Cay Interview

"Ha ha, just read the last line of the review" grins Cay drummer Mark at the end of the interview. The review in question is my review of the Cay single Better Than Myself from issue 8. Letís say that I wasnít convinced by Sean Orgís claims that Cay are the best band in the world. But the review ended with the words "I bet in six months time Iíll be raving about these, and have egg on my face as I beg to get an interview." Well, it wasnít quite six months. But an interviews just happened. Shortly youíll be able to read it, and judge for yourself. But what happened was this. I received a call and got talking. It turns out the guy on the phone was also PR for Cay. So, I enquired about the chances of an interview on the 3CR tour. And it got sorted. After pointing out the slagging that I gave them. And as I put the phone down, I suddenly thought "Dave, why did you just do that? Why did you ask for an interview? Iím still not utterly convinced by this band." And I thought about this for a few minutes. Then I realised how obvious it was. You see, Cay, for me, came out of nowhere. And suddenly they were being lauded by everyone and his uncle. Even cousin Bert was joining in. And I didnít understand. It was like "but I donít like them that much, so how can they justify the press". You should treat that statement with the contempt it deserves. But it was the catalyst to the interview. I knew the angle I wanted (shit, that sounded journalistic). What is it that gets a band noticed. What do they have to do? Is there some secret. And just why is there a 5 minute rhythm section driven instrumental piece stuck on the end of one of their songs?

 

So, I enter Rock City in search of the answers. The band meanwhile, are still down the pub. A sensible choice really. The interview takes place in what must be the narrowest room known to man. Sofaís line the wall, and thereís barely a foot of legspace to the other wall. So basically, Iím at one end of the couple of sofaís. Mark is sat on the table, at the other end of the room is bassist Tom, then thereís vocalist Anet and finally, sat next to me is guitarist Nick. The tape machine is placed halfway. So I hope itís picked everything up. Guess weíll soon find out huh?

 

It seems the band hasnít been round long, the only stuff I know is what Sean at Organ has put out. So it appears youíve come out of nowhere, so do you want to do the boringly brief history of the band?

 

"Nick and Anet had been looking for members for the band for quite a while" starts the bassist "Iíd been in a few bands before that, and had just finished with one 6 months before. Mark was in a band in Belfast. Then I saw the advert in Melody Maker, phoned up, did one rehersal, and the same with Mark about 2 months later. 3 months later we did our first gig at the Red Eye on January 9th where we met our manager Carol (I think, may be Carl?). Then we got a single out in the early summer on Org which got some airplay on Xfm, gigging all the time." "He said brief Tom" chides Nick. "I canít remember it all" he retorts. "Just up to the Org single" Anet tells him.

 

Do you think thereís any reason why you were able to get a buzz going so quickly? Any tips that you could pass on.

 

"Well it was a surprise to us" claims Nick, "the band came together after quite a while of searching for the other half. So when it did we really worked hard on it and kept our eyes pinned on what we wanted to do because it felt natural anyway. So the most difficult part was dealt with by finding each other. The rest of it was just pure gigging and rehersal and good songs and not restricting each other, but letting each other do what we wanted to do. And when that came to a point which wasnít quite perfect, we kind of went like this to each other Ďletís do a gig, letís do a gigí. And from the first gig it was really good. We thought the first one would be like testing the water, but it worked out better than we thought." Why? "I think the energy was right" reckons Mark. "The energy was right" agrees Anet, "but I think there is a bit of luck involved. Number 1 I think is to work as hard as you fucking can, itís like no lazing about, just work really hard, and then having a good manager helps. If thereís anything in this that is a tip, itís to get a good manager because it means that you can concentrate on the music mainly and still help round a bit. But having a good manager is important. And then getting the right musicians as well, and youíve got to want it" she concludes. The drummer agrees. "So many bands itís just like me and Tom were both working, and we had the choice of going to work or go on to do this. And so many bands choose work. Now I know youíve got to pay your bills and stuff, but Iím amazed at how many bands just donít do it." "Find a way" opines Anet to the issue of work and bill payment. "We were trying to find ways of earning a bit of money and fitting in rehersals like crazy. Mark would be up at 6 in the morning and weíd be doing a headline gig at 11 in the evening" continues the bassist. "Also donít expect a great deal, donít expect to be handed a deal. Just get on with it because you can still get records put out without one. I think that kind of thinking of Ďoh we need a dealí will actually stop some bands from getting successful. Just get on with what you want to do musically and get out there and get a crowd going, and put out records. The rest will follow."

