Northampton-based quartet My First Tooth released their summer-soaked second album Love Makes Monsters in March this year. Jo, Gareth and Ross came to speak to me after three hours of band practice (because I'm sure there was absolute nowhere else they'd rather have been at that moment) for a natter about the record along with Alcopop Records, VHS and Hollyoaks.
Your album Love Makes Monsters was released a few months ago. How did it go making that?
Gareth: It went pretty well. We finished it which is always a bonus. The making of it was really good actually, although it was slightly...
Gareth: That's the word I was looking for. There was at least one protractor involved! We started making it, recorded a handful of songs, then put it off for several months before we went back and finished it off. But it ended up being for the best I think - gave us a bit more time to work on it. So it was quite a long gestation period but it was good fun making it.
Jo: For the latter part of it we got to go to Bridlington in North Yorkshire and go to the beach and there was a big dog in the studio and it was just really good fun.
Gareth: And some drums.
Jo: And there were some drums.
Ross: A dog.
Gareth: And a producer.
Jo: And a sock.
So what do you think you were hoping to achieve on this record?
Jo: I think we felt when we were writing that we had progressed and developed as a band, and I think we were really hoping that that would come across on the record. People who'd heard our first album [Territories] would listen to this one and hear that there had been some forward movement. Certainly that was what I was hoping for.
Gareth: I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh, I preferred their earlier stuff," and I haven't heard anyone say that but that's possibly because I haven't engaged with anyone in conversation about it. I try not to speak to anybody, particularly about the record. I just hope people will get where we're going with it and appreciate it. And buy it.
Ross: We're hoping to achieve record sales.
Gareth: That would be really nice. At least as many as the last one to make sure that we can do one next.
Is it selling well?
Gareth: I have no idea. I don't crave disappointment enough to actually ask what our sales figures are. We let the label take care of that.
Ross: Our label boss is well fed so I assume we're selling a lot of records.
Jo: He's got a very nice house and he has a lot of holidays.
Ross: And I think he uses conditioner on his hair.
But you did a tour to support the album. How was that?
Jo: We did a sort of spread out tour that took up around about a month and I think we did seventeen or eighteen dates in that time. And some of those shows were done on our own and we played some of those shows with Frontier Ruckus who are a fantastic band from Michigan and we had a lot of fun with them. It was a pleasure to watch them play their music every night.
Gareth: It was nice to see those guys again and it was really great to see them play every night. The tour itself went mostly well I think. There was the standard one cancellation (because we can't have any tour without at least one show being cancelled) and there were those shows where we only played to a handful of people but apart from that the rest of it was really good. And I suppose it's not the fault of those handful of people that no one else came.
Jo: We started off with the album launch show, we did one in London and one in Northampton, and I think we were all overwhelmed a bit by how many people came to see us.
Ross: I openly wept on stage. We tried to write it into the setlist for the rest of the tour but it didn't happen.
Jo: "At this point Ross will weep and thank all of our friends and family."
Gareth: The show in London and the one in Northampton were both really well attended so we thought, "maybe people do like us," but then played the next night in Cardiff and there were like sixteen people there. So people still don't like us.
Ross: There's always a million other gigs going on in Cardiff though.
Jo: And there loads of police there because Prince Charles was coming to visit which probably put everyone off.
He probably came to see you.
You touched on being signed to Alcopop Records. What's that like?
Gareth: Have you ever been not signed to a label? Because it's a bit like that but sometimes Ross might get a call from Jack.
Ross: Usually nothing to do with music. Just generally asking me whether an idea is any good.
Jo: Or asking you whether an idea that you had was actually his. Honestly though Alcopop Records is great, Jack works really really hard for all the bands on the label, and it is genuinely a complete pleasure to work with Alcopop. We feel very lucky. Lord only knows where we'd be without them.
Gareth: But we're left to our own devices for the most part. I can't imagine delivering an album to Jack and him going, "I think we need a single, I'm not hearing a single on it." He's just so enthusiastic about everything we do.
Ross: We just tell him what's happening and he accepts it.
Gareth: We say, "We're going to do this," and he goes, "Okay let's put that in the schedule." I don't know what we'd have to send him for him to not release it.
Jo: He said he'd even release your spoken word project.
Gareth: That's true. I intend to try and push the boundaries by sending him all sorts of rubbish.
