Interview: Caleb Sweeting
Anyone who is a fan of 90s grunge or 70s rock is likely to appreciate the sound of Adelaide three-piece, These Wild Animals. The trio consisting of Josh Bills, (vocals/guitar), Beau Heffernan (drums) and Anthony Katern, (bass), just released their second EP Enstasy and already have a cult following in their hometown. But they hope to stretch their musical presence further than little old Adelaide, with plans to tour the East Coast of Australia in 2015.
Josh Bills the only founding member remembers when their original drummer left the band to join the navy after playing only two shows. In the early days stuck with no drummer Josh and the original bass player, Ryan got into contact with an old school mate; Beau who they remembered was a "good drummer." Josh sitting on the edge of the pool table recalls, "It was a drunk night at the Saily I think where we asked Beau (to join the band)." Originally named after the song “Thieves for Children,” before settling on These Wild Animals, they played local gigs for a couple of years until the bass player too called it quits. Left without a permanent bassist for 6 months they eventually found Anthony who was recommended by a close friend. Ant agreed to join the band after only listening to a couple of their songs, telling Yewth, "I had no idea who they were." Luckily for all of us, the trio gelled from their first encounter in 2012, discovering they all shared similar interests and music tastes.
After having my own taste of their music I honestly believed these boys had been raised on a music diet consisting of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden etc., however after asking them I realised it was in fact the complete opposite. “Originally when a lot of the first songs were written I hadn't actually listened to much of the 90s, like grunge, alternative sort of sound,” says Josh. “Then we started playing shows and people were saying, oh you guys sound like Pearl Jam or you guys sound like Soundgarden. And apart from "Black Hole Sun" we had no idea what any of their songs were... Then we started listening to it." Beau said he was more into punk music and bands like Blink 182, and didn't even start listening to any "grungey stuff" until after he joined the band. While Josh on the other hand was a big Guns n' Roses, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath and Metallica fan and hadn't listened to much grunge, but was always into Chili Peppers and early Powderfinger. Ant the odd one out did however; loved the grunge sound during high school and is especially fond of the genre.
Like any band all the current members had to overcome their own different challenges - Josh only started singing when he formed the band, and soon realised he had to get better (and let me tell you he did!) And Ant came into the band having to learn 12 songs. Josh says some of the songs are now 5 to 6 years old, but bits have slowly changed as the band has evolved and matured.
The song writing process is mainly crafted by Josh, especially older tracks that were written before Beau and Ant were even apart of These Wild Animals. However, Beau says more recent work is something they are collaborating and producing together. "It mainly comes from jams, because we have this studio if something good happens we can push record and sometimes songs come out of that, but a lot of it is Josh structuring the songs and me and Ant adding our bits."
The band actually considered releasing songs from their first two EPs as one album, but decided it would be more effective to release their work in two installments that would allow them to generate more attention. "We thought we would split it into two (EPs) make it a little more accessible. While making one the softer more acoustic side and the other one the heavier side,” says Beau. “We also made the covers the same and the names Ecstasy represent an experience outside the body, which is the bit more full on one and Enstasy is the within yourself experience and that's why that's a bit softer and a bit more mellow sort of thing."
It’s quite obvious they wanted people to desire their music, rather than forcing it upon them in one big cd. "By the time we released that second cd people wanted that cd, and there was a bit of a demand for it, mainly for “Lay Down Bonnie” because that's been around so long and it's a lot of people's favourites and it wasn't on the first EP. But it is good to release music when people want music, rather than releasing it for the sake of it.”
When I asked the boys my final question of was there any reason for choosing their instrument, no-one was more excited than Beau who has been drumming since he was 11 and said the drums solved his "annoying tapping problem." “I would just sit there and make sticks out of Lego and just bash them on a couch. Mum and Dad sort of picked up that I was hitting them in time so they were like maybe we should just channel this somewhere and they sent me off to drum lessons and ever since then I've played drums. And I still tap and Dad still hates it!"
Josh has been playing guitar since he was 8 and was inspired by his Dad who was also a musician, "he gave me a guitar and I started learning!" And picked up singing because firstly they had no one else to fill the role and, “Ryan our first bass player said you should sing, because he heard me scream in the car."
While Ant was a bit of the late comer, picking up the bass at the ripe age of 16, "My Dad is a pretty sick guitarist so he taught me some stuff, and I mucked around on it for about a week. I'd sort of throw the pick down and finger pick and he was like, don't take this the wrong way but you're a bass player you should play bass, and I just found it so much more natural.”
This year the band hopes to bring their dark, alternative sound full of guitar solos and aggressive drums over to Melbourne followed by Sydney. But I highly recommend you see them live in Adelaide, where they are in their true element on the stage at Jive.
TWA say they have enough songs to release another CD but they are going to give it sometime before they do. “The idea is now that we've got the two CDs that show what we can do we can get them out there and get as many people to listen to it as possible.”
Photos taken by Jay Lim