An Evening With The Hosts
Sandman met Sheffield’s hottest new band The Hosts for a pint of beer, a pinch of snuff and a natter about the past, present and the future of the band.
Present at the pub was lead singer and Sheffield music stalwart Tom Hogg, drummer Ben and guitarist Shippers. Keyboardist Jim and bassist Bailey were absent; waiting to watch Cold War Kids play the Leadmill around the corner.
The Hosts have only been around for a year but like many bands from the city they are being tout- ed and sniffed out by the top record labels in search of the next act to roll of what is becoming a musical production line in Sheffield.
However, two members of the band, Tom and Bailey, have been here before after having played in a handful of other Sheffield bands, most notably Hoggboy. The Hosts present Tom and Bailey with a real second chance to become successful musicians, and the new set-up could provide the perfect vehicle for that aim.
Former project Hoggboy, rose to fame in the early naughties along with the new wave of indie rock bands, mainly from America, such as The Strokes and The White Stripes, both of whom Hoggboy had played support. Hoggboy were touted in the press as Britain’s answer to The Strokes way before The Libertines burst on to the scene; which mainly featured skinny men with long hair in tight jeans, leather jackets and Converse.
In one interview from the time, Tom states that the scene, and his band in particular, were a reaction to “the same old pissy indie bands” which had “been done before” and were becoming “boring and drab.”
Hoggboy was one of few English bands doing this at the time and were therefore causing Steve Lamaq, The Face and NME to foam over at the mouth by how cool they were.
However, things soon began to fall apart after the release of debut album, Or8. Produced by Chris Thomas who had also been involved with The Beatles, Sex Pistols and Pulp, and the ex-Pulp and now solo legend Richard Hawley, the album was over hyped and subsequently flopped.
Maybe it was because of the build ‘em up and smash ‘em down psyche of the British media, for instance France’s Rolling Stone magazine named Or8 as their album of the month and Hoggboy had also received favourable reviews from the American music press. Maybe it was down to their refusal to leave the Steel City, favouring instead to live, record and be totally based in the city; a trait that Tom and Bailey still maintain to this day with The Hosts.
Although it was only several years ago the music scene was still too bloated from the excess of Britpop and too lazy to go out and search for new bands such as Hoggboy. This was still just before it became en vogue for British kids to start going to gigs again in the droves that we see in Sheffield today. It was also before the infamous ‘Myspace Revolution’ creating instant and constant availability of new music from around the world to people’s bedrooms at the touch of a button.
However now we are in the post-Myspace age, can Tom and Bailey finish where they last left off, with The Hosts? With his experience in so many bands Tom explains how he has transferred his experience,
“I saw the world… I wrote songs for films… I’ve done a lot… obviously you learn from your mistakes… In my songwriting I have become more choosy, I suppose that I have learnt that if it’s not good enough you need to rework it or throw it…you have to have good material, it’s what’ll make you stand or fall as a band.”
Rehearsing and getting things right also seems to be an integral policy for the band,
“We’ve been spending a lot of time in the rehearsal rooms making a lot of noise, and every time we’ve just been getting better… there’s better song writing and we’re rehearsing them again and again to make them sound better and better.”
So the work rate is definitely there. The Hosts practice in band-mate Jim’s Naked Recording Studios, located in Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter. The studios have also been used by Reverend and the Makers, whom The Hosts once shared a stage with to collaborate on Reverend track Bandits, as well as upcoming acts Slow Club and Tiny Dancers.
On the subject of venues and gigs, the Hosts have only performed fourteen times so far, two of which were in London and the rest in Sheffield.
The Hosts supported their mate Richard Hawley in London and got a good reception,
“Not that this really matters,” Tom points out,
“We’re Sheffield and proud… it’s about the music and not who likes us,
Ben concludes, “The fact that they did in London is just a bonus!”
