Interview With The Automatic - 16th February 2007
Photo Of The Automatic © Copyright Peter HillWe caught up with Alex Pennie from The Automatic at Southampton, Guildhall before the band were due to headline the NME tour at the venue.

How has your day been and what have you been up to thus far?
Today, not a lot. I erm, woke up about three. Because I've been quite ill, I mean, two days ago I threw up on stage, in Nottingham. Once in a towel, but the second time at the keyboard, I just leant forward and went, bleh, right in between my own legs, all over the floor, which was lovely. Because I had a chest infection, and I'm asthmatic as well, so the combination of the two is never really a jolly. And yesterday I wasn't that ill, but I stayed in bed a lot, stayed in bed until about four. I just did sound-check and stuff, then played the gig and that was all okay; didn't throw up or anything, which is always a bonus. And then like I said, today I woke up about three, came into the venue, said hello to the bands, and then erm, went and did a signing, you know, an in-store signing thing in HMV with some crazy young girls.

Ah yeah we saw some people coming back earlier with HMV bags about half five. Iwan and one of the View I think.
It was crazy. The best quote I think was some girl saying "I love you... ...what's your name?" Which is, well, when you're out in a club it's great, it's acceptable, (providing they're eighteen,) but when it's strange thirteen year old local girls screaming that at you...
I might use that as a chat up line next time I'm out.
"I love you what's your naaame!"
My favourite was "Nice shoes, want to fuck?"
"Wanna come back to mine for a fuck and a pizza?" And then you get slapped, and say "What's the matter, you don't like pizza?"

How does it feel to be headlining an NME tour?
Erm, fuzzy.
I don't know, it feels alright. I mean, it's good I guess. It's good, I mean obviously we're grateful to being given a headline slot as a band, I kind of feel like we deserve it really, people don't realise, I mean, well in fourteen months we did ten tours. So if you ask any band quite high up on the NME list, I think we're the only one who, well apart from really big bands like Arctic Monkeys, and The Killers, you know, I think we're the only band at this level who's really been around for that amount of time, and been doing that much touring sort of thing. Because all the other bands on the tour are reasonably new. Like the View, they're quite new but their album's gone up and gone round which is cool for them, but yeah it's good, I dunno, I mean I'm hard to impress. When they said "Do you wanna come headline the NME tour?" I was like, "meh, okay." Well we did one last year but we were one below BoyKillBoy, and I think a lot of people's opinions was that we maybe should have been headlining.
That was the NME New Bands tour?
Brats tour or whatever they call it. No, New Bands, that was it.
What do you think about the other bands on the tour?
Errrrrrrrrrrrrm. If I'm being honest, which I will be, I'm not really a fan of any of the music, in any real way, just not the sort of bands that I listen to, that I like, but as people they all seem really nice. The View are nice troublesome lads, I can't understand what they're saying sometimes, and I'm not being racist. Mumm-Ra are a good band, a real good indie-pop band, they play some really good songs. It's not the kind of thing I'd grab and say "yeah I'm going to buy this record," but I can see they're good and deserve to do well. And they're all really nice people, we took them out on tour in October last year, they supported us on our last headline tour. And the Horrors, well they're nice people. I'm not a fan of the music, they know that, and they aren't a fan of ours, but we all get along fine anyway. Faris is a nice guy, he's quite friendly...
Yeah we had a chat with Tom and Josh.
Josh is nice, yeah, Josh is funny.
They were saying it's a lot more integrated this tour, as opposed to other tours they've been on.
Yeah, I think that was their problem with the Fratelli's more than anyone, is that they just didn't socialise with anyone. I try and talk to everyone, I mean what's the point of not talking to people, it just makes you look like a dick doesn't it.
Pretty much.
Unless you're horrible and you can't say anything nice to anyone then don't say anything at all, but if you can say "hello" and "good-morning," then say hello and good-morning!

