Long-time TMMP favourites Signals. are nothing if not ambitious, combining the best elements of math-rock and pop – two very different genres – into something vibrant, exciting, and fresh. A year ago, Signals. were sitting on one of my favourite EPs of the year; today, they’ve got a successful Kickstarter campaign, a new song (Sleep Talk), and a new record deal under their belts – and the heavily-anticipated party starts on October 19th with the commencement of Signals.’ quirkily-monikered ‘Sleep TourK’.
Read on to learn more about Signals., the joys of connection, and the intense demands of their most private creative ritual – exclusively revealed below.
Your upcoming ‘Sleep TourK’ follows up on the successful crowdfunding and release of your single, ‘Sleep Talk’. How did it feel to beat your Kickstarter target?
It was such a relief and we were buzzing off it for ages! It meant a great deal as we wouldn’t have been able to do anything last year without our amazing fans. We were a little against fan-funding for a while because we didn’t want to make it seem like we were taking advantage, but we watched a pretty cool Ted Talk by Amanda Palmer that made it seem like a real team effort; it brought a rush to it and made us feel more connected to the people that, realistically, are the reason that we do what we do. If it was supposed to happen, it would, and it did. We were very lucky.
Do you have any specific plans regarding your stage show for this tour?
As a band, we have really developed our live performance, over the past two years in particular. We just enjoy it too much to ever have a naff gig. I don’t think we have a specific plan for this tour? We will be performing the new single, have some new gear, and Alex has grown out his hair. That’s about it. Ellie cracks out the odd Busted jump every now and then. It would be great to have a backdrop/projection/banner of some kind. We have some new merch too!
What’s your favourite thing about playing live?
The audience just being really into the songs. We have had some really lovely comments recently about how we all look so happy on stage that it makes other people happy to watch it. There are some really lovely dedicated fans in our local area who see us regularly, but they say they keep coming back because we change it up and do something unexpected every time and it keeps them interested. You get to meet some really rad people at shows, and no two performances are ever the same. It’s nice embracing the unpredictability and just going with the flow – you have to be prepared for anything.
What’s been your favourite Signals. gig so far, and why?
Some of our favourites have to be: Bestival main stage last summer, some of our Southampton gigs, and all of the shows on our last tour to be honest haha. Bestival was just an insaaanneeeee opportunity, and running around that stage was the best feeling. Did some music as well…Southampton always treats us excellently, and it was there we first played a packed-out venue to people we hardly knew. It was really surreal.
Our last tour was just lovely because we got to meet loads of musicians and fans, visit different cities, and eat a lot. You learn from every show you do, so doing that many in such a short time really pushed our limits; it was great fun.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened at a Signals. show?
We have been pretty lucky with a lack of unfortunate events! There have been no disasters. Standard things such as microphones to the face, really terrible stage banter, Alex’s shirts, and strange gear-porn-style pick-up lines. Mikey once accidentally played ‘Come Out The Blue’ a semitone sharp on the first chorus at one of our early gigs, as we were concentrating on the long held vocal harmonies. We laughed for about a month because somebody put it on YouTube and it was just the most horrendous sound. Tear-inducing clash. Ellie also tries to fit as many words as possible in to the one-beat gap before the verse starts in Dusk. That’s always a challenge.
Performing live can be pretty stressful. How do you deal with nerves/stage fright etc?
Genuinely, we laugh at each other a lot. We chip in with everything, and we know that we are in it as a team – so apart from the standard buzzing and the willingness to prove yourself, I don’t think there is a dread before performing together.
If something is going to go wrong, it’s usually not within our control, such as a poor monitor system or a tired crowd/sound guy, so as long as we do the best we can, normally it calms any qualms. Just before our BBC Introducing live radio performance, Mikey’s amp had a fit and made some blood-curdling screeching sound that we couldn’t stop without unplugging it. We had about 3 minutes before we played our first song broadcast live on air and we just had to hope it didn’t happen again – there is nothing more nerve-wracking than a live radio performance, and equipment malfunction was the last thing we needed, but we got through it because we knew whatever happened, we would be dealing with it together, and that’s pretty cool.
You have to think of your band as family. You may want to slap each other from time-to-time, but at the end of the day (the sometimes extremely long, frustrating, non-beneficial day), you’re working together on something pretty cool, and you care for each other as much as the work. You’ve got to respect each other, and getting stressed and nervous is something that everybody has to deal with at points. Just be there for each other.
You’re really good at keeping your momentum going and keeping busy. What keeps you motivated?
Thank you! It’s important for an independent band to be on the go as often as we can, because it’s nobody else’s responsibility to do that for us. We get out what we put in. I guess we are motivated because we are all in it for the same reasons. We are not trying to break the charts, or somehow become pop stars. Our genre is quite intimate and it’s motivation in itself to continue being involved with that crowd.
We push ourselves all the time. Recently, a lovely little label called Saint November has put us on their roster and are doing a brilliant job at keeping up hype about Sleep Talk. They are lovely guys; seeing other people work hard for you motivates you to work harder yourself.
What makes you happy?
Tea, cereal, chinese food, playing pool, and watching NCIS.
What’s your creative process like? Any creative rituals/habits to declare? How does a Signals. song go from idea to reality?
Answer one: It takes about seven years. Ryan does a rain dance. Alex eats some Lion-bar cereal. Mikey makes a siren-noise on his guitar. Ellie writes a kick-ass rap. We then make a patchwork quilt of algebraic equations and unheard Katy Perry tunes and voila! New material.
Answer two: We always try and challenge ourselves, and we do write collectively, so it does take quite a while! Frustratingly so. Also, our sound has changed quite drastically from our first EP, so it’s about finding a middle ground that still appeals to everybody, which still represents our growth. You can’t rush the right thing. We are picky bastards.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given regarding your career?
Work hard and be nice to people.
Beyond the Sleep TourK, what do you have planned for the future? Is a Signals. album in the works?
We certainly hope so!!
At the risk of sounding like a marketing survey, do you plan to use Kickstarter again?
We wouldn’t want to have our cake and eat it, so to speak. If we did, it would have to be quite far into the future – and believe us, it would be a last resort. We don’t want to rely on other people to fund our career, but if they want our career to continue, then I guess on occasion they may have to help us! Kickstarter is a really good website – and when used carefully, it can really blow open your future and dreams.
Buy tickets for Signals.’ ‘Sleep TourK’ here.
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