Last month, the London based four-piece Whales in Cubicles, who are set to release their full-length debut early next year, brought their staggering sound to Brighton while on tour with New Zealand’s post punk outfit Die! Die! Die!. We watched them smash the stage at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar with their immense rock and roll and later on we sat on the beach with the WIC’s frontman Stef Bernardi, absorbing the ocean air and discussing the band’s upcoming album, songwriting, inspiration and the twisted mentality of X-factor.
EVA: What has the tour with Die! Die! Die! been like?
STEF: It’s been great, this band is awesome. They’re one of those bands who started the whole post punk revival in the early 2000’s; they’re one of the original legends of that scene. They’re just top guys, really nice.
EVA: How would you introduce your music to people in style of an advert?
STEF: Sounds of the ocean, sounds of the sea... (laughs) I wouldn’t really know how to sell myself, I am not really good at that but I guess I would say schizophrenic, crazy music, loud and quiet, sweet and raw...
EVA: So when exactly is your debut album going to be released and what can we expect from it?
STEF: It’s hard to tell, because we have been telling people it’s coming out in January, so now we go with that but it could change to February. The album is a collection of songs written in the last three years. It’s really up and down, left and right...It covers all sorts of time stories and I don’t think there is any clear unity to it. First albums are always like a collection of songs. There are different styles and sounds on the album, it’s the mark of WIC and I think you’re going to be surprised at how different every song sounds. Some bands make a sound they stick to all the way through and it does really well for them, but I can’t do that, I’m not really good at that.
EVA: Which one of your songs are you most proud of?
STEF: On the upcoming record it’s All the Pretty Flowers, then We Never Win and lyrically it’s Across America.
EVA: Is there any special story behind All The Pretty Flowers?
STEF: It’s something I wrote over the winter and I spent a lot of time alone, thinking inside. I was going through some depressing phase and I looked outside the window for the first time to see what’s going on and that’s how I wrote the song.
EVA: Which song do you enjoy playing live the most?
STEF: It’s not going to be on the album actually but it’s the first one we played tonight, called When It Fell On You and it’s going to be on the next record. We’ve got so many songs that we don’t play because they’re already on the second record. It’s really difficult because I write so many songs and I just want to play the new ones, but it doesn’t really work like that.
EVA: What is the main key for you when writing songs? What do you try to achieve in terms of the meaning of your songs?
STEF: I don’t really sit down for it, it’s subconscious. Whenever I say or write something, I think: ‘Do I really mean that?’ For example some people write songs talking shit about other people. If I come up with a song that’s harsh and I’m excited about it at first, then I think ‘Am I gonna sing that every night? Am I going to be this harsh every night?’ And if I don’t want to be like that, I take that song and I throw it away. I have millions of songs that I don’t play because I don’t want them to live inside me. Some songs are just something you write because you’re just pissed off or sad, and then you’re healed.
EVA: Where do you usually get the inspiration from when you write songs?
STEF: Life, the stuff I feel. You’ve got to decide whether you want to say something. Lot of people get stuck because they don’t want to say stuff. If you’re happy to say something, then you can write music and if not, then it’s really hard. Some people can fake well and they are successful, but if I write something and it’s about somebody I know, who’s gonna know what I’m talking about, then it gets tricky. But everyone has done that. If you write a song about someone, it’s personal. But my favourite songs are the ones that are universal but it’s such a difficult thing to write these kinds of songs. That’s the best songwriting, I think.
EVA: Who’s the first artist you can think of that influenced you on the path to becoming a musician?
STEF: The first people I liked were playing metal, like Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, Guns N’ Roses... that’s what got me into music. Then when I grew older I listened to Jeff Buckley and I was like: ‘Fucking hell, surely this is the best thing I’ve ever listened to’ and that changed everything, like it did for anyone who’s listened to him well enough. I remember that in 1994 no one knew who he was, now everyone knows. I think that if he was still here, the music now would be completely different.
EVA: What’s the best advice you got from someone regarding being a musician?
STEF: I used to think that inspiration just hits you, when I was really young. In fact, once I’ve seen a video where Jeff Buckley said that you’ve got to wait for the divine thing that hits you, but I think that’s a massive lie, or maybe I didn’t really understand him well but I don’t think that inspiration is just something that comes to you, it’s not how it works. You have to let things happen, but to do that, you’ve got to develop your craft. Song writing is a craft; singing is a craft, a skill you have to work on. There is a lot of emphasis in our culture on people being born perfect, like models, but what have they done? They’ve grown tall. There should be more value for people who achieve something by working really hard, because they don’t wait for stuff to happen, they go after it and make it happen. We shouldn’t really award people just because they’re beautiful.
It’s like the X-factor mentality: ‘Can you sing well from birth? How pretty are you?’ That’s not all there is, is there? They create a culture where it doesn’t matter what you say but how you say it, it doesn’t matter what you sing but how you sing it and that’s the only meter. For example singers like Jeff Buckley, Tim Buckley, Thom Yorke and a bunch of other people, they are really great singers but they’ve got something and it’s not just the singing; there is life in what they’re saying. And then there are the ones like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, they have something to say and it doesn’t matter how beautiful the voice is. I’m not against people who sing really well but the problem is that now it’s all about singing well; it’s like the only thing that matters. It’s fucked up.
MARK (geeksunleashed.com) Imagine WIC go famous, platinum, tour the world etc, you’re in your 50s and someone comes to you and says they want to make a life story of your band. Who would you want it to narrate the story and play you?
STEF: I would love nothing more than Michael Cane to narrate the story, I love his voice. And to play me, I don’t know that many actors but I’d say Daniel Radcliffe. I really love that guy.
OLGA (rockbritain.com) If you could organise your own festival, which bands would you invite and where would it take place?
STEF: I would definitely do it on the beach, it would be free and I would invite bands like Pavement, if they were playing, then Sebadoh, Die! Die! Die!, and a bunch of my mates bands. I would also invite Snoop Dog, but just to slap him. I love him but something’s going on with him. I’ve seen him in a freaking video with a boy band, making a cameo.
EVA: So what’s your next release?
STEF: Our next single is Wax And Feathers and it’s coming out on 7th October. We’re making a video for it now and it’s going to be about a dream, a nightmare actually.
EVA: And finally, what’s the main ambition for WIC?
STEF: I don’t want to set the world on fire; I just want to be the one you love. (It’s from a song, look it up)
Interview/photo by Eva Jostakova