The Automatic Automatic
Look out Warped tour, the Welsh are coming to rock your world! The Automatic Automatic have been tearing up stages in Europe for quite some time now, but for some reason, our glorious country hasn’t had the privilege..until now! Their album “Not Accepted Anywhere” is about to be released on Columbia Records in the United States and the band will join a leg of Warped tour to bring their music to the people. They may be the new kids on the block but they welcome the challenge and embrace the opportunity to win over new crowds and gain new fans. With huge hits already under their belts in Europe and sell out crowds showing up to get a taste, it’s only a matter of time before we catch on over on this side of the pond.
The band (Rob Hawkins on lead vocals and bass guitar, Alex Pennie on synths, keyboards and vocals, James Frost on guitar and vocals, and Iwan Griffiths drums) mixes rock elements with synthesizers and a unique blend of vocal melodies that are almost hard to describe. Catchy choruses and songs that move into your mind and take up residency for awhile resonate from track to track.
What’s not to love about a band with a unique sound, great accents and best of all – a David Hasselhoff shrine at each of their gigs…nothing I say. Nothing. I recently talked to Rob about the upcoming U.S. release of the album, Warped tour, and what exactly qualifies as an appropriate shrine to “The Hoff”….
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | June 2007
What happened to the other Automatic? Wasn’t the band called The Automatic Automatic at one point?
Yeah, I’m not sure what to say to that, are we not still called that? In the UK we’re just The Automatic but there’s a guy who’s British who lives in America now who about twenty years ago had one single out under the name of Automatic and was threatening legal action. So to avoid that whole can of worms we stuck an extra Automatic on the end. I thought it was still there actually.
I was just confused because I had just seen it both ways and I just wanted to make sure I got it right!
No one’s ever heard of the other guy, put it that way.
So the band played at SXSW in Texas this year, was that the first time that you actually played in the United States?
Yes, that was our first gig in the U.S., that was my first time in the U.S. actually.
And how did that go?
It seemed to be really good, the audience obviously didn’t know us which was quite new since we’re use to playing in front of two thousand people who know who we are, our last couple of tours we’ve done in the UK have been like that, but it was quite refreshing as well. We were quite jetlagged at the time though which was another challenge. It could have been a lot worse.
You’re getting ready to release the US version of “Not Accepted Anywhere” on June 26th. Are there any differences from the UK release of the album with the same name?
The production is different, its been mixed to sound a bit more raw and a bit more rock, which is probably more reflective of the way we are live than the UK version is. Which is nice.
Since we are talking about a new audience in the United States can you take us through a few of your favorite songs on Not Accepted Anywhere both musically and lyrically?
I’m quite fond of By My Side, I think that would be the band favorite as well as far as songs off of the album. It’s a darker heavier song. Also it just seemed to come together so well. Bits of it were three years old when we recorded it. That was one of the first things we had written after Pennie had joined the band when we were sixteen or seventeen, and we had a song called By My Side in various different forms, then we scrapped it for awhile and brought it back in loads of different parts. It was nice to see it come back and be resurrected and actually make it on to the album, it’s one of my favorites. Lyrically it’s sort of about introspection and examining yourself and working out who you want to be and becoming more comfortable with yourself. It kind of symbolizes a growing up experience I suppose. I like Recover a lot because we always end with it live. I think it’s much more powerful live than it is on record.
As the lead vocalist, do you write all the lyrics or what is the general writing process for the band?
I write the bulk of them but its all open to veto and Pennie did quite a bit of the lyrics on the first album as well. It’s always open to suggestion, if one person doesn’t like it we come to a mutual band decision. The actual lines are put together by me but all together the music us a group effort.
You sort of touched on the fact that you have a huge following in the UK and now youre coming to the US where your fanbase isn’t as expansive simply because they don’t know you yet and haven’t been exposed to your music. How are you approaching it? Do you see that as a positive thing? A challenge to take on?
I’m looking at it as a challenge but in a positive way. It’s not at all daunting. We’ll go out there play gigs the same way we always do with as much energy poured into it as we can. I think that’s an infectious thing and it tends to win audiences over. I think we gained a lot of our fanbase in the UK based on our live work. Hopefully we’ll be able to do the same thing in America. I don’t really know a lot about American audiences, and to treat all of America as just one country is a bit naïve because it’s the size of Northern Europe.
