Will and the People returned to Sin City last week for another round of raucous fun and the chance to greet a fan base that has become considerably larger since their last visit.
The band emerge at around midnight and pile on to the stage, with Will screaming “hello Swansea” and “we fucking love you!” at the crowd before their first song begins.
Their songs are just as energetic as last year but they also seem more controlled- there’s a tiny hint of professionalism in their presence on stage. The band have become experts in the art of having fun, and the mood is infectious. With a crowd around three times bigger than the last time they made an appearance in Swansea the room is overtaken by people of all ages, shapes and sizes, bouncing around the room and not caring if one body occasionally collides with another. I guess that like last time they don’t have a setlist but you wouldn’t be able to tell; although each song is distinct the band has a great skill of throwing themselves out of one song and right into the next.
When I meet them in the dressing room after the gig they look exactly the same as they did back in 2012: young, dishevelled and happy. The other members of the band are more talkative this time, and when I ask them about their arch enemies Pill and the Weeple there’s a general noise of discontent around the room.
“Those fucks,” Will says, and leans forward a bit to make his point. “They’ve been having raucous parties all over Holland.”
“I heard they’ve been corrupting the Dutch,” I say.
“We watched them,” he tells me. “They’re an embarrassment to DJ-ing but they also play some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. They look like silly little children, running around eating sherbert. They want to ruin things.”
The band has been hopping all around Europe and other wonderful places since last year, and after their stop in London they’re heading over to Germany. They don’t seem to have stopped touring since I saw them in May last year, and they agree it is tough to keep in touch with friends and family, but add that Facebook is a good way to keep an eye on things from afar. Their favourite- or perhaps most memorable place to gig- is Australia, although Will adds that they’re not really fussed about location as long as they have a good crowd.
“Wales is always really good,” Charlie adds tactfully. “It always kicks off really hard here.”
I tell them I was speaking to one person at the start of the gig who had told me that listening to Will and the People helped her get out of depression and they beam.
“That’s always a good thing,” Will says. “Music’s really good for that in general though isn’t it?”
Last time we spoke I was told that the weirdest gig they’d played was in Cambodia when Keo got hit in the head by “a shoe thrown by a lady boy”. I want to know if they’ve had any weirder gigs since then.
“There’s definitely been some weird shit,” says Will. “There was this one time when blonde Jim decided to slash all over our tour bus…”
“We played a gig with a girl who had an angle grinder,” says Keo. “Remember the angle grinder?”
“Oh shit, yeah,” Will says laughing. “Naked ladies with nipple tassels angle grinding on stage next to Keo, blowing sparks into Keo’s face.”
“Did you enjoy it?” I ask Keo. “You seem to get the worst out of all the gigs.”
“He gets the stilettos and the sparks and the pussies,” Will says with a touch of jealousy.
“The lady boys and the tassels,” I add. “So you’re not the biggest band in the world yet…”
“Oi, fuck you,” Will says immediately, sitting up a bit. “We are the biggest band in the world.”
I remind them that they’d planned on being literally the biggest band in the world last time we spoke. As far as I can see they’re not quite there yet.
“It’s tough, we tried, OK?” Will says, “We tried, but I guess we failed. We’re not the biggest band in the world.”
“I’m pretty sure we’ve gained weight,” someone mutters.
The band is currently working on their next album, with their latest release, Friends, enjoying an opening spot at number 8 in the charts in Holland. Will wants to check he remembers what we discussed last time we met.
“So basically I remember we were talking to you about all the things we were going to do. And we haven’t done any of them. We have been really busy though, doing loads of shit, but it feels like we haven’t done anything. We’ve done it all… but it just actually needs to be done. Are you marking us out of ten for this? Ten out of ten?”
I want to know what music they’re listening to right now, since they all have a brilliantly eclectic range of preferences. Last year their favourites ranged from Supertramp to the Beatles to the Black Keys. This year they’re into Alt-J, the Mystery Jets and Tame Impala.
“I like TEED,” says Will. I look confused, so he adds: “Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. They have one good song: ‘Garden’”
“Can we all have a song?” Charlie asks me hopefully.
A Pill and the Weeple song crops up and provokes hostility from the rest of the band, while Will decides that he wants Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’ as well.
