public service broadcasting – interview

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These days modesty isn’t a trait shared among the many young bands beginning to climb pop’s popularity pyramid. Egos grow with success, arrogance is bred through triumph and integrity falls to business benefit.

With Public Service Broadcasting, this simply isn’t the case. For beat duo, J. Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth, their musical world isn’t based on success, chart domination or financial gain – it’s a pursuit that, when the foundations were laid down, was all in the name of fun.

Public Service Broadcasting are different, a band content with where they are and what they’re doing. This is a band that don’t need to go out into the world looking for attention or seeking supremacy, they’re doing it because they like doing it, as Willgoose Esq., explains: “I didn’t anticipate any sort of success when I started this, it was just something that was fun and something fun for whatever small numbers of friends I could cajole into watching it.”

Their progressive take on modern music is laced with traces from the past, through the medium of – you guessed it – public service broadcasting clips, which are then set to the vast instrumentation they have at their fingertips.

“I feel like an imposter, sort of, maybe lots of bands feel like this, feeling like rank amateurs or something, I dunno. It’s not like we got signed, you know, we’ve done it all off our own label.”

On the music side, guitars, banjo and synths gel shades of rock and electro into their innovative brand of prog-pop and their ingenuous approach allied with their full-on live shows have cemented their niche placement in the postmodern regions of alt-pop and rock.

This, however, is a notion that Willgoose Esq. dismisses: “I feel like an imposter, sort of, maybe lots of bands feel like this, feeling like rank amateurs or something, I dunno. It’s not like we got signed, you know, we’ve done it all off our own label.”

“As a rampant control freak it suits me being in control. We don’t have some label breathing down our neck asking when the next album will be ready.

A determination to distance themselves from the success they’re building on isn’t misplaced though – they have their personal ambitions, even if they’re running out of them: “We’ve already achieved all our goals – that’s the problem. We’ve done it off our own back really which is very satisfying in a way but it also doesn’t feel like we’ve got the ‘you’re in the industry’ stamp of approval, it’s definitely a case of imposter syndrome.”

Doing it their own way is the way they want it, though, and a major label isn’t what PSB are chasing: “As a rampant control freak it suits me being in control. We don’t have some label breathing down our neck asking when the next album will be ready. We can sort of take our time and plan our releases properly and do it with a kind of long-term view. We wouldn’t want to rush stuff out if we became the flavour of the month or anything like that.”

When the questions are asked though, it isn’t an option Willgoose Esq. would necessarily dismiss: “It’s not about the financial side of things for us – if we wanted to be in a commercial band we would have formed something like the 1975. And I’m not having a go at the 1975 [specifically]. They’re just someone that comes to mind, with a poppy sort of reputation.

“We’ve already achieved all our goals – that’s the problem."

“We haven’t done that, we’ve done something a bit different. I don’t think any major label would be interested in us, to be honest. I don’t think we’re an attractive enough proposition for them, I suppose. It would be interesting if one did come in, it would be one to think about. I’m not sure what they would want us to do and what we would be comfortable in doing. It would take a lot of conversations to get it right for us and right for them.”

Creativity and veracity are key issues here and it provides the backbone for this band, it’ll never be turned, not even by the highest powers. Their approach is pioneering and has gained them nods from all areas of the industry, even if PSB choose to ignore them.

Their debut, Inform-Educate-Entertain is watertight with hooks and musical twists that are given another level by the audio from BFI, StudioCanal and American public information films. This is the catalyst that sets PSB aside from other what-would-be indie bands.

They’re not slowing down either, and Willgoose Esq. talks of more American dates in the New Year (“we’re not going over there ‘crack America’ or anything, we just want to dip our toes in the water”), more European stops and the prospect of another album: “We are still touring so it’s difficult to sit down and have a good stab at writing. [With a busy new year schedule] it’s going to be a tricky one getting some writing in amongst that but I have got a fairly good idea as to where we’ll be going next.”

The tour that kicked off across the pond has travelled through Switzerland, Italy and Belgium, and the UK roads beckon with sixteen dates following, including a stop at Sheffield Leadmill.

“We’ve already played in Sheffield three times this year,” says Willgoose Esq. “We did The Leadmill, which was great. We were going to be in the small room but they bumped us up to the bigger one and it was a really good turnout. It was pretty staggering. We came back for DocFest and played in this little underground room with no one really there. And we played at The Harley for Tramlines, which was very, very lively.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be another lively one. We don’t like loutish behaviour, but we like a bit of, I don’t even know if it’s a word…rambunctiousness? We like a bit of a rowdy element and it’s better for us if people aren’t just staring at the screens, it helps us feel a bit better about it anyway.”

The live stage is arguably where this band comes to life. The music easily stands on its own two feet – as their debut demonstrates with ease – but there is a real show element to PSB. With projected images of old films and clips that swing and churn with the music, the aforementioned rowdiness and two very talented musicians.

It’s not one to miss.

Catch them at The Leadmill on 9 November.