Are The Hosts not concerned though that they have played so few gigs, or is that part of their plan? Tom puts the record straight,
“We’re not chasing anyone for gigs… We’re concentrating on writing and playing our music at moment… We’re taking it as it comes, there’s no masterplan, we’re just enjoying what we’re doing.”
This relaxed and comfortable attitude comes from experience but also stems from the fact that the lads are genuine. I too believe that this is not an attempt to be cool or moody but that they do simply enjoy what they do. The band all have part time jobs so do not need to “chase” their gigs to earn a living, for the Hosts it’s about having a good time, and per- forming in good time.
The Hosts came into being when ex-Hoggboys Tom and Bailey started jamming and experimenting with different sounds and songs at his flat. They began taking this to another level and going to the Naked Recording Studios, working on things with keyboardist Jim. It was then a hesitant decision to form the band.
“We’d already learnt a lot from being around bands before and we knew that if we were to do this it would mean hard work and that not just anyone could join in and play with us,” remembers Tom.
“We needed a spot-on drummer but we were hav- ing a major problem finding one…but we used Ritchie from Reverend and the Makers for a while but we knew we couldn’t rely on him because of his already busy schedule,”
They then bumped into Ben and Shipperley in legendary Sheffield pub, The Washington.
“I said it would be an honour to play for Hosts!” laughs Shipperley,
Tim from Bromhead’s Jacket knew Ben from Uni and recommended him to the band as drummer. He was immediately asked whether he could drum as well as Led Zepplin’s John Bonham to which he replied, “no.” But he was nevertheless selected,
“At least he was honest,” laughs Tom, “We admired that!”
After this fateful meeting it seems the band clicked almost immediately within a couple of sessions at naked Recordings and The Hosts came into being.
So what did make them click? Who does the band regard as their musical influences?
“Well a lot my songs lately have been about being alone!” laughs lonesome lead singer Tom,
“And I suppose that a lot to do with me listening to a lot of Johnny Cash… we’ve even done a version of his Transfusion Blues… as well as an instrumental version of Guess I’m Falling In Love from Another View.”
I am told that Jim loves Cold War Kids, hence his attendance at the Leadmill gig, while Ben enjoys Elvis, an unusual choice for a drummer, but Tom and Shipperley agree that his drumming style is definitely akin to that of Kings of Leon. Shipperley names Weezer as his favourite band, while telling me that Bailey is keen on singer/songwriter Mink DeVille and “drug addict music like that!”
I ask The Hosts where they want to go as a band and what they have lined up for the future.
“We don’t have a musical plan…if you try and pick a sound you end up compromising, you need to find the sound instead…that comes from rehearsing”.
“The key is to keep it simple as well” concludes Tom.
I suggest whether this means three chord indie- rock, but Shipperley informs me that they prefer to produce their simplistic sound by using “relative minors!”
The Hosts are looking to release their first single in early 2008 and already have a song in mind but they are still yet to decide on which second single to put in the shops. The group also plan to make an album in 2008 as well, but inform me that a release date would probably be no earlier than this time next year.
The Hosts play in Nottingham, Preston, Glasgow (supporting Cherry Ghost) and Stoke this month but they are along way off from planning any further ahead than that.
The priority for Tom though is, “To make a reyt fuckin’ good record!”
The Hosts seem a very laid back band. They are comfortable with each other and are therefore comfortable to be around, they are not in intimidating in the slightest and I am sure that this can only help this newly formed band gel quickly and encourage creativity. Tom has been around the musical block a few times now, but in no way does he think he knows it all.
They are similar to most other Sheffield bands in that they do not seem that ambitious but are deeply passionate. This passion, fused with the tight sound and the top song writing which has been formed through incessant practice, natural flair and a large amount of musical experience will see The Hosts go wherever they want to.
Interview by Liam Ronan Photography by Chris Saunders www.myspace.com/thehosts
Original article: http://www.sandmanmagazine.co.uk/Web-147/139/02.pdf