Enchanting, power-pop five piece Universal Thee return with their sophomore album, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, the follow up to the critically lauded debut Back To Earth. The album is out today via Eventual Heirs Records.
- Where and when did you first discover your interest in music?
James: I got pretty obsessed with REM, The KLF, the Shamen and the Prodigy, when I was a kid. They were four of the bands that my Mum liked that I found acceptable. She also used to listen to baggy music also, I particularly disliked the Happy Mondays at the time as I had heard they were drug users. The irony wasn’t lost on my Mother. She has told me she used to chuckle to herself when she saw me skip-stepping in my room to Ebeneezer Goode. My musical taste is no longer governed by an erroneous impression of an artists mindless obedience to statute. I was pretty reactionary when I was a child, thankfully this has eased to the point of non-existence as an adult.
Robin: My parents had lots of records and tapes. My mum was really into the beatles and my dad had some really cool prog records like king crimson and some dodgy ones like elp. The radio was always on in the house so i was exposed to lots of 80s pop. I had a subscription to look in and profile posters on my wall. As a child I used to invent band and give my toys pop careers. I would write songs and design album sleeves for them. I used to love going to the library to borrow cassettes and then make copies.
Andy: I first realised I had an interest in music at about 14. A bit of a late developer I guess. I could never admit this as a kid but my it was my big brother than inspired me to take up the guitar and subsequently the bass guitar. I saw him being able to play songs and thought it was really cool; I wanted to be that cool!
- What are your main ambitions in the industry?
James: To co-write a Weezer song, or work with Frank Black.
Robin: To jam with Prince.
Andy: I would love us to be a household name! Haha, lame or what? But I love the idea of people hearing and loving our songs; I want as many people to know the name Universal Thee as possible.
- When did you start writing your own songs/music?
James: I wrote shit rave music when I was about 10. Then I took a lengthy sabbatical, seven years later I started to write music, my cousin taught me barre chords. When I realised all I had to do was move up and down the fretboard and a passable noise would be emitted, I started writing songs. One of which made our first album, years later.
Robin: About 8 or 9. Some great songs were written using Casio presets. I used to write them in pretend album sleeves, on a typewriter, record them on cassettes. When I learned guitar I just wrote my own songs rather than learning other people’s. I fell in love at 13 but was too shy so a lot of heartbroken depressing songs came out of that. It was my blue period.
Andy: I’ve always been more of a contributor and collaborator on the song writing front – and that’s true on ‘all watched over by machines of loving grace’ too. But I am really proud to say that on ‘hounds’ I was the catalyst and architect of that track. The result is pure collaboration from every band member and it would not be the great track I think it is had Lisa, Matt, Robin and James added so much to it.
- What would you say is your music career highlight to date?
James: The Kelburn Garden party was amazing. Also releasing our first album “Back to Earth” and getting good reviews was lovely.
Robin: Recording this album. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. Especially the way speaker and hey came together. The last part of hey is probably my favourite guitar part I’ve ever written. I feel like a crazy beast when I’m playing it.
- Who will we hear in your songs? What are your influences?
James: We used to get told that we sounded like the Pixies, Pavement and Ash. I think now we sound a bit more new wave than we did before, the influences are still there, but with greater subtlety.
Robin: Nirvana, Weezer, Big Star, Part Chimp, Guided by Voices, Teenage Fanclub, Beatles, Beach Boys, Pixies, Neil Young, surf guitar stuff, Palace, Blur( Graham Coxon), Flaming Lips, Dinosaur Jr, Berlin era Bowie, Interpol, Metallica, Megadeth, Prince, Sonic Youth, Everly Brothers, Panda Bear.
- What’s the most important thing you’d want to tell people about your current release?
James: It’s different from the first alum, that’s not in anyway a criticism of “Back to Earth”, I love it still. The second album is just a noisey, but more complicated and at the same time immediate and urgent sounding.
Robin: It rocks with a chop.
- Who else can you recommend from your genre or local area for people to have a listen to?
James: Ded Rabbit are fucking awesome. Baskervillez and Little Love in the Friendly Vibes are great too. Our drummer Matt has a band The Mink Stoles that are outstanding.
Robin: Mink Stoles, Ded Rabbit, Little Love and The Friendly Vibes, Omega Corridor, Baskervillez, Gigantic Leaves.
- Any gigs coming up?
James: We have a London date in the offing, and the dates for the album tour are still to be confirmed. They will be in February though. We’ll keep everyone posted on social media, so get following.
- Where can we find/follow you online?
Robin: You can get hold of us all over the internet. Facebook, Soundcloud, Spotify, Deezer, Twitter and our own website.