Indie duo Waif ready to try the big timeBy Linda Serck
May 10, 2012
Berkshire has produced some top bands, both in the past and present (and no doubt the future). Slowdive, Dry The River, Riser, The Cooper Temple Clause, Pete and the Pirates to name but a few.
But one band from Maidenhead could have made it big in the 90s if they hadn't decided to break up during their prime.
Waif formed in 1994 after Will Barnard and Greg Strutton started “bouncing music about to each other”.
They were inspired by Pavement and The Boo Radleys and recorded some songs on a four track in Greg’s bedroom.
“We started gigging around the local area,” says Greg the guitarist, “especially in Reading and Windsor.
“We began to spread our wings locally, lots of friends started telling other friends, we started getting coach loads of people through to London gigs and getting bigger and bigger.
“It started to spiral really.”
And it was only a matter of time before the indie band started receiving interest from major labels.
“It did happen really quickly,” says Will the frontman, “I think that was partly the reason for our demise.”
This is the story of a band who like a rabbit in the headlights, were frightened by the prospect of signing to a collossal label.
“It got ahead of us a bit,” says Will.
“From a personal point of view a lot of the writing – without sounding too corny – was therapy.
"It was a way for me to expel some demons but it turned into this life imitating art sort of thing.”
The band were only in their 20s and were already getting surrounded by ‘yes men’, with a danger of being swallowed up by the big commercial music machine. They were frustrated that their music could not be on their terms.
“I had a fixed idea of how I wanted it to be and couldn’t understand why it couldn't be so,” says Will.
“I don’t mean to be controversial but the birth of Britpop in my mind was the separation of the true independent labels and mainstream.
“And a lot of independent labels wouldn't touch anything that looked as if it was going to be mega successful.
“I wasn’t really willing to make that compromise.”
Greg added: “It was our music and our baby, we wanted control over it. And as soon as people started saying you can’t do this, you can't release that there, you can't give your music away to these people, you start to get a bit worried.”
So the band folded, to the frustration of the other band members. “I’d like it say it was through integrity but it was through fear more than anything,” says Will. “I didn't want to be controlled.
“I’d heard all the horror stories of being with a major label and I just didn’t fancy it.
“I just wanted to write songs, play them live, sell an album, go home – and the way it was leading, that was going to be taken away from me.”
But, older and more settled, and with the D.I.Y. music scene now very much the norm, Waif have made a comeback.
A remastered album of Waif demos from 1998 and 1999 is out now on iTunes via a local indie label called WebSOul, and there is a possibility that Will and Greg may take to the stage again.
“It has reignited a lot of fond memories,” says Will of the resurfaced recordings.
Greg adds: “We’d love to get out and play, start the whole thing up again as me and Will acoustic and maybe take it a bit further and get back as a band.”
Waif’s Wired Studios 1997 demos are available for free at waifmusic.bandcamp.com and Demos Lost & Found: Alleycat 1998 | Protocol 1999 is available on iTunes.
Find out more at www.facebook.com/waifmusic
Recent guests on my BBC Introducing show Mellor are holding two launch parties for their insanely brilliant single Catch Me Girl.
The Reading band, who play a mix of 1950s rock n roll with a modern twist, are holding a party at the Monarch in Camden, London, on June 25, which is when the single is released.
The second party is a little closer to home at the Oakford Social Club in Blagrave Street, Reading, on Wednesday, June 27, for the weekly BBC Introducing night.
Musicians are being invited to apply for a slot at the forthcoming Little Festival Of Everything at South Hill Park Arts Centre in Bracknell.
Held from July 2 to 7, the event will bring together a week of theatre, music, poetry and storytelling from around the country.
Listen to Linda Serck every Sunday at 7pm on BBC Radio Berkshire. Email your music news to email@example.com