Deever - Winter 2019
Hailing from the northeast of England, Deever is a modern hard rock band that delivers aggressive riffs, and captivating hooks with a distinct British edge. Founding member Billy Taylor, formerly of Inglorious, continues to wield his Gibson Firebird guitar but interestingly he is now also the frontman. Completing the line up is Stevie Stoker (guitar and backing vocals), Phil Appleton (bass) and on bass Dan ‘Higgy’ Higgins (drums). The last 18 months has seen the band busy writing tracks for what would become their debut album, You Need This. Tasters in the form of Fire At Will and All Come Running are incredibly strong representations of what this album is all about. But there’s more you need to learn, firstly that this is actually a very important album. To be released on 1st February, You Need This sits firmly in the rock mould but it’s giving us something new and fresh. It’s a sound that very much grabs your attention and makes you take notice because it is so different. If feels like we are seeing the birth of a new genre, and this being the case it’s actually difficult to compare Deever’s sound to other artists. If pushed we would suggest this is almost ‘Muse meets Sixx Sense’, but it is with hesitation that we say this. That’s because the more we listen to You Need This, the more it unveils it’s secrets. We catch up with Billy at a friend’s house near Newcastle, England, and it’s a well-groomed and very healthy looking Billy that greets us today. Wearing a low cut tight black T shirt, his prominent chest tattoos firmly on display, Billy is almost model-esque. He’s clearly taking care of himself. We make ourselves comfortable to talk all about the new album and the band’s plans for 2019.
Well, Billy it’s a very exciting time. I would of course like to talk about Deever’s debut album You Need This but before talking directly about the music I wanted discuss how there appears to be suggestions both within the music and with yourself more directly that what we are seeing here is ‘reinvention’. We’ve previously known you professionally as Will Taylor but you are now Billy Bob Taylor. Also, the opening track Fire At Will with its supporting lyric Shoot To Kill may on the face of it appear to be you suggesting that others have been out to harm you, but I wonder whether this is also you drawing a line on the past. Do you see this as a reinvention of yourself as an artist, and also to what extent are you actively leaving the past behind?
I suppose I don’t really see it so much as reinvention - maybe from an outside perspective it may seem that way. From a name perspective I have been called every name under the son: Will, Billy, Willy… everything. There’s not really been any reinvention but I suppose if you’re looking at what I’ve done in the past, the type of music it was and all that stuff, it would probably seem that way. But for me I’ve always loved the type of music that I’m doing now. It is a very different thing and that’s the first thing that everybody notices: the style’s very different, but that’s because I’m now able to do a style that me, Steve, Phil and Higgs, we’re all on the same page as that as well. So in terms of reinvention, I can see that it would look like that but for me it’s more just that I can take my coat off and do what I want to do now musically, and everything else, you know? In terms of Fire At Will, yeah I suppose you are kind of right about the sentiment of that song. You can listen to it a few different ways. I know a few people have spoken to me and said they feel it’s a song about not putting up with something from somebody else but equally other people have asked ‘are you internally having this fight with yourself?’ The music video to that makes that quite obvious that it is like that internal struggle of pushing and pulling inside and finally breaking through that. So I can understand the way it could kind of look like a reinvention but to me not really! It’s just something different that I wanted to do anyway.
Referring specifically to the music, the new album You Need This is very different to what you’ve done with other projects. You’ve created a very modern sounding rock record and something which is sonically quite huge. Quite simply this is an outstanding album of arena-ready tracks for which you must be incredibly proud. What was your vision for You Need This?
Well initially I’d written Fire At Will before I’d even got the rest of the band members together. I used Fire At Will to kind of rope in the right guys, and I was very lucky with who we managed to rope in because we’re all obviously really close mates, we’re all only about half an hour away from each other, we’re all from the same place, we’re in in the same position career-wise – you know, we’re all full time musicians – we all know what we need to do, we’ve all got the right gear… so when it first started, I’d already written a couple of tunes so the guys who came in were well aware of what the plan kind of was, and the plan was to do an EP. We went to Parr Street Studios in Liverpool and we tracked the drums there for about 4 or 5 songs and then we tracked everything else in our studio in Darlington. So Tony Draper engineered all the drums and I engineered everything else at our place. So the plan was do an EP but once we got the tracks together for an EP, between recording and finishing we were still writing. So we went ‘do we release an EP in the next month or 2?’ - and that could have been 6 months or a year ago – or ‘do we keep these and record the next songs that we’ve got?’. We all decided ‘let’s do an album’ and not get stuck in the cycle of doing an EP, an EP, an EP and so on. Let’s just go for an album. That just came around because we had 2 EP’s worth of songs by then. Let’s just do it all in one and do an album. But in terms of a plan for me starting the band, I just wanted to be in a band and play in a band doing music that I genuinely do love and love writing as well. When it comes to writing, playing and recording with the techniques we’ve used, I didn’t want to feel restricted. We’re not making sure we record everything live like we’ve done in past projects – which is fine if you want to capture that vibe, that’s cool – but you then become very restricted sonically on what you can make. If you’re only using 1 guitar a side, you can only have 1 guitar a side. If you’re only using a couple of harmonies you’re very restricted sonically. I wanted to make something I knew would stand up against everything else being produced ‘sonically’, not necessarily talking about the songs but the quality of the audio, which again is why we went to Parr Street Studios to record the drums because I knew we could get a great sound in there and I knew Tony from working with him in Inglorious that he knew exactly what he was doing. So to cut a long story short, I wanted a band where we could write, record and play how we wanted and enjoy it, and I think we’ve done that and we are doing that.
