In our latest interview, we managed to catch up with Will Tun and the Wasters to talk about playing the main stage at this years Shambala fest. The band also talks about their local music scene, and much more!
Séafra: While this might be a cliché question, I’m genuinely curious. How did you guys meet, and decide that Celtic Punk with a mix of ska, was the style of music you wanted to play?
Will Tun & The Wasters: We met at a party of course! I’d been playing in punky bands with Deaglan our whistle player for a while by this point and we’d been friends for years before that. This previous band we were in were pretty fuckin’ terrible, but we didn’t care because we had fun anyway. We’d just turn up completely unrehearsed, get drunk and make as much noise as we could. I believe the only person ever to book us twice is now the WTATW bassist Ivo hahaha.
But anyway, back in those days I played guitar and Declan was playing mostly bass, but we always had this love of folk music. My Dad’s been in folk bands his whole life so there were always strange instruments lying round the house, and I spent a lot of time going to Celeidhs and folk gigs when I was younger. Deaglan’s always been really into it too, back in school when we were thirteen and everyone was into Emo music, he bought a tin whistle so he could learn Pogues tunes and spent all day every day playing it, annoying the fuck out of everyone until he got awesome!
When we first met Will he was really naive and geeky, but I think some spirit inside him awakened when he saw this world of alternative culture that our group of friends were discovering at the time. I think the idea that there was an alternative to the mainstream society option of school-university-career just ignited this unstoppable passion that is the bedrock of our band.
I mean before the band he’d had a fairly sheltered life, he’d always been told to work as hard as possible in his studies to become a doctor. And then there we are, a bunch of crackheads and wasters getting pissed all night and hijacking the sound system at parties to put on Operation Ivy, it was quite a combination! But at this party we met at, Will decided he wanted a break from his routine so he called his parents and said “Mum, Dad, i’m not coming home tonight, i’m staying out to make friends!” After chatting about music for a while we decided to have a jam. Jared our Ukulele player and I had been jamming for a while too so first session on a cold winter’s evening, we wrote a song about the party we went to, decided it was such a fun vibe that we should make it a proper band and since then it’s just grown and grown. The song became “Drink Johnny Drink” which was the first tune we ever wrote together, then it ended up being played on BBC Radio 1 a couple of years later!
Séafra: If you weren’t playing this particular style of music, could you see yourself playing any other style exclusively?
Will Tun & The Wasters: It’s not like we necessarily set out to write Folk or Ska or Punk tunes when we write, we just try and keep the vibe we’ve felt from the start and write stuff that we’re digging at the time, whatever style of music that might come out as. So I really think that this band can grow into whatever we want it to be, we’re never gonna play exclusively one style. I mean we recently recorded a video of a Ska/Hip-Hop style tune with a friend of ours MC Amalgam, it’s just what we’re feeling right now.
Séafra: When you guys first started playing, did you find it hard to stand out in the general music scene? Specifically in your region.
Will Tun & The Wasters: Reading in recent years seemed to produce loads of Tech-Metal and Hardcore bands haha. Admittedly some were really good, but that’s not really the sort of music we play so it wasn’t too hard to stand out. It was actually really refreshing to be in a DIY acoustic sort of band though, it meant we could busk on the street, play in pubs, play to our friends at parties. It was very liberating from the established music scene that was around at the time. Although I like hardcore music myself, to be in “the scene” as such always seems to be a struggle. It’s all about who’s played with the biggest bands, who knows the coolest people, who’s got the biggest tunnels. When you go to play at your local to a crowd of pissed old dudes you don’t need to worry about any of that, everyone’s having a good time coz everyone’s drunk! It’s all good.
I think the rootlessness of an atmosphere like that it something quite special, and it’s something that we really vibe off. Although we couldn’t really play our instruments to begin with, I think people saw that we were excited by it all, and people responded well to us because of that. Hopefully we can play them a bit better now haha, and we’re going a bit further afield to play gigs now, but I like to think that the we take that rootsy exuberance with us when we head out of Reading to play.
