INTERVIEW: The First – Redfest 2014

Pop rock band from Cambridgeshire, The First met up with us after their set at Redfest, where we ended up talking about Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Soccer Six and their latest album release ‘Take Courage’.

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How’s the festival season going so far?

Terrible. No it’s going really good.

Have you been to a lot of festivals?

Yeah, we have, we’ve done Slam Dunk, British Summer Time in Hyde Park. We did a show in Prague at Jamrock. This one and we’ve got a few more coming up so yeah it’s been a great summer! Keeping busy.

Any favourite festival moments?

It’s all been amazing. Driving out to Prague was pretty crazy, what was it? Like a 20 hour drive, all-in?

A 20 hour drive?!

Yes, without stopping. We’d literally stop and pull over to swap.

That does sound intense! So have you had a chance to see any bands yet here at Redfest?

Yes, we have. We just watched LostAlone and Astroid Boys, they were wicked! But we toured with LostAlone over the year so we love them guys, they’re a great band, really good.

Are you looking forward to any of the bands playing later on today?

The Blackout! Yes, can’t wait to see them.

I reckon you should get on stage with them!

 Why?

Because you’ve got that “Woooo!” thing going on which Sean Smith always does.

He does it better! We could have a “Woo!” off (laughs).

So what are these flow charts you’re posting on the band’s facebook profile?

(laughs) Do you like them?

It reminds me of those pop music magazines you used to be able to buy back in the 00’s.

Yes! We’re bringing the old school back. I dunno, it’s just about putting different content online.

Who’s idea was it?

I think Adam did, so he’s the one to blame.

Yes, I did because I’m a wordsmith.

That’s like a blacksmith but with words.

Cause I’m really good with words.

Even though most of the words are like ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

(laughs) She’s got you there!

What’s the story behind the band’s name ‘The First’?

Because we’re #1! That’s what we were told to say.

The first means the ultimate evil in Buffy The Vampire Slayer cause we’re so evil (laughs). We’re this heavy band aren’t we? So that’s why we’re called the first obviously, cause we’re brutal. We like to fuck shit up, within reason. Nah, I don’t know where that came from.

The band started like 50 years ago…

…and now we have no original members so maybe we should change the name?

Yes. ‘The Second’.

We could call ourselves ‘Willow.

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Are you guys competitive?

Very much so.

In sports?

We’re competitive in life really.

We played Soccer Six last year against The Blackout and Kids In Glass Houses.

The drummer is an incredible goalie.

Did you lose?

We did, but we didn’t lose lose, we came like middle of the road sort of didn’t we?

Well we were doing alright until we, you know, came in front of The Blackout and then they slaughtered us.

Don’t they have more people than you though?

Well, yeah let’s just say that and also our tour manager, he’s a hogger he gets the ball and won’t give it to anyone else.

In the first match he broke his nose though didn’t he? Karma you see. Who was that against?

Urm… Attention Thieves?

Nah we didn’t play them.

Rise To Remain.

But he’s trying to fight with all the bands and it’s like, bloody hell what are you doing?

This whole experience is a networking thing and he’s there going “I’ll fucking find you, I’ll find you later!”

But you know, yeah we are very competitive, even in a writing sense, we wanna do the best we can do and you know we’re all very high octane writers.

So you’re all in it 150%?

Most definitely.

Well, 139%

I was gonna say 150% when we’re feeling poorly. But it’s always 200%

So what’s the story? How did you guys all meet and form the band?

Match.com (laughs).

No, it was Plentyoffish you idiot!

Get it right! Free subscription.

No, I mean as I said to you there’s no original members in the band now so you can probably tell how its evolved over the years.

Can we tell the story? I wanna hear the story.

Rob’s probably best to tell the story.

Basically, a guy from a little town and he started ‘The First’.

He was a big fan of Buffy.

Yeah, obviously.

The drummer left, so I joined and then the band carried on and we did okay, then the guitarist left and Ben Knowles joined and then the singer left and Benny joined because I’ve known him since we were little boys, back in the day.

