“We’re Not Your Typical Victorians” – An Interview With The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
Having burst on the scene back in 2010, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have managed to quite successfully shake off any notions of them being a novelty band or a passing fad. In fact, the title track of their new album Not Your Typical Victorians sees them railing against stereotypes, both Victorian and otherwise, and has been well received by the press.
And so it was that Pure Rawk caught up with the band at their recent show at the Fulford Arms in York for a quick chinwag about stealing coats in Colchester, death metal riffs and, um, Babylon Zoo. Enjoy reader, this is a good ‘un…
Okay, I guess we have to start with the obvious question here – just where the hell did the idea for this band come from?
ANDY HEINTZ (Vocals): Him!
MARC BURROWS (Bass): Him!
(here, both of them point at guitarist Andrew O’Neill who is midway through a mouthful of food)
ANDREW O’NEILL (Guitar/Vocals): Well, I did a comedy show called Andrew O’Neill’s Totally Spot On History of British Industry which was about the past, present and future of British industry. And while I was touring that I was living with Andy, and we’re both a bit obsessed with the Victorian era and the whole aesthetic around it, and we became aware of steampunk as a sort of aesthetic movement and we both enjoyed it. And we thought “Well, there must be some music associated with that ‘cos it’s got punk in the title.” So we looked it up and there was, but it wasn’t anything we really liked.
So we decided we’d start writing some songs of our own. And the support for that tour was the two of us doing a couple of songs together. We actually did a terrible gig at Colchester Arts Centre…
AH: …where I stole that van driver’s coat by mistake…
AO: Then when we did the London show we recruited Marc on bass and my friend Ben on drums to fill things out. And after that we thought “well, we can’t really take it back to being a two piece now, this is way too good to be just guitar, vocals and musical saw now!” So we did a few more gigs and we got involved in the early steampunk scene…well, more we kind of rode the steampunk wave actually. People enjoyed it and it became something bigger than steampunk and, without wanting to sound like a dick about it, pretty much bigger than anything we’d ever thought it would be.
This is your first big tour outside of London, how’s it going so far?
MB: Good thanks. Well, it’s not really our first time outside of London, we’re doing two weeks of shows back to back but we’ve gigged all over the place.
AH: We’ve been to the States three times.
MB: Yeah, I mean this is actually the fourth time we’ve played York. What we normally do is go out and play Thursday, Friday and Saturday, this is the first time we’ve done it properly. We know that we can sell 150 tickets in Leicester on a Saturday, but it’s only now that we know we can sell enough on a Tuesday to make it worth a full tour!
The new album’s just come out, are you happy with the reception it’s got so far?
MB: Well, we always seem to have had pretty good reviews, albeit with the odd bad one here and there. But this is the first time when we haven’t had any bad reviews, they’ve all been good. The best thing is that it’s been received on the terms we’ve wanted it to be received as well. People have got it – there’s not been people saying “oh well they’re a novelty band or a comedy band”. They’ve acknowledged that there’s funny bits in it, but they’ve also picked up on the darkness and the anger and the musicality and all that sort of stuff. And that’s been really encouraging to know that people are really getting it this time.
It does seem that there’s definitely a much darker undercurrent with the lyrics than on the first two albums.
AH: Well, when we first started, because the band was conceived to support a comedy show, it was comedy songs to go with that. But as time’s gone on we’ve worked more on the themes, and the songs have become a lot more dark and twisted and political really.
AO: We’ve incorporated a lot more influences really. When we started we were just thinking “well, what should a steampunk band sound like?” And at the time it was musical, major key, singalong with the punk element. But now we’re writing with no preconceptions, we’re just writing songs we like and writing them as well as we can. So we’ve got heavier, because they’ve allowed me to write heavier riffs.
MB: Well, I think we’ve more just dragged Andrew’s riffs along with us really.
AO: Yeah, and partly the lyrics have got darker, but also the delivery of them has got a lot more straight.
MB: I think it’s also because Andy’s brain is very dark.
AO: Andy pretty much wrote all the lyrics on this album, which was the first time we’ve done that.
AH: Mostly because you lot were too busy! But that’s the thing, if people ask me what my musical influences are, then I’ll tell them that it isn’t really music, its films and books and comics and stuff.
AO: And when you look at the list of what those are, it all starts to make sense!
So what does influence you guys musically? You’ve always had a very diverse sort of sound – the new record verges from Kinks style ’60s rock to thrash metal in the space of two songs…
AO: Well, I like The Kinks and thrash metal so you’ve pretty much nailed it there! But that’s the thing, I mean you look at my phone and I’ve got the Stones sat next to black metal – we’ve all got very diverse taste in music in this band, but they’re all slightly different. With me it’s black metal and grindcore, with Marc it’s more mid-’90s pop music.
MB: Like Whigfield. Or Babylon Zoo.
AO: I think there’s a lot more metal in this album than previously, but then there’s also a fairly badly hidden Tom Waits influence in there! I was listening to loads and loads of Tom Waits because I’m fairly new to him compared to the others. So when we started writing The Gin Song, it just came out like that. The riff for Turned Out Nice Again is actually a Trypticon riff that was on my phone at the time. It’s all over the place really – most of the riffs on the album were my doing, so it’s a combination of death, doom and thrash metal really.
MB: What’s quite interesting is that Andrew wrote a lot of the riffs and Andy wrote a lot of the words but the arrangements are very much a band thing. And when you start adding in the elements of the things me and Jez (drums) listen to and the styles we play in, you start to get this sort of weird four way Venn diagram of overlapping things and in the middle of that is what the band sounds like.
So what’s on the horizon in 2016 for The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing?
MB: Well, we’ve got our first big American tour booked. We were supposed to go out there two years ago…
AO: But then someone selfishly went and got cancer…
AH: Sorry! (they all laugh) I did get better!
AO: We’re gonna be out there for three weeks, we’re actually playing a steampunk convention in Arizona in March which should be really good.
AH: We’re off to Norway in January for three dates as well which should be good.
MB: We’d like to do some new music next year but it depends if we manage to get the ideas and songs together. I don’t think it’ll be an album.
AO: I’d like to do a tour of all the cities and places we missed on this tour. We haven’t done any dates in Wales for example, and they’re moaning a bit now.
MB: As is their wont… we mean that in a nice way obviously!
AH: It’d be nice to put something out next year even if it’s just an EP. I’ve got masses of lyrics that need music putting to them. I sort of threw things off kilter a bit for the band last year, that’s why there’s been such a gap between The Gin Song single and this album (pause) I scared you all didn’t I? Sorry again!
With that, the four members of TMTWNBBFN burst into laughter again, and we wrap the interview up. Although they’ve definitely had some pretty serious obstacles to overcome, it’s good to see them back fighting fit and in good humour, ready to take on the world again as evidenced when they blast through their set at The Fulford Arms later in the night to a packed out room. This band have comfortably outgrown any notions of being a novelty band, and are continuing to get better all the time.
Words by Andy Close, live photos from Camden Underworld show by Sophie Garrett.