It has been a long time since Australia has had the chance to see Cartel live, and after last years national tour plans fell through, the boys have finally announced that they will be back here this September. Before they head to Australia, Cartel are planning to release their fourth full length album in August, this time independantly, and Australian fans will be the first to hear the record live. Cartel’s lead vocalist Will Pugh had a chat with Kill Your Stereo about coming back to Australia, their new album and what Australian fans can expect from both of them.
Hey Will, how are you going?
I’m not too bad, not too bad. How are you?
I’m good thanks. Thanks for chatting with Kill Your Stereo
Big news for you guys, you just recently announced you will be heading to Australia this September. It’s still a little while off, but how are you feeling about it?
Very, very excited. We unfortunately had to cancel last year when we had planned to come because the promoter hadn’t actually booked our flight tickets so we had no way to come. So we’ve been looking forward to coming back since then and we haven’t played since 2008 Soundwave so the fact that we are not going to be at a festival landscape and we’ll be more in the cities is really appealing to us, really being able to experience more of Australia. So that’s something we are really looking forward to this time.
As you said, you haven’t been here for a while, what do you think Australian’s can expect from the shows, having not seen Cartel play for quite some time?
As a band we are really aware that we need to make it up to everybody that bought tickets to the last series of shows, and unfortunately we got disappointed, so we are planning on trying to make it a really special set and hopefully please everybody in the song choice and try to make it really good so I just think that they can expect to see us at our best.
You will be covering quite a bit of Australia while you are here, is there anything you are looking forward to doing in your time off?
I am going to try and play golf somewhere. I am a big golf nerd and that’s something that I wanted to do at Soundwave but never got a chance so we are trying to figure it out. So I’m going to put it out there, that is anybody is a member of a club or something like that, that can take me out to play golf I would very much appreciate it [laughs] and you will get free tickets to our show, and the royal treatment. Just hook me up so I am able to satiate my desires and we’ll repay.
You have got a whole lot more material to choose from this time. Will Australian fans be hearing much of your back catalogue this time around?
We play a pretty good mix of stuff I think, just in general, but we’re going to try to, about a month before when the promotion is really amping up, we are going to see how we can get, whether its twitter or facebook or something like that, having fans tell us what they want us to play and then creating sets based off of that. We are going to try not to repeat ourselves too because we imagine that there might be some people coming to two different shows and we try to play the same set every time. So yeah, I think each individual show will be its own special experience
Do you find it easy to pick and choose material from right across your career?
I think that’s definitely the most difficult part. We all have our songs that are our favourite, and if we played every song that we all wanted to play it would be a 25-30 song set and that’s entirely too long for us and for people to keep paying attention. We have only done it a few times and it was cool but it was a bit much to try and pull off over an entire tour. Especially being the singer, 25-30 songs is a lot to sing in a set. I think we just kind of, we have different moods when we play so one night its, “yeah let’s definitely play that song” and sometimes its, “no way am I playing that song” [laughs].
What is the song that you always like to see in the set?
I really like playing a song called ‘I Will Hide Myself Away’, it’s on our self titled record, that’s always a lot of fun for me. I have a lot of fun singing that song and its really cool from a singer’s perspective and its different for me then the rest of our songs so its always enjoyable to do something different in the course of the set.
Last October, you guys self released an EP, In Stereo, what was it like stepping out on your own after so long?
Very liberating. We haven’t made a record like that since our first EP, so being able to not have anybody to tell us what to do and not having anybody critiquing songs that isn’t in the band really felt like it allowed us to be a lot more confident in what we are doing and a lot more critical actually than in the past so I think we really arrived at something that we were very happy with. It was kind of an experiment because I produced it and self-producing kind of brings in its own challenges but also we did a lot of the recording at my house, besides the drums so I think we definitely had a much better grasp on the process and what we need to do then we did on the EP, so going forward I think its going to be a lot of fun and really cool. The EP was really cool because we set out to do something different and then when you actually pull it off you feel really awesome about it, “Yes! Alright! That worked out” and so you don’t feel like a chump but it’s really cool, not having to deal with a label so you’re kind of calling your own shots. The new record is going to be finished by the end of August and getting mixed in September and coming out pretty much as soon as its mixed and mastered. Usually once a record is mixed and mastered you’ve got 3 months for the label to figure out how to promote it or do whatever, and you just wait and that sucks. So its nice feeling that as soon as its done it will be getting uploaded and sent out where it needs to be sent out and there you go it’s pretty much just waiting on someone to press the physical copies so we can have them at our shows and we can go from there.
