Butcher the Bar BritEvents Interviews FEATURE
BritEvents' Lucy Middleton catches up with Joel Nicholson of Butcher the Bar to ask him more about his style of music, his influences, and what's in store this year for his fans.
By Lucy Middleton
Following a successful tour supporting indie rock giants Death Cab for Cutie, BritEvents Lucy Middleton catches up with Joel Nicholson, aka Butcher the Bar.
With soft, skilled and soulful vocals driven by heartfelt and memorable rock/folk fused melodies that are perfectly executed live, Butcher the Bar are definitely a name to watch for the future.
Lucy talks with Joel about what it was like to tour with Death Cab, what inspires him to make new music and what his plans are for 2012.
How would you describe your music in 5 words?
Soft, rock, folk, pop music.
What was it like touring with Death Cab for Cutie?
It was great and gave us a chance to play in front of more people in one gig than we did for the whole of our own tour. We're all big fans of theirs so it was nice to do that.
It was also really good to be able to perform in England as well because we never usually play in England so it was brilliant, a lot of fun.
And what's your favourite Death Cab song?
Definitely Title and Registration off their Transatlanticism album, they dedicated that song to us when we played the Birmingham gig and you have no idea how much that meant to us.
I also really like Death of an Interior Decorator and Brothers on a Hotel Bed.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
Lyrically Ben Gibbard is, of course, a big influence. Musically, I don't tend to listen to the same music as I play, I always tend to listen to bands like Idlewild and the first bands I really got into was Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins so they had a huge impact on me as a musician.
I think the main bands you first get into have the biggest influence on you and direct you in the way you want to go, not always in your music but in your attitude too.
What was the first album you bought and the most recent?
First album I bought was Moseley Shoals by Ocean Colour Scene, I went halves on it with my brother when we were in Whitby and the last album I bought was Kurt Vile's Smoke Ring for My Halo, it's really good like Iggy Pop but acoustic.
Why did you choose the stage name Butcher the Bar?
It's from a pub we used to drink in all the time called The Butcher, it was the same time I started this project and I didn't want to have just my name because I wanted it to be a band. I'm not entirely keen on it any more but it's too late now.
So if you originally wanted it to be a band, how come you've mostly done it on your own?
I think now it's a band. I did do a lot on my own because it's not easy putting together a band but at the time when I put a name to the music I really didn't expect to get signed or be putting out any records so in terms of that, it made sense to write things on my own initially so I could keep the identity that Morr Music likes.
I'm admittedly not very good at writing with other people, but now I've got other people involved and we work well together and they're really good musicians.
Was it hard to go through the writing process on your own without anyone else to bounce ideas off of or did it suit you better?
It sort of suits me, the second record I took a lot of demos to Barney in London who I recorded with and he produced it, so we did change a few things and he was the person to bounce things off and he had lots of ideas for it as well as playing the keys and brass.
I do tend to find it easier to write on my own, when I was in bands before I found it tricky because I'm not really good at jamming, I don't know how people can do that. It is more fun playing live with a band though, like the set up I've got now.
What have you got in store for BtB fans this year?
We are going to start recording a new album this summer and we've got a few gigs and a mini tour planned in spring. In February we're doing this gig in Manchester for HMV's Next Big Thing, but apart from that the main priority is to make a new album.
We've got some good ideas for the new album and the last one took a year to record but I've pretty much got the writing for 15 songs or so sorted. We should be able to start recording in June ready for an album release early next year.
What inspires you most to write new music?
Just the need to write new music, it's a driving force for me. I'm always playing around with new song ideas and I tend to write words around melodies.
Every now and again something meaningful or even random will happen to you that you'll write about. I try to avoid writing about obvious things, it's hard to avoid that without going for obscure lyrics but I think whatever you're writing about has always got to be applicable to yourself otherwise it won't interest you.
It's nice to comment on what's going on around you and your life and things that you feel strongly about.
What's been one of your favourite gigs you've played and why?
My favourite gig was either the gig in Birmingham or in Cologne, both of which were when we supported Death Cab. The one in Cologne was our first big gig and there were about two and a half thousand people there and the response from the audience was amazing, we were really well received.
We were nervous and didn't know what to expect so to get that reception was a relief and it was so enjoyable and encouraging.
The gig in Birmingham was great too because I think it was the best we've ever played and we were really happy with how the sound was set up so the weird little parts of our music weren't lost, everything went really well there.
If you could jam with one musician, dead or living, who would it be?
One of my favourite songwriters is Paul Westerberg from The Replacements and maybe Alex Chilton from Big Star although I heard he was a bit of a nightmare. And Price, I love his music and just to be in the same room as him would be amazing.
You've been compared to Elliott Smith in the past, how do you feel about that?
I don't mind it really, I really liked his music but I think the comparison is quite lazy and I also think it's because of the way I've recorded things, I don't think musically we're very similar.
Our drummer Andrew really thinks that we sound very similar but I don't see it. I genuinely don't think it's anything more than the double track vocals and the delivery, for one thing his music is much darker. I don't mind it because he is a brilliant musician and it is flattering but I would like to get away from that.
I also get compared to Badly Drawn Boy just because I'm living in the Manchester area but it's kind of annoying to get pidgeon-holed. I do understand why people do it because if someone hasn't heard my stuff and I'm compared to bands they like they might give me a listen, so it is a handy tool but I find it slightly frustrating sometimes.
You can listen to Butcher the Bar's latest album in full by clicking For Each A Future Tethered on soundcloud and keep up to date with band news and gig plans by 'liking' the official Butcher the Bar Facebook page.
We'd like to thank Joel for his time, and wish him a successful 2012.