Hope Of The States are one of the most seminal bands of Britain's new Indie-rock movement. Their recent success has seen them take festival crowds by storm and American audiences are fast picking up on the deserved hype currently surrounding Chichester's finest act. We caught up with them on their recent U.K tour at Portsmouth's Wedgewood Rooms.
SS: You're recently back from an American tour, how did it all go?
Simon: Yeah it's been going really well so far. It was hard work. Some nights you'd be playing to twelve people in the sort of clich» of English bands touring America. Other nights÷ we did New York's Webster Hall to 1500 people on our second visit there, which is amazing.
Mike: It was all really supportive. Even small gigs, everyone seemed really into it. We had lots of people talking to us afterwards about it. Saying they were really blown away by our gigs and stuff.
SS: Cool. Do you see America as a big part of the band's future or do you just see it as a place to go because it's money and÷.
Simon: I don't think we're ever going to make too much money 'cause we've spent too much money as it is, you know? We loose money on every record we sell, because of our packaging (Laugh), which doesn't bother us. So, not for any money reasons. I can't ever see us being Coldplay. But I've got a bit of a fascination with America anyway.
Mike: As long as we can keep going out there and playing, it's a good thing.
SS: Would you say you've been influenced by Chichester? Because it's quite a small and quiet place but your sound is quite epic, is that a fight against that background?
Simon: No not at all. It's not a very exciting place. I don't particularly like it. But it wasn't necessarily a kicking against the place, more of maybe just the people of Chichester÷ who don't like us anyway. We're hated in Chichester. (Laughter)
SS: Why did you decide to open the debut album with an instrumental track,which might go against what people would be expecting form what they've heard already?
Simon: At the end of the day it wasn't for any particular reason, you know? When we started we mainly just did instrumentals. I don't think every song has to have words if you can convey as much emotional impact, that song is equally as emotional as Black Dollar Bills or something but it doesn't have any lyrics. We could've stuck it in the middle, we could've put it anywhere but it was such an opening track.
Mike: Yeah it just sets the tone for the whole album.
SS: Do you reckon the debut album totally sums up the sound of hope of states or is it merely the beginning?
Simon: It summed us up at that point, you know? We aren't even the same band now. We went into the studio to do that pretty early on, we hadn't really played many gigs until we started doing these two big tours we've just done, we'd maybe played about fifty gigs in whole÷ so you learn more about the people in the band, you learn more musically where you can take it and at that point that was the best we could do it and that was us at that point.
SS: You've got an instantly recognisable sound and all the tracks on the album link together sonically very effectively, would you say that all the songs link together in a overall meaning or does that just change form song to song?
Simon: I think there's always been a certain theme to the songs and certain themes running through them, you know? There's a sort of anti-nationalism theme to them, there's also loads of things about Sam's girlfriend in there and loads of things about what the world is to us as people today. Lyrically that combines all the songs. Musically, I think we spent quite a while getting the track listing right. We spent days sat there÷ I had them on my mini disk player so I could swap the order of the tracks. The ordering of the songs made a lot of difference to the feel of the record.
SS: Cool. Is there a reason you stopped wearing the military jackets that you used to wear in the early shows?
Simon: Yeah, I kept almost passing out during gigs which isn't very healthy!
SS: Were they a bit hot?
Simon: Yeah there like military tunics, you know, they were like woollen things, really thick parade jackets. It wasn't just that, you would get really nervous before gigs even though it was only to ten people in a pub in Camden or something. It was some kind of uniform that vaguely empowered you. There was something reassuring at the time. We wanted people to watch the videos and not particularly watch us play and so it was a way of us all just looking the same and drawing the focus back to the films. It just got to a point you know, we're playing better, we're much more confident at what we do, and we didn't want to get stuck wearing them forever as well. It was time to retire.
SS: So what are the band's plans for 2005?
Mike: Just start recording at some point when we get time off you know? And back to America and that's about as far as we can see so far.
SS: Are you going to do any festivals?
Simon: Yeah I think we will do the festival season again you know, get the second record out at some point. Hopefully they've left a big gap in the schedule as to "you've got to make a record, you've got seven months here" or something. It took us seven months last time, hopefully it won't take that long again, but we'll see.
SS: How would you describe the sound of hope of the states to someone who's never heard you?
Mike: We all say different things. Ant always says it's very 'cinematic', and I think that's quite a good description in a way÷
Simon: Bit like the end of the world. And epic maybe.
Writer: Claire Beeson & William Brant