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The Webb Brothers
by Matt Dornan / pictures by Matt Dornan
"I'm sick of the scene
and I've gotta come clean
yes I want to go home"
Maroon, the latest album from The Webb Brothers, for whom our capital has been home for much of the last two years, wallows in the same similarly sweet/unsavoury territory as their striking debut, Beyond the Biosphere juxtaposing sumptuos arrangements and melody swith some dark, even disturbing imagery.
Justin: The record's documenting a really similar time in our lives - what places we were at and what we were doing. So in theme it's similar. It's different in that we didn't try to hide behind any vast metaphor like we did with the first record. 'This is what we're actually talking about, this is what our lives were like from 20 to 24' or whatever. We're into that dichotomy. We've always done these sometimes really soaring melodies but the lyrics are really dark subjects, places in your mind that you're working out. I think we always loved that.
Christiaan: What I like is that there is some black humour on the first record but there's more of it on this record. It has some funny moments or at least some moments where people have said 'that song makes me uncomfortable...' It goes to show you can hit on a nerve. When we were writing it were thinking of Marilyn Manson and those phoney dark records. We thought 'why don't we make a record like this but it'll be real...tell it like it is.'
Is this about time spent in Chicago?
Justin: It's about being involved in this little thing that seems like the entire world. There's 200 people because you see them every night and they're the only people you see and they stay up and party all night. It's the same cast of characters and it can become really enveloping. We said, 'Hey, maybe this is all a bunch of bullshit.'
Christiaan: When you're in that situation it takes just one word or one night when things go horribly wrong to break the illusion of security. There's a lot of that on the record, that's where the humour comes in.
Justin: I wonder about it sometimes because it's such a specific audience. Someone who gets this record is either going to be 23-24 years old because they're living in that world or will have come out of that world and got there shit together. It seems most records are trying to appeal to teenagers or whatever. This record has nothing to do with the teenagers' existence. They're not going to understand what we're talking about. To them everything is fresh, exciting and fun. This is 'what am I doing with my life?'
Christiaan: It's also an urban record too. You have to live in a city with some kind of night-life.
Justin: I'm sure there's a Liars Club in London. You lose your sense of boundaries for a while. You don't know where something ends and the next begins. We were writing this record and it seemed like this internal thing and then, all of a sudden, one day it was just gone. People got married, people moved out of town. That bar wasn't where everyone went any more.
It's a pretty hedonistic lifestyle you're depicting. It's superficially fun but there's a price to pay.
Justin: I don't know if it's fun. There's young people coming into it and their attitude is 'look there's these sleazy chicks and rock stars' and this indulgent lifestyle looks like a lot of fun. On the other side of it there's these rock stars in the same bar and why are they there? Because they're fucking failing, they've lost their career, their momentum, their jobs. Because they're not treating themselves well or the people around them.
Christiaan: All they've got is a few assholes in a bar who still want to buy them a drink.
Justin: The whole thing is ugly and it's paper thin, the disguise of glamour to it, and that's what we tried to unveil. The world's so much bigger than that, it doesn't mean a thing. We learned that when we came to England. Now we're working the record but, spiritually, we're so far past it. It's credible music but right now, it seems like a distant memory. We said back then, 'we know we're never gonna get a record deal so we might as well do this,' and then the weirdest thing happened, because we got a record deal! It changed our whole perspective. All of a sudden we were writing 'the Death March of The Webb Brothers into hedonistic uncertainty' that we thought we'd never get out of. Hopefully now our lives will go in a more positive direction.
And you're still having to contend with other people's perception of you as two hedonists, living the life you're alluding to in song.
Justin: We're totally different people than when we brought out Beyond the Biosphere and we're totally different people than we were when we wrote Maroon.
Christiaan: And we're totally different people from each other!
Justin: So, we're often writing songs from one point of view but we're also mixing two different people together to get that direction.
And then, again, the press have made much of your 'togetherness', sharing a room, girlfriends, everything, it's news to them.
Christiaan: When you're in that situation it makes you want to serve your sense of self and personality because if you don't you go fucking crazy. We wouldn't have been able to carry on the way we were.
Justin: We're singing about everything on this record but people want to talk about the drugs. Why? Because people want to read about drugs, it's more juicy. They want to read about drugs and sex. They don't want to get into some of the other songs that are more subtle. People, generally will be drawn to what they're drawn to. At first we said 'fine, we'll serve them what they want.' You know 'we're trying to capture the grandeur of the lost seventies stoner epic' and they eat it up, you know. I don't regret it, at least it was honest. It's not like we're out to shock.
Christiaan: And then you dig your own grave with that stuff. The next album comes out and we're 'a time capsule to the early seventies' or whatever.
Justin: And the whole psychedelic thing - you couldn't pay Christiaan a hundred thousand pounds to take a tab of acid right now. Forget about it, we're not psychedelic drug users. I'm not saying we've never done anything but it's not part of the plan, y'know.
Christiaan: Part of the humour of it all is that our own experiences with drugs have been so disastrous! And we write about it honestly yet people think we're still glamorising it.
Well, you put on a song called All The Cocaine In The World, people will jump at it.
Justin: When we wrote that song the last thing we thought was that anyone would ever hear it. We thought, if anything, that we'd drop off the face of the planet and somebody would pick up some vinyl record in ten years and go 'Wow, look at this crazy document of what it's like to be on the piss-end of the rock scene in Chicago in 1994.' It's turned into this other thing.
I remember feeling somewhat misled by the imagery surrounding Beyond The Biosphere and the Time-Out shoot or whatever. It seemed to dwell on the Sci-Fi and Psychedelia elements that I don't hear in the music.
Christiaan: It just shows how much of an influence the way you present yourselves can have.
Justin: And also soundbites...so much shapes people's opinions. You have to do what it takes to reach people but those are the ones that will stick with you. With [Beyond the Biosphere] we didn't push for commercial success, we wanted to just get it out there and get some word of mouth going. Get people talking about it, buying it, but not push it down people's throats. Especially with the whole press thing we had we didn't want some Gay Dad self-destruction.
I found the review I'd written of Beyond The Biosphere for the lost issue, #4. I began by saying that I didn't get the sci-fi aesthetic and couldn't understand the media hype that thrust this record into the limelight...
Justin: I think it's unfair to call it hype because it was all so organic the way it came about. It was such a lucky thing. With hype there's supposedly somebody behind the scenes manufacturing a spin and using their influence of power...
You've spent much of the past two years in London. Will that shape the next record?
Justin: The next record will be a lot more fragmented, a lot more universal and a lot less dramatic. We were feeling so dramatic because we felt we were at the edge of the world about to fall off and now, it's more basic...
Christiaan: And we're gonna talk about some girls, man!
Justin: The sad songs have some honesty and reflection, there's not so much of the angst. It's got more pop, it's really melodic, pretty stuff.
Christiaan: I tell you what it's not gonna be, it's not gonna be about 'being on the road, man!'
Justin: Not gonna write the road record, we promise all your readership. We refuse to make a road record, refuse to make any more hedonistic 'I'm down and out in Chicago,' drug records. So, expect something strange.
CWAS #6 - Autumn 2000