Interview: The Pigeon Detectives

The Pigeon Detectives met when they were still in primary school in Rothwell and formed in 2002. They released their debut platinum selling album, ‘Wait for Me’ in 2007 and a second album, ‘Emergency’ came out in 2008. We managed to chat to them before they performed their set.

Matt Bowman, the lead vocalist, talks about it all began, ‘We are from a very small town near Leeds called Rothwell. We met at primary school; we must have been 6 years old and our first contact with music would be playing the recorder in assembly… but seriously, we all got into music after getting into the Beatles.’ We ask about their other inspirations, ‘the Beatles, Oasis, the strokes, any band from New York, really, we are into those skinny guitar sound riffs.’

Ryan Wilson says ‘We first started in Olly’s bedroom playing guitar, then we booked a couple of gigs in Leeds and played dozens of times; when you first start off it’s brilliant, but you just need match practice as it were. Then we started to do gigs out of town, these guys from a group called Forward Russia set up a record label and did a CD of all the local bands in Leeds and we were fortunate enough to get onto this compilation. They sold a couple of thousand of these CDs around Leeds and a little bit out of Leeds. Steve LeMaq played our song on Radio 1 and it went on from there – then we got the Dirty Pretty Things support, opening up for them and then got signed by our label, ‘Dance to the Radio’, which is an independent Leeds label, which we have shares in so we part own it and so we are really in control of what we do.’ He pauses for breath and Matt comments, ‘that was a really, really concise answer, I feel like you just recapped our whole lives, I really enjoyed that!‘

After supporting Dirty Pretty Things in 2006, the Pigeon Detectives went on to play Reading and Leeds in 2006. ‘That was amazing,’ says Jimi Naylor, ‘…the biggest crowds we played in front of, we started off playing to like 90 people, and then a couple of hundred…then we got the Dirty Pretty Things tour and there was a couple of thousand, getting more nervous every-time and then its was Leeds and Reading, they go down as one of our best gigs as at the time it was such a big thing. And this lot went to Leeds before, so it was pretty huge.’

We talk about the other festivals they’ve done and ask which they’re looking to do in the future. ‘We haven’t played Benicassim,’ says Jimi. ‘I don’t want to do that full, it’s full of chavs,’ Matt says, ‘for me it’s Coachella.’ Their best festival experience they agree, was Glastonbury, ‘definitely, the biggest crowds we have played in front of. Not great facilities there for the bands though…we did the other stage last year which must have been to 40-50 thousand.’ In spite of playing to crowds of thousands, Matt claims he doesn’t get nervous, ‘it’s all part of the show, I was asleep before we did Glastonbury – I got up, ate a packet of crisps and went on.’

The band are headlining Underage Festival for the first time this summer and looking forward to playing to their younger fans, who don’t always have the opportunity to get into their usual gigs. How is that different to a usual festival experience?’ Well, the screams are a lot higher pitched,’ says Matt.

We move onto their third album. They say they’ve demoed a couple of songs and are ‘pretty happy’ with the sound. We want to know when the album will be released but Matt plays it cool, ‘there’s no rush in releasing it, just want to chill out and spend the summer playing festivals and enjoy Christmas.’ We ask them how the song-writing process goes. Matt says, ‘9 times out of 10, Olly will be playing in his room with his guitar and come up with something, bring it to the rehearsal room, we will all start jamming it and then if all goes according to plan 20 minutes later we will have a song, sometimes it doesn’t work like that but that’s the main idea.’

We tentatively ask them about their competition. What about the Kaiser Chiefs? ‘We are good friends with them, we bump into them outside of playing gigs with them, we go to the football, or see them knocking about town – I mean we weren’t mates with them before the band. They saw us perform at a gig, started chatting to us, and took us on tour with them and spent a bit of a time with Nick in the recording studio – we did the national tour with them, so that’s how we got to be friends with them and spending time with each other backstage your build up a rapport with them. So yes we count ourselves as mates.’

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In spite of their massive success, the band have been criticised for being unoriginal; their style of indie-pop is similar to many other successful bands who have emerged in recent years, such as the Arctic Monkeys and The Enemy, as well as countless other young hopefuls waiting to make it big. Why do some bands make it and others don’t? ‘Obviously we were just better than them,’ jokes Matt. They all laugh. ‘No, like you say there are a lot of bands out there but it’s no coincidence that the better bands make it. There are a lot of good bands out there but there are also a lot of shit bands out there – I mean there are loads of people with guitars who are in a band…but it won’t come to you… you have to write catchy tunes, you have to want it, you have to go out there and get it. We started off in a transit van, with no insurance; we were working full time jobs, but we made sure we went that extra mile – we really did everything to make it whereas a lot of bands don’t. The difference is we really wanted it.’

We ask them what bands they are listening to at the moment. ‘I had one in my head which I wanted to say,’ offers Matt helpfully, ‘but it’s gone.’ ‘I’m listening to Star-fucker,’ says Olly, ‘but I think it’s hard for bands at the moment, the music industry is sort of dying on its arse a bit, record labels are signing safe acts like Lady Ga Ga…I mean she sells records and writes a catchy tune, but they don’t have the cash to risk on bands which they did a couple of years ago. So from our point of view there is really no one that exciting coming through at the moment.’ What do they think about the mainstream manufactured music from shows like the X Factor? ‘There’s a place for it, it’s not my cup of tea but I’m not going to put anyone’s music down…it entertains a lot of people who aren’t into our music, so if they don’t listen to our music they might as well listen to something.’ Ryan brings up the X Factor’s recent dominance over the battle for Christmas No.1, ‘It has just ruined Christmas number one…you don’t get the good battles you used to have because you get whoever wins X Factor getting to No.1, and 9 times out of 10 they fade away into the background and you never really hear of them again.’

They agree that there has been genuine talent to emerge from TV shows, ‘That Leona Lewis is pretty talented,’ remarks Ryan, ‘she’s a really good singer… Girls Aloud have done alright too.’ ‘I’ve got no problems with the people who come from it,’ says Matt, ‘they are just trying to make a way for themselves; they are talented singers, well a few of them are, but I have a problem with the people who are making millions and million on the back of it like Simon Cowell and all.

The interview draws to a close and we try to get them to spill some juicy details. The most embarrassing record owned is by Ryan, who received a Jason Donovan Greatest Hits album from his mum. We give them a snog, marry and push off a cliff option out of Jordan, Courtney Love and Susan Boyle. They all grimace. ‘Can you f*** Jordan?’ asks Matt, ‘Was that one of the options? Definitely marry Courtney Love…she has pots of money…so…’ Dave interrupts,’ probably put Susan Boyle out of her misery and push her off a cliff.’ ‘Not that we’d do that,’ adds Matt quickly, ‘I mean…I think there would be legal reasons not to do that.’

_Questions by Caitlin Allen and Rachel Tan_

_With thanks to Nikki Smith_

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