Q&A: Does It Offend You, Yeah?

Does It Offend You, Yeah?: Don't Say We Didn't Warn YouDoes It Offend You, Yeah?: Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You (The End / Cooking Vinyl, 3/15/11)

Does It Offend You, Yeah?: “We Are The Dead”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/We-Are-The-Dead.mp3|titles=Does It Offend You, Yeah?: “We Are The Dead”]

Following its debut in 2008, Does It Offend You, Yeah? challenged Virgin Records’ ideas for its music, and the frustration caused by demanding executives and mainstream models is evident in the band’s outspoken nature today. Although it took nearly three years to release its second album, the five-piece outfit from Reading, England has ditched its major-label constraints, disregarded boundaries, and comfortably created a musical adventure titled Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You.

The album fuses psychedelic acoustic interludes, electro-pop attacks, dirty-grime raps, and one synth-free ballad into a single collection. One of the band’s founders, synth player Dan Coop, recently took some time while touring the States to answer our questions.

First and foremost, your animosity towards the mass-music media, major record labels, genre tags, etc. is justifiable. But if you believe that mainstream musicians have simply found an obvious “formula,” can you explain how your approach to music is different?

Well, I think we just write tunes that we like and run with them. We’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with the first record. We were getting a lot of pressure from our ex-major label to do stuff we weren’t comfortable with, so in that way, we see it as a quite naïve and pretty disjointed album.  At one end, you’ve got ’80s synth pop, and then at the other, you’ve got produced dance-floor tracks. Luckily, I think it kind of worked out, as we’ve got fans coming at us from lots of different “scenes” so to speak, be it the metal scene who liked “Heavy Heart” and “Let’s Make Out,” the electro crowd who liked “Rockstars” and “Weird Science,” or the indie kids who liked “Dawn of The Dead.”

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it really pains us to be just dumped in a pigeonhole. The UK press really tried to put us into the whole “new rave” debacle, which was pretty funny as there really was no such thing as new rave until some journo thought of it, and, of course, since we use a synth in our songs, it was automatically assumed we were part of it. The only thing we want to do with our band is play sold-out shows and write songs we would like to hear on the radio. Scenes are fine if you want stereotypes; we just want to do our own thing.

A lot has changed between your debut and this second album: shedding some members, replacing them with new faces, and ultimately dropping your record label. How has working with smaller labels like The End and Cooking Vinyl affected the group and benefited the upcoming release?

As I was saying before, on the last record, we were really pressured into doing stuff we didn’t want to do, and then when this record was being written and recorded, the label monster reared its ugly head and tried to tell us what kind of music we should be writing, what mixes we should be using, and all that bullshit. It’s really beggar’s belief sometimes! You get a label signing a band for three instrumental dance bangers, and then all of a sudden you’re pressured into writing landfill indie tracks.

We basically just dragged our heels so much over the course of three years that they basically just had to give up on us and give us our record back so we could put out the version we wanted to put out and not something they thought would be a bit more commercially viable. So with this new record, you’ve got our vision and not some dude sat in a skyscraper in New York shitting himself if we don’t have a middle-of-the-road rock song that will get a rotation on KROQ.

In terms of new faces, we have Mattie [Derham] on guitar and Chloe [Duveaux] on bass. The whole dynamic of the band has changed; the live sound has become a lot heavier and quite a bit darker than before! Plus we all get on, and Mattie is a bit of a joker, so he’s always making us laugh.

This sophomore album is a collection of months of self-recorded bits here and there, while being on tour as well. What were the challenges of welding everything together to create the cohesive finished product and, more importantly, what were you aiming to achieve with it?

Well, I’ve already done my rant about major labels, but otherwise, it’s mainly trying to get stuff to sound “right.” I think “The Monkeys Are Coming” got mixed about eight times, and James was literally freaking out about it because it was just never what it sounded like in his head. Our main goal this time was to define our own sound. Because the last record had this disjointed mixtape vibe, we wanted to see if we could get a bit more cohesion, i.e. get a dance-floor track like “The Wrestler” to fit with a metal tune like “John Hurt” and make it sound like it was the same band fucking around in the studio that day.

