Yes Sir Boss are a six-piece Bristol-based band that play an original, high-energy, ska-influenced music with a big, brassy sound. We first saw them in the summer, along with Dizraeli and The Small Gods, opening for another of our favourites, Molotov Jukebox. Both bands share a similar sound and live their music is impossible to not move to.
The band released their first album on 8 October, on Joss Stone‘s Stone’d label – the West Country songstress features on their forthcoming single Mrs No 1, which will be released in the new year. The album was launched with a gig at the renowned Jazz Cafe in Camden, and it certainly proved that they are one of this country’s most exciting live bands. They may not be a household name yet, but once their infectious rhythms get better known, there’ll be no stopping them. Listen to (and buy) their album on Bandcamp. To find out about their forthcoming shows visit www.yessirboss.com/shows
We caught up with band, or at least half of it – Matthew Sellors (guitar, lead vocals), Tom First (trumpet, keyboards) and Luke Potter (guitar, vocals) before their Jazz Cafe show.
You’re a Bristol band…
Tom: We live there. We’re from all over. I’m from Yorkshire, and these two are from Devon. We met at uni eight years ago, at Dartington College of Arts in Devon and we made the move to Bristol just under five years ago.
Why did you choose Bristol?
Tom: We started in uni and had already developed a bit of a following in Devon, but we wanted to stay in the south west so moved to Bristol because it had good access to Devon and to London, and it’s a really cool city.
Matt: It’s got the south west vibe, and we’re all from Totness, where we met together at university. I think the south west vibe is like no other, it’s really cool and down-to-earth, fun time.
Luke: Also, in Bristol were all these bands that were doing the things we were trying to aspire to. We were just starting, and trying to figure out the kind of music we wanted to do, and this scene was already in existence in Bristol. When we got there, we got loads of help from the bands that were already there.
How much did it influence your music being there?
Luke: At first it was loads because that scene there with all those horn bands and reggae bands. Because it was really buzzing and going off, we fell into that quite easily. As we’ve grown up we’ve definitely tried to push ourselves in a direction.
Matt: From when we all started playing music together the music has evolved a lot, but it’s quite a natural sound that just ended up happening. But bands like Smerins Antisocial Club and Babyhead, who were really cool. First time I saw Babyhead I thought they were absolutely amazing. They were definitely an influence.
Tom: That was one of the really nice things, was the fact those other bands, it wasn’t as if they were rivals. They welcomed us, helped us out and got us gigs. We borrowed their horn players a few times, and become good mates with them all really.
Matt: That whole scene, there’s no arrogance whatsoever. Everyone’s really helpful. We’ve only done a few gigs with Babyhead, but the first time we played with them, which was years ago in Plymouth, and they were really keen on starting a little label and immediately they potentially wanted to do a single with us and sign us to their label. It’s always been like that. Everyone always wants to give each other a leg up.
Tom: The camaraderie thing, that transfers over to the festival scene. We do gigs with both Molotov [Jukebox] and Dizraeli [and the Small Gods], and a whole host of other bands, and they’re all our mates really. You see them at loads of different festivals around the country, and it’s really nice to have those friendships develop through being in bands. Shame it’s not the same within band. [mass laughter]
It’s always fascinated me how, when bands get together, they gel. How did you guys get together and realise that you had a rapport and wanted to play together?
Luke: Drinking helps. Because we were at Dartington for that long, where we were all studying music, it was very much a case of; if you study law you want to work in law. If you study to be a doctor you want to be a doctor. We studied music so we wanted to play music. While we were at uni it wasn’t particularly realistic thing to think about doing, but as soon as you’re there you think you have a have a go at this. We did, and we haven’t stopped yet, and we’re still alive, and we still like each other.
Aren’t half the band missing?
Luke: They’re locked up in the other room.
Did it really help studying music?
Luke: I don’t think any of us wanted to be composers or teachers or anything like that. I think we all went to uni to get in a band.
Matt: I didn’t go there to get a distinction or burying myself in books. It’s an obscure uni; it’s not a normal one. I’m just like all the other fledgling guitarist wannabes, that was me and I just managed to blague my way into this uni for this degree, and I think it was the same for all of us. We got on to it and all we wanted to do was play music, get pissed and have a good time. And that’s what we did.
So it was like an art school where you do what you want to do and come out with a piece of paper at the end?
Matt: We had three years with no job, in the countryside, studying, playing music and having fun with your mates. It’s like, some people go travelling – we went to uni, dossed around and played music. Luckily, out of it we’ve got a band that’s still playing.
You managed to do it before all the big fees came in?
Luke: I don’t know. I think my student loan is earning about a million pounds a year in interest. It’s never going to get paid off at this rate.
Tom: Now it’s nine grand for a year or three grand a term. That started three years after we started, so we just missed out – luckily. I wouldn’t have gone. If you’re going to start out with 29 grand of guaranteed debt, before any of your living costs.
Matt: Especially if you’re doing music. It’s not like you’re guaranteed a job at the end of it. The only thing you are guaranteed is you can sign on.
Luke: Hey kids, go out and get yourself a guitar, a drinking habit and sign on.
That’s the way musicians used to do it.
Matt: A lot of them went and studied art. John Lennon studied art, Bowie studied art, Freddie Mercury studied art, and then they formed bands and were biding their time.
Back then, the music colleges were only teaching classical music, or if you were lucky, jazz.
Luke: That was the thing about Dartington, it was contemporary in every single sense of the word.