I was also going to ask if you thought doing the Org single, where itís limit to 1000 copies was a benefit to the band.

"A massive benefit" is the general consensus of the entire band. "People like Sean at Org are few and far between, and that single did a hell of a lot for us" says Nick "it got us on to the radio as well."

Some people may look though and say "itís only a 1000 copies".

 

"Yeah, but thatís all heís going to put out, so youíve got the choice of either doing 1000 or doing nothing" states the vocalist. "To our amazement a fan wave an Org cd at us the other night, and we havenít even got a copy" says a surprised Tom. "Theyíre all gone" starts Anet, "but thatís luck you see, a bit like Xfm picked up on, Sean heard it on there, and that station doesnít exist any more, we just caught the last 3 weeks of it, so our single got played a lot. And now itís really difficult because thereís not many radion stations out there, at least not in London, where you can get underground music played. So weíve been quite lucky".

 

Indeed, copies are rumoured to be changing hands for over £40 quid a time. I think itís a great concept and series, a single per month, limited to 1000 copies. Something deemed as being so small actually can make a difference, and at the moment, Cay are living proof of that. Itís another example where sheer volume of sales doesnít necessarily equate to quality. 1000 can mean as much or more than 1 million.

Talk turns to the "London scene" which is reputed to be fairly healthy at the moment. I donít know, because I donít live there. But Mark points out the Scotland is the same, and of course I throw in that Newport has been lauded as well. But thereís still that problem of getting recognised if youíre outside of these scenes. "If a bands got it happening, then the A&R will happen" reckons Nick, "I mean Iíve seen them travel all across the country". I guess the man knows more than me, or maybe Iím just a pessimist, because I remain unconvinced. "I think also that if you really believe in your band, and youíll do anything for it, like if I lived in say Stockport or something and I heard that London is the place to be with your band, Iíd actually move down to London because I really really want it. I wouldnít say Ďoh for fucks sake these A&Rís not coming to Stockport, what am I going to do?í Well move down there and try and get it there because you canít wait for it to come to you."

Maybe that is the reality of the situation, but to me it still doesnít make it right. Iíll stick with being naieve at the moment, as from what I can see going on here in Nottingham where Iím currently living, or over in Derby, or across the midlands in Birmingham, thereís more than enough reasons for A&R to shift their arse. Besides which, why should the rest of the country be cheated of having local bands. It all becomes lopsided if you shovel everything down to London. Ultimately you need local scenes to eventually encourage national tours by both UK and international bands.

Youíre getting a lot of comparisons "to Hole yeah" complete the band wearily for me. All except Nick who is busy playing with some bubble wrap. Well, theyíre a band Iíve never bothered listening to, along with Sonic Youth who theyíve also been compared with, but do you think the comparison is a hindrance.

 

"No itís alright" reckons an unconvincing Anet. "You always get it donít you. Iíve said it before, itís some of our songs and not all of them, but some of them probably sound quite Nirvanaish and Hole sound like that as well, and because Iím a girl itís an easy comparison to make. Itís lazy journalism, cos thereís a lot of holes in it."

Would you agree then with the Janes Addiction comparison?

"I havenít listened to them much, maybe Mark or Tom could say". They canít, and to be honest, itís something that I really canít hear in the music. But hey, more knowledgable people than myself have said it, so it must be true! "Weíve also been compared to some of Syd Barretís stuff" reckons Nick. Something again I wouldnít really know about.

Anet then goes on to ask what sort of music I listen to and cover in the zine. A list of names are reeled off, and thatís not them covering their ears in anguish in the picture. But the name Monkey Boy illicites a response. "Mmm Monkey Boy, whey" everyone goes. "Theyíre great" says Tom, "theyíre mates of mine" is Anetís response. The Monks have the Cay seal of approval.

One song I wanted to ask about, is Seven Schizos Sat on a Beach. The middle section I found hard to deal with. Up until then the EP had been 2 1/2 minute songs, speeding by, and on this thereís a similar pattern, followed by almost 5 minutes of basically instrumental noodling, which struck me as being a bit arty for arts sake.