That’s awesome. So Australia will be one of the first to hear it live after it comes out?
Yeah, you guys will actually have the first performances of any of these songs live.
What’s the current stage of the album, is there anything you can tell us about it so far?
We are in the, we call it the boxing phase, because we are all in our separate corners coming up with our ideas, kind of getting our own ideas about the album and what we want it to be from our own instrumental perspective. Next we will be gathering up our demos and stuff like that. Next month we are going to be actually getting in a room and playing it together and working it out as a band and then move on to recording. There is kind of three phases to doing it and its our fourth full length so we will all be very well versed in the process and what we need to do to pull it off.
Is there anything you can tell us about the album so far, in terms of sound or themes?
It sounds a lot more, I kind of always try to say this but, I think Jimmy Eat World and the Foo Fighters are the same band but Jimmy Eat World does the softer side of things and Foo Fighters tend to do the harder side of things. I think this record kind of falls somewhere in between it, obviously my voice doesn’t sound like Dave Grohl’s, but its going to be a lot more energy, a little bit darker tonally in the sense that there’s a lot more heavy parts, I’d say it sounds a lot more closer to “Deep South” off our last record then it does any of our previous material but its going to be really cool and I think people will really appreciate it and have a lot of fun listening to it. I hope so anyway [laughs].
How important is it for Cartel to be making this album on your own?
Well, it’s the first full length we have done on our own so I think people have their own expectations of what a full length should be just in general from any band, so having that kind of challenge and you kind of set yourself up for criticism when you say that you’re releasing a full length, I think people listen to EPs and think “oh it’s just an EP, you know, it’s just 5 songs whatever” but when you have a full length there’s a lot more expectations like okay this better be good and we’re really looking forward to meeting those expectations and trying to exceed them and I think from a self belief stand point people judge a little more because they think “oh they should still be on a label” but we get to have a little bit more fun with it than in the past so we are really looking forward to this process.
Over the years, Cartel has taken a few different approaches to writing and recording albums. How has the band approached the album this time, have you found a formula that just works?
I wouldn’t say there is a formula per se, just that we know what our individual responsibility is and what we need to bring to the table in order to have a successful album and for us we really pride ourselves on it individually so it allows us to move forward cohesively and not working against each other, and I think we have had that since day one with making records but I think we all kind of know certain timelines that should be achieved and if we aren’t achieving them then we need to be more efficient with things so I would say that’s going to be the only difference now between doing it with other producers and then doing it ourselves that we really need to be more concerned with that, whereas in the past with other producers they know a timeline of what should be recorded and can concede priority to different songs and different parts and things of that nature so we understand that now and we have for a long time but now doing it ourselves we really feel like its not as hard as it looks but at the same time its still very challenging.
What has inspired or influenced the creative process this time around?
It think it’s just that its been three years since we even recorded a full length so I think the inspiration is really coming from just wanting to do it again and we are all at different places in our lives than we were then and lyrically and I guess mood wise on the record it’s a lot more representative of where we are at than I think some of our records have been. The self-titled was very representative of where we were all at as a band, and Chroma too, but Chroma was more of an accident than you would think just because of how quick we did it and we had never written a full length before then so moving passed that I think we’ve got a really good handle on being able to achieve Cartel.
You guys have been on the road quite a bit lately, what sort of music is usually playing in tour van?
It varies depending on who is driving. If Joe is in the driver’s seat its either going to be Radiohead type stuff or folky Ryan Adams sort of feel, Nick listens to a lot of old school Motown, which is funny, and a lot of Journey and Genesis and things like that but it really kind of varies. Kevin, the drummer of course, likes to play a lot of rockier material so he can hit the steering wheel and play drums while he is driving. You can know exactly who is driving just based off the music that is playing.
Besides recording an album and heading down to Australia, what else does 2012 hold for Cartel?
We are going to do a full US tour, but we are still working that out now, and that will take us up through Thanksgiving, or the end of November, and then take December and January off and figure out what we are going to do early next year. So really, just kind of being busy [laughs].
Is there anything else you wanted to add before we let you go?
We really appreciate the opportunity to come back to Australia and be able to tour outside of the United States, we are really looking forward to it and we hope that everybody coming to the shows will be just as enthusiastic as we are and we’ll all have a lot of fun. We are really stoked about it.
Thanks a lot for chatting with us, good luck with the album and I look forward to seeing you when you get down here!
No worries, we appreciate it and we’ll do our best for all of you.