Interview with Ben and Dan from Olympians

This week Ben and Dan from Olympians, an indie rock quartet from Norwich, which goes from some more experimental math rock to a softer folk rock. I asked something more about how their music evolved since the EP ‘To Our Wives and Sweetheart’, an ironic Christmas song (mostly a joke gone too far, of course!). A bit ironic and sarcastic (and also quite funny), Ben and Dan gave us some more information about the band. For the ones who’re interested, go and check their bandcamp.

How long have Olympians been together? Are you just four guys from Norwich sharing love for music?

Ben: We’ve been together as long as time itself.  Which is about two and a half years, for those of you who didn’t study history at school.

Dan: We played as Hair Traffic Control for a couple of years, but only became Olympians about 18 months ago. The music changed so it seemed right that the band name did too.

You blend in two guitars, two keyboards, one bass, one drum set, a trumpet and a glockenspiel, creating some arty pop rock.  Which bands influenced your sound the most?

Dan: We’re always torn musically between being into really intense math-rock type stuff like Three Trapped Tigers and Battles and stuff, and then folksy song-based stuff like Adem and Neil Young stuff. I guess bands that do a bit of both are most influential, like Youthmovies or Tubelord, bands that combine ace songs with hooks and stuff.

Ben: That’s definitely changed as we’ve got older.  I think you can definitely hear Weezer, Youthmovies, Neil Young, Bad Plus, Hot Club De Paris, Super Furry Animals…  People say we sound like Rush too, so I guess they must be an influence somewhere along the line.

Can you tell us something more about your EP ‘To Our Wives And Sweethearts’?

Dan: It’s got 6 songs, and they are all SERIOUS BANGERS.

Ben: It’s been out almost a year.  We made a video with lots of lights in it for one of the tracks. It basically takes every conceivable human emotion and sellotapes them all, piecemeal, into a twenty-five minute journey through time and space.

Where does ‘Leave You at Christmas’ come from? Why did you decide to record a Christmas-based track?

Dan: It was a bit of a joke that went a bit far really, we played it on our tour with our friends Our Lost Infantry and Spring Offensive last year, so thought it would be good to record it. We’re not that festive, so it was just a chance to have a moan about Christmas AND play some mega riffs.

Ben: It comes from a demo that Dan and I made a couple of years ago on Christmas Eve in the mistaken belief that doing something Christmas-themed with a day would help them get into the festive spirit, and leave their cynicism behind.  It’s basically a grandiose tantrum at having to visit relatives AGAIN and endure presents and turkey instead of staying at home and watching crap 90s films on TV that all ends with dumping your girlfriend, then admitting that you didn’t bother buying anyone presents anyway, and then getting really, really pissed.

When you signed with Evil Pop, did you see it as a turning point for the band?

Dan: Our deal with Evil Pop was just for that EP, we’re now working with a label in Cardiff called Barely Regal who released our more recent single ‘Wake Up Old. But yeah, Evil Pop were the first to help us do stuff like make a video which made a huge difference for us as I think that helped us a lot. It seems like people struggle to concentrate on music for 3 minutes without having something visual to engage them.

Ben: Everything we do is a turning point.  It’s a constant development and growth, so every step where someone helps us or we get to do something cool is a milestone that points us in a better direction.  And Evil Pop definitely helped us to do something really cool.

If you had to choose one album that inspired you personally and musically, which one would you pick? 

Dan: Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense, strictly a live album, but it sounds so much better than their studio output, and shows a band that are doing some really crazy stuff and combining it with mega ace pop. David Byrne is an inspiration, has never let up pushing boundaries and making amazing music 30-odd years on.

Ben: Oh jeez.  One?  Vertigo Of Bliss was probably the first album that made me really want to get up and play in a band.  Sorry did I say ‘get up and play in a band’?  I meant ‘ROCK’.

You’re playing a lot around the country, with some famous names in the indie scene. Are you looking forward to playing with any of them in particular? 

Ben: We’ve got a couple of shows coming up with Our Lost Infantry who are good friends of ours.  It’s always a pleasure playing with them.

Dan: Aye, them kids and Tubelord will be good, they’re both treats to play with as they’re amazing bands and ace fun to party with after. We’re only in a band so we get to travel and party and visit loads of Burger King.

Generally speaking, which aspect of a live performance do you enjoy the most?

Ben: Just getting to play our songs really loud to be honest.  And having someone on hand to put reverb on the vocals and make it all sound notshit.

Dan: I like telling crap jokes.

You are on Bandcamp, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and so on. How important is the concept of social media for you and your music?

Ben: For the music itself? Not very.  We’re still some way off writing a ballad about love encounters on Facebook.  However for promoting it, and keeping up to speed with what other people are doing, it’s the most important thing really.  It’s a way of being friends with more people than you’d ever actually be allowed to in real life, face to face; and the music industry is a very sociable one really, so it’s an invaluable resource.

Dan: It’s pretty essential these days to be all over this stuff. Unfortunately, I wish that we could promote our band by getting super drunk and vomiting in bins, but instead it involves hours on a laptop typing in the dark.

One goal you’d like to achieve in the foreseeable future?

Ben: Not really into football, sorry.

Dan: We always wanted to play some dates in Europe, although it looks like that might happen after all!


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