From Caldicot and formed in 2016, The Bug Club – Sam Willmett (guitar/vocals), Tilly Harris (bass/vocals) and Dan Matthew (drums) – specialise in short-yet-sweet songs that ring out in your brain long enough to be dubbed earworms. New double LP Rare Birds: Hour Of Song finds the band testing out poetry and narration. Emma Way spoke to Sam and Tilly.
You’ve released a lot of music in a short amount of time. How do you keep that consistent writing streak going?
Sam Willmett: We try to do everything quite quickly, recording everything and the writing especially. It comes in phases. We’ve been really busy gigging and then we write as much as we can when we’re home. We’re doing it right now before we go away on tour towards the end of the year.
We’re writing every day. It’s just fun to do really, we write in albums as well. Even if they don’t get used in those albums, it’s a bit of a stream for writing stuff. We do as many as we can in a day and it seems to work out quite naturally.
Do you find it hard to finish stuff that you start?
Sam: That’s kind of the thing – we’d usually just try and finish it all. Try and make a really hot cup of tea, so you buy yourself a bit of time, and then try and finish it before that, half an hour or so, so you’ll normally just try to smash the whole thing out in one go. It’s a thing, even if you don’t use it. It’s nice to bookend it, finish it and move on to something else, and then in a few days you’ve got a bunch of songs.
I like measuring the time with the tea!
Sam: It kind of works, but it makes you drink a weird amount of tea. We’ve got one big, big, mad cup from Mr. Ben, the guy that does all the artwork – he’s a potter as well – but it gets cold fast, so all songs have to be really short and sweet.
Tilly Harris: It depends what mug you’ve got.
A Sports Direct mug?
Tilly: You could get a ballad in!
You’ve got a really busy touring schedule as well for the rest of the year. How do you prepare for something that time consuming?
Sam: You don’t really have to prepare. It was a bit daunting at first. We’ve always gigged quite a bit but once you do it, it’s kind of the same thing over and over. The routine’s nice.
Tilly: You get used to what to pack very quickly! I much prefer being on tour and being busy – it’s when you get home that’s quite hard. Home is the world of procrastination; on the road is when you feel like you’re doing stuff.
And on top of that, your new album is an hour long…
Sam: It’s called Rare Birds: Hour Of Song!
Tilly: It’s not technically an hour of song – it’s an hour-ish, and there’s narration in between the songs and little poems in between.
Sam: The narration is supposed to be from weird bird guy on the front cover. We wanted it to be a fall asleep, relaxation mood.
Tilly: It’s marketed like a relaxation video you listen to for sleep, but then we’ve just got normal Bug Club songs in it. If you actually do try and go to sleep, you probably won’t.
Sam: Tom Rees [of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard] records everything. He’s done some super realistic bird sounds. That’s the most impressed I’ve been with him. It sounds like a real bird!
Tilly: It’s more like a sparrow, a little garden bird, rather than a town pigeon you get in the middle of a city demanding food.
Do you ever write when you’re on tour?
Tilly: It’s more like little bits – the poems [on the new album] were written in the van. But there’s never anywhere quiet to go and do it, and you’re doing stuff, except for when you’re in the van. Then when you’re in the van you’re asleep.
Sam: I can’t be in the van longer than 30 minutes without being in such a deep sleep.
You release a lot on vinyl – why is it an important format for your music?
Tilly: It makes you listen to the whole thing in one: you can’t just pick out the good ones. You have to sit there for the awkward album tracks that are a little bit clunky. But it’s what makes the whole album the album. We write in albums, which means we mean it for people to listen to it as a whole, rather than just as singles.
Sam: I think all formats have their own thing. The order of the song seems different [on a CD] because you can fit a bit more on it, and it’s one big chunk. It’s a different result, it’s like it has a mixtape mood to it. On vinyl, it definitely seems like there’s a halfway point.
Tilly: It’s cool to be able to do different formats and try different song orders to implement the format it’s on. We’ve been thinking about changing the song orders.
Sam: Live, as well, you’re playing with a similar sort of thing. The arc of songs ends up being different than what you put on a record.
Tilly: We think of it in terms of sides when we record, because we’re primarily thinking about vinyl, but we were thinking about the idea of changing [the sequence].
You’re on a lot of festival lineups this year, too. What’s your favourite set you’ve seen of another artist?
Sam: I got a speeding ticket on the way to see Holiday Ghosts. I’ve got a course in two days… one of the best ones was [Dutch indie-rockers] Personal Trainer. We saw them in Crofters Rights in Bristol, in the small second room. There’s loads of them, they took up the whole room just on their own!
Tilly: And Getdown Services. We’ve got them on our tour, which I’m buzzed about.
Rare Birds: Hour Of Song is released on Wed 18 Oct via Bingo.
The Bug Club are touring the UK and North America during October and November, including the Bunkhouse, Swansea as part of the Swansea Fringe on Fri 6 Oct and Le Public Space, Newport on Wed 11 Oct.
words EMMA WAY