As for what we want to achieve? Erm, I guess it’s good enough if we can keep ourselves on tour playing to people, but also making enough to take a holiday once in a while to spend with our families, as we are on the road pretty much 90% of the year.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You is a synthetically violent yet unexpectedly adventurous album. How are you guys still developing your sound, or do you consider it established now? Do you write music with the intent of performing it to dance-ready ragers, or are you more focused on producing an album for an array of listeners?

Well, let’s see where this album takes us. We’ve got a dubstep-remix version of this album in the works, but that’s more of a fleeting thing for us I think — something to stretch our musical toes with.

I think [the] question of whether the track is good or not is more of an indicator of if it will get on the album. For instance, we’ve got a track called “Broken Arms” on the album that is a ballad! In fact, that was the first song that was written when we started on the album.

Focusing a little more on the new album, which films of John Hurt’s inspired the song on Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You, and what happened to your failed attempt to feature him on this new track?

Well, we’re massive fans of Alien, so that was really a no-brainer for us when we wanted a voice-over. We did have a window of time to do it, but an ex-manager of ours sat on his arse and didn’t sort out the stuff that managers are supposed to do, and we missed out, unfortunately.

The new album involves a lot of movie references, and you have been featured in various films. If you were to be in a movie, which would it be, what character would you play, and why?

Fuck, I would love to be in Aliens, although I would be scared shit-less. At least it’ll be a good way to die, having an eight-foot exoskeleton caving your skull in. Unless I could be the alien and chase around Sigourney Weaver in her panties.

You guys worked with rap-battler Trip on “Wondering.” How did that collaboration come about? Who are some prospective musicians that you would like to work with in the future?

Well, Trip was a resident MC at a club that me and James had dealings with. He is amazing at free-styling and can just rhyme about things you pull out of your pocket. Although now I think he is more content with writing screenplays. I’ve read one, and it was fucking great.

For “Yeah!” you guys had fans send in recordings of them personally shouting the phrase. How else do you hope to get fans involved with your music?

Well, “Yeah!” was a hard one, as we had all these recordings from fans, and then we taped them, chopped them up, then taped the band playing bits and pieces, chopped them up, and then spent many tireless hours splicing it all back together in front of the tape machine in some sort of order ’til we got a big beautiful mess of a song. As for fan interaction, I think we’re pretty open and approachable. We’ve got a band E-mail address, and we have wrestled control of all of our social-networking sites, so it really is us posting stuff up and not some guy at a PR agency.

You guys are now playing huge arena tours. Is there any difference between playing direct support for bands like Linkin Park versus headlining your own tours?

Well, obviously, the vast majority of people there are going to see Linkin Park and not some weird alt band from the UK. But it’s just a war with numbers. We don’t alter our sound or stage show to cater to the LP fans, and I think that the vast majority of them have got at where we are coming from and have enjoyed our performance, even if they aren’t tearing the roof down, like at one of our own headliner shows.. We’ve supported massive bands before, like Nine Inch Nails and The Prodigy, but it’s scary on this tour how nice the band, crew, and fans have been to us, which is great.

What does the future look like? I know you guys are headlining an album-release tour in the upcoming months. Are you writing any more material or just cruising on this new release for a bit?

Well, hopefully, this dubstep-remix album will get finished, and then we can look to album three. I think now we’re in full control of our destiny; hopefully, it won’t be another three years ’til we put it out!

[Have you pledged yet? Don’t forget to visit the Kickstarter page for Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color and Music, our next book that profiles independent musicians and artists who explore color in unorthodox ways.]

1 thought on “Q&A: Does It Offend You, Yeah?”

Leave a Comment