DECADE: An interview with Alex Sears
Interview by Mike Newdeck
Currently on tour (click on the link to the read the live review) with The Black Foxxes and Deaf Havana, Decade is a band that flys beneath the radar for most and yet they have two albums to their name and numerous support slots have ensured a cult following. The band's last album 'Pleasantries' was stunning in its maturity and decidedly refreshing with its refusal to ape the cookie cutter pop punk scene currently holding sway.
Mike Newdeck caught up with lead vocalist Alex Sears prior to their recent Cardiff concert to caht about the band, the tour and the album.
"The tour is going great," he offers, "we're about halfway through and then we're off to Germany, so it's quite a long tour, especially on the Deaf Havana bus, you can't fly or anything. We're used to that , usually we'd have a van and drive everywhere ourselves."
Decade has toured with Deaf Havana before, Sears explains the relationship.
"It actually happened after they'd come to see us play in Sweden on their day off," he admits, "and then they tweeted us saying how much they liked us and did we fancy meeting for a beer. When we met up they asked us to come on tour with them that November. It had nothing to do with booking agents or management. I think they felt we were a good fit with the type of music that they played."
'Pleasantries' is the bands first album on new label Rude after leaving Spinefarm. Why did the band feel that the time was right for a change.
"We weren't that happy with the label to be honest," the vocalist remembers, "the direction that we were heading didn't fit with the direction that they wanted to go. It was more a conflict of interest really, rather than bad blood. Rude seemed to like our ideas more and so we made the decision to go with them. They loved the album and were keen to get it out. Spinefarm didn't seem keen on the demo material that we were submitting although i'm not sure the whole reason to be honest. Rude are more of a family DIY type label and are far more hands on, we can go straight to them when we have any issues rather than going through someone first and responses are quick. Larger labels don't have the clout that they used to have before the internet and also smaller labels are more likely to give a shit about you. The caveat of course is that your material has to be decent. Spinefarm were OK, but being part of Universal meant that you were a small fish in a big pond."
So what does Sears see as the progression from 'Good Luck' to 'Pleasantries'.
"When we did 'Good Luck', we weren't quite sure where we stood genre-wise," he explains, "We were keen to retain a pop punk edge but we wanted to add a spin to it to make it a bit more interesting. After we'd toured the Good Luck album we became a bit bored with it and felt that we needed to get away from the pop punk sound and so we started writing songs that were a little braver and more wanted we wanted to play live. We actually ended up not enjoying playing the songs from the last album at all. Add together the time it took to sign to Spinefarm; eighteen months and the two years touring the album then we had lived with those songs for nearly four years and they'd become boring. This tour will only have songs from Pleasantries in the set and we only get half an hour to play."
A bug bear of mine is that bands feel the need to constantly play their back catalogue time and time again choosing to play only one or two from the new album that they're touring.
"Ultimately the fans want to hear them," the vocalist interjects, "and I suppose it depends who you are but for newer bands like us it's probably better to play new material rather than appease people."
There's no doubt that 'Pleasantries' moves on from the pop punk traits and introduces some progressive elements to the Decade sound. Sears agrees.
"Yeah we definitely wanted to do that but it sort of came naturally," he surmises, "we ran with our influences. There's some Brit pop influences in there as we're all Oasis fans plus it's grungier than 'Good Luck' and less throwaway. There's far more appeal if you're an actual musician as there's far more going on. It's not radio friendly or instant either"
Decade is a relatively fledgling despite having two albums to their name since their formation in 2009. Sears sees it differently.
"It feels like we've been a band for ages," he confides- and if you count the band's first incarnation as Ready Set Slow the band has been together under the Decade moniker only since 2011, "but when we compare ourselves to other bands like say Lower than Atlantis, they didn't really hit the ground running until their fourth album. It's all relative really and there's much more to come from us I feel."
Bath is a city rich in music; home to famous acts such as Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel and more recently Alison Goldfrapp as well as having a university that majors in music.
"None of us went to the University," Sears confesses humorously, "we decided to be in a shit rock band instead, some of had known each other since we were kids or had played in bands together. I was a random guy who joined from another band but we all kind of knew each other from playing gigs in the Bath area. In the space of a month all of our bands broke up and so we decided to form a band ourselves. As for the Bath musical richness, i'd say it maybe used to be but not so much now because many of the old venues have closed down and so bands and artists look elsewhere to play. Joe and Harry have lived in Bath all their lives and all the venues that they used to play in have all gone. As for a local following, it's mainly friends and family to be honest, but that's good. When we play Moles the place is absolutely rammed with them because they all live close by; Bristols a bit far for them I think."
Sears sees a simple path for the band at present, one that doesn't envisage the band being the next Youmeatsix.
"Well we want to just keep going while we enjoy it to be honest," the singer explains, "i don't think you can start making these wild plans and make out that you will be the next big thing. We just want to keep putting albums out and if we happen to become successful then that would be brilliant. Otherwise we'll just carry on sitting around in dressing rooms eating humus because we love it so much."
It must be difficult sometimes for young bands to stick with it for very little reward.
"Ideally you want to be taken out on tour by a bigger band," Sears explains, "but you're not going to be paid probably even enough to pay all the band members and half the time you barely get enough to cover your petrol costs. That's the norm for a band of our size and some bands that are bigger than us to be honest. It's weird that once you get an album out and you're on a label you get more and more crew, some doing your sound, some doing your equipment and some doing the merchandise. All these people are paid but we're not, that seems wrong."
With that kind of music based wage apartheid, it's clear that bands have fall time jobs to pay bills and put food on the table. Sears and his band are no different.
" Yeah we all have full time jobs," he continues, "and I don't want to sound like we're hard done by, because if we didn't enjoy it than we wouldn't do it. We love the music and the writing so that's why we do it. We've taken a month off work to do this tour, so that's dedication. We also have very understanding bosses who let us take unpaid leave and we use up all of our annual leave to. Some guys in the band have even quit their jobs to go on tour, otherwise there'd be no other way. We've always wanted to do this since we were kids and so that's why we're so dedicated."
Full time jobs keep food coming in and families happy, but what of the relationships within the band whilst on tour. Sears gives an insight into how things work.
"You have to give each other space," he explains, "if they're having a bad day then you learn to leave them be or if you feel shit then go for a walk or spend some time by yourself. If you're on a bus then you're all constantly together and you're with the other bands too. We get on well anyway so it's fine but you have to learn to cope with it; the tiredness with a disrupted sleep pattern for example or the change in routine. At the moment we're all young enough-being between 25 and 28-to deal with it but you do occasionally relapse. That would mean lying in the bunk for a few hours not talking to anyone."
'Pleasantries' is out now on Rude Records.