Sometimes it’s nice when a band turn out to be exactly what their name promises. Such is the case for London trio Witching Waves, whose sophomore LP, Crystal Café, is set to drop on February 26th on LP, cassette, and digital download, via HHBTM Records. The songs of Crystal Café tend to find themselves on the dark and chaotic side of garage rock, but also prove to be some of the most aggressively and abrasively anthemic Rock’N’Roll songs of recent history. It’s music you can’t help but getting excited to fuck shit up to. Although the band doesn’t have a huge presence in the states just yet, they’re definitely one of the bands most worth knowing in 2016, especially if you’ve recently been revisiting the soundtrack of your ‘90s teen angst (which many seem to be doing). Witching Waves’ Emma Wigham and Mark Jasper took some time this past week to tell me about their history, their process, and their inspirations.
Izzy Cihak: First of all, I love that you’ve been putting your music out on cassettes, which is my favorite way to listen to music. I’m curious, do you have a particular fondness for the format, or was that just something suggested by the label?
Emma Wigham: Well, we definitely do like the cassette format for a few reasons. I think the revival of tapes has been a really good thing for bands. It’s much cheaper to do a short run of tapes than it is to do vinyl and there’s usually a quick turnaround too. This means it’s much more accessible and you can do it yourself which is really important. You still end up with a physical object and I think there’s something quite aesthetically pleasing about cassettes, there’s a lot you can do with the format. We’ve done some tapes with other labels and have also put out a couple of tapes ourselves.
Mark Jasper: I feel like it’s easier to take risks with tapes, like you putting things on vinyl feels a bit more sacred or something.
Izzy: Despite your achievements on the other side of the pond, I have to admit that there’s not a lot known about you over here in the states (although maybe you kind of like that). Is there anything you think is important for fans and potential fans over here to know about your process of writing and recording, or just your aim as artists… or is it all in the music?
Emma: I guess I hope that our music will give people a good sense of what we’re about, although I do think the way we do things is important too. We’ve been together almost three years and we started recording ourselves early on, we’ve also toured a lot in the UK. Mark runs a recording studio close to where we live in Homerton, London and he has been responsible for all the recording and that place has been really central to us. Part of the reason this band started was because I wanted to learn to play the drums, so I feel like it’s been a constant process of doing things ourselves and pushing ourselves, whether that was writing new songs or booking another tour, we’ve kept very busy.
Mark: I guess for me, I hope the recording process is of interest to people because that’s a big thing for me, although at the same time, I guess I’d rather people just enjoyed it!
Izzy: Have you noticed any patterns in the kinds of people who most like or best “get” your music?
Emma: I’m not sure about patterns. I guess we tend to play at indie/DIY type gigs so that plays a part in it. I always hope that other women will like us as seeing women in bands has always been important to me.
Mark: I don’t know if I’ve noticed any patterns, I’m just glad people like it really.
Izzy: So I always hate to confront bands with such specific comparisons, but has anyone ever compared you to Sleater-Kinney? You seem to have a very riff-heavy, post-riot grrrl, sonically-morose brand of punk that reminds me of Corin and Carrie. [Nevermind, I just Googled it and you have, haha.] Is there anything to that? Are you fans of the trio? And, if so, do you have any particular favorite works of theirs?
Emma: Yes, we do like Sleater-Kinney! The Hot Rock and Dig Me Out are probably our favourite albums of theirs.
Mark: Yeah I like them, I don’t know if they are such a specific influence, but Dig Me Out has a great energy to it, and I really like the production!
Izzy: What have been some of the highlights of the band so far for you? You’ve already done a lot of cool things, despite still being a relatively new band.
Emma: I have felt really grateful for so many of the experiences I’ve had playing in this band. Just for my music to be on a vinyl record seems pretty amazing! Music was so crucial to me growing up but I didn’t start playing in bands until quite late on so, in a way, each cool thing that happens has been kind of beyond my expectations.
Mark: I think for me, touring with friends has been the biggest highlight. We’ve done tours with Rattle, As Ondas and, the now sadly defunct Shudder Pulps. I don’t think you could ask for more than hanging out with friends and getting to watch such great bands. I like the records coming out but by the time we finish them I always feel quite neurotic about them and have already started thinking about the next thing! I think the day Soft Power asked us to put something out was a big day for the band, we were really excited as they had put out so much stuff we’d liked: Aggi Doom, The Wharves, September Girls…
Izzy: What would you consider to be your most significant non-musical influences? You seem to have a lot of really cool ones.
Emma: Outside of musical influences, we have been very influenced by our surroundings, where we live, and the development of the area as well as how it has been affected by national and local politics. I really like British kitchen sink films from the ’60s and I think some of that influence has come through in the past. That sort of feeling of the mundane, routine life, but also what else is going on under the surface. We watch a lot of films and they definitely influence us. Mark and I watched Carol, the Todd Haynes film, recently and I thought that was really amazing. And I’m always interested in aesthetics and looking out for fonts and designs and colours.
Mark: I think Emma and I are definitely influenced by the sort of greater DIY community, and obviously a lot of great stuff comes out of that, that isn’t just music. I used to work in a cinema and I think films are a massive influence for me… I could list a million films here, but I think everyone should see High and Low by Kurosawa, but that’s an old film.
Izzy: You’re about to release Crystal Café, your second album. How do you feel it compares to your debut, whether in relation to sound, influence, or just how you came about constructing the songs?
Emma: The main difference is in how we approached it as an album. The first album was more of a collection of songs we had up to that point. With this album, we wanted it to make sense together as an album rather than as individual songs. It’s more cohesive and we were starting to feel a bit more confident about what we were doing. We also gave ourselves more freedom with the recording process.
Mark: Yeah, I think the idea was to create something that was more whole, I was really interested in the idea of sequencing and how that would work. We took a lot more risks this time around.
Izzy: I really love your videos for “Better Run” and “The Threat.” What is it that inspires the visual elements of Witching Waves?
Emma: Both of these videos were made by our friend Moe Meade who is brilliant and always gets what we’re trying to do. “Better Run” was made on Super 8 and it was really influenced by the kitchen sink thing but with a b-movie/weird/sinister element too. It was really fun to do. The original inspiration for “The Threat” was the film Haxan. That was Moe’s idea, which I was really into.
Mark: I actually studied art, but it was a long time ago now! I think with the videos we just try to work with people we trust. I think I’m more influenced by film-makers than artists, in general. But having said that, I like to leave it to the people who are making the videos. I am definitely going to make a video myself at some point, I just need to figure out how to do it!!
Izzy: What are you most significantly hoping and planning for in 2016? Any chance we might get to see you in the states sometime in the near future?
Emma: We are working on writing new songs at the moment which will hopefully form our next album. There should be some touring later in the year and, fingers crossed, a trip to the US.
Mark: As is our way, we’ve already written quite a few new songs since Crystal Café so we should have something out quite soon. The process of writing and recording seems to have lengthened out and I think I’d quite like to start recording more regularly. In the old days, we used to just write a song, and then the next week record it, I think I’d like to try that out again.