsewhere then “come back for Christmas, see my ma, play the Octagon then fuck off again.”
The past three years of extensive gigging across the country have been eventful. At the Truckfest a few years ago they attempted to rename the stage 65DOS with gaffer tape under cover of darkness. Despite the alcohol, Paul remembers that “Goldrush caught us and we were security guarded.” Gareth isn’t so impressed.
“And you wondered why they didn’t invite us back this year!” They also have a journalistic scoop from a support slot with a band who are apparently “doing very well right now”, but won’t even name names with the Dictaphone on pause. When soundchecking and blue sparks started flying from the other band’s amp, they became scared. “We accidentally exploded it,” Jo tells me. “Then told them ‘dude, your amp’s broken. You really should be more careful with your equipment.’”
Their February tour was also action-packed as they played with Youth Movie Soundtrack, a band they confidently assert will be the next big thing. Over two weeks 65 Days played across the country, and Jo laughs that they have “conquered the south!” Paul and Rob remember a gig in a venue that by day is High Wycombe’s premier strip club. Paul: “There were just three girls stripping for hours, on rotation, to Nickelback. They kept introducing them differently but it was the same girl.” Rob continues the story that “one pleaded with us in the worst English to ask the promoter to let her leave early as she had a second job. It was quite sad.” Once the pole was removed and the venue filled with local fourteen-year-old rock kids it was “like Alice in Wonderland” and they played one of their best shows.
It’s not all crazy and drunken shenanigans as the band feel responsibility to their fourteen-year-old selves. As Jo puts it: “remember when you had the album and you read the lining notes and you saw the people and you thought you would fucking die when the album ends.” Concerned with what they perceive as mediocrity in many current bands, 65 Days want to be a band of substance and criticise the empty rhetoric of bands like the Manic Street Preachers. They want activism, passion and feel anxious over fair trade, the third world and global politics. They speak with the conviction of four young men who have listened to a lot of music and read a lot of books. Rob concludes that “we want to be a band for kids to believe in, a band they want to join.”
Future months include another tour to coincide with the album, but it doesn’t stop with the obvious promotion. Material for a follow-up to their debut is already being written. Rob claims that if The Fall of Math is a declaration of war, then the second album will be WAR! (Jo laughs at his bandmate’s rhetoric and asks for a high five.) They also hope for a remix album, a tour in Europe if they’re “very, very lucky” and one of their tracks will be included on an Adaadat compilation.
They claim there are no detailed plans for the band beyond more gigs, writing and recording. But Jo’s already considered what might happen in the future.
“We’ve got our work cut out for ourselves, then we’ll have to set about destroying our own myth. Like when Bob Dylan did loads of coke in the eighties.” Paul laughs that the next phase could be an acoustic one. Jo agrees that this would sufficiently “fuck everybody off”, then “in five years time we’ll all hate each other and I’ll be doing some really mediocre solo project and basically being as bad as everything we’ve just talked about. Bring on the future!” Rob prevents the situation from descending into self-parody by complaining that his bandmate “sounds like Morrissey.”
Once the Jim Beam and cokes have been drained it’s time to leave. Paul wants a game of Frisbee (just the regular and not the ultimate kind), but Rob has work at Avalon and Jo wants to go home. Gareth doesn’t mind either way. We shake hands farewell and Jo momentarily loses his cool.
“Please don’t make us seem like idiots,” he asks.
For feature writing, the quotations say it all.
“And please don’t use ugly photos…”
Sandman only uses the best photos.
“…not that we care about our looks.”
65 Days of Static have no need for anxiety: they are lovely, lovely chaps who are genuinely devoted to their cause.