Print Music Editor Bryony Gooch interviews Exeter-based band Pattern Pusher, ahead of their tour ‘Pattern Pusher Presents’.
I sat down with Exeter’s local indie disco-groovers, Pattern Pusher, ahead of their fourth annual showcase, ‘Pattern Pusher Presents’, to talk moody indie bands and FONIEE.
How was Pattern Pusher Formed?
Alex Johnstone: So, I used to run a jam night in Timepiece Club and at the time I had been in bands and stuff and wanted to get back into it. And then bass player Ben [Green] showed up. We started chatting and got his brother and made a little band.
Benjamin Green: We’d just moved down to Exeter and I was looking for something to do.
AJ: And then Toby [Ben’s brother] was in a math rock band and wasn’t really keen on the kind of tunes we wanted to make so he broke the news that we needed to find a drummer, so we went searching around and I still had my jam night going, and luckily this guy – the other Ben – came along! So basically, I was able to handpluck some goods out of Exeter’s music scene.
Benjamin Conibear: We used to have a bass player back then too.
AJ: Yeah, Dan!
BG: I was a bit hesitant at first because I thought “there’s already one bass player! It’s probably a bit too much” but it turns out he’s alright.
BC: We were also called Instant Karma before we were called Pattern Pusher.
Where did the name Pattern Pusher come from?
BG: All the other good names were taken! So we ended up just trying loads of words.
BC: I think we ended up writing them all down in a book if I remember rightly, and we just had like loads of different words and we tried to put them together to reflect what we were doing. So I think “Pattern” kind of came from the synths
and “Pusher” just had a ring to it.
What are your main influences?
AJ: So, it changes a lot. When we first started, I was obsessed with Alt-J and that more mellow side of synth music.
BC: Quite alternative as well.
AJ: Yeah very alternative, like James Blake and people like that. In recent times it’s all about the funk and the grooves. Franc Moody, Jungle. Those are two of my favourites.
BG: It kind of ranges, doesn’t it? We like more heavier dance music like Justice, and a bit of Daft Punk. That French kind of scene. I love that stuff.
BC: But it also goes into that indie scene. That kind of alt-rock sound.
We see so many pictures of bands stood there looking really moody like “ooh, look how cool we are”
AJ: We’ve realised on the way back from gigs how much we love that classic indie scene as well.
BG: We grew up listening to that stuff, didn’t we?
AJ: Just caning out the singalongs on the way back from gigs.
BC: It’s the kind of stuff that you don’t realise has an effect on the way you write songs or play your instrument. Because I think if you asked us what our favourite band was, no way would we say the Kaiser Chiefs!
AJ: And yet they’re right there in your subconscious when you’re writing, you know?
BC: I think that era has had quite a big play on Pattern Pusher and how it sounds now. I think that’s why we call it “indie disco.” The more recent music that has come together is what we listened to when we were growing up as teenagers so Franc Moody, Jungle were big. I think it’s more like the feeling that you get from dance music that we wanted to bring in the sphere. We’re all quite smiley, happy people.
BG: We also love songwriting as well, so it’s got to be for us, really upbeat, positive, and groovy. But also if you dig a little deeper, there’s a song in there that you want to listen to again and again.
I was going to point out that you have such an optimistic sound – refreshingly non-gloomy.
BG: We see so many pictures of bands stood there looking really moody like “ooh, look how cool we are.”
AJ: Who pissed them off?
BG: That is not what we want at all. Hence the pink, hence the yellow, hence the smiles.
BC: There was a turning point I reckon. We’ve always been quite for that, but I think we realised at one point that we needed to accentuate our own feelings and personality.
BG: There’s that classic band stereotype that every band goes to either a graveyard or a forest. We went to a forest and we looked at the photos and were like “oh… look at us.”
What exactly goes into your song-writing process?
BC: It depends because most of the time it’s lyrics first but mostly, recently, it’s an idea, whether that’s a kernel of a lyric or something, and we’ll just start playing over the top of that. My parents have a little kitchen in Heavitree and it’s just perfect. You don’t get any sound complaints or anything you just set a little speaker up and just start playing a little riff or (Ben) will have a bass idea. And we’re quick as well, we manage to get a song done in four hours sometimes.
BG: It has to have a concept, for me, I can’t really understand it until we have that concept figured out. Generally, there will be something – an idea – that starts it off.
We love the classics. Everyone says they love the Beatles, but we like them too
BC: More recently we’ve been doing really simple setups so, not making it overly complicated just having a keyboard and a guitar.
AJ: Get the basics to work.
BC: If the basics work, then when we take it to rehearsal, we add in the drum kit and all the extra stuff.
BG: We have a tendency to get overexcited and put too much in, so we’re trying to limit ourselves and make it simple
AJ: And get the parts really right rather than trying to move ahead really quickly. Just get that drum pattern and bass right.
BBC Radio 6’s Tom Robinson said you were an example of classic songwriting, so is that what you mean?
BG: Yeah that was really nice to hear that because we love the classics. Everyone says they love the Beatles, but we like them too.
AJ: And Motown.
BG: And Father John Misty. They’re just amazing song-writing that lasts forever. And we’re not trying to compare ourselves to that but it’s an ideal.
What can we expect from ‘Pattern Pusher Presents’?
BG: Lots of good music.
BC: We’ve got a band coming in from Manchester, which is the first time we’ve ever done that.
BG: A lot of local music as well, we always try and support local people. That’s kind of the point of it is to give bands that might not get the chance to play on a bigger stage that opportunity.
There’s quite a big divide between the people that live here and the people who go to university here. Especially people our age who want to be creative
You’ve been doing Pattern Pusher Presents for four years, right?
AJ: Well, Ben used to work here.
BC: And we just approached him like “look we want to put our own night on” and luckily managed to get enough people in to make it one of those things like “right we need to do this again” and now it’s become an annual fixture.
AJ: It’s been a proper reflection of the band as well because I think in the first year, we couldn’t have been Pattern Pusher for that long at all.
BC: We didn’t even headline, did we?
AJ: We just kind of put someone else on there… I would say in the last two years you could say “this is an actual Pattern Pusher show”.
Would you say you had quite strong links with the University of Exeter?
BG: We’ve had amazing links with Poltimore. Poltimore have been legends.
BC: We’ve been up to the radio with XpressionFM.
BG: We’re really trying to get involved with it more. We want to link Exeter with the University more.
AJ: I think that’s a reflection of the city as well. There’s quite a big divide between the people that live here and the people who go to university here. Especially people our age who want to be creative.
BC: We’ve had some great times with XTV.
AJ: The creative people we find down here are either the people we know from around Exeter or are from the University. There’s a big community we want to work with.