You are a very accomplished and exciting guitarist, both from a technical and performance perspective. But what we see with Deever and You Need This is also what an incredible vocalist you are. There is something quite powerful and dramatic in the way you deliver the album’s 10 tracks. Where did this voice come from and how does it feel to take centre stage?
Well initially, I didn’t leave Inglorious to make a band where I could sing. A couple of people have said that ‘Oh he left that band because he wanted to be the frontman, he wanted to sing’. It was just out of the fact that I was writing the songs, and when writing them on my own I was writing them in a key that I would sing, and then I would write the lyrics for the first couple of songs. It got to the point where we’d got Phil who I’ve been friends with since the beginning of time, and Higgy and Stevie, and it kind of just felt right. And it’s incredibly difficult to find a frontman as well. It’s difficult enough to find band members who look the part, sound the part, are committed, are in the right place and want to do the same style of music. To then find the frontman who has a voice that fits is incredibly difficult. So it wasn’t planned – it just kind of happened. And it’s worked because I love writing songs, the rest of the guys love writing songs. There are quite a few songs on this album which are very personal, and I think that’s where a lot of the sound comes from. In terms of singing myself, I didn’t really start singing until I was about 18 or 19. I was a very shy kid. I stayed in and played guitar all the time. I ran away from girls, played football, played guitar and that was it. So that I think that helped my guitar skills, but in terms of singing I didn’t start until I was about 18 or 19. I’ve always sang backing vocals like in all the Inglorious stuff I was the one who had to take all the high stuff. So I needed someone side-stage to kick me in the bollocks before every gig (laughs!). With my voice, especially recently, I’ve become a lot more confident in it and I’ve found that I’ve dropped trying to compare or compete with other singers. As soon as you drop that you can then sing like yourself, and thankfully that happened before recording all of this stuff. So that’s where it’s come from, and I know that genuinely I don’t think I’m a great singer. I can sing the songs and I know I can sing a tune but I just want to sing, I’m not trying to compete and I’m not trying to sound like anybody, and I think that kind of comes through on the tracks.
I think it absolutely does and it’s interesting to hear that you don’t think you are a great singer because in my opinion you are a great singer, and what comes across in your performances is how comfortable and how natural you are as a singer.
It’s a very different kettle of fish, especially in a live setting. That was the last thing I thought about because once it was decided ‘Okay, Billy, just do it, just sing, you can be the front man’, I was like okay. You don’t realise until you get to the rehearsal room. You go ‘Fuck, I’ve got to remember all the words, I’ve got to remember all the chords, I’ve got to remember all the solos, between all of that I’ve got to make sure I’m pressing all the right things on my pedal board, and between the songs you can’t fuck around and go get a drink and chill for 2 minutes, you’ve got to talk and you’ve got to think about what you’re going to say. When it came to that, I didn’t think about that until we were on our way to our first gig in Glasgow. I thought ‘Shit, what the fuck am I going to say between songs?’ (Laughs!) You don’t want to go (in a glum voice) ‘this is another new song’ and that’s it! You can’t do it. I didn’t think about all of that until it was already happening, and it’s a very different thing. With Inglorious I could run around and jump around as much as I wanted because I was only really needed for backing vocals. Now, there’s only 2 of us who are guitarists and I’m singing as well, so I’m very stuck to a microphone which I get conscious of so it is a very different kettle of fish and there’s so much more to think about. So it’s a lot more difficult but it’s almost like doing an entirely different job now.
The album has been given the direct title of You Need This. I would agree that we do in fact need this, especially as I feel that not only is it a very strong record, but I also feel that the record could represent the next step in the evolution of rock more generally – I really do feel that this record is that important. But I would like to know your reasons for choosing this title and also why you think we need this.
