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Monkey To Man: An Interview With Little Man Tate

“I’d probably say our minds aren’t much dirtier than most lads’, we just write about the things lads talk about down the pub”

Little Man Tate are a band from Sheffield. They’ve made a lot of fans on the Internet, singer Jon delivers with a thick accent, and their sound comprises witty lyrics and simple, danceable guitar riffs. Sound like anyone else we know? However, to dismiss them so easily would be to do them a great injustice. The Arctic Monkeys may have broken through first, but Little Man Tate are just as fresh, fun and exciting a band, who deserve that same shot at the musical mainstream. As Jon, 24, tells me in his email, the band are fed up of being pigeonholed in a catch-all “Sheff scene”, and with LMT it’s the songs and the enjoyment that matters. They have a lot to recommend them, masking melancholic chorus lines like “everything’s changing and we can’t hold on” and “this should be the best night of your life but she’s lonely” in big, bounce-along melodies. New single “House Party At Boothy’s” is an honest, humorous snapshot of a raucous free house filled with randy young men and women ready to ensure that “these four walls won’t forget tonight”. This is their next chart bid, but all their songs are populated with similar funny-but-true characters, from scenesters who dance in V-neck sweaters to shit pub bands to cross-dressing skinhead hooligans. The scenes are real yet elevated by Jon’s clever poetry, covering bar room jukebox romance, tea-party invitations from the local lesbians, and the odd bit of fucking on the stairs. Time to catch them before they go ‘nova.

3:AM: Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you form, how did the band come together?

Jon Windle: Me and Maz (guitar) have always played in bands together since we were 15. We met when we were playing Sunday league football in the under 9’s league. Later Ben joined the team we played for and we started jamming together. In July last year we decided to start a new band and get Dan to play drums. We knew him from pubs and parties and stuff, and knew he played drums.

3:AM: If my research is correct, you’re named after a 90s film. Why did you decide on that name, what does it mean for you?

JW: We were really struggling to think of a name and for some reason the name of that film popped into my head and we thought it sounded like a decent name for a band. There wasn’t really anything deep and meaningful about it.

3:AM: Who writes most of the lyrics? They often have a lot of sexual content, what do you feel that brings to the overall feel of the songs? Would you say you had dirty minds?

JW: I write most of the lyrics and we try to keep them true to life, like things we’ve done and things that have happened to people we know. I’d probably say our minds aren’t much dirtier than most lads’, we just write about the things lads talk about down the pub.

3:AM: Another big part of your sound is obviously the Northern accent. You’ve been collected with various bands like Milburn and the Arctic Monkeys in a scene the NME has called the New Yorkshire. What do you think of this tag? Do you consider your sound similar to those other bands, or would you rather be viewed outside of a ‘scene’?

JW: We never actually got labelled in the New Yorkshire scene in the NME, I think we just missed out on that one. The thing with Sheffield is it’s a much bigger scene than just four or five bands. There all sorts of different styles of music and some right good musicians. It’s always had a vibrant scene, it’s just that it’s taken a while for the spotlight to be back on it. The Sheffield bands in the New Yorkshire thing have been mates for ages and played football and went to school together so they’ve helped each other out a lot.

3:AM: What influences you most as musicians? Who were your favorite bands and songs growing up? Do you take much inspiration from other sources, such as films and books — if so, which?

JW: We don’t read too many books, if it’s good someone will make a film about it anyway so we just wait for that. Musically, we’re influenced by so many bands and song writers that I’ll just list a few but I’m bound to miss someone out. Pulp, Carter USM, The Clash, The Beatles, James, Oasis, Stone Roses, Half Man Half Bicuit, Blur and loads more.

3:AM: You have an active forum fan base, the Master Tasters. What does one have to do to be a true Master Taster? Also, what role do you think the Internet plays for a young band such as yours to establish itself? How much has it helped you get your songs out there?

JW: Yeah, the Master Taters have been brilliant, they’re the best fans ever. A guy called Johnny started it all and he’s a legend. The internet has been brilliant for us as it gave us the chance to get our music out there without any financial backing.

