The boys from Wales are back with a new album and more determined than ever to give us a taste of some “unadulterated rock”.
The band, originally called White Rabbit, changed their name to The Automatic in 2005. As Rob puts it: “We changed the name because it just didn’t reflect the type of music we were making. It was also a fresh start for us. We’d got a record deal and were not the school band that we’d started as.”
Did Rob know, 13 years ago, when the original formations of the band were taking place, that things would end up as they are today? “I suppose I’d always dreamed that we’d be successful. To be honest, this has been my life for so long now, being in a band with my mates. I can’t really imagine my life without it. I’m going to have to do something else at some point, I’d like to be a songwriter. Anything to avoid hard work and early mornings really!”
The band are coming to the end of this tour and Rob has had a good time playing new material. “I’m really enjoying opening with Interstate at the moment because it’s just a few riffs and then straight away noise hits you in the face. It’s a lot heavier than our other records as well. I’m enjoying everything really. I just get a big buzz out of playing live. It’s been so long since we’ve done it and I’m loving being back on tour.”
Weird happenings seem to be following the band around on this tour, as Rob explains: “Yesterday, we went out in Liverpool for our evening meal. We were in Nandos and this punch-up broke out. Some kid had shoved over a girl, and this fella who must have been the dad of the girl was like (try and imagine Rob’s bad Liverpudlian accent here, if you will) ‘don’t f**king push her over, she’s only f**king sixteen’. It was mad and then today we went to do our laundry and there was a photo shoot going on in there so whenever we go out it seems that something strange is going on.”
The band aren’t all rock n roll though. Rob admits that, before going on stage, he needs half an hour of peace and quiet to do his breathing exercises. So much so that he’s “chucked” his parents out his dressing room! He complains: “They are always milling around our dressing room, eating our food.”
And what of Glasgow? “I like Glasgow, it doesn’t look like English cities which is nice, the regeneration has had a good effect, it feels like a nice friendly place now, (and there’s no fights in Nandos!) which is cool.”
And so for the obligatory question, with surprising results. Rob’s influences are not what would be expected: “I listen to quite a lot of hip hop, I love really rhythmic singing and rhythms that are slightly offbeat. We never were all into one thing at any one time. We are real guitar geeks though,” he says.
The band’s new album sounds heavier than their old material to me. Are they heading in a new direction with their song writing? “We’re not really going in a different direction with our music at all. There is more variety on this album, the main thing now is we don’t have labels taking our music away and trying to make it more pop. I think the rough edges give it a charm. It is just literally as we want it so it’s probably more the same direction than it was before. That’s a really awkward way of putting it, but we don’t have the labels toning us down now constantly thinking about mainstream radio play.”
The Automatic are booked to do some smaller festivals this summer but Rob has T in the Park in his sights. “We did it last in 2006, I remember watching the World Cup in a room full of Lily Allen, The Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. That was quite rock n roll.”
Rob has been playing every gig on this tour like it’s his last, and admits that he’s going to have to do something else with his life at some point. But for the moment, let’s all just enjoy the music. New album Tear the Signs Down is out now and is most definitely worth a listen, even if you haven’t traditionally been a fan of The Automatic.
Words by Faith Orr
Photography by Chuff Media