- Josh Crowe
We first heard of London based band Automan in our infancy as a magazine Three Years ago, we headed down to a gig they had on in London and liked what we saw. As a result of enjoying ourselves a little too much the review never came out, we didn't want do an injustice to their distinct sound. So here we are three years later, crossing paths once again. Amongst all the change that will have happened over the years their sound hasn't been one of them, they are still pushing a trademark introspective sound of dreamy riffs and heartfelt lyrics. We talked to Freddie Brown and Huw Bell, the duo that are Automan. What followed was a conversation that delved into how the band formed, influences and what lies ahead.
Could you start off by telling us what Automan is all about and how it formed?
We wanted to be in a band right from when we were in school around 11 years old. We learnt a cover of Seven nation army. Huw and I began to start writing things around 15 years old. We’ve been establishing our style together since and feel very comfortable writing together now. Writing together for so long whilst growing meant we took influences all along the way as our listening habits changed. We like to think this lead us to an expansive sound that doesn’t corner itself so much. We want to write heartbreaking odes, synthy soundscapes and racing rock all at the same time.
How did you guys end up becoming a duo and what were you doing music-wise beforehand?
We never planned a duo. We used to be 3, then 4 then 5 then 4 then 3 now 2. This was when we played with a drummer, then a singer and bass player joined, all very close friends and we did covers at party’s, around age 14. And with the exception of about a year’s hiatus when we were writing things alone, learning to produce etc, we’ve been doing the same thing with the same random process for years.
You’ve worked on solo projects before, how does it compare sharing creative duties?
Working on solo stuff is boring and self indulgent. Often we have a lot of fun writing together. If we’ve got a sound that we’re enjoying we could start laughing hysterically about it. You can’t do that alone and consider yourself particularly sane.
The EP has quite a diverse sound, how did you guys manage the creative process? Did you write a song each, or do you collaborate on all the songs?
We collaborate on all songs. Whether it be the decision to pursue a plainly put together song idea by one of us, or completely written together with different sections and layers by both. For example, I (Fred) wrote Tokyo about 4 years ago, but only because Huw told me to play that again. He saw it before I did. We also listen to so much different music that it’s bound to rub off in some way.
We are curious on where the name for Automan came from, is it linked to Kraftwerk’s tune Autobahn? If not, what was the decision for it as a name?
It’s actually from the simpsons when Bart shouts to Otto the bus driver - ‘hey Otto man!’ - in the English intonation it sounds like Automan. Nowt to do with kraftwork or the 80s television series.
We’re big fans of the debut EP’s artwork, who is responsible?
My ( Fred) aunt, Victoria Kiff, painted it. It wasn’t commissioned but she is a really wonderful artist with a really definitive and melancholic style. We picked the painting of a selection she sent us.
I can hear plenty of influences in the EP, from Bowie to Radiohead. Who else influences your sound?
Admittedly we’ve listened to a lot of Bowie and Radiohead, over the years, as well as R.E.M., Neil Young, the works of Damon Albarn. But it’s usually specific albums that stick with us. I love Funeral by Arcade Fire, Gorgeous George by Edwyn Collins, Laughing Stock by Talk Talk as well as amygdala by Dj Koze and oracular spectacular mgmt. Of course Huw shares my love for these, but they’re more exclusively mine whereas he loves love below by OutKast, donuts by j dilla, dark side of the moon, since I left you by the avalanches.
I’ve seen you guys have announced a string of live shows, which show are you most looking forward to?
We’re looking forward to the grey horse on 10th may as were headlining and it’s local to where we live. It’s nice to play somewhere accessible for our friends and thus fans. Also it’s only a wee space.
Above: 'Evil Twins' by Automan
What is the strangest gig you guys have played either individually or as a duo?
We haven’t played many as a duo yet so revealing the tales of our best and worst seems a mere luxury. Although we did play a few covers of the strokes once to Vince Cable and a posse of OAPs. We’ve been playing three of the tracks since our first show - however Inverse was a more recent endeavour. It is quite difficult to get right live so of course is the most fun to play with.
Have you played any shows since the release of the EP, if so how have people reacted to the new tunes?
They’ve been received fairly well - however that’s just to say there’s been no booing.
Do you have anything else coming up you’d like to tell us about?
We’ve made a small live video of a new track from our studio. Also we can’t wait to give up our day jobs. Hypothetically speaking.