Escaping Reality with Wank For Peace

Watching any melodic hardcore punk band live – who are at least competent enough to play their instruments at the required speeds – is nearly always a visceral and exciting experience. But when you see a band who usurp the already high bar which has been set and redefine what should be considered ‘great’, you know you’ve witnessed something special.

Wank For Peace are one such band. Hailing from Angers in France, the five-piece have been proving that you shouldn’t judge a book (band) by its cover (name) for six years now. They have just released their excellent new album Fail Forward and recently embarked on a six-week European tour. We chatted to Flo (vocals) and Ju (guitar) about where their name came from, the French punk scene and the importance of touring…

So tell us about the name. How did it come about? What kind of reactions have you had from people?

Flo: You start with the sensitive point! We had to give a name for the first show we did in 2008. One of us chose that name and then it was too late… We know it’s a silly name, we just have to live with it now…

In France we’re cool because they don’t get English. But yeah by touring everywhere people made us realise how tricky this name is. We’ve had some “This is the worst name ever”, even some “You sound sexist”… But whatever, we know how serious, sincere and committed we are to all this, so if people don’t get past the name, don’t check the lyrics and never listen to the band, that’s a shame but there is nothing we can do!

Ju: Like Florent said in an other interview, it’s like our own names, for example, I hate my name, Julien, plus, like half of the French guys in France are named like me, but I have to deal with it, can’t change it now.

You have a fairly distinctive sound – what bands would you say have influenced you the most?

Flo: Definitely all the melodic hardcore bands derived from Kid Dynamite and Lifetime, but not just them. Florks (the drummer) isn’t really into punk rock, David (bass) is a hardcore fan of ‘1234’ pop punk, and Lo and Ju are big fans of old school Blink-182. At the beginning of the band we were trying to do stuff like this band and that band, but it seems to me that everything was more natural on the new record.

Ju: I don’t listen to that much punk rock music, I’m more into various “angrier” stuff, like The Chariot, Every Time I Die, Alexisonfire… but when I started playing guitar, Blink-182 made me want to play in bands and tour. Since I’ve been back in the band, I’ve rediscovered this little sparkle I had when I was dreaming about all this 10 years ago, that I lost when playing in other bands that didn’t really suit me. I think you can hear that influence, musically, and also in the mixing/mastering too, but it sounds completely different because of everyone’s different horizons and I think we found our own balance.

What kind of themes do you explore with your lyrics, and why?

Flo: I write almost all the lyrics so it always comes back to personal matters, because this is what I feel more likely to defend, to be sincere about. I’m not good at telling stories so it is always straightforward emotions, feelings, thoughts.

The life we have chosen has a huge impact on the lyrics, so it’s not political per se. I leave the facts and percentages to Propaghandi, but I feel that the lyrics are very political in the sense that they are about self-determination, choices, alternatives to the life that society imposes on us. But I’m not trying to teach, I not confident enough about who I am, I just think that sometimes I’m not too stupid!

You’ve just embarked on a long tour – how important is touring to the band?

Flo: Crucial. That’s why we are a band still, that’s all we do, that’s all we want to do. We don’t really practice anymore, and we almost write records only to bring them on tour.

What do you enjoy most about touring, and what are the less appealing aspects?

Flo: We enjoy almost everything! Even the long drives. Really, we feel alive doing this. Playing songs we’ve put our guts into, meeting new people every night, discovering new countries and thus new cultures, new ways of living, new alternatives. And also the parties, the long talks… And going to places we would never have if it wasn’t for this, and discovering them through people, not through books or tourist stuff.

On the other hand, living this life leads to some sacrifices. I’ll speak for myself here but this is pushing us apart from our friends, families, and girlfriends. The only time off I took from jobs or studies in the past four years was for touring or recording. But that’s worth it.

Ju: I use touring to escape the reality, which I don’t really like. I stopped working two years ago because I was touring a lot, even if I don’t get any money from this, and now I should find a job back but I’m scared that I won’t have enough time to tour since this became my reality (what a poet). I’m afraid to lose this.

Everything Flo said is right, meeting people, cultures, sharing, opening our minds to something different, I think life is all about that, that’s all that matters really; we couldn’t do this without touring. My only less appealing aspect is that it’s hard for me to stop drinking when a tour is over.

