#HCHQ’s experience of meeting with British indie band (Iam)Warface’ and their gig at Into The Wild Festival 2016 – somewhere in a field in middle England…
IamWarface – Into The Wild Festival, UK, 2016
A bit of soul searching and one conflab later with ye lads from the band and various folks gathered in beer tent at Into The Wild Festival and I’ve decided I will in fact write about my first experience of ITWF from the viewer perspective, in true rock n roll spirit I shall defy convention and advice of my Times journalist friend and ‘put myself in it’ – this despite the fact that I’m ‘not a well-known’. A risky business…
The question of whether or not to do so came up in conversation with assorted musical folks gathered about a makeshift trestle table, including half of (Iam)Warface, bits of Surzerain, some bloke who needed a lift back to London (I wonder if he made it) and various others including a King Charles Spaniel – he of course didn’t offer an opinion, he just lay there nonchalantly in a balmy, somewhat beery tent, tethered through the loop of his lead by a screwdriver rather enterprisingly stuck in the ground but which meant that from the wrong angle, it looked like someone might have killed the dog – but for his occasionally blinking eye. “Be different!” came the cry from Matt of Warface “break the mould!” And since that’s exactly what their music does, I shall indeed defy convention and “Put myself in it!”
Although an unknown, my life in music so far as a singer and songwriter has perhaps afforded me a unique perspective particularly when it comes to music and musicians, be it standing there watching ‘Circle of Life’ recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes, or stood on the side of the Stage at Red Rocks, Colorado as a guest of The Who tour in America for six months, with a camera thrust in my hands by Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) and told “Film it!” Yes its fair to say I have been in some extraordinary musical situations in my life, possibly only topped by being asked if I wanted to sing on a Ray Charles record aged 17, saying yes and being told “Good! You’ve got half an hour!” Rather a lot of musical ground has been covered since then including the release of my own material supported by some legendary musicians and production people I’ve met along the way. But this summer rather seems to involve meeting, getting to know and listening to some rather awesome new British bands in what feels like a British sixties renaissance in that some ground-breaking and original music is being made. Hence how I found myself at the Into The Wild festival – a smallish affair but by no means lacking punch and better for it – somewhere south of my nemesis Milton Keynes – Buckinghamshire, England.
The first relief was no mud, despite the record breaking, wet, soppy, miserable affair we’ve had for a summer so far. Instead the skies cleared – with not a wellington boot in sight! The reason for my being present in this field began in a typically lateral way back at the start of the year via that thoroughly modern entity Twitter – previously an anathema to me – something I hadn’t properly understood but had to learn on account of the impending release of my own music. Back in a cold and miserable January (Lemmy had just died, quickly followed by Bowie) and throughout the ensuing months when seemingly we lost a music great on a weekly basis, I began discovering the music of some brilliant new British indie bands.
With the vague notion in my head that given the state of play in the music industry – there is no state of play, no-ones really sure how to make money at it – that perhaps we as bands should do something radical and support one another; that perhaps to audiences the nature of the music makers were as interesting as the music we made. To whit I began listening to a lot of new music, found various bands that I began cross promoting for no other reason than I thought they sounded really rather splendid. I began to talk to them, some of them talked back, the characters and necessary musicians’ sense of humour began to reveal itself through conversations on Twitter. (Iam)Warface – don’t let the name deter you – were one such band. There are others but for the purposes of this story (Iam)Warface are who we’ll stick with!
So I began exchanging tweets with them, gradually getting to know them, until finally I found myself talking with Matt the lead singer and songwriter of (Iam)Warface on the phone giving him a pep talk. Like many Indies – he was in the shit-this-is-hard-but-I-love-it-but-am-flagging stage! It happens and we as artists need a pick-me-up sometimes, from a brother (or sister) in arms. For various reasons I’d been unable to attend previous Warface gigs up to that point and was very keen to finally see them live. But like most musicians I have to watch the pennies, was on my own and in need of a ticket but not for the whole weekend.
So it was several texts later, I found myself in my car; outside my local train station picking someone up I’d never met before – one of Matt’s old mates – and driving an hour north out of London to the gig! En route I explained to my passenger that I had the ticket, it was for two people and that he was Mr Smith, what his postcode was and how best we could remember that at the gate! “Are you Mrs Smith then?” came the reply from my much-bearded companion, somewhat reminiscent of Cat Weasel only younger. “No – I’m Hannah” I replied, “they’ve already talked with me and I might need to be Hannah later on!”
Onwards up the M1 we drove, somewhere just past Watford Services I was casually informed that my co-pilot had ‘form’ for amongst other things hemp growing – amused I silently ploughed on vowing not to get a “stupid pull” from the Rozzers (police) and trying not to visualise what that might look like if we were stopped! ‘Withnail and I’ sprang to mind. So too I was regaled with the story that my travelling companion had shared the same name with Matt from (Iam)Warface but that Matt “Had changed his name because he kept getting stopped by the Rozzers” as a teenager and “Getting in loads of sh*t coz they thought he was me!” I laughed, “Is that true or is it a band myth?” I asked. “Well that’s what they tell me!” came Cat Weasel’s reply. Unsolicited, the Warface drummer later confirmed this – just prior to him staggering off with a balloon in his hand… and I don’t think he was planning on taking it home with him.