Do you prefer playing the NME tour, or your own tour?
Well I think this is the tour everyone tries to treat it as an equal bit, I mean obviously we're the last band on and it's our name at the back, but I think this feels really similar to our last tour anyway. Like, the one in October. I loved our last tour in Europe. We toured, well we didn't really stop, we did two weeks in Europe, then two days recording, and then started doing this, so we've been on tour about a month now. But I really liked that because it was between two-hundred and four-hundred people every night. Which is awesome because our record's been out there on import for ages and all the venues were sold out, nice little venues packed out. The kind of thing where if you wanted to do it in this country, you'd have to make it exclusive or competition winners only, you know. It's the same as over here with a new band, your first few shows sold out are with people who actually care and go to find music, rather than listening to the radio and thinking they might go along. So you get a really intense excited crowd. I think our headlining tour was a bit better, just because everyone was there to see us. Whereas with this one you'll have Mumm-Ra fans at the front, and then sort of shuffle back when the Horrors come on, and then the same for the View. So you kind of have pockets in the crowd. Like when we play, they'll be people who have pushed to the front, and then people who have been there since the Horrors thinking "well I don't want to see the Automatic, but I'm here now so I might as well." So it's kind of a bit weird that you get those people going crazy in the middle, people at the back not caring, and then a few faces at the front like "let me out!" It's weird but it's good, makes it interesting.

You started off when you were twelve is that correct?
Well I didn't, but everyone else did. Frost, our guitarist, started playing when he was eight years old, which I think is amazing, then he met Iwan and Rob in primary school I think, no he met Rob in primary school and then Iwan in comprehensive school, and then they started a band, "a band," when they were twelve.
White Rabbit?
Well I was in White Rabbit, but they had loads of silly names like Kerry Choke and The La Vido Technique. What else was there, I think they were called Plastic Bag at some point, you know loads of little silly names. Then when I was sixteen I joined the band, we'd been friends for a year and I wanted to know what they did every Tuesday, you know. And as White Rabbit we wrote a few songs, one of which is By My Side, which is still on the album. We started writing it when we were sixteen and finished it when we were eighteen which is a bit weird. You know we had different verses for about two years, and kept the chorus, and it eventually got on the album which is quite good, because it's the first song I ever wrote a keyboard part to. And then yeah we just did sixth form together, practised once or twice a week and then we had a gap year and got a record deal. We had a gap year because we didn't want to go to University which is lucky I suppose.

Are you happy with the album?
No, it's too poppy for my liking. I think our producer found a formula that worked for radio one and the radio, and then they stupidly applied it to every song on the record as opposed to the two or three songs that should have been singles. The first thing I would have done is to record it again, but that's just me, I'm not really into pop music. I don't really care, I don't listen to the radio or watch television so I'm not really switched on at all with pop music. But we're going to America soon and they want us to remix the album, which is cool. Like, not re-record, just remix the guitars louder, the vocals less polished and like, they want a rockier album for America, so that's cool. So that'd suit me better.

Is there another album in the pipeline at the moment?
Not really, we're going to start work after this tour in a couple of weeks, and then we're going to America to tour the same record again. In a way we want to get started, but if we spend three weeks writing new songs, we're going to go to America and not be able to play them to anyone because we're going to be promoting the album that just came out in America. We just bought a laptop and a little mixer thing so we can just get some rough ideas down when we're on the road, because we're going to be going from, stupid things like, Texas to Louisiana.
And then you're off to Europe?
Yeah, well we're going to South-by-South-West, then Europe, then America. No no, we're off to Europe after America, you know this better than me! I don't know which month comes after which month.

