Präsentiert von Musikexpress, UK Sounds und Laut.de
Scattered somewhere throughout the academic corridors of Great Britain are four very confused admissions tutors. Faced with the choice of spending years getting drunk and in debt as students, or drunk and famous as rockstars, the four boys who would be The Automatic really only ever had one option....
The plan, says Iwan Griffiths, was take a year out, see how the band goes and when it came to September, decide whether to go or not.
I got a form but they said I had to send a written letter, considers Alex Pennie, and I didnt bother doing that. I guess theyve got the gist by now.
To all the people he might have cured in an alternative career as a psychotherapist, Pennie apologies. But its rocknrolls gain. In The Automatic, Pennie plays keyboards, jumps around like a gibbon, shrieks alien backing vocals behind Robs solid leads and when in doubt just bangs a cow bell. The first record he ever bought was probably Now 35, but thats not very cool, is it?
Pennie became the final piece of the puzzle after a Teen Spirit under-18s show in Cardiff a couple of years ago when he saw an early version of a band then called White Rabbit, and he thought they were pretty cool.
There was Rob Hawkins, the latest in the fine tradition of the singing bass player. Now, he says the best thing about being in The Automatic is never being bored, ever, but back then was having to contend with choosing his A-Levels, and settling on a second guitarist for the band. It always turns into a fight.
The first guitarist was always going to be James Frost, a wide-eyed emo-boy and axe hero in waiting who, if we wasnt a hotly-tipped rock guitarist, would be a pro-golfer. He would rather be chased by a Mummy than a Skeleton because it would have poor eyesight. Im not a good runner, he says, but I reckon a Mummy would be a lot worse.
Completing the line-up was drummer Iwan Griffiths, who harbours dreams of opening a beach bar in Hawaii, is satisfied in The Automatic because he gets free beer in exchange for playing with his mates, let alone royalties. He reckons Frankenstein was a pussy.
Seeing the potential for an elfin keyboard player with onstage Tourettes in the modern punk-pop troop, they ditched the other hopeful guitarists and recruited Pennie, whose limited ability at the time was aided by his KORG-EA1 being basically a My First Keyboard. And anyway, when he tried vocals on an At The Drive-In cover they saw they had performance gold. Now hes graduated to the far more advanced Alhesis Micron and the old skool Roland Juno and The Automatic have patented their own sound.
The boys had bonded over shared loves of Blur, Ash and Radiohead, but cutting their live teeth on the screamo-heavy Cardiff scene saw them grow close to the experimental hardcore bands like Jarcrew, which put them in a unique position.
It affected us in a good way though, says Frost, we didnt feel pressure to play the same music as all the other bands. We didnt look at a band and say cos theyre doing that were gonna do something totally different. We could absorb the best bits.
And in turn, The Automatic were able to mine a virgin sound, as Robs pummeling bass wraps itself round Iwans nuclear, physical drums, Frost and Pennie skate over at speed, creating an urgent, glam hardcore fantasy island of sounds as ambitious, deranged, angry and fun as the sound of the future should be
Their debut album, recently completed in Liverpool, Cardiff and Lincoln, is the most restless record youll hear all year. Like valley forefathers the Manic Street Preachers, they adhere to a strict no ballads blueprint. But then Rob said hes never gonna wear leather trousers, says Pennie, and you just know hes gonna be up there in leather trousers on the stage of the Millennium Stadium in a few years.
The burnt-on-your-earlobes blast of debut single Recover you know already; but theres a far stranger heart underneath that. A particular favourite, the a-pop-alyptic By My Side was the first song they started together and the last to be finished, while the song that survives as the disco-metal Thats What She Said began life as three-and-half verseless, vocal-free minutes of prog pop which tempted their management into investigating the band further because it was the most arrogant thing wed ever heard.
So far their live signature tune, Monster boasts a chorus destined to be chanted from playgrounds to football terraces to alien planets. The monsters in question are the beered up Sherman-clad townies who roam Cardiff of a Saturday night, with added Autoimagination. If Rob was a real monster he would look like Gary Glitter, only Green, while Iwans special power would be a magnetic face.
And for now, theres the big-hitting second single to get out of the way, a gorgeous slab of youthful punk urgency and minor-key sadness that pays tribute to the mystic sandwich-maker outside their rehearsal room, Raoul.
We rehearse in Cardiff and he owns a café across the road and he makes sandwiches, says Rob. The songs about how you end up pandering to expectations of those around you and doing what you think you should do to succeed in life, and ending up in a job you hate. And whenever were sick and tired of what were doing we go and see Raoul. Its like the little things that we use to escape.
The thing about going to see Raoul was we couldnt get the lyrics to the song that we were working on, so we went and had a break, we went to see Raoul.
And, as if by magic, everything was fine. Lets just hope the same can be said for those harassed admissions tutors. Because The Automatic aint going back to school.