28/03/12 – The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch.
Last night, I travelled to Shoreditch to meet Sam Watkins (drums & vocals) & Laurie Foster (guitar) of Playlounge.They talked to me about their favourite bands, their best and worst experiences of gigging and the possibility of putting out an album. Towards the end of the interview, we were also joined by the (unofficial) third member of Playlounge - a nice man who sang to us and came to sit with us on the wall outside The Old Blue Last. All sorts happens in East London.
When did you first start out?
Sam: We’ve been going for about a year and a half now, but people have only just started to notice us now, I guess, since about November.
Ah ok, is that ‘cos you’ve been gigging a lot more?
Laurie: Yeah, a lot more.
Sam: Yeah. I think it’s just the bands we’ve been playing with, like, before we just played whatever gig was offered to us, and now we try to play shows with bands that we like, bands that suit us. We’ve also made friends with some music blogs and stuff, so they’ve been writing about us.
Yeah, I noticed a short piece about you in The Line Of Best Fit. That’s a great blog.
Laurie: Yeah, I read their stuff all the time.
Sam: Yeah, I don’t even know how that happened. I mean, I Google us every now and again, just to see if there’s anything…
Haha – you’ve gotta Google yourself! Ha.
Sam: Haha. No one else is Googling us, so I might as well! Yeah! And anyway, I found that article and I was like, “no way!”, ‘cos I love that site, so that was cool!
Cool. So you said you got together about a year and a half ago, was it always just you two?
Sam: Erm, no. We initially started off playing because Laurie was in another band – a three piece without a drummer – and I joined them to help out, it was a sort of college band, and It kind of just ended up as the two of us.
Laurie: Yeah, it was under a different name, it wasn’t really the same band. We just decided to play together.
Sam: Yeah, we were doing it on the side, and then it kind of became a priority.
So where did the name come from?
Sam: Ha! This is a really boring story. We were putting together lists of words that could be possible song titles/album titles and band names, and my friend has a studio called The Playroom, but I mistook it for The Playlounge – so I was like, let’s just put that on there, it sounds kinds cool. It was the least lame thing on the list really. Yeah, it just stuck. I wish I had some epic story about it….
Who are your influences?
Laurie: Lots of things. I mean, for this band the stuff that we like is a band from Lewisham called William.
Sam: Yeah, they’re pretty much the reason we formed! They’re like a more Indie Dinosaur Junior.
Oh cool, are they well known?
Laurie: No, no, they actually broke up.
Sam: They were an incredible band, though! We also take a lot of influence from the Eighties DC Hardcore scene, which is probably why all our songs are so short.
Laurie: Yeah, but they never come out that way. If we try to write a song like that it doesn’t work.
Sam: Ha, that’s cos we mix it with too much 90’s emo!
Laurie: Yeah, we’re a bit too wimpy for all that.
Sam: We’re not tough guys…
So why does Sam sing and you don’t, Laurie?
Laurie: Um, I don’t know. Sam writes lyrics and things, and I don’t and…I can’t sing. So..haha.
Sam: Yeah, well when we first started it was actually instrumental-y stuff. I don’t think of myself as a singer, but enjoy singing and writing, so I just fell into it really. It works..
What’s the writing process then? Is there one at all?
Sam: It varies..
Laurie: Yeah, I write guitar tracks, record them and then I send them to Sam, and he usually just does whatever…
Sam: I’ll send them back with vocals, but have drum parts in mind for them. But there’ve been times where Laurie’s written a drum-beat, or I’ve written a guitar part. It’s a 50/50 split really.
So do you just have jam sessions then?
Sam: We’ve only ever written one song from a jam before.
Laurie: Yeah, the new(ish) track is the only one that’s ever come out of a jam.
Sam: Yeah we usually just meet up and give each other feedback on the parts..
What’s the new track about?
Sam: Ah, so the newest track we played tonight is called ‘Ghost Grrrl’ (like Riot Grrl, I guess). Umm, it’s kinda about girls and comic books..there’s a lot of anger in that song. It’s probably our angriest song. Haha. There’s a lot of child-like metaphors in my writing; nostalgia, reluctance to grow up…
Cool. The songs you played tonight aren’t online though are they, they’re new tracks?