“He’s a good man, Frank,” he tells me. “He’s left field.”
Bob Marley is still a solid favourite for all of them, of course. The band’s most die-hard Marley fan gets a bit stressed when Will asks him which of Bob Marley’s songs is his favourite and I remember that we spent around 20 minutes of the last interview discussing the same thing.
“I think that music, to be honest… it needs a bit of spice, like in the charts,” Will says, repeating his views from last year.
There was a general consensus that the music industry is “pretty shit”, but I’m interested to know what their favourite song from their own work is.
“I got upset because you didn’t play Stranger this time or the last, and that’s my favourite,” I tell them.
“Fuck,” says Will.
“We should play Stranger, we practised that man!” Jim calls out from his spot on the sofa.
“Did you have a setlist this year?” I ask.
Will shakes his head. “Still no setlist. I think my favourite song to play by us is Holiday.”
The video for this song is great, but I point out the rather disturbing sight of a guy (revealed to be Will’s cousin), wearing some pretty loud swimwear. It sounds like it was a lot of fun to film.
“That was just like a holiday with a video camera there, and we were happy to come out with something there, just fucking about and having a good time.”
“Anything in particular you want to talk about outside of music?” I ask.
“Passion,” says Will. “How… if you’re passionate about something, it can affect everything and all the people around you. If you’re not passionate about something you may as well fucking give up and do something else.”
“I think…” Keo says slowly, “Quentin Tarantino is good.”
I ask if they’ve seen Django Unchained and he holds up his hand.
“No! I was just about to say that. Django Unchained… we watched that.”
“His laws of physics are a bit dodgy,” I say.
“He’s a good man,” Will says defensively.
“Someone gets shot in the side of the head and they fly backwards at 50mph,” I remind him.
“He’s still a good man.”
We talk about Tarantino films for a bit until I ask Will if my aura is still the same colour as it was last time.
“Well the thing is… the first thing that came to mind is red,” he says. “But you’re wearing a red-y dress and I thought… well I’ve seen it’s purple now. So I’m thinking… yellow.”
The rest of the guys throw in their own conclusions, which include “red”, “purple”, and a very poetic: “autumn”.
“Was it purple last time?” Will asks me.
“You told me it was blue after finding out when my birthday was,” I tell him.
“Oh fuck, yeah I was in the thingy stage of things,” he says vaguely. “Hey have you seen our tattoos? We’ve got some new ones since we last saw you. Jamie’s got a really good one, a big one on his back, and I got a parrot smoking a giant spliff.”
He shows me to confirm that it is indeed a parrot smoking a giant spliff. Jamie obliges when the others ask him to “get it out” and shows me his tattoo, which is very beautiful, although he has trouble seeing what it looks like for himself seeing as it’s on his back. I ask them where their craziest fan base is.
“Vietnam,” Keo says.
“Not Cambodia?” I check, thinking of the shoe incident.
“They’re pretty much the same place. Similar vibe,” he shrugs.
Since they seem to have been getting up to a lot of mischief, I ask Will if their rival band has been up to much since they managed to cover all the signs on the A4 with graffiti.
“They got arrested a few times in Australia,” Will tells me, shaking his head. “For urinating in public- that sort of thing.”
“Smoking the old mara-juana,” Keo chimes in, and they all grin sheepishly.
They’re set up for a busy year, with gigs around Europe and a spots at some of the biggest summer festivals in the UK. They’re positive about life, the university and everything in general but there’s a proper buzz about the approaching months, and a new optimism about their music.
“Glastonbury,” Will says when I ask him what they’re looking forward to most. “Our new album. Beach Break. The new album’s going to be awesome, lot of reggae, rock stuff. We’re recording it at the Fish Market studios in London. We liked the romantic idea of recording it in our house but maybe we’ll just do instrumentals there and dub over. It’s got to be chilled, you know?”
“Massive respect to Wales, and Swansea. And Swanage. Thank you. Buy our second album please. Just all the promotional stuff,” says Charlie as we start to wrap things up.
“Do you have a final message for Pill and the Weeple?” I ask.
“Fuck you!” they yell, and I leave it at that.
By Roisin O’Connor
Will and the People performed at Sin City on January 27th. Their latest album, Friends, is available for download on iTunes.