Releasing a new EP via Alcopop! Records x Failure By Design Records, hard at work on an album, gearing up for festival season, and opening for Daphne & Celeste, everything’s in motion for emo-pop stalwarts itoldyouiwouldeatyou. Having joined the collective in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, guitarist (and Johnny Foreigner / Yr Poetry / Yr Friends musician) Alexei Berrow talked us through stepping into the life of one of the UK’s most exciting outfits.
When did you first meet itoldyouiwouldeatyou?
I think my first Eatyou experience (I’m still searching for a comfortable way to shorthand the name) was them playing on the bill at a JF show a few years ago. One of them marathon all-dayer shows in a small town where you’re obliged to enjoy ten bands before it’s your turn. I had a J, wandered in halfway through their set and was just mesmerised. They were just so obviously a -gang-. As a touring musician/snob, you get really good at recognising the fakes. I mean, all performance is fakery, I guess I mean… You get good at spotting the disparity between the image someone’s trying to project, and what they’re actually projecting. And there was none of that shit with these folk. They weren’t trying to project, they just were. To a bitter connoisseur of indie band posers, that honesty in stagecraft is rare, and I’m a lot more forgiving of substandard songs/performances if I don’t have to get through a layer of clichés first. So I was mind blown that they could play to a technical level I’m still reaching for and had these huge hooky melodies. Seeing a band do all that so well, and so fucking un-cynically, was kinda profound. I skipped the last song to go cry and pull myself together. It was probably ‘Letters’ which would have just ruined me, but I can name maybe half a dozen bands that have fully pierced me like that in my entire life. So yeh, definitely a fan first.
How did you come to start playing with them?
They’d send me beautiful demos of shit, like, rough bounces of Bob’s recording of ‘IANYF’, and I made a joke, like, ‘when you’re three albums deep I am totally going to Johnny Marr you.’ They called my bluff early. I took a tiny bit of persuading cos Yr Poetry is me and Jun’s absolute baby. Like, out of all the plates I’m spinning, that’s the one that I get the most out of in cathartic/artistic terms, and I’d hate for us to lose out cos I’m busy side-manning for another gig, as much as I’d hate to ruin an Eat You thing for selfish -butihavemyownband- reasons. But they’re super accommodating. Same with Holly and NALA, I’d like to think the outside-the-bubble experience we bring is worth more than whatever opportunities we’ll miss. Broken fucking Social Scene ftw, it’s not a scenario I could see panning out were we not all so entranced by what we’re building together. I don’t know; it’s the band that made me cry in a nightclub toilet, I couldn’t really turn it down.
What’s the dynamic been like joining and being a part of the band?
The dynamic is… hectic and full of love? Joey and Ollie are like the captains, Josh is the grumpy brains, Sean is the practical one, Connor’s the wide-eyed forgetful new kid and Holly beams in from another world and spews glitter over everything. There are no egos, and everyone’s opinion is valid. I worried a whole lot when I joined; like, I didn’t want to ruin whatever personal balance of magic they had with my heavily biased opinions of how to do band. So I’ll occasionally interject with advice based on previous experience, but more often than not I’ve bit my lip and then things have worked out super great. Like, it’s easier to tightrope walk without someone screaming “NOOO WHAT IF YOU FALL?!”
There’s a lot of love surrounding this group. What’s it been like stepping into that?
