Interview: The Boxer Rebellion

By on Wednesday, 26th August 2009 at 12:00 pm

The Boxer Rebellion (side)Here at TGTF we LOVE Boxer Rebellion. Their new album, Union, is frankly amazing – see Jess’ review here. We were fortunate enough to have everything we’ve ever wondered about Boxer Rebellion answered by their drummer, Piers Hewitt.

Hello. What are you up to today?
I am recovering my football related drinking from the weekend by being put through some seriously hard paces at the gym, and in turn flopping out on the sofa with the doors open. I can’t envisage much will be achieved today in all honesty.

Have your lives changed much since the pretty darn epic success you had earlier on in the year?
Yes, I suppose they have. We have been able to have the relative security of giving up jobs in order to commit to doing this full time again. That’s an important step in terms of everybody being relaxed and getting on with what we’re supposed to be doing, which is making music. It’s been a relief to get back out on the road too, and to tour places, knowing you will be back there soon. Touring is what I enjoy the most, so for me, it has changed my band experience for sure.

You decided to initially release ‘Union’ via iTunes alone. Some people say downloads have ruined the music industry. What are your views on downloading?
You are talking to the only guy in the band that still buys cds…but, I think downloads have changed the industry definitely. I don’t think it’s ruined it. It has become more accessible for bands to have their music available, and the old label model of doing things has certainly changed incredibly, to the extent that labels are still scrabbling around trying to find the best way of doing things. As for me, I hate the “pick and choose” culture of downloading. Albums are, or at least should, be made as bodies of work. To be able to choose a track from here and 2 tracks from there kind of takes away from what some artists are trying to do a little, which is a shame. As is the dying act of going to a record shop and shopping around. Obviously it’s easier to do it online but it’s not the same. It’s a shame that so many record stores are dying out, but you have to take the rough with the smooth I suppose.

I hear that you are going to be featuring in a big-name movie with Drew Barrymore? Can you tell us anymore?

I can tell you that thankfully, none of us are speaking in it, and that it’s out in May, and that Drew Barrymore has a firmer handshake than I had anticipated, but other than that, probably not I’m afraid!

What is your favourite track on ‘Union’ and why? (I personally love ‘Soviets’ – it’s a real tear-jerker!)
Obviously, I don’t listen to it an awful lot, given the amount of times I’ve heard it, but if I really had to choose one…say, if we could only keep one song off that record for the rest of time, and the others would have to go, then I would probably say Flashing Red Light Means Go. It offers a few sides of what we do. It’s pretty epic, and when we get epic, particularly when we play live, they invariably are my absolutely favourite moments. It’s also very delicate in places and dynamically shifts around a fair amount. It also has loads of drums on it, but then I’m biased a bit there.

You’ve obviously been getting a lot of interest from labels since the success of the iTunes release of ‘Union’. Are you considering signing to a major record label or are you enjoying your current independence?
We have been considering signing to major since about 3 days after it came out. We have met with various people, been flown to places, drunk unneccesarily expensive wine on major label’s accounts, all that rubbish…but I think we have come to the conclusion that, touching on what I said earlier about major labels, if we can work out a successful way of doing things without one, then I think in the long run, it will bear more fruit in all sorts of ways. We have been on a major before. It stifled us, and we can’t afford to be stifled this time around. We made such a good record with Union because we had very little pressure at all. I want the 3rd one to have same amount of freedom. Hopefully steering clear of majors will help us do that.

What are the your future plans after the tour and album release with HMV later this year?
Well, we are licensing the record all over the world so there is a lot of hard work to come with trying to service those areas. Doing this independently makes it more of a struggle, but with struggle comes reward. We are planning a tour of Australia and hopefully Japan 2 days after Christmas, and sandwiched between the UK tour and Christmas will be a tour of Europe and then a more extensive run in the States I should think, all the while trying to get some more writing going for this third album. I’m not convinced my season ticket down at Southend will get used an awful lot this season…

How did the deal with HMV come about? Did you guys approach them or was it the other way around?
Rather simply, they got in touch with us to ask if we could send them on some copies to put in their shops because heaps of people kept on coming in and asking for it. We are going it alone, and at the time had only pressed up 1,000 limited edition copies, which we were selling on tour. We paid for the cds out of our own pockets – that’s how independent it all is – we certainly weren’t in a position to make anymore as that run of 1,000 had then gone. So they made a proposal to put it out themselves, and pay for everything else along the way…much like a label does, but without signing our rights away to anybody. I think the agreement suits everybody involved, and it is quite groundbreaking. It’s just another way that the industry is having to react to the change in music sales. This is the first time HMV have done it. They’re thinking outside the box, but they’re about the only retailer that is making a profit right now, so they’re obviously doing something right.

On the subject of songwriting – how does it start for you? Lyrical concept? A riff?
On the whole, Nathan will bring the bones of something in – normally basic chord structure and maybe a full melody. We don’t regularly start with a riff. You have to get lucky I think if a song is based on a riff or something, as the song has to retain interest from start to finish. 7 Nation Army is a good example of a song that I am sure was written entirely around a riff, but they make that interesting. We have one or two songs like that (Watermelon for example), but on the whole, they start with chords and then we all individually bring what we can to the table. Lyrics generally come last. We’re like the anti-Sting.

Before going on stage, do you have any rituals?
We do have a long standing ritual that would be both difficult and innappropriate to explain here. Hang around back stage one time before we go on. Maybe you’ll be lucky/unlucky enough to experience it. Don’t worry, we keep our clothes on.

What would be a cool location you’d like to do a gig at?
No-one’s ever asked me that before. I guess my personal preference would be to play Southend’s home ground, obviously for selfish reasons (I kind of just want to see inside the dressing rooms), but something tells me the boys wouldn’t be up for that one. Other than that I’d go for Red Rocks in the States. That always looks pretty cool. Or the steps of Sydney Opera House on New Year’s Eve. We’re working on that one.

Finally, what music and books are you guys really enjoying at the moment?
I can’t really speak for the other guys, as they’re not with me right now. Besides, we all like different stuff when it comes to both those things most of the time. Musically, I’m liking Friendly Fires (I was sold when seeing them for the first time this year), Grizzly Bear, the new Engineers album, and also (and I’m aware that I am on my own on this one in terms of the other boys) I can’t stop listening to Wilco at the moment. The new album is just genius. I haven’t seen them before. I was very much looking forward to seeing them next week but now we have to do some more filming for the Drew Barrymore movie and I have to miss it, so I’m not too happy about that one. I’ll be sure to tell her what I think about it. As for books, I will also get shot down for this one, but I really don’t care. I don’t read too many novels. I am a fact-over-fiction type guy, so I am actually reading rather a niche book. It’s called Penguins Stopped Play and it’s about a team of amateur cricketers travelling the world playing cricket (such amateurs include Hugh Grant and Ian Hislop). It’s probably as boring as it sounds to some people, but it’s had me crying with laughter and I’m only 50 pages in. If that’s not your cup of tea, then ask me in a month. We’ll be on tour by then, and books are an important tool for keeping that boredom at bay.

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