You've released five singles so far, well two have been re-released, which is cheating in my books.
It's not cheating, it's just plain shit isn't it. Well I think re-releasing "Recover" is okay, because we only released five thousand copies and a lot of them were on vinyl.
Ah I thought Raoul was your first single.
Recover was our first single, just five-thousand copies and vinyl and stuff, just to see if people liked us or not. You don't want to go, like, boom, one million copies let's hope people want to buy them. So we did five thousand and didn't really spend any money on promoting it, just put it out there, and it did quite well which was cool. And then, we released Raoul, with a really bad video, in my opinion. And then we released Monster which everyone thinks went to number one, but it didn't, I think it got to number five or three or something.
It kind of took the world by storm.
Yeah it just stayed there, for ages. And then it went in again this year.
Yeah when the downloads came out it went back in at number twenty two or something ridiculous. And then we re-released Raoul which is shit, it wasn't really our decision. We wanted to release You Shout You Shout You Shout You Shout, or By My Side. But some people at the record company were too chicken shit to...
I think Raoul is one of your best songs.
It is a great song but I don't think you should release things more than once. We tried to maintain an ounce of credibility with Raoul because we put loads of cool b-sides on it and stuff. Like a Fatboy Slim remix, and Gold-Digger, lots of people were interested in that. Live from Leeds festival.
Will you be playing it tonight?
Gold-Digger? No... We've got another cover.
Is it equally as humorous?
It's not quite as humorous no, I think it's good actually. I think it's more good than...
Are people likely to know it?
Err, do you know Talking Heads? It's a song called Life During Wartime. You'll probably recognise it when you hear it, but, it kind of sounds like one of our songs, in a way. It was quite easy to do it our way.
What made you choose Gold-Digger?
Well it's the Live-Lounge. Not much of our tastes are that pop-orientated or current, Live-Lounge say that you should do something current that will be popular, like a cover of a popular song. Rather than saying "we're going to do a cover of Yours Is No Disgrace by Yes from 1973." And most people are like, "well I don't know which one's the band and which one's the title of the song, and I wasn't alive then." I think it's quite good to do a hip-hop song because, I think it's crap when these indie guitar bands come in, like Razorlight and they played, oh what was it.
Hey Ya by Outkast.
Oh that was a good one, but I mean like Razorlight covering the Kooks, or the Kooks doing Kaiser Chiefs, you know. But also Gold-Digger is a nice reference to being in a band. Like, groupies, hangers on, people that didn't care who you were until you're in a band, in it for the money, in it for the fact you're somebody now. People who didn't like you at school but are really nice when you go back home and stuff, I think it's a nice little reference.

You do the backing vocals, the screechy bits.
When did you realise you could sing like that? Or scream like that.
Erm, about four years ago, the guys were mainly doing covers and I was doing vocals on Arcarsenal by At The Drive In.
At The Drive In are awesome.
Yeah amazing band. And yeah thats the first song I did, so I blame Cedric from At The Drive In.
I think you should cover One Armed Scissor. Just go out there and do it, nobody would know it.
We could cover loads of songs nobody would know, it's an amazing tune though. I think it's amazing on cribs, when they're going through the house and you hear the intro and you're like "wow that's awesome" and then you hear the vocals and it's totally different.
When I was in a band we covered that.
Great song. I actually saw a cover of Monster on YouTube the other day.
Oh really?
My God it was ridiculous. There was a girl singing it, in the middle, a big bassist with hair down to here, and the guitarist was just going mad on one of those rolly stages in a leisure centre. He was just like "AH!" running all over the place. Okay, that man needs help.

What was it like playing Reading and Leeds?
It was amazing.
You were quite high up the bill actually.
Yeah we were on about four, five a clock, something like that. Radio 1 stage, pretty cool.
Originally you were on Sunday at Reading but then...
Yeah we got swapped. Because someone pulled out and we were offered a slightly higher slot.
Should have kept Sunday, you were battling with the Muse fans.
I got to see Muse twice which was good. Actually I saw them at the CIA as well.
Yeah I think I saw your drummer there, I was there too.
At the CIA?
Ah awesome. Yeah their live show is amazing, that got it spot on. And they've got Terrorvision. Go to google and look into it, it's this amazing film against George Bush and all this conspiracy type stuff, it's really interesting.
Yeah and they've got the oil derricks going. When I saw them the second time they played a different set, they played the new album start to finish.
I love the opening track, such an overly epic build up. That's just Matt in every way. Bit of an extrovert.

Have you got any festivals in the pipeline for this year?
Erm, we're not doing many UK festivals. We're playing some in Europe. We figured we don't have a record coming out before the festivals, so if anything we'd be going in lower than we did last year. So we thought it's not going to be as much fun for us. I think we're going to do Germany and France and stuff like that. We'll be around for the festivals though. We played in a living room the other week.
A proper gig?
It was to about fifteen people, for Kerrang.