Yeah, I hadn’t seen him for like 15 years and then I joined the band! I texted Rob saying I liked his latest video and he said “Oh well our singers left, do you know any singers?” and I was like well you know I can sing a bit, so I went to an audition and then I got in and then the bass player left to go get married and then Adam joined. We started doing this dual vocal type thing and most recently our guitarist Tim the founding member left because of whatever reason and Ben has been a guitar tech for us for the last two years.

Basically, you guys are terrible at keeping people in the band! (laughs)

We’ve evolved you see over the years, survival of the fittest is what it is. So here we are, like the Sugababes we’re not the same band that started out.

I love how you’re comparing yourselves to Sugababes.

I think that’s a good comparison because we are very similar to them.

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So you’re from Cambridgeshire, what’s the best and worst thing about living there?

In terms of scenery its quite a idealic place.

The sunsets are insane!

It’s very flat. Pubs! Amazing pubs. Good local beers, the sea’s not far away. Bad things …

…there’s lots of gypsies.

It’s in the middle of nowhere, if we wanna do a show you have to drive hours! A lot of talent comes from there. Ed Sheeran comes from Norwich, just up the road. Deaf Havana are from our hometown.

Any good local bands you’d recommend we might not have heard of?

Under The Influence.

Aren’t Lonely The Brave from our area?

Mallory Knox.

It’s cause everyone’s bored around here, so we just play music.

If your band had a motto what would it be?

Only one more drink please.

Urm… work hard, play hard. I think.

Are you over 16? (laughs) I’m joking! Don’t write that.

Can that be the head quote to the interview?

No! (laughs)

Lets listen to Rob’s one.

I have got one, live life, taste death.

I love that!

What is that?

That’s from a movie! That’s from Ski Patrol

It is!

Amazing! Oh my god (laughs)

It’s a great film, shot in Canada.

Who are your musical influences?

Well this is good because I think the one good thing about our band is, is that we all have very different influences. At the minute, especially as I get a bit older I really enjoy sort of folky, a bit more quiet, actually I don’t listen anymore to the type of music that we play as a band. I love playing in the band, obviously but if I was at home I’d listen to something a bit different.

There’s a band called Brolly, I listen to them everyday, they’re the most fantastic thing I’ve ever heard. They’re awesome, Rob showed me them, they’re unbelievable! They’ve just got one EP, they’re a small band from America and they’re absolutely amazing. Ben Knowles who isn’t here, he only listens to 80’s cock rock. I’ve never heard some of the songs he plays. I mean he was wearing a KISS t-shirt today and that’s obviously where that side of our band comes from, that’s why every song has to have a solo in it.

I actually, my guilty pleasure is McFly. I don’t know how that’s gonna work with the new songs we’re writing.

What’s your favourite McFly song?

Probably ‘The Heart Never Lies’.

‘Crash The Wedding’, I think.

That’s Busted! (laughs).

It was a joke. I’m joking.

Adam can speak for himself I’m sure but he likes City and Colour

Yeah I listen to quite a lot of folk and blues and stuff like that. I don’t listen to a lot of rock.

It’s a good job one of us listens to rock music! Me.

I’m quite an Enter Shikari fan, I do love them.

You’re not. You pretty much wet yourself when you saw them at warped tour. Yeah I had to fan girl and asked for a photo.

Have you seen that scene in bridesmaids where shes’ wearing the wedding dress and runs across the road and she has to sit on the floor because she’s like shitting herself? That was Ben.

But yeah, they’re a great band, I love them.

In the van we listen to like A Day To Remember, Mallory Knox, Lower Than Atlantis. All the big hitters basically.

We’re very into British bands aren’t we?

Yeah we are. Young Guns.

On the way down we listened to Natives. Their latest album is absolutely banging.

Blitz Kids as well. There’s so much talent its hard not to get into it.

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So you’re latest album ‘Take Courage’ where did you record it?

We recorded it at regal house studios which is in a place called wisbeach in the north of Cambridge. We recorded our first album in the same place with a chap called lester, the second one with a guy called lee bechuke who also did the Deaf Havana ‘Old Souls’ album recently. Yeah and that’s Rob’s studio.

Was there a song you got bored of while recording?

