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Interview:Drive By Argument

9th November 2008

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Most groups brought together for a university project work tenuously at best. There’s the bossy one, the quiet Powerpoint whiz, the stoned guy who does nothing all semester yet gets the best mark – usually with shambolic results eked out last minute in the Student Union pub.

Drive By ArgumentNot so for Drive By Argument. Formed as part of their music course in October 2004 without knowing each other previously, the disparate five-piece straight away found the right mix of backgrounds, influences and styles, and realised they should chase something bigger than merely a passing grade.

RYAN (Drever, bass & ‘mad-libs’): We’re still actually getting to know each other as well…
LEWIS (Gardiner, drums): I don’t want to know any of ye cunts!
RYAN: … with equal parts of amazing and disastrous results. We’re all totally different – Lewis wasn’t into half the shit he’s into now, and he’s gone all electro-vampire on us; Stu was a total blues player; I was more into my punker stuff and I don’t know what the fuck Stoke was into – Elton John? But I think that’s the ironic genius of it all, that it’s all managed to work.
STOKE (Vocals, synth & keys): It really shouldn’t have worked but it did. It’s kind of like cooking with a blindfold.

Currently touring in support of new single Sex Lines Are Expensive Comedy, a song brimming with an ethos as exciting and unpredictable as Stoke’s words suggest - and possibly just as dangerous – DBA are the very zeitgeist in these musically eclectic times. They have the angst-filled lyrics of an emo soul ripped apart (complete with Fall Out Boy-esque obscure song titles); the dancefloor-friendly beats, beeps and whistles of the post-new-wave (complete with Killers-esque natty dress sense); delivered with the full-frontal vitality to compete with their contemporaries (completely without – thank God – an Automatic-esque ADHD Banshee-child). Such genre-straddling, however, does bring the unwelcome advances of avant-garde musos keen to coin the latest pigeon-hole, having already been described as ‘emo-tronica’ and the woeful ‘dance-tastica’.

STU (Ken, guitar): That’s a problem because all the bands we go to support are like “What? What’s this?”
LEWIS: Aye, because we don’t fall into anything – too heavy for the indie guys, too indie for the emo guys, too techno for everybody…
STU: We’ve been described as ‘danger rock’ on the internet – what the fuck is ‘danger rock’?
LEWIS: How sycophantic is that?
COLIN (Keenan, guitar & synth): What is it though?!
LEWIS: We don’t know what it is!
STU: It’s like, “You’re emo!” No no, we’re ‘danger rock’! “Alright, that makes sense.” That really confused people in Glasgow.

One thing they certainly are is ambitious in their scope, creating multi-layered, epic electro-dance-rock with a wealth of equipment including multiple synths, guitars and an electric drum-kit.

RYAN: When I say ‘wealth’ I don’t mean literal wealth. I just mean the amount of shit we’ve got, it’s insane. We’ve had loads of really awkward exchanges with sound guys.
STOKE: A lot of them are just so used to having just three pieces – vocals, guitar, bass, drums – you pull it in, set it up and leave them to it. But with us we need five DIs, three vocal mics, we’ve got synths all over the bleeding place, and they’re just like “… Oh my god.”

RYAN: I didn’t even know what a DI was before uni. I’d never really been in a band that needed good sound. It was like, an amp. If you were lucky it was miked up.
STOKE: It’s funny because we’ve started experimenting on some songs for the next album as well, and I think we’re going to have obscene amounts of gear – because for us this is quite minimalist. So next time it’ll just be…
STU: Absolute carnage!
STOKE: So eventually we’re only going to be able to play arenas because we’re going to have so much gear, that’s the plan.
RYAN: And a star-shaped tambourine. It has to be star-shaped. Either that or one like our logo, in the shape of my head.

The boys’ aspirations may have their limiting factors, though. As any fan or they themselves can tell you, their live shows are as renowned for their frenetic energy (which can involve Lewis getting rather overzealous, post-gig – “That’s what I do. I throw other people through their own gear. I have broken many, many, many things.”) – as they are for their persistent technical failures.

STOKE: I think we’re just all a bit too adventurous for our own good. We’re just like “Aw yeah, we’ll get this synth in! We’ll get some V drums! We’ll do all this crap!” But it’s just like, no. Everything breaks. The more stuff you have, the more stuff breaks. That’s just how it works.
RYAN: You could make some money tonight if you took bets with the crowd on which bit of equipment breaks. An inside scoop: go for the bass. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were sparks!
LEWIS: It doesn’t matter what it is – making the music, writing the music, playing the music, releasing the music, doesn’t matter – it always goes wrong. We’re being tested!
COLIN: We must have the best willpower in the world.
STU: I think someone up there’s having a laugh with the luck they’re dealing to us.
COLIN: Aye, “Have a dead member!” Please strike me down! Just kidding! Well, maybe Stoke…
STU: We’ll get in NME then, as one of the obituaries.
COLIN: Just an obituary…
LEWIS: It’s The Claw. (SILENCE) The Claw. Him from Inspector Gadget. Just sitting there…
STU: The Claw? The Claw runs NME? That’s probably true.
LEWIS: The Claw is God.

Malevolent deities and obscure cartoon villains notwithstanding, it shouldn’t be too much longer before Fate’s fickle finger points them towards the status they truly deserve. Amidst a deluge of genre-splicing acts and asinine tags it is no bad thing that they can not be easily defined. They are Drive By Argument. And like the best kind of arguments they should be heeded well.

Sex Lines Are Expensive Comedy is released June 25.

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