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Music Interview

The Automatic

By
The Automatic
Two years ago The Automatic scored the surprise smash of the summer when their indie-pop stomper 'Monster' became the anthem of choice for primary school children, England footie fans and festival crowds alike. The song's success allowed the band - minus departed keyboard player Alex Pennie - to jet off to LA to record their second album, and their impressive comeback single, 'Steve McQueen', suggests this was definitely a journey worth taking. We called frontman Rob Hawkins to find out how they're getting on.

Did you set out any guidelines or plans when you began writing the new album?
"We were just happy to be writing again. We were 18-19 when we wrote the first album and we hadn't had a block of time to do any writing after that. You join a band because you want to write music and play music, so it was great fun to get back in the studio. We didn't have any set idea of what we wanted it to sound like, but that was probably to our benefit. If you tried to force it into any type of box, it usually ends up worse for it."

Did you feel pressure to write a song as popular as 'Monster'?
"When we started writing the album we weren't thinking about anything like that. We just wanted to start making songs again. The writing process for this album was really easy and really, really enjoyable. We didn't try to make it live up to 'Monster'. I mean, 'Monster' wasn't typical of our first album anyway."

Do you view the success of 'Monster' as a blessing or a curse?
"Definitely a blessing. We wrote a song, it did really well, I don't really see what there is to be upset about. You get labelled "one hit wonders", but that's more hits than most people have. And it's not like we've disappeared without a trace. We've got a second album coming out, which in my opinion is full of much better songs. We wouldn't have been in a position to fly to LA to make a record if it wasn't for 'Monster'."

So being called "The 'Monster' Band" doesn't bug you?
"It's one we're expected to play live, but it's not like it's the only song people like. That would bug me. I do wish we didn't always get asked, 'What's that coming over the hill?' But everything else is alright."

What's the weirdest place you've ever heard the song being played?
"We've heard it in some pretty weird places. I've heard they sing it in Scottish prisons when they bring the paedophiles in. That's pretty weird."

A lot of people were surprised when Pennie, your rather zany keyboard player, left the band last year. How much of an impact did that have on the group?
"We saw it coming for quite a while. We knew he wasn't happy in the band for a year. It was very gradual from our perspective. He was phased out and it came to a point where he was doing gigs with us but he wasn't part of the band. We'd been writing without him for a while as well, so it was definitely for the best."

Wasn't it weird knowing he was leaving, but still having to perform with him?
"It was weird up until we made a deadline. But when we decided that he'd be in the band up until a certain point it was all alright. He didn't want to be in the band anymore and we couldn't continue like that."

Would it be fair to say the band sound more "American" on the new record?
"Possibly. We've got a lot of American influences anyway, but I think we just sound like us. We don't sound like anybody else around at the moment, which is something I'm proud of. We certainly don't have more of an American sound than someone like Lostprophets."

Are the band more aware of the importance of lyrics second time around?
"I've always been very aware of lyrics and I want them to mean something - rather than the Kasabian approach to things where they just write whatever comes to mind. I did spend a lot longer this time trying to make lyrics that make sense. Last time they were quite introspective, but after touring the world and growing up a bit these songs are inspired by the wider world and things I've seen in the news."

'Steve McQueen' by The Automatic is out now. The album This Is A Fix follows on August 25.

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