 

"Marks responsible for a lot of that" Nick apportions blame. If of course blame is the right word, it all depends on your point of view with respect to the song. "The initial song I wrote quite a few years back now, and it was a 3 minute straightforward sort of punky grungy kind of song" says Anet, "and then there was a little bit of noise with the breaks was in there already. And then when Mark came to join the band he just went Ďwell how about if I just do thisí and does this great big drum solo" she laughs. "No, he said why donít we just do some stuff. Iíll do some things on the drums and you just do some stuff on guitar for a bit. And then Nick and I were like Ďoh fuck, whatíre we going to do on the guitar, well ok, right, weíll just do somethingí. So we ended up doing atmospheres and everything, and Mark just " she giggles again, "kept on drumming for like 4 or 5 minutes. Itís just really nice, we all really like it, because we can all just going into freefall and just do whatever the fuck we want." "Thereís no set formula" adds Tom.

To me it just sounds like a rhythm section solo or instrumental.

 

"But itís good. What I like about it is that Mark doesnít just do straightforward 4/4 punk rock beats, thereís more to it and I think that itís really interesting" say Anet. "But that session when we recorded it, I was really fucked up, been out all night, had 10 cups of coffee and played that song straight off. We didnít know what we were going to play in that section, and we just played on and by the end of the end of it, we listen to the CD nowadays and itís like Ďwhat?í claims the bassist. The drummer that stands accused now puts in his defence. "Thatís purely live". "And itís one of the most interesting things for us, because if you just play punk rock songs, then itís going to get boring for us" adds the singer.

Where does the line get drawn before self indulgence. I personally hate drums solos, bass solos, anything like that.

"Iím not into them myself" states Anet while Nick reckons that "Itís listening out for each other." Mark adds more "itís having fun. Ok, weíre playing these punk songs, and now weíre going to play for us." "Itís also for the audience, because they love it" adds Anet "itís just part of the song, just a bit different. Weíre like that anyway, whatever comes out musically. Weíve got a song like Princes and Princesses which is a straightforward punk song, and then weíve got Skool which is really really slow, atmospheric. On the actual album weíve just recorded itís got viola on it, and we wanted to do pianos as well. And then weíve got a song like Dragonfly which is almost jazzy with really soft guitars. And I think thatís what weíre about musically. Whatever comes out we will do and it will fit into Cay. And Iím really glad itís like that." "And also it means that when we go back to playing a hard dynamic track it affects us differently because weív just brought it back down, so if you bring the dynamics right down, it hits you in a different way. Because if you just keep on pounding it just gets one dimensional" the bassist gets all musoy on me.

So how important is commercial success to the band?

"It just comes with whatever" drawls Nick, "itís not important to us from the onset. We do what we do and some songs turn out a bit more radio friendly than others." "But itís all natural, nothingís contrived, if we get commercial success - great, if we donít then we donít. We would certainly not start changing ourselves" reckons Anet. Mark has his say, "Weíre not twisted enough to deliberately rebel against it".

The band, as I said, are supporting 3 Colours Red, who it sounds are now undertaking the soundcheck, and Anet is receiving phone calls on the mobile, so I guess itís time to bring things to a close. Just time to ask about the tour. To me at least, it seems a strange combination, maybe straining at crossing audiences which are deemed closer than they actually are. But how do the band feel itís going.

"Itís an excellent tour" is Tomsí opinion. "Itís a great opportunity for us, and weíre different bands." "But weíre still in the same league" adds Anet before Tom continues. "When we rock you can see them enjoy it and I think for us to have that opportunity to play to as many people, I think itís a brilliant opportunity. And to be honest with you, I donít think we couldíve been matched better in a way." "Itís still only been a year for us and to come on tour with a band as solid as this, very professional and nice guys, itís a great opportunity." "I know what youíre saying though" adds Anet, "if we were on a tour with say Sonic Youth weíd probably pull 200 fans in one night instead of maybe 50."

 

And with the band getting ready to rock at Rock City?!?, itís time to take my leave. Of course, the album is now out. Personally Iím still unconvinced, but thatís just me. But maybe thereís a hint in the Cay story that bands can push their way through the shit. Yeah, some cynics might say that Cay play a style of music that currently appeals, straddling the indie and rock crowds, but hey, you canít be a cynic all the time. Can you?