The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are back, providing us with a cordial insight into their humble beginnings, a look into their collective creative process, all the way up to their success at popular music festivals such as Glastonbury and Latitude.
I am generally quite anxious before interviews, but having done a lot of reading upon TMTWNBBFN and finding out that they had a large celebrity fan base and were a very popular band in general, I assumed they were probably very used to being interviewed. The interview took place in a small lounge room above the bar at The Talking Heads in Portswood, Southampton, whilst a fridge stocked with beer sat humming in the corner. Thankfully, TMTWNBBFN made me feel very calm and comfortable. Marc, from the band was also a journalist and offered me some words of encouragement, and when Andy said that he himself gets quite nervous during interviews, I realised that we were all in the same boat. What followed was a relaxed and fun conversation with the men behind the name The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.
Their newest album Not Your Typical Victorians is available for purchase as we speak.
What was it that first enticed you about the Steampunk genre?
Marc: Andy and Andrew were living together in Andy’s house and both had a mutual interest in Victoriana, in history and in weirdo culture.
Andy: What sort of gelled it was that Andrew was doing a comedy show in Edinburgh called The Total Spot on History of British Industry and we thought it would be a laugh to do some songs to go with it just to support his tour. We just made up a few songs based on that little section of his comedy and then we took that show, touring around little art venues and places like that. We got to London and we got Marc in, and a drummer called Ben who–
Marc: –We had him shot [Laughs]. No I knew Andrew through stand up because I do stand up as well and we just got talking after a gig one night and I said I play bass and we would just play these silly little songs about Victorian engineers.
Andy: But we liked it.
Marc: It was really fun, and it went really well so we just went ‘oh this is a band!’ So the Steampunk thing kind of existed along side that, it was never like ‘oh lets be a Steampunk band’, it was more like Steampunk, it turns out, is a thing that exists and is all of these things that we already like.
Andy: It was a parallel thing, there just happened to be a ready made audience.
Marc: There are a lot of Steampunk bands, but because the word punk in Steampunk doesn’t actually mean punk rock, it’s more about meaning a perversion of the steam bit so it’s weirdo steam stuff essentially. No one had actually done a punk band version of it before. We realised that we were the actual Steampunk band and it turns out that loads and loads of people that were into Steampunk were into punk and metal, who were just waiting for a really heavy, fast, funny band who did the kind of thing that we do – and we found that audience straight away. We cheated at getting a fan base; we got a fan base without trying. We just turned up at a Steampunk convention and there was one there and we just took them away with us. We embraced the Steampunk thing loads initially and we called our first album ‘Now that’s what I call Steampunk’, until we had to change it.
Andy: Basically we didn’t want to alienate anyone; we didn’t want people turning up at our gigs thinking “If I don’t dress right then I’m not going to enjoy it.” So we drifted away from it a little bit.
Marc: We still play Steampunk events sometimes. There are so many different aspects to what we do, we are quite heavy so you have got metal fans, we’re very punky and we do comedy so you have got that element and then your Steampunk thing as well.
How do your music gigs differ from the stand up gigs?
Andrew O’Neil: Stand ups my job and my passion so stand ups like a direct expression of who I am where as this [the music] is the indirect expression of who four people are. I’m also the main support for the tour doing stand up so there is a big overlap.
Marc: First of all I like the musical Victorian variety thing of having a really very different kind of band. We have had historians coming to support us and we normally try and get a comic on just to keep it more interesting. An Andrew O’Neil comedy gig when he’s headlining and it’s his event, isn’t that much different to one of our gigs in terms of the feel in the room and the vibe.
Has your music evolved since the first album?
Andy: Massively I think.
Andrew O’Neil: Yeah, to a point where I think it is virtually unrecognisable. The early songs Andy and I wrote in Andy’s garden purely for a laugh, not really imagining that we would even let anybody hear it. Fast-forward to now where we are writing with thrash metal, death metal influence and rock and roll swing and it’s about trying to write absolutely the best music that we can make. It’s a musical project now where as then it was just a dick around [laughs].
Marc: There is a musical jump from the first album to the second album and then the silliness has kind of moved off a little bit and been replaced with it being darker.
Andy: It has gone more league of gentleman.
Marc: This album has got more musically complicated and more musically interesting and it has had a really good review. Its funny, its entertaining, now they also talk about it being satire and being angry.
How do you make the Victorian themes throughout your songs relatable to a contemporary audience?
Andy: I think that they just are anyway.
Andrew O’Neil: Yeah it just happens naturally.
Marc: Conditions are getting more and more similar. Society hasn’t changed that much.
Andrew O’Neil: It wasn’t that long ago. People think of the Victorian era as something completely separate but its only three generations back.
Marc: We still live in a very class divided society and have horrible working conditions, people argue about the role of the welfare state and child cruelty still exists. So although we are talking about a more extreme version it doesn’t take a massive leap.
Andrew O’Neil: I also think people massively underestimate how advanced the Victorian era was – it’s not a separate age where everybody was living in shit They built railways under the ground, you could get the London underground to the last public hanging!
Do you have a specific writing process?
Andy: I tend to write when little things spark off an idea and I just go with it. I always either jot them down in my phone in my notes or sing them into my phone.
Marc: We have two ways of writing really, either Andrew goes around Andy’s house and they write like they used to write in which Andrew starts playing some chords and Andy sings over them with words that he has got and then they bring it back to the full band and we all rearrange it. Or in the rehearsal room Andrew or me or sometimes Jez (actually there are a couple of really good riffs that Jez has written) will go “We’ve got this” and we will start playing. Or we will all start playing together and jamming as you do as a band and then Andy will just open his carrier bag of lyrics pull one out and sing it over the top and it will fit perfectly. Minor we wrote as a different song altogether and Andrew was like “I’m going to write the lyrics to this, I’ve got a good idea for it” and then Andy just went [says the first lyrics to the song] and we all agreed that it was just perfect.
You have played Glastonbury, Latitude and all of these huge festivals; do you prefer playing festivals or more intimate gigs?
Marc: The difference is that at a festival you tend to be playing to people who have never heard of you and there is something really brilliant about winning a festival crowd. And tonight we will play to like a hundred people who most of which you would assume at least would have heard one or two songs or know enough about the band to have bothered to buy a ticket especially to see us.