Séafra: Will, other than the obvious political messages in some of your songs, do you often write lyrics about personal experiences?
Will Tun & The Wasters: Will’s not here right now, but i’m sure he wouldn’t mind me telling you about a new song we’ve written. It’s called “Immigrants and Dissidents” and it’s Will’s personal tale of life as an immigrant in the UK, getting to grips with the essence of the country, and then eventually getting to a point where you feel like you can really comment on what’s wrong and feel as if it’s OK to raise your voice and be an activist. It’s tough to get to that point as an immigrant, because you wanna have respect for the country you’re in and you don’t wanna overstep the mark unnecessarily. But at the end of the day we’re all immigrants really and this country is our home, so we need to stand up and be counted when we feel strongly about something.
Séafra: Do you guys even get discouraged in the music making process, or do you feel like you could put out a new song every other day?
Will Tun & The Wasters: Right at this very second, we’re not discouraged at all. We’ve all been off doing our own things and experiencing life for the last few months but we’ve come back together now and I think it’s fair to say we’re more excited about this band than ever and that the new songs are the best stuff we’ve ever put our name to. I don’t know about a song every other day haha, but we’ve jamming all the time and we’re all really open minded musically so I think the possibilities are endless really! I’m trying to push for a Klezmer-Hardcore crossover tune at the moment but I think the band think I’m crazy. We’ll see what happens, nobody knows what the future holds.
Séafra: What are your gigs normally like? Do you have a specific set, or do you just wing it?
Will Tun & The Wasters: We’ve been playing around a lot with our set lately, mixing in all the new elements we’re jammin. In general though we’re pretty erratic with our setlists, sometimes we’ll turn up to a gig, get a bit pissed and play whatever we fancy. Other times we’ll spend about half an hour debating over what to play- we do love a good band debate. We’re at the point now where we’ve got enough songs to go with the vibe on the night, we can do a folky acoustic jam, we could crank it up, we can get some ska going on. It doesn’t help with the band debates I’ll tell you. Whatever we do though, we want to get people’s dancing shoes on and have a party, every gig is an event in itself y’know?
Séafra: You guys are going to be performing on the main stage at this years Shambala Festival, how is everyone feeling about playing in front of such a large crowd for the first time?
Will Tun & The Wasters: We’re so ridiculously excited about Shambala, we still can’t quite believe it’s happening. We’ve just played Boomtown Fair for the second year in a row and we had a sweet turnout at a really renowned festival, so hopefully that might prepare us mentally, but we’re not gonna know until we get there really. We’ve had the support of all our awesome friends come out to see us at these big events so far, so hopefully we’ll catch a few familiar faces out there at Shambala too.
Séafra: I hear the band had a little run in with the Westminster council in London. Can you tell us a what happened?
Will Tun & The Wasters: Yea haha, that was a great day in the end. We went to London to see The Levellers perform as part of this “BT London Live” week for the Olympics. The Levellers spent years as a rootsy DIY band, busking around the country to anyone, playing wherever they could, so we thought that sort of crowd might dig the sort of thing we’re doing. Little did we know however, that the whole thing was this massive corporate ploy to promote the Olympic sponsors via some sort of transient connection with an oddly evoked form of british national spirit. Anyway, they didn’t let us in to the actual event because we had our instruments with us. It was a bit unfortunate as we got through the first wave of security people OK, then the metal detector people clocked us. It was pretty mad, full on airport style security. No liquids over 100ml, no food or drink allowed inside. Ludicrous.
The train tickets we’d bought only let us go back in a few hours time so we shifted over Marble Arch on the corner of Hyde Park to do some busking like we’d planned. It seemed like a pretty good spot; right outside the station, lots of people passing though, plenty of tourists milling about. Apart from the fact that a massive row of Police Riot vans were sitting right opposite. We decided to go for it anyway. It went pretty well for about 20 minutes, we got people dancing and Will was going nuts haha! I seem to remember shouting into the camera of a Swedish athletics team who filmed us at one point.
