Interview – Semantics

Semantics, a Birmingham post-punk/indie rock band, recently released their single “Ocean.” This quartet is comprised of Aidan Willis (guitar), Josh RB (bass), Rob Lilley (vocals/guitar), and Liam Moore (drums). The band formed back in August of 2014 and released their second single “Ocean” earlier this month. The track is off of their upcoming EP set to be released in 2016. The next Semantics show will be supporting The Vryll Society at The Sunflower Lounge in Birmingham. Learn more about the band from their interview and be sure to check out “Ocean” below.

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How would you describe your music to others?

Rob: Atmospheric, emotive, engaging, with elements of progression.

How did you guys meet?

Josh: I had recently left a band, and I basically scoured the internet for people that had something to them as individuals besides just playing an instrument. I really wanted to be writing music with people that had a voice and were willing to share that voice as apart of a collaborative. I guess the band more or less started when I met Aidan at a Wetherspoons in my hometown of Walsall, and we spoke at length about what music we liked and the kind of approach to writing we wanted to take. It was quite refreshing to have someone sat opposite me who despite not necessarily having the same tastes in music as me thought about and wished to work on music the same way as I did. Aidan is one of those guys who can do it all (he’s like the Swiss army knife of the group), he can play anything in existence on guitar, he can build guitar pedals, he can mix and produce tracks and he can jump into bushes for 50p. Aidan clicked with me straight away as a guitar player, as he instinctively can fit himself into a song and create something brilliant. I’m not quite as rehearsed with theory, so Aidan always keeps me on my toes when we write.

We went through two vocalists before we got Rob involved, and I remember sending him ‘Ocean’ as a guitar and bass track, and he came to that first practice (with only 3 or 4 days worth of time to work on it) completely dialed in with what he wanted to do, and I will never forget playing that song and hearing what he had come up with (as well as his vocals and lyrics) and just having shivers go through me. I looked at Aidan and we kinda just knew right there and then he was what we were after.

Liam became our drummer as we parted ways with our previous drummer 2 weeks before our first headline show. I used to skate with him a few years ago and completely forgot he played until my friend suggested I speak to him. The guy literally had 2 weeks to learn a 30 minute set of songs as well as get dialed in with us. It came together so much better than I thought (considering the time scale) and I think it’s clear that Liam really does bring something of his own to the table for our sound. He listens to everything but is primarily a metal fan, which really brings something unique to us rhythmically. The biggest change for me was noticing how Liam seems to be right up my ass when we play, and I feel it makes us so much tighter and more intense as a band when we play/gig. It’s as if we all lead from our respective corners.

What made you pick the band’s name, Semantics?

Josh: It was a name I had sat on for a while, I very much feel it kind of epitomizes how I think and behave, as well as represents the concepts to which people attach themselves to ideas and act upon them. I have always (for better or for worse) gone into very deeply about how and why I do things (Semantics is defined as: logic concerned with meaning), and then wondering what that represents both to me, and to others. It’s the concept of everything having connotations to which people can derive some form of purpose/meaning from.  I have always been really responsive to how symbols, colours, shapes, words, and other shit overall effect peoples perceptions of things.  

Who and what influences your music? Why?

Aidan: I can’t really speak for everyone in the band for our influences, we all come from similar musical backgrounds but we each take away something different from each artist. For me the main influences that come through (from my position in the band) are Joy Division, Nirvana (I like my fuzz boxes!) & We Are Scientists.

Josh: A big thing for me, is trying to get across that although it might be apparent we have certain influences, we use them to drive what we do rather than hone in on specifically copying or emulating a sound. If all you are going to do is just listen to a record and try and copy that sound then you aren’t really creating anything or contributing anything as an artist. We don’t like to play it safe. It’s important to have a pallet that includes lots of different types of music, both individually and as a group. John Paul Jones had the best answer for this kind of question for me, and it was ”everything you listen to is an influence, even if it’s something you shouldn’t do”. It’s also important to note that influences on a band shouldn’t be confined to music, everything you experience defines you and the voice you have as an artist.

Where did the inspiration behind “Ocean” come from?

Rob: I don’t reveal the meaning or inspirations behind my lyrics because I feel that it imposes my own narrow interpretation on the song. If the song has the capacity to evoke a response or connect with other people on a personal level, then nothing else really matters. It’s about giving people the capacity to have their own interpretation of our music and be able to derive their own meanings and emotions from them rather than have these ideas boxed up for them.

How often and how long do you practice together?

Rob: We usually practice in 2-3 hour sessions, two days a week. We spend a considerable amount of time writing the basis of our songs outside of the practice space due to us all being fairly busy outside of the band. Rehearsal time is more about dialing the set in and finishing off the songs.

Do you play covers at practices or shows? If so, which ones are your favorites?

Rob: As far as covers go, we have never played one live as we enjoy creating our own atmosphere at our gigs by controlling every aspect of the set. At practice, however, we often break into random classics. From ACDC to Led Zep and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, it usually just happens with one of us just messing around and the rest of us joining in.

What do you typically do post-gig?

Liam: Just chill out have a nice cold beer haha.

Josh: We usually stand outside the venue for five minutes recapping and stuff, good chance to reflect on the set and our music etc.

How would you describe your writing process and how is it beneficial for the band?

Aidan: We write a lot of sections individually and piece them together, I personally find it quite hard to sit down and write a full track and I think the rest of the guys can often feel the same way. Despite that however, I think that because everyone kinda builds the song (rather than one person) the ideas we have as individuals both shape and are shapen by each others ideas. Means we can create something organically rather than having a fixed idea of what a song should sound like. I actually saw a video of Battles talking about their writing process and I remember thinking how crazy it was, until I realised we almost do the same thing!

What image do you think your music conveys?

Aidan: A sexy one – just look at Liam, if you tell me you don’t like his drumming face you’re a liar.

Josh: We basically just want to make music that people will have sex to.

Aidan: Oh yes, when Rob’s not looking I pick up his strat & start playing Chic.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band?

Liam: Not necessarily a challenge, but the way we can write takes a long time, but in the end it is always worth it, because the songs always end up being the best they can be and having their own sound and identity.

What advice would you give to people who want to form their own band?

Liam: Just go for it and make it happen. As long as you have fun doing it nothing else matters.

Josh: What has been great for me is just taking the time to find the right people to have involved, and to just be patient and persistent. 

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(Photos courtesy of Jonathan Morgan)

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