British rock and roll band Tribes discuss their growing fan base, their first U.S. tour, and their upcoming album, Baby

After finishing up a nearly two month-long European tour, British rockers Tribes recently played two New York gigs, one at Mercury Lounge and one at Glasslands.  Just before their second set at the Williamsburg venue, I sat down with the band to discuss the tour, their upcoming album, Baby, and their relationship with Island Records, with whom they signed in February.

How was your show last night at Mercury Lounge?

Johnny Lloyd: Fantastic.  Good fun.  Yeah, it was completely packed.  That was just completely mind-blowing for our first show in New York.

Is this your first U.S. tour? 

Johnny: Yeah.

What cities have you been to so far?

Johnny:  We’ve been to Boston and now we’re in New York of course.  Then we’re going to Chicago, then Toronto and Los Angeles.

What’s been your experience so far?  Has it been what you anticipated?

Johnny:  We’ve just been so busy in the last few days because we’re doing loads of press during the day and then the shows at night. It’s been fast-paced, but it’s been great.  Being in New York has really been the highlight.  It’s something we’ve always wanted to achieve. And last night was great. Just meeting all the people and putting the record out.
Dan White: I don’t think we expected more than ten or twenty people. So it was great to have a sold-out show the first time we played in New York.

What’s your fan base like in the UK?

Johnny: We play shows to about 1,400 in London. It’s getting bigger, quite quickly there.
Dan:  We have a young fan base and then we have a lot of older rockers who are sort of second time around.  It’s always varied. It’s quite nice.
Johnny:  It was kind of like that last night, but on a smaller scale. There was a couple from Austin and a huge Italian guy from Brooklyn.  It was a nice cross-section of people.  It isn’t just young girls.

When you originally formed and were first writing your songs and figuring out your whole sound, what other music did you look to for inspiration?

Johnny:  It started out with more 90’s-based stuff and early ‘70s rock and roll. So there’s a lot of R.E.M. and a lot of Rolling Stones in there. I think as soon as we had a bunch of songs written, we stopped looking to other bands for influence and became more our sound.
Dan:  We listen to a lot of stuff.  From gospel to really heavy rock.  We don’t specify too heavily.  We’re not fascists when it comes to what we put on an iPod.

Do you agree easily to the music you listen in your tour van?

Johnny:  We have joint tastes.  But we just listen to anything.  We’re pretty open.

You have an EP out right now.  Do you have plans of releasing a full LP in the near future?

Johnny:  Yeah, it’s coming out in March in America. We’re really excited about that. It’s really refreshing to me because it’s brand new to us. We realize we have to work from the bottom up, but we’re up for that.  But it’s exciting because America is such a big place and everything’s new to us.
Dan:  It’s been such a bust seeing people here who are genuinely into it because we had no idea what kind of reception we’d have.

What was it like filming the video for “We Were Children?”  Did you plan everything in advance?

Johnny:  It was planned.  We had to take the Facebook group down because it was getting a bit busy and we were worried about the police finding out.  Dan directed it.  But it was great.  It was just a ten-minute window we had and he was really shitting himself that day because all the pressure was on him.
Dan:  We had no permit so it was completely illegal. We would have gotten in a shit-load of trouble.  But luckily no one got hurt.  We put a little thing on our Facebook.  At the time we didn’t even know how many people were into the band.  But all these people turned out and all the traffic was stopped. We played as long as we could until the police started shouting at us, so we stopped.

You signed to Island Records in February. How do you feel that affected your touring and recording?

Johnny:  It changes everything, really.  You have a budget all of a sudden. Our main aim in this band from the beginning was to sign to Island Records so it took us a long time to get there.  It just feels like we have total freedom.  It’s very open discussions and they put no pressure on us in terms of videos and where we tour and all that.  It feels like we’ve found a good home there.  And all the people there are really into music so it just feels like it should be –organic rock and roll.  Not processed.  We’re not a manufactured band. We write our own songs and wear our own clothes.
Dan:  We also never take any shortcuts. People have been quick to suggest that it’s been easy for us because we’ve only been together for two years.  But in those two years, we’ve been working together every day on the band.  And as soon as we signed the record deal, we started recording our album that day. It’s been really steady everyday with working on the band.

What has this past year been like for you?

Johnny:  It’s been busy.  We joke about it being like a decade.  Even thinking that Boston was three days ago, feels like at least two weeks ago. We just finished a seven and a half hour tour of Europe, which led straight into this U.S. tour.  So it’s just been constant.  But we love it.  We recorded the album and went on tour in June, which has been great.
Dan:  We have witnessed change though.  The crowds started getting bigger and we played Reading Festival. We had no idea how many people would come, but the tent was overflowing.  And that was the first time we had hundreds of people singing our songs back at us.

Travelling all over Europe, what were some of the most interesting cities?

Jim Cratchley: Amsterdam was beautiful, architecturally.
Johnny:  Berlin.  We spent about a week there.
Dan:  We played in Switzerland and drove through the Alps down to Milan and it was stunning. We’ve seen some beautiful sites and had some awfully wild, debauched nights out [laughs].  It was disgraceful.
Johnny:  You get a day off and what do you end up doing? [laughs]
Dan:  We also met some great people.

What’s planned for 2012?

Johnny:  Just a lot of touring and trying to get as many people as we can to hear the album.

Are you coming back to the States?

Johnny: Yeah, we’ll be back here in March and April.

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About Julie Kocsis

Julie Kocsis is Associate Editor and a contributing writer of ShortAndSweetNYC.com. Living in Brooklyn, she works for Penguin Random House during the day and writes about rock bands at night. In addition to her many band interviews as well as album and concert reviews that have been published on ShortAndSweetNYC.com, she has also been published on The Huffington Post, Brooklyn Exposed and the Brooklyn Rail.
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