The cops looked pretty bored at the sight of it but they didn’t seem fussed at all. Then, after a while, the Westminster Council pulled up (which seems like pretty inefficient to me) At this point they said that they could confiscate all our instruments and fine us £500, but if we were caught by the olympic authority however we could have been fined £20,000! I know it sounds like i’m joking but nah, 40 times as much for “disturbing” the Olympics! That’s how it goes apparently. A few of the people watching us tried to fight our cause, which was really touching actually, but they were having none of it.
It all worked out alright in the end though, we decided to go for standard WTATW procedure and buy some cider to chill with in the park with. We ended up chillin’ just outside the gate and we could hear The Levellers just as well, plus The Beat supported so we got drunk for a while, then ended up busking to a packed train on the way home in our pissed state haha. I don’t think most of the train really appreciated it but there was a couple next to us enjoying it, soI think we achieved something all in all. Oh an Ivo tried to sell the cops a copy of Time Is A Bastard ye! They recoiled in horror and cried “oooh, that’s a whole different offence boy!”
Séafra: While they might not have bought the CD from Ivo, I’m sure the went home to download Time Is A Bastard from Amazon. Which brings me to my next question. Now that you guys are an established band, how do you feel about file sharing? hurtful, or helpful?
Will Tun & The Wasters: In terms of file sharing, for our first EP it was a really great way to get it out there. We used “A Year Wasted” as a promotional tool, and going online was perfect for that. We really spread the word, loads of people heard it and we got booked for some amazing festivals. Strangely enough, we actually had our first E.P pirated online and sold for a $1.86 by an American site we’d never heard of. We were pretty flabbergasted by it! I mean, we were literally unheard of at the time. We had maybe a couple of hundred Facebook fans who were mostly just our mates anyway, then a site halfway across the world pirates our material. That’s what it’s come to nowadays.
With this CD we’ve got the digipacks all printed up, tracks professionally recorded and artwork designed. It’s really not cheap, I think it’s difficult to really appreciate the full costs of producing a product if you’ve never been involved in the process, so in that sense I can see how people might view file sharing as a relatively harmless process. But anyone who stops to think about it for five minutes will realise that’s not the case and it’s only going to hit the smaller artists trying to make a living. I don’t necessarily think the demise of the labels is that much of a bad thing though, as it forces bands to figure it out for themselves and can be very empowering in some respects. If you spend your whole time gearing your band towards getting signed and being marketable for a label, it might work for a while, but what happens when they lose interest and spend less time promoting you or eventually drop you?
I truly believe that if you build it up for yourself and really work to establish a strong grassroots following then that’s a much more secure basis to release a record on. Hopefully that’s what we can do for our first album and people will believe in us enough to pay for something that means something to them.
Séafra: For any short-term goals, what do you guys as a band hope to accomplish by this time next year?
Will Tun & The Wasters: We’re all in our final year of Uni so hopefully we can get degrees before anything else haha. But we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves right now, nearly every band I know who’ve gone off to uni have split up and we’ve managed to keep building and play some of the best festivals in the UK, so we need to take some time to be in the moment and really enjoy all the good things that are coming our way right now. I think that’s really important, just to step back and enjoy what’s happening in the moment.
Right now we’re doing a split EP right now with our friends in an electro/hip-hop label called Downtown Digital with our longtime friend and collaborator MC Amalgam. It’s gonna be a sort of Gypsy/Hip-hop/Electro/Folk-Punk mash-up EP, so in the short term I guess we’ll see how that does. It’s pretty exciting stuff!
In a years time after studying however, I think we’re going to really try and put some work into this band and become a full touring band. There’s talk of getting a van and moving in together in one big house so we can write and play music all the time. That’s what we all love doing and we just wanna put ourselves in a position where we can hopefully spend all our time doing this band, travelling around and meeting all sorts of crazy people across the world.
Séafra: Thanks so much for taking some time out to answer some of our questions, any last words for us?
Will Tun & The Wasters: Cheers very much for doing the interview holmes, it’s been a blast! Wasters of the World, unite and charge!