No I don’t think so actually. We’ve never written a song and got to the end and gone “Ah it’s not very good”. We’re quite sort of cut throat. I think we know from the start if it’s gonna be a good egg or a bad.

Have you got a favourite song off the album?

Again we’ve all got different answers.

It varies between playing it live and recorded. Some songs are more fun to play live.

I’ve really enjoyed playing ‘Dare I Say’ lately.

Yeah that’s a good one.

I mean on our new album, for me ‘Take Courage’ is a song that is definitely one of the best, most proudest things we may well have achieved, I’m very pleased with that.

It’s quite personal to you isn’t it?

Yeah and especially a song called ‘Enough Is Never Enough’.

My favourite is ‘Love. Regret. Forgive. Forget’.

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I saw you guys met Rough Copy. How did that happen?

They’re from the X Factor, they’re mental!

They wore skirts on the X Factor apparently.

Yeah, trendy skirts!

They’re amazing, really nice guys. I was gonna get a lift back to London with them. We played a show with them, a festival too. It was us, those guys, The Hoosiers and Toploader.

All we woulda needed is B*witched and it would have been awesome.

It was an amazing festival, if only B*witched could have been there.

The guys were super nice so together we’re gonna form ‘First Copy’. Like McBusted, so next year we’re gonna do British Summer Time and sell out arenas. It’s all confirmed, the deal’s been done (laughs).

So you got James Veck-Gilodi from Deaf Havana to feature on one of your tracks. How did that come about?

Obviously they’re really nice guys and deserve everything they get cause they’re a fantastic band, so yeah, it was literally as I joined that Rob asked if he’d sing on the track and he did and it was literally as simple as that.

Has he ever sung with you live?

Yeah many times! The first time I played, before I was in the band, when my old band played with you guys he did guest vocals.

If he’s about we’ll do it. Yeah, he’s a great chap.

And we love Tom Ogden!

Who’s that?

The drummer. He’s an amazing guy, he’s just so nice, so chilled.

They’re all genuinely lovely guys.

Speaking of Deaf Havana, your supporting them at their warm up Reading & Leeds show in Cambridge, right?

We are!

Are you excited?

Yeah, great venue. It’s on the cusp of selling out actually, so yeah it’s an honour to be on stage with them.

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Any future plans to collaborate with anyone else?

I dunno, I think we’re not far enough into writing the next album yet to think about it. For me, I think, no. I’d sort of say I’d wanna put something out that was completely us. I mean we’ve been really lucky in the past. We’ve had While She Sleeps, James (Deaf Havana) and Elissa Franceschi who’s obviously Josh from You Me At Six’s sister. So, for me I’m not sure who we could get that would top those people really.

Girls Aloud, The Saturdays (laughs).

Nah, Frankie already did it with Kids In Glass Houses.

If it’s an opportunity, we’re all big fans of Rita Ora. We talk about Rita Ora on a regular basis, so if she wants to come hangout and record some vocals.

B*witched!

So you wouldn’t have like a dream collaboration?

Well While She Sleeps, James and Elissa, I never thought that would be possible when I joined the band really. If there was someone who would it be? Urm…

Anyone dead or alive?

Ooh! I always like this dead or alive kinda thing cause I can never think of anyone who’s dead.

Hitler? (laughs)

Freddie Mercury?

That would be a fantastic one.

I don’t know actually, it’s a tough one. Maybe like Tom Delonge (Blink-182) or something. Someone who was the reason I picked up the guitar and started playing music, so to have that sort of person on a track would just be mind melting wouldn’t it? Everyone listened to Green Day and Blink-182 when they were starting out.

Ah! Billy Joel, yeah!

What about Chas n Dave? (laughs)

Billy Ocean.

Last question, what’s next for ‘The First’?

I think this is it for us now, we’ve had a good run and I think we’ll leave it here (laughs).

We’ll crash the van on the way home.

No, we’re in a really good place at the minute, the band’s the strongest its been since it started and I think we’re all looking forward to the future, looking forward to writing and recording and we have a tour to announce at the end of the year.

It’ll be announced before that, the tours at the end of the year.

Well that’s it. I’m out of questions.

Thank you very much!

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For further information on The First, check out…

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Interview by Kaori Manz.