SEEING THE UK THE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WAY
Leeds band, ¡Forward Russia! cultivated murmurs of success in 2006 when the four piece released their first album, Give me a wall. Now in the middle of touring second album, Life Processes Rosalind Brabner caught up with lead singer, Tom Woodhead and Bassist Rob Canning to find out what life is really like on the road.
I was ten minutes early as usual. I always think there is a better chance of getting a cup of tea when you’re early. Turns out not so much this time, but I was greeted by an awkward guitar manager called Alan. I know his name was Alan because he told me. Twice. Alan and his beard walked me into what he called ‘the dressing room’ but what I knew to be the backroom of the Birmingham Barfly where people go to throw up on a club night. Once the band had finished their sound check Alan or his beard (I couldn’t tell) suggested it was best to find a quieter spot to do the interview so we walked up 3 flights of stairs only to find a room in the derelict club the Barfly adjoins which had seats and pigeon in it.
Rob: “This is possibly the only interview we’ve had with a pigeon in it”. At this point I knew I was on to a winner, Parkinson never had a pigeon.
Having toured their first album extensively around the UK, ¡Forward Russia! are no novices to the grueling traveling schedules, but Rob admits things have changed, “when we started off we had stars in our eyes and dreams that hadn’t been crushed, it was quite an exciting time really, we were quiet young and naïve to it all so it was just a sense of adventure and we’re a bit more boring this time round, the novelty wares off”. Tom adds, “We’ve been thrown by most things we could be have been thrown by so we feel like we’re pretty much prepared for anything to go wrong”. Literally, Tom really has had most things thrown at him on tour, “I got hit by an onion once, a whole onion, and it was one of those really big white ones”.
Unsurprisingly Tom reckons Leeds is the best place in the UK to play, “Leeds is always good, the northern gigs tend to be better although we’ve had a couple of good gigs in Brighton”, whereas Rob enjoys touring Scotland, “there is a certain atmosphere in Scotland that’s quiet unbeatable, you get a really, really good crowd in Scotland”. It seems to me that ¡Forward Russia! are just another northern band wary of southerners but Tom and Rob insist that “in general most bands will tell you the further north you go the crowd just loosens up a bit more, when you’ve been working down the mine all day you just need the escape of live music: being at a bank isn’t the same”, not a surprise that at this point my accent tales off into thicker estuary slurs.
“The worst thing about being on tour is that you get f**king ill, you get really rundown, I feel quite delicate today. It’s a total emotional rollercoaster, one minute you can feel really high and the next minute and can feel really, really low and down about stuff”. Emphasising this point with a sniffle, Rob didn’t do much to convince me that it’s not all just a case of the man flu but I’d thought I’d better give him the benefit of the doubt because he did just offer an alarming insight into the emotional stability of a bass guitarist.
Unfortunately but expectedly Tom and Rob admit they see more service stations than cities in the UK when they’re on tour, “It’s quite hard when you’re on a relatively tight schedule to look around, you arrive at the venue do your bits and bobs and then the sound check so its difficult to fit sight seeing in there, we have seen about a million and one travel lodges though, I could tell you loads about them”. It’s not until a day off comes along that they get to hangout in different places, Rob explains, “yeah when we’ve done a gig miles away, in Brighton or something we’ll stay down there but we haven’t had many days off on this tour”. With such a hardcore traveling programme and just one van for all four band members and Alan ( + beard) I wondered if ¡Forward Russia!’s second tour was riddled with arguments, smelly feet and general misconduct especially as the other two band members Whiskers (guitar) and Katie (Drums) are siblings. “Everyone can be annoying at times, its like being with your family loads of pointless bickering, someone hates someone one day and then someone else the next, its that sort of thing” says Rob. Tom clarifies that touring with siblings “can be nightmare, it’s exactly what you imagine it would be”.
Katie caused a bit of a stir recently after rating how good the different crowds were on the Scottish leg of their tour, “we told her not to do that but she still did it” they both tell me, Rob adds, “Katie’s quite naïve in some ways, she doesn’t realise someone might offended if you call them a shit crowd”. Tom reckons that a good crowd is much more than how much noise they make, “sometimes you can tell when crowds aren’t even moving that they are really into it; it’s all about the atmosphere”. And the best thing about being a British band at the moment?, “it’s really hard to say, we are totally out of any scene at the moment, I guess the touring is much better, in America you have to travel miles and miles to the next venue- that would be hard”. ■