Sam: Yeah, I think we played four tracks tonight that we haven’t actually recorded.
Are you going to be putting any of them online?
Sam: Yeah, well we wanna do some more recording soon! We record a lot more often than the bands we know. We recorded in September, and then again in January, but we want to record the new stuff soon. We want people to hear it!
Wicked! Are you going to put out an album?
Laurie: I doubt it…I don’t think we could to be honest.
Sam: I think if you’re going to do an album, there should be a reason to do an album. We don’t want to just compile ten songs we have and release an album. We’re really into the idea of splits, EP’s and singles. I mean, unless I was going to sit down and write ten songs that have a similar sort of feel, so that it felt like an album….I’d rather do that than just whack a load of songs together.
Laurie: Yeah, I think we’re happy with the way we do things right now.
Ok, so what does that mean for the future of the band?
Sam: To be honest…my main goal for this band was achieved recently, so anything else is a plus!
What was that?
Sam: Alexei Berrow from Johnny Foreigner told me that he had our song ‘Dye’ on his iPod.
Laurie: Yeah, we melted…haha!
Sam: Yeah, I froze. I didn’t know what to say to him! That’s like the best thing that could ever happen. Johnny Foreigner are a huge influence on us, so anything else that happens is a plus for me! I mean obviously releasing stuff and playing festivals would be great too…
Have you got any festivals lined up?
Laurie: Oh, yeah! Foxfest in Lewisham! We’re playing with William, which is like the best thing!
Sam: Yeah, William are reforming for a one-off gig, which is, again, a dream come true. Fozfest is a two-day event in the Fox and Firkin in Lewisham.
Laurie: Yeah, and Calories are playing too. Check them out!
What sort of gigs have you done recently? When did you properly start on the circuit?
Laurie: Well when we first started we just did loads of gigs in Lewisham and Croydon (Scream Lounge).
Sam: Yeah, pretty much anything that was thrown at us! But recently we’ve been playing outside of London, which is pretty exciting. Newcastle, Eggham, Canterbury…there seems to be more demand for us there than there is in London, which is nice! Haha.
Is that down to promoters or do you do that yourselves?
Sam: No, I mean, this year we haven’t approached a single promoter, we’ve just had people asking us to play, which is great. Makes it a lot easier for us!
So you don’t need to get anyone on board for that just yet then!
Sam: No, we like to book all our own gigs ourselves, we’ve always been about that really. But yeah, it’s easier when people ask us.
So you’ve told us your best experience so far, what’s the worst? Any really bad gigs?
Laurie: yeah, a fair few!
Sam: Yeah, just when the sound isn’t right. We’ve found a lot of soundmen don’t really get singing drummers…so there’ll be a lot of gigs where I can’t even hear myself.
Yeah, I bet. I was actually really surprised that I could hear your vocals so clearly!
Laurie: But yeah, we’ve never been beaten up or anything, haha!
Sam: No, but the first yeah was pretty much just playing to one or two people, or even just the soundman!
So what other gigs have you got in the pipeline?
Laurie: We’re going on tour with some friend’s bands..
Sam: Yeah, Joanna Gruesome and Fantasy Rainbow. We’re doing a mini-tour with them in April for a week around the UK which we’re really excited about., they’re two of our favourite bands.
Laurie: Yeah, we’re also going to be on a split 12 inch with some other bands like Gum and Yrrs (pronounced ‘Yours’). So that will be fun!
Sam: Yeah, I think they’re doing a release show for that, so keep an eye out.
Right, I have one final question – what ‘s your favourite dinosaur?
Laurie & Sam: Hahah! That’s great!
Laurie: I used to be obsessed with dinosaurs when I was little!
Sam: Yeah, I’m a big Jurassic Park fan! Umm, I’m going to feel bad alienating all the other dinosaurs…um mine’s probably a Velociraptor – just ‘cos they’re short and they’re the most Punk of the dinosuars. You know, they walk around, they’ve got an attitude, they’ll bite your face off. No one messes with a Velociraptor!
Laurie: I’ll probably go for a vegetarian dinosaur – Let’s go for a diplodocus!
Nice, great choices! Thanks very much guys, it was good to talk to you both. Good luck with everything, we'll be following your progress!