Tom: The course was basically what you made of it. They wanted you to become you as a musician or artist, and discover what area you wanted to specialise in. Ours was just booze really.
Luke: As long as you could justify it, they didn’t mind. If you could justify why booze was the most important thing at that time and that place it was OK.
Tom: But if you go to a conservatoire then you’re going to play properly. We didn’t.
Did you actually study composition?
Tom: I did. These two did performance. As I said, they allowed you to do whatever you wanted, and they wouldn’t discourage anything.
Matt: As long as you could justify it, that was the key.
It’s the same with art school. You could turn out any old piece of conceptual shit, but as long as you could justify it, they were happy. Saying that, having studied, has it made you music more sophisticated when it comes to writing songs?
Matt: It’s a mixed bag really. If I could go back in time and not go to uni, and come back and tell you if it was more sophisticated, I would. I don’t think it does because I didn’t pay very much attention at uni. I think it helped me get where I am, but I don’t ink I learned a hell of a lot.
But did it help with arrangements and so on knowing the proper structure…
Luke: I think it helped with musicianship, because there wasn’t a massive amount of people there. When you had to put on a show at the end of the year, which every student had to do, you only had this little pool of musicians to pick from, so everybody played everything. You had a go if you wanted to sing 45 minutes of soul records, and you’d play 45 minutes of soul records. If you had someone how wanted to sing 45 minutes of heavy metal, you’d play 45 minutes of heavy metal, or whatever else. You pick up all these things from other musicians that were around you, and it all rubs off. I guess the musicianship really, really helped. I think that when it comes to us sitting in a room and bashing out a song, you definitely learned.
Tom: You learn collaboration, which they tried to encourage. They teach you to be flexible. There’s six of us and it can be quite hard work when you’re trying to accommodate every single persons opinion within a piece of music.
Luke: But we definitely try.
Tom: And that has been influenced through Dartington.
Luke: We were very lucky to have that. There are a lot of bands out there where one person definitely takes charge. It’s their lot. I don’t think there is any one person in Yes Sir Boss that would stand for that, at all. Because of that, we’re giving and forgiving. Everyone listens and we get there in the end. That’s what you get with the music that we produce, is a real sense of every single person and a flavour of everyone’s personality.
Matt: I always wanted to make sure that everyone had a bit of ownership. If I ever write a song, then people write their own parts. Obviously people can have a bit of guidance along the way and help each other, but everyone can have their own parts. Everyone’s got a piece of it and they can feel a bit of attachment to the song, then everyone believes in it. If you get told exactly what to play, it’s going to be pretty soulless. You’re just being a session musician if you are constantly being told what to play throughout the process of it. That was important to us and it’s why we have quite a democratic approach to writing. It works, and makes us what we are.
As long as your name’s on the publishing… [mass laughter]
Luke: Even that is totally ridiculous. We tore up the rule book when it came to publishing splits. We’ve shown our partnership agreement to a lot of people and they’re like, “What the fuck is this? Really, you do that?” It’s complicated but it’s fair. It’s completely fair.
Are you quite independent within the industry?
Luke: We got a deal. Joss [Stone] signed us up a couple of years ago, which has been really helpful in terms of giving us the opportunity to concentrate fully on the band. We all stopped working over two years ago. But she doesn’t interfere creatively. She is encouraging and supportive. She introduced us to an amazing producer, who happened to help us with this album, and he had God knows how much more experience than us. He helped shape it and managed the whole scenario really well, in terms of people and time and the music. He kept us all up like tiny balloons in the times we were there making this record, and he sculpted it into this beautiful thing that we are totally proud of.
Do you think it’s important to have a good producer behind you?
Luke: To have a subjective viewpoint from somebody who knows how to put their ideas and your ideas into practice is so vital.
Tom: And someone you can respect, to the point where they’re telling you not to play something you’re going to question it and obviously respect their opinion. It would be easier to get a mate along and them to say, “Maybe you shouldn’t do this”, but with someone that has that sort of authoritative personality, I think that’s pretty vital to get the best out of you.
Luke: It’s also so difficult when you’re in it because your vision is completely clouded. You’re in it and you’re feeling it; to everyone else, what does it sound like? Until you go home and stick it in your stereo, or put it in you headphones, you don’t actually know what it sounds like. If you’ve got that other pair of ears in there, and they go, “That sounds shit”, you can kick and stamp and scream as much as you want, but he’s probably right.
Are you going on tour to promote the album?
Tom: We’re just trying to push it out there, form ground level to get it to as many ears as we can, then there’s plans for next year to go overseas. To continent: Germany, Holland, Belgium, France and those sorts of countries.
They are very open to UK bands, probably more so than the UK.
Luke: They definitely are. There’s so much going on in England, there’s so many bands every night of the week. They say that 10,000 unsigned bands play in London every week. You go to Europe and they spoil you rotten. It’s very nice.
Would you like to go to the States? Your music would really be appreciated out there. It has quite an American vibe to it.
Luke: It has. It’s influences. It goes back to what we were talking about everyone’s personality in the music, and everyone’s influences of what they grew up on really shines through. A lot us are really into grunge, but also anything that came out of the 60s and 70s, the songwriters from the 60s, 70s, 80s, everybody’s totally into that. There’s not one of us that doesn’t like The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie or Free, even if they are all English.
Tom: Then there’s the whole soul movement from that era, and I take quite a lot of inspiration from that. The arrangements on a lot of the Motown records are amazing. Smoky Robinson’s fabulous.