It really is like an extended family. I feel like I’ve joined the circus at times, there’s a bunch of people not on stage that are helping us out every day, and they’re all swell people with stories to tell. I think I’ve arrived at the best of stages, where shit is taking off, but there isn’t really a distinction between fans and friends; it just feels like every time there’s a few more friends. I’ve toured and smoked most of my social skills away, but everyone’s been lush and welcoming so far. I was in school when Charlotte joined Ash, and people protested at shows, like, ‘Get this young girl away from our hot boys’, so I’m fully expecting some -get this straight dude away from our hot boys- placards. But, so far I’ve been too busy trying not to fuck the songs up to check. It’s probably my duty to report back to the elder hxc Birmingham punks tho, that this what they might call “gay-entitled-safe-space-non-binary-scene-bullshit” is waaaay closer in terms of community and ideology to the punk scenes they started out in than anything that’s happened in-between, I just feel they’re forced to self-identify so hard cos my generation let the jocks in and ruined it. And while I’m not really entitled to speak on behalf of said extended family, I think we all kinda believe this is how bands SHOULD be; it’s not so much what’s special about us as what’s sadly lacking in others.
You’re in Johnny Foreigner / Yr Poetry / Yr Friends too. How do you fit it all in?
Me and Junior got really good at Google Calendars, is how we fit it all in. JF is pretty dormant, but Yr Poetry is taking an increasing amount of our time, I spend way too many hours on trains between Birmingham and London. Jun also plays guitar for Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam and drums in Mutes and manages a restaurant and has a daughter so I feel like, if he can manage all that and still stay focused then I should totally be able to do this. I hate inertia, wasting time. Way rather a sleepless summer than a dull one.
How does playing and writing in this band differ from or compare with your other projects?
Oh yeah it’s world of difference, and again I’m really aware that this working dynamic existed before I came along, and the worst thing I could do is disrupt that. I’m not really used to true collaboration, and I’ve been in previous situations where it just… doesn’t work, but these guys seem to have an endless amount of rad proto songs that get group-deconstructed. The room just dissolves into micro debates where everyone offers often contradictory solutions, and there are experiments and re-workings, and half hour later we’re playing this -thing- and I’m breaking out into goosebumps. It’s pretty magical; I’m more than happy to sit back and enjoy the process. I feel like Nels Cline in Wilco, like, ‘how can I fit around this riff, colour this section?’ Josh’s guitar brain goes to places mine doesn’t, and it’s fun finding ways to compliment someone else’s noise after years of coming up with my own. The way I write for Yr Poetry is like a big sword: the challenge is making stuff as big as possible with one guitar. Eat You songs are more like a set of strategically aimed daggers; we start with a giant full band and chip away at it till it sounds right.
There’s a new itoldyouiwouldeatyou EP on the horizon, ‘Get Terrified’, which compiles some physically unreleased singles with some new material. Tell us a little bit about that?
So the three songs on ‘Get Terrified’ existed before I joined. I think ‘Divine Violence’ had just come out, but the rest were secret. They sent them to me to learn, and I thought, ‘fuck yeh I made the right decision here.’ So while I’d love to take credit for them guitars, they’re none of them me. My total contribution consisted of turning up super ill to the ‘Get Terrified’ video shoot for Sam to gracefully edit me cowering behind the better-looking people.
What can people expect from the new material?
So everything you’ll hear from this point on has had me ruin it. I’m now way too deep inside the bubble to be objective, but I think we just sound bigger, more dramatic. The EP is a really good mid-point between the calm of ‘IANYF’ and some of the beasts on the album, but also there’s stuff that feels more cosy and intimate. That feels like such a Twitterbot answer. I showed up, gave Ollie and Josh distortion pedals and was like, ‘these need to be on, at full, in every chorus.’
If you were to sum up or sell the EP in a sentence, how would you describe it?
I’d say; the last great ITYIWEY release before Alexei ruined them with distortion pedals.
What’s next for itoldyouiwouldeatyou (or, indeed, your other projects) from here?
The Eat You train is on tour at the end of April and rolling into summer with festivals that I don’t know if I can talk about yet, but right now we’re all up to our guts in .wav files making the album. Yr Poetry also has a bunch of shows over the next few months, our next release is a couple of months away but already sounding pretty damn fine, and that’ll conclude our EP trilogy and our first year of being a patron-funded rock band. We’re thinking actual album next, if our shareholders allow it, which we’ll make either side of obligatory Japan tour in September.