You’ve released music with lots of different labels in many countries – do you feel part of a European ‘punk community’? What does community mean to you within the music scene?

Flo: Community is everything. That’s why we have got to do so much awesome stuff that friends of ours for instance in other musical genre will have a hard time doing. This community is what allows bands to go everywhere, spread music all around and once again spread alternatives! We need to remember how lucky we are to have all this. So yes, we feel we are a part of it, but we still are newcomers.

You’ve just released your new album – Fail Forward. What are your thoughts on the finished product? What was the songwriting process like?

Flo: We are really happy about everything. The writing process was a bit different than the previous records. This has been the first time we have really worked on a record in its entirety and not just compiled songs.

Personally I think of it as a revenge on the first one ‘cause my vocals sucked! We’re finishing gathering all the elements of the CDs and LPs and we are really stoked, they look great! Everyone who helped us on the design and the packaging worked their ass off.

Ju: In terms of songwriting, Lo started by developing an idea, then I thought about arrangements, melodies, and talked about structures with Florks. He had/has a completely different background to everyone else; it was/is awesome to work with someone like him who thinks outside the box. There are some parts I would have never imagined playing like this. Unfortunately David was a bit too late to compose everything with us, but in the end it worked. I think David is happy with the way everything turned out (as we are), he found some last minute ideas during the studio. Flo really surprised us with the way he wrote the lyrics and sang them, I remember when we first heard him sing his ideas for “Heavy Shoulders”, so powerful and catchy.

And what has the reaction been like to it so far?

Flo: Surprisingly good! But we’ve only released it very recently so we’ll see how it goes! The tour will be a test.

But no matter how it goes it’s not in our hands anymore, we are happy about what we did but now everyone can do whatever they want with the record, understand it the way they want.

Ju: For now everything is encouraging, there are a lot of different opinions about the record, but never in a bad way, because of this “more” melodic/pop side, and one “alien” song in particular, that some people genuinely love and some really… don’t hate but think it’s very strange for WFP.

We were really scared, even if we said to each other “come on, as long as we love our baby we don’t care”, but now I think it’s a huge relief. For now. We’ll see.

France isn’t particularly well-known for its punk bands – what is the French scene like? Are there any bands you’d like to champion?

Flo: That might be because a huge amount of the bands sing in French. Guerilla Poubelle had a huge impact on the scene for the past 10 years, for example I am a pure product of GP. They brought back a spirit of DIY, brought many kids to doing bands or booking shows!

But there really are a lot of great bands. You should check No Guts No Glory, Nine Eleven, One Thousand Directions, The Traders, Birds in Row, As We Draw and The Helltons.

Ju: There are a lot of awesome bands, as above (okay I don’t agree with all of them!), but France is a bit difficult with music in general, just listening to the French radio, there’s almost only French popular music with crappy lyrics or hip hop bands who try to sound like American hip hop… When you travel and listen to other countries’ radio, you can hear more indie stuff, even if people there think the opposite and are complaining about it, it’s really clear when you’re from France. Back in the 80s, there was more rock music, but then the culture changed in a way, maybe people were trying too much to sound or look like the American’s lifestyle – forgetting or putting aside “real” music. The perfect example in France is the large venues, who want to promote only “big” and overrated bands. We’re (everyone, not just our scene) kinda losing something here. We almost never play in France anymore. It’s sad really.

It’s only my opinion, I’m not really speaking for everyone here. I don’t want to be punished! I just think music is all about sharing but we can’t expand it. Everyone seems to feel comfortable in what they are, “communities”.

And finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

Flo: We don’t really know, with the release of the album and the booking of the tour we haven’t had a lot of time to think about what would come next! But we are thinking about a Southern Europe tour, we want to go back to North America to see our friends, we probably won’t wait three years to write a new record!
And there are also places we’ve never been to that we want to visit like South America or Asia

Ju: To be huge (private joke) (or not) (we already are).

– Andrew Cream

There you have it. Check out the band’s music and upcoming dates using the links below:

https://wankforpeace.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/events/1489677397958479/

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One Response to Escaping Reality with Wank For Peace

  1. Pingback: Wank For Peace / Fail Forward | 1001 RECORDS

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