Yeah..but everyone says that music is the universal language and I think that’s pretty much true for all of America.
It depends on what you’re saying though doesn’t it.
Yes! Good point! You’ve mentioned and I’ve also read it so many different places that your live show is the band’s strongest asset – what do you contribute to the chemistry onstage that makes your live set so explosive and addicting to fans?
Well you can hear on the record, that we’re quite high energy anyway. You have to put as much emotional energy into a song as you can live to convince the audience that it’s worth it. Playing the songs live gives us the opportunity to breathe new life into it every time. Someone may have already bought the album but we can put something new into it every time we play it. I really enjoy playing live and that’s why I’m able to put as much as I can into it. Everyone in the band goes for it live and I think that’s what makes it a good show. We can actually play too. You see a lot of bands that just can’t hold it together live.
Let’s talk about Warped tour a little bit. Warped tour is going to be a lot of kids first exposure to the band and Warped tour brings a bit of competitiveness to the table where sometimes two different bands are playing at the same time. What can we tell people to convince them to go see your set over a band’s they may already be familiar with?
A lot of what I just said applies probably. We rock live! We’re probably not as quite punk as a lot of bands on that bill. Not that we’re lacking in energy, its just not quite what we do, I think rock is more of the word for us. So we can offer something a little bit different to the usual Warped tour fan.
You just mentioned that you’d describe your sound as rock but you’ve also been self-described as “electric-disco-metal-rock” which covers quite a few bases. Would you still describe the band that way or do you think with the new production on the album it’s more straight rock?
There’s still a dance element to it which is part of the fun, the old punky bass line and all.
Are there any bands on the leg of the Warped tour that you’re doing that you’re looking forward to seeing play and getting to know a little better.
I’m looking forward to getting to know all of them really because I don’t know many of the bands on the tour. We only know a few bands going out, I know Gallows because they’re a Welsh band.
I have to ask about the David Hasselhoff shrine, what’s the story behind it?
Well, we found out that a lot of bands do something really daft on their rider, something really stupid. So we thought of the stupidest thing we could think of and the Hasselhoff shrine came to mind so we put it on there. It’s started to get more serious though. Everything feels a lot more home-y with a picture of David Hasselhoff somewhere in it. It’s a good omen if he’s there.
That’s so funny..so the term shrine is used loosely, it doesn’t have to be anything specific just an ode to David Hasselhoff?
It can be anything from the bare minimum of a photo of Hasselhoff and a tea light candle but we’ve seen some elaborate ones as well involving some fake animal skins.
You’ve picked quite a few interesting choices when it comes to cover songs…What was the inspiration behind covering Kanye West’s Golddigger and do you know if he’s heard it/has anything to say about it?
He’s definitely aware that we’ve done it because we had to get permission first. I have no idea if he’s actually heard it or not though. We covered it a for radio show in the UK that did a Live Lounge show where you did one original and one cover all acoustically. The idea is to pick a cover of a contemporary track. There were a few other options on the charts but none that we thought would be interesting enough that we could do proper justice to. It became a staple of our lives for quite awhile, it got a really big reaction.
Is that a song that you play live as well?
It is yes. We’ve been trying to phase it out of the set in the UK. You don’t want to cover something bigger than your own songs.
Im always kind of curious when talking to musicians, what kind of role did music play in your life as you were growing up, was it always something that was a part of your life?
Pop and rock have been an obsession since I was about twelve, I’ve just always been into it, buying cds. Even before that I started to play instruments. When I was five, I took up piano but that didn’t last long. I played flute when I was eight and played with a few orchestras. I had quite a musical upbringing. In my teenage years being in a band was a huge creative outlet. Writing songs with my friends was an enjoyable experience and important to me. I’ve defined myself as being in a band for the last decade now. It’s my identity.
Let me wrap it up with this, what are the plans after Warped, will you be staying in the States for any additional touring?
Yes, we’ll be doing our own dates on the East Coast after Warped tour. We fly back to the UK on August 9th to finish our album here but theres a possibility of us returning to America to support somebody on tour.
*Photos used courtesy of the official band website and MySpace page