WSTR are currently riding high off the back of last summer’s new album ‘Identity Crisis’, and just about a million tour dates. Frontman Sammy Clifford, bassist Alex Tobijanski, and drummer Tom Hawkes stop by for a catch up back stage at Slam Dunk South.
Hi guys, how are we all doing? How was the north leg?
Sammy Clifford: Good, man. Yeah, it’s non-stop.
Alex Tobijanski: It was good, this was our third time playing Slam Dunk!
Sammy: We’ve all been together three and a half, four years now, so we’ve done this festival three times in that time.
Do you feel old hat at it now?
Sammy: Not at all! This was our first time on the main stage, and we feel a little bit more like we know the festival, but it’s definitely…
Alex: The first time we did it we played a metal stage, and the second time…
Tom Hawkes: I don’t think you always know the crowd because today there was a lot more new people…
Sammy: It’s overwhelming for us every time, every show we’re still at that level where we’re like, we don’t have any expectations we’re like, I mean me especially, I’m like, is anyone there?!
Alex: He runs up to us all like, ‘Is anyone there?!’
Sammy: So no – it’s overwhelming every single time!
Today the crowd seemed to be super into it; singing the songs back at you, that must feel good?
Sammy: We have, as I’m sure every band here does; we have the best fans on the planet. They turn up every single time. They never let us down.
Tom: That’s always the biggest worry when opening a stage. For example, yesterday we looked out 15 mins before, and there was no one there, and all of a sudden went on stage, and it was a lot of people. It was great.
Opening early – how do you prep?
Sammy: We didn’t!
Tom: You just have to have no expectations because if you have high ones…
Sammy: I did no prep at all. I had a brew and a few shots.
Tom: A couple of beers to ease the nerves…
Sammy: Big outdoor stages, we’re still early in our career, that’s still new to us. We’ve done a couple of tents and outdoor stages, like Reading & Leeds, Download and Slam Dunk – it’s still new to us because we’re used to sweaty indoor shows which are our bread and butter. I feel a little smaller on a big stage.
Tom: You worry if you’re gonna fit the stage.
Sammy: The sound floats up, like it’s completely different. It’s kind of a more chill vibe? It feels like there’s more pressure in a way; I don’t move as much. The more space I have, the less I move. It’s weird. I know my way around shit, tiny, sweaty little stages – I can do that…here we’re still learning the ropes of strutting our stuff.
What have you learned since the release of ‘Identity Crisis’ last year?
Sammy: Take some time off! Don’t tour yourself too hard; work on your personal life and shit. We’ve learned a lot, but that’s not the only thing we’ve learned…
Alex: Definitely do not party as hard…
Sammy: Don’t do it every single fucking day and night of your life.
Tom:We did it in America for three months. And me and Alex especially, it was the excitement, we’d never done it before! We were like we just went out most nights, and we partied too hard – nothing extreme but three months of doing it, it takes its toll. It was genuinely the excitement of it all, coming back in your downtime, you’re like next time we’ll be more smart about it.
Sammy: We partied every day for a solid three months.
Tom: It’s always been WSTR by name and waster by nature, but I think we’re starting to a bit more responsible….
Sammy: I’m drunk now, but it’s Slam Dunk! But looking after yourself; look after your head, look after your body.
How is the evolution of WSTR going?
Sammy: I think we’ve developed a helluva lot musically, we’re more confident. We know we have a fanbase now – it’s not the biggest one in the world, but we’re confident because it’s a great solid fanbase and they seem to love us, and we love them. We’re confident enough to try new things and just, people like our attitude. It makes us confident to keep going down that road.
Tom: It’s so funny because as a band we’re just starting…
Sammy: We’ve always been way ahead of ourselves. We’ve always had things that we believed were way too big for our band, like when we first started, we got signed before we even played a show and we had management and all this stuff straight away. Then we were on a bus tour [with Neck Deep] as our first tour, and that was playing to thousands of people – and we were awful! We’re not just saying that we had a fifteen-minute set. Couldn’t tune anything. We’ve always been way ahead of ourselves; thrown in the deep end, we’ve never had any expectations, so we get blown away every time. I think it’s slowly working. We’re defiantly improving every year. Musically, and as people.
I think we’ve all personally grown, and mentally in ourselves, in the past three years of being a band so much. I remember how ignorant we were when we first started; we’re from the middle of nowhere, Wrexham – scumbag town – ignorant and just didn’t know what was out there… It’s our scumbag town. I’m not slagging it off.
Tom: When you go from growing up in Wrexham to doing this, you’re not very street wise to it all. It’s new life skills at the end of the day.
Sammy: Every single day, you could be in Texas, or somewhere in Australia, wherever it is. It’s eye-opening and broadens the mind.
How does it feel going to those far places and having people resonate?
Sammy: It’s overwhelming every single time. It’s still like that. When you look back and reflect on it, sometimes in the van in America, we were so burned out and tired – and pissed off a lot of the time. But the number of times we’d be driving through the night and reflect upon what the fuck are we doing here?! This is sick; it’s mental!
Tom: Especially for that tour we were like ‘oh this is hard, what are we doing’ but there’s always that moment when you come out of it like Sammy just said, we’re so fucking lucky to be doing this. It’s very easy to forget when you’re slogging it, and you think it’s shit.
Alex: My biggest dream was to play this place in Wrexham called Central Station, or playing local pub and getting twenty people there. And then to get a show in Manchester and selling it out. I was gonna be content working in Tesco!
So what’s coming next?
Sammy: A way bigger WSTR. We’ve written some demos; we’ve been writing – we’re the happiest we’ve ever been, we’ve found our sound. Everything we’ve ever written has been our ‘favourite’ stuff, and it’s good to know it’s still that. I’m just more confident about writing in general. I’ve seen therapists, and I’m more in touch with my feelings and emotions. It sounds cheesy and corny, but it’s such a different space of writing, and I just believe it’s better. The last album is kind of subconsciously writing – it was kind of a cry for help when I looked back and read the lyrics. I was like – shit – I’m kinda messed up! Now I’m in touch with that; my creative flow is way better and easier.