Fast beginnings: A conversation with Creatures
This article was originally printed in Bad Luck Magazine Issue 001.
Upon meeting Creatures, we agree to leave the venue they're playing in as it’s full of work parties. Plus, a disused kitchen as a backstage area didn’t seem too ideal. Across the street is the glowing lights of Rough Trade Records so we pick up and head over. They’re closing but don’t mind us spending some time in the store and it turns out all the staff are making their way over to the show anyway. Taking seat in a booth at the back of the shop one of the kind members of staff deliver us with some beers which of course go down a treat. My first experience of Creatures was, like most that know them, seeing them supporting Temples earlier on in the year. Personally, I recall frontman William Yates undoubtedly pissing off the security by leaping from the stage into the crowd and somehow managing to keep his cowboy hat firmly on his head. This, however, isn’t the only impressive thing about Creatures. They’ve already comfortably settled into the touring life, conquering the UK and Europe after their first show was for Rough Trade’s 40th Anniversary in Paris, and they’ve only been around since summer ’16.
“We were asked by a woman who used to work at Rough Trade to play the show, we only had a demo at that point,” William tells me. The band didn’t even have a name, “It came so quick, and we were really struggling.” William continues, “she gave us a chance, the demo wasn’t that great, and that was supporting Temples. From that show in Paris we were then asked by Temples to do the tour with them.” This came as a surprise to the band, as understandably it would - they only had written four or five songs when they were asked. “We got told that we needed to have something out, so we used the demo and pressed 300 copies to 7-inch and that sold out on the tour,” he says, still seeming slightly surprised. “It was my friend taking a risk really and to be honest with you I don’t think she even liked the demo,” William laughs. The band had no experience being on the road together so the idea of a month in a van came across as daunting. “Before the tour we had only done two shows, we did a warm up show in Leeds which was a catastrophe.” Ash, who’s sitting opposite me, interrupts, “to be fair, that wasn’t so much about playing the show it was more about travelling with each other,” before Josh adds laughing, “we did have a bottle of wine each on the road which probably wasn’t a good idea.” Josh states that it was exactly what they needed to kick them in right direction as a band, and returning from the tour they got their heads down and worked hard. “We had a permanent rehearsal schedule for a good month,” Ash tells me. “It was multiple days a week for about five weeks running.”
This sudden shift from spending years having ideas for the band, to suddenly playing to hundreds of people a night in cities they’d never been to before was a big change for all five members. “For me it was a dream come true,” William admits. “I love singing and performing, and I love doing it with my best friends, and it was great because every night we were pushing each other and Temples were pushing us. It was wonderful to be able to go around Europe, we are very thankful.” William nods in agreement and adds, “it definitely did boot us up the arse, we would have probably spent a year unsure about songs but because we had that deadline we just went for it.” The night I first saw Creatures was the last night of the Temples tour, and honestly you would have had no idea that they hadn’t been touring for years. Their attitude, style and slickness suggests that Creatures are a band with far more experience. “At that point we were just in tune you know, switched into gear,” Ash states.
The final two members, Bobby Voltaire and Will Sherkle (the other William) sit down to join us and more beers reach our table.
When Creatures pressed their only 7-inch it sold out fast, proving that they were impressing the masses at shows, but this 7-inch never found it’s way online. Whilst I write this, Apple Music only have one song by Creatures. “There was no real need to put it online,” Josh tells me. “When it was gone it was gone.” It was mixed by James Bagshaw, but the band kept this relatively quiet. “We didn’t want to be known as the band related to Temples,” Josh continues, “and to be honest he just did it as a quick favour.” William adds, “yeah, it was rough recordings and he did his best with what we had given him.” The band are unsure if that demo will ever go online and if they will ever re-record it and I tell them that I don’t think they should. By quickly pressing this limited edition 7 inch they’ve created something special for the people that went early to the show to see them perform and risked their beer money to buy a single from an unknown band. We laugh about one day having it on a Creatures rarity record, but even the thoughts of B-sides are new to the band. “We’ve just come out the studio,” Josh tells. “We are preparing for the next single and we’ve recorded three songs. We don’t know which one to use though.”