The first single from the album, Past Broadcasts, was released on VHS. Do you still have VHS players?
Ross: I do.
Jo: I do.
Ross: I have a TV-video combo.
Gareth: I've got one, but when I was moving house I dropped something on the plug and the plug smashed to pieces.
Ross: I'll replace it for you. Then you can watch our single.
Gareth: It was one of those moulded plugs that you couldn't replace in the normal way. But because I have absolutely no desire to ever watch a VHS tape I've not really bothered fixing it. It's just a rectangle that I own now.
Jo: Confined to history, like the five MiniDisc players that he's got in a shoebox.
Gareth: I own a lot of things that are squares or rectangles that I no longer have use for that used to do stuff.
Ross: I think I assumed that everyone would still have their VHS player.
Jo: It's quite funny at gigs when we have the video tapes out on the merch table and people go, "Oh, brilliant, that's really cool. I can't play it though." Or people go, "Err, no one has got VHS anymore." It was meant to be nostalgic. But it's funny people's reactions to it: some people think it's genius and some people think we're completely insane.
Gareth: We're trying to actively discourage people from buying our products by releasing them on an obsolete format.
Ross: When I tried to get them actually made the people emailed me back and said, "Well, I think it would be better on DVD. People will have DVDs now." Like I'd just woken up from a ten year sleep.
You guys were also in Hollyoaks a while back.
Jo: We were. That was quite a day for me.
Do you want to talk about this?
Jo: Now I'm going to start this by saying that I love Hollyoaks so for me it was a treat. I don't feel everybody else got as much out of the day as I did.
Gareth: We had a fun day out, looking at people that I didn't recognise.
Ross: They had a nice cafeteria.
Jo: Ross was just silently weeping that it wasn't One Tree Hill.
Gareth: It's lucky Jo was there because I didn't know the cast, the extras, the producer and the teaboy like her because I don't watch Hollyoaks so I didn't know who any of the people on it were. I did once watch Hollyoaks but not for many many years.
Jo: I loved it. I was dead excited like, "Oh my God there's Texas, aaaargh!" It was really exciting for me. But we did have to watch the same scene about thirty times in a row and we knew all of it off by heart by the end of the day. Also they made us mime along; we'd have ten seconds of playback and then we had to carry on going. But when they cut it into the programme they used a different song from the one we were miming to. It was fine though, you'd never know.
Gareth: It even took me a few seconds to realise.
Jo: It was really good fun. We didn't get hair and make-up though which I was a bit disappointed about. I was really looking forward to that.
Gareth: My mum was very happy at seeing me on the telly.
Jo: That was a very surreal day. Fun though.
Gareth: They asked us back for a second day of filming and as we were just going past the sign that said, 'Welcome To Liverpool' we got a quick call saying that they didn't need us anymore. I think it's because they knew that I was going to steal something.
Jo: Oh yeah. Because obviously they can't have alcohol on set and they can't have branded cans, their beer cans are called Beergrad. And because the setting of the bit we were in was a music festival, all of these people were walking around with cans of Beergrad and we really wanted to steal one but I was too scared. I wish I had.
But outside of the band I believe some of you are involved in solo projects.
Gareth: My spoken word!
Ross: I have Railway Hotel, but it's just to fill the gap between Tooth action.
Jo: And also an outlet for your songs that aren't good enough for My First Tooth
Ross: Basically all the songs that Gareth rejects go into the solo project.
Jo: But then we sometimes hear them and go, "Oh actually can we have that one."
Gareth: Sophie recorded one song once, didn't she?
Jo: Also Warren who is the newest member of the band does a fine rendition of Nine To Five by Dolly Parton. If you ever have the opportunity to see him play solo I would recommend you take it. He has the voice of a lion.
And is there anything else that you wanted to get out there onto the internet?
Jo: We've got some festivals coming up. We're playing at Great Escape, Handmade, Y Not.
Gareth: Reading. Leeds. Do you think if we just say them all then that's legally binding and we have to play them.
Jo: Hot off the press, we might be playing Wychwood Festival. We might be.
Ross: Human League are. We can announce that. We can also announce that The Rolling Stones are playing a little festival called Glastonbury. Don't know if you've heard of it?
Jo: We ourselves played the very festival. I believe that is what inspired The Rolling Stones to actually play Glastonbury.
Gareth: Charlie Watts doesn't want to do it so we're expecting a call any minute!