Adapting To Change – Whigs and Rakes interview

Next Saturday (28th July) sees the second Cool Cat Club show at Beat Generator Live! in Dundee. The show features The Bad Books, Hookers for Jesus and Playground Tactics but will be headlined by a band that Andy and I caught at the tail end of last year.

In the first of the interviews with the bands playing the show, Andy previews the set by headliners Whigs and Rakes with the assistance of singer/songwriter Kitty Hall.

I’ve never really understood why people show up late for shows, just in time to catch the headline band. Sure, you sometimes witness some utter nonsense but often, you catch some amazing new bands. And remember, all those headliners started off somewhere at the start of a night.

And so fortune smiled on us when we dragged ourselves out early in the dead week between Christmas and Hogmany for Vladimir’s own little Christmas celebration at the Doghouse. Somehow we’d managed to never hear Whigs and Rakes despite the fact they only hailed from neighbouring Perth, had previously released an E.P. and played Dundee before. They looked pretty youthful and very unassuming, nervous even, as they took to the stage but once they started playing we were both pretty blown away by them.

They can certainly rock out, the songs are pretty dynamic but also move through an array of moods and tones and the melodies really stick out for me. Despite the brevity of their set we both purchased copies of their spanking new debut album Acclimatize.

I chased after one of the White brothers to get a copy as I thought they were leaving the venue (they were only moving their equipment out), I was that keen to get a physical copy and it’s been a constant favourite this year.

It seems to reveal something new upon each play. Kitty Hall has a brilliant, distinctive voice and musically, the trio (no bass – they quite proudly tell us that no ‘bass guitar was used in the making of this album’) can shift from atmospheric and delicate to sheer, energetic noise, sometimes within the same song. It’s hard to pick favourites but ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Verona Terrace’ are utterly gorgeous, building up a series of moods and feelings that take me on a joyous trip.

In the interview, I naively asked if they called the album ‘Acclimatize’ because they thought that musically they might think they were a hard sell but that’s so far off the mark. While Whigs and Rakes are often uncompromisingly themselves I think the songs are pretty accessible and catchy. Songs like ‘My Jaw’ sound very fragile and spindly in places and that adds to the charm while ‘Swim’ and ‘Take’ really rock hard with a quite staccato, raw sound and great catchy tunes.

I can’t recommend Whigs and Rakes enough and Kitty kindly answered some questions for us ahead of Whigs and Rakes headline appearance at The Cool Cat Club next weekend.

AW – First things first, can you tell us who Whigs and Rakes are and how you came to be?

KH – Kitty Hall (me) and brothers Taylor & Harrison White. Taylor and Harrison have been playing together almost all their lives and I had played solo and in bands for years until one day during the summer of  2010 they asked me to sing over some of their instrumental stuff. We managed to make it work and entered a BBC Blast competition that we won which gained us confidence and we have been playing ever since.

AW – Where did the name Whigs and Rakes come from?

KH – The title of a chapter in a History book about Hellfire Clubs.

AW – For someone who is yet to hear or see Whigs and Rakes, how would you describe yourselves to them?

KH – Noisy. Melodic. Catchy. Eerie? We musically do what we want and put a lot of effort into making it sound exactly how we imagined.

AW – Your debut album, Acclimatize, came out last year. Could you tell us a little bit about the recording of that?

KH – We recorded it at Clearwater in Perth with Tom Mitchell who also recorded our EP. We did a total of 16 tracks before whittling them down to 14 (including an introduction). Some of these were finished in the studio. It was very exciting to get to record a full album as most unsigned bands can only manage to record EPs.

AW – Was it self-financed/released? How easy/difficult was this?

KH – It was self released which means that it is mainly sold at shows or online or via word of mouth. We owe a lot to people who pass us on to friends. We got a good deal at Clearwater and Taylor/Harrison’s father lent us some money so all our sales go back to him. Taylor also gave the studios his Mac Computer. It’s hard to finance an album but it’s definitely worth it.

AW – Is there any significance in the title? Do you think Whigs and Rakes are an acquired taste?

KH  – Acclimatize means to adapt to a new situation. Most of the songs in the album fall under the theme of adapting to change whether this be in growing up, having a new outlook on life or something dramatic in your life. Acclimatize relates to so many different aspects in the lyrics for me. I could see that we could be an acquired taste, but we have received positive feedback from all kinds of people with all kinds of tastes from heavy metal to pop.

AW – How has the response to the album been so far?

KH – The response has been really great. Some really cool people have taken an interest in us and we have been played on more stations. For instance Ally McRae complimented it and Jim Gellatly has played us on his show a few times. Also some bands we love like and respect our music which is amazing for us.

AW – Whigs and Rakes have played quite a lot of shows around Scotland. What kind of reception have you had?

KH – To be honest I am often blown away by the response we get at shows. I have heard so many nice things and I am yet to hear someone say anything bad apart from wonder why we don’t have a bassist before we play.

AW – What is the most memorable show you’ve played?

KH – That’s hard to answer as one for me doesn’t stick out.. We got to play with Tubelord last year at the Captains Rest in Glasgow which was amazing as I love that band. Glasgow is always amazing to play. Our album launch in Perth was pretty memorable as we sold it out and everyone seemed to have a great time and it got pretty wild.

AW – What is Perth like for live music and bands? Are there many places to play?

KH – Perth can be great for us. There are not many venues with a good reputation and you have to promote pretty well, but there are a lot of musicians and people who do appreciate music.

AW – What would your ideal gig be?

KH – Playing with an amazing band I love I guess. Or a big festival. I am so overwhelmed when I watch bands at festivals and imagine if I was them. It must be so strange yet great playing to that many people all in a great mood.

AW – What are your influences, musical or otherwise?

KH – Musically, I grew up listening to Madonna, The Pixies, Blondie, Neil Young and The Smashing Pumpkins. Right now I love Warpaint, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Joy Formidable. I could list hundreds of bands that must have influenced me in some way. We all love Mogwai a lot and Taylor loves Tool. Otherwise I am inspired lyrically by my dreams and wake up in the middle of the night and often write them down.

I also like trying to convey my views on the world. I guess sometimes they are slightly political but I prefer writing about what humans have in common rather than my own opinion too much. To be honest the stuff I write that I like the best, I can’t remember writing.

AW – What does the future hold for Whigs and Rakes?

KH – Hopefully everything. Our minds are open and we love what we do and are all very serious about it. I can’t imagine not making music.

AW – Anything else that you’d like to add?

KH – You can buy our album at a show or online at Follow us on Facebook for gig updates and new tracks and you can watch our music video for ‘Silhouette ‘ on YouTube. Meow and Peace x

And why not watch the video here?

The show on the 28th starts at 8 pm and tickets are £4 available on the door.