Releasing in a physical format seems to be how Creatures envision their music. William recalls his dad having vinyl although he mostly grew up in the CD era. “It brought me great pleasure being able to hold the booklet inside and turn the pages, it was exciting. It makes me very happy to know that people out there have our 7-inch,” he tells. “I’ve always wanted to give my father a record of mine.” It’s comforting to be talking to a band whose core passion is playing and releasing something physical, the streaming numbers aren’t too important at the moment, and William agrees that in today’s culture digital media can be so time dated and forgotten about. “Physical releases were always at the forefront of our minds, definitely,” Will states. “We’ve been working really hard,” William adds, “sure we’ve been lucky, but it’s pushed us and if we’re not writing we are in a rehearsal space and always fine tuning, and we have been given these opportunities because we do work hard.” Josh looks over, “this is why we all have bags under our eyes” he laughs.
With this hard work and great exposure, I wonder if the band have been receiving any interest from record labels. Williams thinks before speaking, “Yeah, we sort of have, but we are trying not to get distracted by that.” Across the table Will finishes his beer, “we’ve said that we will put out the two 7 inches and not make them digital, just because that’s something that we like the idea of, and then it will have to go digital, it’s the year we live in, but let’s just do the first one as a self-release and get some stuff out there, we want people to hear it and come and watch the shows.” Though there’s perks of being on a label, especially financially, Creatures are in no rush to sign. “It’s something that we would like in the future,” William adds, “to be able to work with a great label, but it can also become a distraction. What’s great about the band is that what we are at the moment, it’s just being us.” When speaking about it, it’s clear that the guys are on the same page, and if the day comes where they sign there’s certainly an importance around working with someone that they get on with and who understands them. At the moment, the important thing for the band is creating something, getting it out and moving on to develop.
On the road from London to Bristol, which is where we are, William tells that he was in charge of supplying the music. “I had a great time, I don’t know about the guys in the back,” he laughs. Van Dyke Park, Lee Hazlewood, The Beatles and The Cramps were all playing on the journey which is definitely somewhat evident in the bands “western coast” genre. It’s a really interesting sound, mixing surf, western and pop clearly, but it was a long time coming for Creatures to get their sonic ideas translated into their sound. “We wanted to be a country and western band,” William says. “I love people like Hank Williams so we wanted a country style band, with lap steel even.” William finds that the experimenting stages of country and western was beneficial and turned them into what they are today. “Western coast is a random made up thing,” Josh laughs. The band got a lot of ideas and influence from cinema. “I love Clint Eastwood, I love The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,” William tells, “we really love cowboy films. I don’t think they come hand in hand, western film music and country music, they are extremely similar but not the same. That was filtering its way into our sound.” William and Josh lived together and admitted to going through a phase where they just watched countless Western films together. “I remember thinking, oh, we should knick that, chuck that into our sound” Josh laughs. They're a band who have flawlessly brought in such a wide range of sound and tidied it up into something unique and clean, and with their single titled Goldeneye they do state their fondness of James Bond theme tunes. “We’ve had a few songs with different names, but we aren’t too good with names,” Josh admits. “We had one called Moonraker, and I wanted to keep it, but we got our bums slapped by the others, the big boys,” Josh and William laugh.
The future for Creatures at this point is so open. They’re still young but with the experience they have there’s really no holds barred in what could be next. “We would like to step up collaborations,” Will says. “There’s some people that we are hooking up with that will raise our game. We’ve got the songwriting, we just need to expand it, that’s what we are hoping to do.” They’ve already recorded new tracks in various studios, Ash says. “We have a few things that we have held back that we are going to work on next year,” he admits. The general ethos is to play as much as possible and working on making Creatures exactly what they want to be. “I don’t even think we are sure what sort of band we are,” Williams says. Josh adds to this, “I definitely remember having the thought of not going down the usual avenues, do something a little bit different. We obviously take influence from some older things but I just thought it’s easy to copy what’s current, so let’s not do that.” For William, it seems as though he just hopes that his desire and passion comes out in what they do. He talks about hoping that the people that read this will maybe go and check out new bands, or bands they are influenced by and broaden their musical taste, so in simpler terms – just spreading music to people.
Creatures are a band who have proven that their hearts and minds are in the right place and their passion and influence rubs off on you when chatting to them. In the time they’ve been together, they’ve been evolving into a great, in William’s words, “little pop band.” It’s hard to pin point exactly what they are going for, but I think that’s what makes me fond of them. With what I’ve heard already I’m eager to hear what they will bring in the future, no doubt it will not disappoint. We head back across the street to where the band are playing for a few drinks before the show and already I notice people who are evidently there to see them fitting a certain style. It’s an eclectic one to say the least, but it’s hard evidence that Creatures are going places.