What happened at your GMTV gig?
It wasn't a gig...
Well. You played a song.
Don't call it a gig! They sat us down and played our song at us through speakers. So we broke them. We didn't really wanna mime, and this was complete mime. Sometimes on TOTP or Popworld you do mimed instruments but you still do live vocals, so at least you've got something to do. But they sat us there and played our track, on astro-turf, in a fake garden that was a car park a day later. And it's the first time we'd ever done something totally live, first time we had a chance to just fuck everything. Can you imagine, TOTP, you trash everything and they're like "no do it again." So we sort of took the piss a bit, and it got a bit silly because Frost was quite drunk and I'm easily encouraged. If he goes off then I go off, because that's the way we are.
Threatened with legal action weren't you?
We were threatened but nothing came through the post so it obviously wasn't that much of a threat. Frost managed to lasserate a cameraman's elbow with his guitar. So he was cut and annoyed and worried about his livelihood because obviously you need your arm and elbow and stuff to be a cameraman. But nothing came of it. But then GMTV said we were welcome back any time, so we told them to fuck off. Our management told us we were doing Entertainment Today, how was I supposed to know that's part of GMTV, I'm never awake before ten o clock. But we arrived and it was like, oh look it's that woman from GMTV.
Did you meet Lorraine Kelly?
No it was the other one who looks good on TV but you meet her in person and it's like a skeleton.
So you didn't see her growler?
No I didn't, if that's what she calls her co-host.

In Dundee you let the View headline this tour?
How did that go down, did they get a good response?
I think so yeah. We just played, so I went off to sweat and die and stuff. But yeah we said to the View, to celebrate getting number one and playing near your home, do you want to headline. We're not going to let them headline any other ones though.

You were back home the other week?
Yeah that was awesome, I was ill though. As I said I felt fucking horrible. But the crowd were great, it's the first time we've played in Cardiff and it's been good. Most of the time it's like "oh we've seen all this before," because we've been there three years. But your home-town gig should be the best, but in Cardiff people are usually bitter that you've done well and left.

What's this about a shrine to Mr Hasselhoff?
We used to have a shrine to David Hasselhoff, but I've taken it off the rider and haven't told anyone. We put it on a year ago as a joke and you get a feeble effort of like a sticker, and then it got more elaborate and consistent and the joke had worn off. And people think we're really into David Hasselhoff, so I've taken it off and haven't told the rest.
(Joe) Apparently he's got a shrine to you before he goes on stage in Germany.
I reckon he does, that'd make more sense.

You got to stand in on Zane Lowe's show.
Yeah that was really good. Although people didn't think we were very good apparently.
Fuck 'em.
Fuck 'em exactly. Well put it this way everyone voted us tenth best and they thought the guy from Snow Patrol was most interesting, so what does that tell you.

One last question.
Yes or no, do you like lemon meringue?
Well it's just like lemony, and air. You don't really get full on lemon meringue, but it tastes sweet.
What about banoffee pie?
Banoffee pie is a winner.
I've actually got this really chocolatey cheesecake from catering earlier, and it was a little bit and I managed to eat half of it. It was just like chocolate butter in breadcrumbs. Ridiculous, I couldn't eat it. Wo is me, couldn't eat all my cheese-cake.

Anything else you'd like to say to the wonderful people of the internet?
Go outside.

Interview By Thom And Joe.
 Band Members

Rob (Vocals/Bass)
Frost (Guitar/Vocals)
Iwan (Drums/Falsetto)
Paul (Guitar/Vocals)
 Latest Releases
The Automatic - Not Accepted Anywhere
Release Date - 19th June 2006
1. That's What She Said
2. Raoul
3. You Shout You Shout You Shout
4. Recover
5. Monster
6. Lost At Home
7. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
8. Seriously...I Hate You Guys
9. On The Campaign Trail
10. Team Drama
11. By My Side
12. Rats
 Band Related Links
The Automatic Myspace
The Automatic Official Site