INTERVIEW: T-Shirt Weather | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“Growing up in Durham seeps into everything we do, it’s essential to the band. If T-Shirt Weather were a fine wine, Durham would be its terroir. But we’re not, we’re a big bag of cheap cans.” Scrappy punk pop trio T-Shirt Weather are birthed from the same Durham City DIY scene that has given us the likes of Martha, No Ditching, Pale Kids and ONSIND. The City has become synonymous with the type of slightly ramshackle but sublimely melodic and gloriously life-affirming punk that T-Shirt Weather’s new album, Dinner And A Show, embodies. There must be something in the water.

“T-Shirt Weather were formed in the bitter January of 2011. Tom and I used to manage a bar called The Fishtank in Durham and we were far too young to do the job,” explains bassist and vocalist Andrew Stephenson. “After everyone had left, we would put on 60s pop and ska punk over the speakers and decided we wanted to start a band. We started as 20-year-olds who knew nothing and now we’re 26-year-olds who definitely know nothing.”
“Back when we started, we tried really earnestly to sound like the kind of pop we loved, and which we were listening to when me and Andy had locked up,” adds guitarist and vocalist Tom Sharpe, “but we fell back into the pop punk style that we’d played together as kids and which felt natural. I think we’ve got more of a grip on what we’re doing now.”

Scratch the surface of T-Shirt Weather’s sunny pop punk exterior and there’s an intriguing melting pot of influences at play that make for a slightly odd, but wonderfully eclectic recipe. “When we’re together we listen to mostly ‘best of’ compilations and ABBA,” says Stephenson. “Our song My Dad’s Blue Motion namechecks a lot of songs by some of my favourite bands, e.g. Teenage Fanclub, The Replacements and Big Star. I’d say my influences that affect this band are big stupid rock bands, Elliott Smith and, much to the annoyance of the other two, I also bring a lot of country to the table. Non-musically, I’m absolutely obsessed with the idea that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing and then put clues in The Shining to let people know he filmed the hoax. I don’t know how it influences me but it’s incredibly important to me.”

“I like the B-52’s and believe that we did go to the moon,” says Sharpe. “When we tour we get to hear the music that each other like – lots of Beach Boys, Jane Wiedlin and Iron Maiden.”

a lot of the songs are snippets of situations that arise when you’re finding something difficult to give up, whatever that may be

“I think we sound like a bunch of beer-addled dads trying to play through the entirety of Pet Sounds at a Christmas party but giving up and doing some good, honest Status Quo covers,” says Stephenson. “At a New Year’s Eve party a few years ago, we did an ABBA medley that segued into Rock & Roll All Nite by KISS,” adds drummer Patxi Monedero. “I feel that is emblematic of a lot of what we do.”

Combine this unabashed nostalgia with self-deprecating introspection, hesitant optimism, endless hooks and brazen brass and you have T-Shirt Weather’s second album, Dinner And A Show. More confident than their 2016 debut Pig Beach, Dinner And A Show is an offbeat gem of a record. Lyrically, its subject matter is less upbeat than its sound, but these themes are injected with a good dose of humour. “Overall, it’s about facing up to your own demons. A lot of it centres on the realisation that maybe you drink too much and maybe you have a problem. In my eyes, a lot of the songs are snippets of situations that arise when you’re finding something difficult to give up, whatever that may be,” says Stephenson. “We’ve tried to create strong links between this record and the last one. Having a bad time while you’re out drinking and making daft choices is a major recurring theme. It’s sort of the opposite of banter – just really having an awful time. Another thing we touch on quite a lot is my Dad’s car, which is actually my car. I wanted to write some songs that centre around cars like Bruce Springsteen but realised that I’ve only ever driven cars that have been passed down to me. The difficulty with inheriting cars is you also inherit the problems with the cars – but that’s another story for a different day. I like the idea of creating a T-Shirt Weather mythology out of a very stupid thing and that seemed to fit the bill nicely.”

Logistically, it’s a wonder the band managed to find the time to record an record at all, let alone such a stellar album. Stephenson is now the only member of T-Shirt Weather who still lives in Durham, with Sharpe living in London and Monedero based in Leeds – they’re all involved with other projects too. “My life is an unorganised nightmare,” laughs Stephenson. “Last year, I finished a Pale Kids tour and immediately got a train to start a T-Shirt Weather tour. I also play in a new Durham band called Ghost Guilt. Overall, I’m a big believer in the saying ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ and I think it keeps me out of trouble (sometimes).”

Distance aside, Durham will always be the driving force behind T-Shirt Weather. “County Durham is the best place on the planet,” says Stephenson. “I haven’t been to the moon (no one has) so I can’t comment about that. I’ve lived here all my life and I think that’s bound to influence me. Local bands have always had a strong presence in Durham, whether it be a prevalent hardcore scene years ago or the queer punk bands that are playing now, which I think is a real testament to the people that live in Durham but also the music that they produce. Let’s not forget Prefab Sprout calling their record From Langley Park To Memphis. I have the tape cover for that album pinned up on the wall at my Mam’s house.”

T-Shirt Weather release Dinner And A Show via Everything Sucks Music on Friday 20th July. The band play Rocking Horse Rehearsal Rooms, Durham on Saturday 18th August.


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