3:AM: How do you plan to keep such a close relationship with your fans, as you get more successful? Will you still hang around after the show to meet the audience, or will you be retreating to the tour bus as the venues get bigger?

JW: We’ll still hang around after the gigs for a chat and stuff because without the people who are there to see us, we wouldn’t be doing it at all.

3:AM: How would you describe your music? Are you happy with the catch-all ‘indie’ tag or do you feel there is a better way of labeling your sound?

JW: I don’t really mind how people label our music as long as it’s not “They’re from Sheffield and they sound just like all them other Sheffield bands”. After a bit it starts to piss you off. Some bands spend more time answering questions on other people’s bands than they do on their own.

3:AM: Songs like “Sexy In Latin”, “Man I Hate Your Band” and “Hello Miss Lovely” tell detailed stories of everyday life. Do you think it’s important for bands to write about the real world, and the things they know? Are any of these tales based on real life events that have happened to you? What exactly does “it’s written on the wall that you’re sexy in Latin” mean?

JW: Yeah I think for us it’s important to write about real life and things that mean stuff to us, we’re just really normal lads so what means stuff to us usually means stuff to lots of other people too. The “Sexy in Latin” lyric was something I remember from school which just said “such-and-such is fit as fuck” on the wall of one of the language rooms. I had to change it a bit as the real words would be harder to rhyme. We miss out on a parental guidance thing though, that might have made us a bit more rock’n’roll.

3:AM: Will you be happy to break out of Sheffield, or will the band continue to be based there? Can you still be seen at house parties at Boothy’s and the like, or are you having to see old friends less due to the pressures of touring?

JW: We won’t move from Sheffield we’ve got too many friends and family here. It’s been more difficult to see everyone as much as we did but — fingers crossed — we’ll do well and still have plenty of time to spend in Sheff and at Boothy’s house.

3:AM: What are your future recording plans? Is an album in the pipeline any time soon? And if so, where, when and with who is it being recorded, and what songs are likely to appear on it?

JW: The album’s been recorded and most of it mixed, we’re putting the finishing touches to it next week but I’m not sure of the release date yet, in fact it hasn’t even got a name.

3:AM: Which contemporary bands are your current favourites? Who would you like to tour with if you had the chance, and which bands would you like to see getting more coverage? Who’s doing something new?

JW: I really like The Upper Room and would like to see them live: if we were on tour with them it would kill two birds with one stone. Also we’ve played with Larrikin Love a couple of times and they’re right good too. As for bands I’d like to see get more coverage in the future I’d probably have to go for Little Man Tate: they write some killer tunes and the singer’s just sex on legs.

3:AM: What is Little Man Tate’s message to the world? Could you sum yourselves up in a few words, and explain why 3:AM readers should care about your music? Who will it appeal to?

JW: Our message to the world would have to be Spread The Love.

To sum ourselves up in a few words I would say, we’re good mates in a band who’ve been lucky enough to be given the chance to play music for a living and have a good time writing songs that are about real stuff. I hope our music appeals to lots of people as we seem to have a very varied fan base from 16-year-olds to my Mum and Dad.

3:AM: What can a new fan expect from a Little Man Tate live show? Which songs should they be sure to catch, and what experience do you think your audience will go away with?

JW: I hope when we play we give it everything we can with lots of energy. I think the minute a band goes on stage and doesn’t want to be there it’s time to pack it in. Even if there’s just 10 people at a gig they deserve the same performance as if there were 1000. It’s not just about the band, it’s about the crowd as well. It’s about the atmosphere and having the best fucking night of your life.

3:AM: Did you really go “down, down, down on Marie”?

JW: Ha, ha brill question! Yeah — and her mate.

Richard O’Brien was born in Peterborough in 1990, and has been trying to escape ever since. He is currently still trying to get an education, and resides in a Lincolnshire village with his parents and his labradors with nautical names. He likes to act, listen to music, and write songs that will never be sung.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, September 22nd, 2006.