But I get ahead of myself. Having negotiated my own personal hell which is Milton Keynes and it’s named roundabouts, we found ourselves driving on to site across fields, successfully negotiated the check point – both loudly chorusing “Smith!” in unison when asked the name at the gate, me proffering a print out of the e-ticket in a plastic folder (sometimes the old ways are best). We drove onwards and parked up amongst a mixed assortment of vehicles – from campervans, to mini’s to Aston’s (that would be the Glampers).
On Cat Weasel’s advice we opted not to plot up tents by the loo’s or the skip and waited for Mat the lead singer of Warface and his wife Zed to arrive, fresh from a mate’s wedding. Zed rather brilliantly managed to have picked an outfit that translated from wedding to cool festival chic in one go and the pair of them just had the most awesome hair! Matt with his bleached crew cut and short Mohican and Zed with her own 21st century spin on Bowie’s Star Man only in greys and pinks with flowers in it from the wedding! I later found out that this lovely, dear lady was also a hairdresser – ah that explains the effortless cool I thought. I was very pleased she was there being as I was a gal on my own like and given that I had never actually met either of them in person. Thankfully it became rapidly obvious that the computer exchanges hadn’t lied, we were all of a like mind with Matt exclaiming as they pulled up: “Finally! We meet!” Massive smiles and hugs all round, a surreal experience to be sure but a marvellous one.
(Iam)Warface – Into The Wild Festival, 2016.
Zip forward, beers drunk, tents up, several sharings of ‘Thors hammer’ later (tent pegs), the band are about to go on and again I’m being given a camera – or rather a phone and asked to film it. Something I love to do and it’s kind of in the blood I guess but part of me really wanted to see this band through my own eyes – not a lens. Cat Weasel kindly offers to film the start and then swap with me allowing me to see some of the gig. It begins with the magnetic ‘Bleed Out’ – immediately I’m drawn in, finally hearing the Rocktronica I’ve sat and listened to through the dark early months of 2016. And I am not disappointed. What an opener for a track, the riff is too good and already I’m singing along.
I’m struck by how certain songs carry even better live than I would have expected such as ‘To Die For’ and ‘You Don’t Love me Anymore’, you just have to move your feet to it and shake yer head and sing along with the “Woh-ohs”; the band members blending together seamlessly, grinding out these hypnotic riffs. The classical references – the informed use of dynamics, musical light and shade is not lost on me, but it’s the clever blending and juxta-positioning of different styles that interests and rivets me. I can hear bits of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Nirvana, Sisters of Mercy, Muse and always these catchy riffs ground out by Lou on guitar, over pounding beats and ethereal, layered synths.
For those of you who don’t know (Iam)Warface’s set up it’s live vocals, electric guitar and drums with a series of digital parts and synthesisers administered by the other Matt (Whitehead), tucked away like the bloke out of Pet Shop Boys behind his keyboard and bits of digi’ kit – make no mistake his is a very important layer to the distinctive (Iam)Warface Rocktronica sound. Inexorably the crowd were drawn in to this web and what they were hearing, as the different moods, slants and waves within the songs reached out like fingers over them. ‘Vampire’ was a particularly good track, along with ‘White Gold’ as Matt moved between stage area and floor – amongst the listeners – slowly gyrating his whole body as he bent the notes, at times reminding me of a cat arching it’s back or coiling himself around his mic stand, at others confidently prowling the stage or crowd and, at one point held an impossibly long note that frankly would have put Bill Withers to shame.
As (Iam)Warface performed, other bands – Suzerain included – all drew in towards the stage area gathering to see the unique talent that’s (Iam)Warface and its singer Matt Warneford. Lou Matthews on guitar stood there solid, nodding his head to the drum beat, rightly self-assured of just how good his riffs were, a gentle giant mastering his low-slung guitar, coaxing and sliding out of it some simply stunning sounds. Alex Whibley on drums – all of 22 – with his mod haircut and jacket quite obviously enjoys exactly what he does for Warface – possessing that young man’s impossibly laidback, yet sure-fire youthful air that he really is the best at what he does – and to be fair to the kid, he is bloody good! There’s something a bit Moon-ish about him – or is it that bloke out of Quadrophenia. Either way he’s 22, loving it and why not!
(Iam)Warface – Into The Wild Festival 2016
We were all loving it too and with post-gig high, on we all went into the night – ending with dancing to some serious ska blasting out across the fields courtesy of Skalectrix, hanging with indie band Suzerain too – lovely chaps, thanks for minding my bag whilst I danced to ‘Monkey Man’ and really wished I’d seen them perform – they too were a band I’d already come across in my virtual travels, so meeting and hanging with them was an added bonus…now off on an Italian Tour…lucky Italians 😉 🇮🇹
Suffice to say that the sixties ethos is alive and well in the fields of England and I’ll not lie to you, I like these smaller festivals such as Into The Wild; they retain an intimacy, a trust and a vibe all of their own which very much supports the grass roots and emerging bands I’m pleased to say proliferate in my part of the world. I don’t know what else is happening globally but I gotta tell ya – there’s something very special happening in music right now here in Great Britain and its not X Factor – its real talent, playing real instruments, in real bands. Something I’ve wanted to see for twenty years…how nice to be a part of it and so warmly welcomed. Cheers guys. It was lovely…but not the FartChat, I’m sure that’s why the dog had one eye open!
(Iam)Warface Official Website: www.iamwarface.com
Music: LISTEN HERE
Video: WATCH IT: ‘Say My Name’ Official Video
Store: OWN IT
Festival Link: Into The Wild Festival Official Website
Next band #HCHQ looking forward to seeing ☞ Suzerain