Well it initially kind of came round as a bit of joke. Me and Higgy were talking – to be fair whenever me and Higgy are talking it turns into a joke – but we were talking about album titles. We didn’t want to name it after one of the songs because that puts a spotlight on one song in particular and we didn’t really want that because we didn’t think that’s what it needed. So we were thinking about tongue-in-cheek titles like Buy This Record or It’s Not Shit, and then I said what about You Need This and we both kind of went from joking to ‘yeah’, because we need it. This is something that we’ve put absolutely everything in to and all feel we need to do which is why we are all still musicians. So it came about really from a joke but then once we said it we went ‘Yes, that’s works!’. And also it had the backup of if we got any shit reviews, the title of the review still said You Need This to people so it was win-win! It kind of works a few ways. It’s really cool to hear that you think it is fresh and that it’s not replicating other things because that’s not something we were trying to avoid. I think if you get too caught up on what you don’t want to sound like, you’re also pushing yourself into what you do want to sound like and you end up replicating it. As a band we listen so much stuff, like Phil is into Incubus, Higgy will sit and listen to Sepultura, Stevie’s into a lot more pop stuff and I’ll sit and listen to Billy Joel all night! We are into so much stuff that it could have been very difficult to make an album where it sounded together, but I think we’ve done well to keep it sounding like us. I know there’s some songs where you might go ‘that sounds a little bit like Green Day’ or ‘that sounds a little bit like 30 Seconds to Mars’ but it’s not like we are trying to be everything. We’ve just gone ‘we like a lot of stuff, let’s write songs, let’s just make it Deever and record it and see what happens’. We actually only got rid of one song for the album. Usually you’d write 20 or 30 songs or something and go through them all. But we kind of write each song for itself and kind of produce as we go along. I’m very kind of OCD about having things in a song that just don’t need to be there. If it’s a case of ‘that interlude’s too long’ I’ll get rid of it. I love guitar solos but it doesn’t mean I’m going to put a guitar solo in everything. The same with lyrics and chord patterns and things like that. It’s not a long album, I think every song is about three and a half minutes. It just happens to be perfect radio play length but again that wasn’t done intentionally. That was just us going ‘something’s finished when you can’t take anything else away from it, not when you can’t put anything else on’. That’s the way we looked at it. That was the same with the album cover as well. There was all sorts of shit on it and we kept pulling stuff off until it was the double E with the diagonal. We went ‘but it hasn’t got Deever on it’ and we just felt it doesn’t need it on it. We’ve treated the songs like that as well. It’s finished and it’s done when there’s no unnecessary stuff.
You will of course have played some of the tracks at recent Deever shows. What has the audience’s reaction been to the new material?
While we’ve been on stage it’s been great. We’ve had a lot of support from people - friends and family obviously - but also from friends and fans that I’ve gathered though my last projects. So it’s been really nice to see them come along. I didn’t get to see any of them for nearly a year, from leaving the last band and the new one being active and out there. So whilst we’ve been playing it’s been great and then once we’ve come off stage and we’ve seen these people the first thing they usually say is ‘Ooh, it’s very different isn’t it’ – and not in a bad way. They are comparing it to the last thing which is understandable, people will do that. Or they go ‘It’s a lot heavier than I thought it would be’. There are some heavy parts in there, and as a band we listen to some heavy stuff all the time. But they say ‘It’s very heavy but I’d still listen to that!’. I know a lot of people who don’t usually listen to rock and they’ve gone ‘I wouldn’t usually listen to that but that’s sounds really cool. There’s something about it that makes me want to listen to it’. So that’s kind of been the general feel I’ve got from people, but it’s very rare that one of your mates comes up to you and goes ‘Mate, that’s shit!’ (Laughs!). I’ve got a few who would but they haven’t done it yet, so that’s good!
So it’s the beginning of 2019. What does the Deever calendar look like this year and what are your expectations for what the band will achieve?
I want us to play as much as much as we can. When the album comes out, we want to make the album launch a little bit more special, a little bit more intimate, and maybe make an album launch more of a party than a gig. Something a little bit more limited and a little bit more special on the release day, and that will obviously be up here (the North East of England). We want to tour it so that will probably be happening March or April – give the album the opportunity to be out and for people to hear it. I’ve toured in previous bands where we haven’t had an album out, or we’d had one song out, and it’s cool – I understand that you push the album that will be coming out but it’s always nicer when people know the songs. You see people getting excited when you start playing a song that they already know, instead of standing the going ‘there’s another new one, I wonder what this will sound like’. But we want to play as much as we can. We just want to keep taking steps upwards. That’s something we’ve said from the start, that we only want to step upwards. Everything we do needs to have a step up, even if it’s just a little one. To be fair we’ve done well. We’ve played 7 shows and they’ve all been in great venues. We’ve played most of the main cities: London, Sheffield, York, Glasgow, we went all the way up to the Isle of Lewis, and we played Winters End for Planet Rock. We’ve done decent gigs for a band that didn’t really have anything out. The new single’s being played on Kerrang! every week, and we’re ticking off these little targets that we’ve set ourselves and this year we’re now setting ourselves more targets that we want to try and tick off. Like I said, we just want to keep taking steps up and keep playing as much as we can this year, whether that’s on our own or supporting others. We’ve had a few offers that aren’t confirmed yet that if we can get them will be great! Big tours, big gigs which is exactly what we need. But you learn very quickly that nothing happens until you’re on that stage. Fingers crossed!
What’s clear is that Deever are a band with huge focus, and I think a lot of other bands can learn from this. Do the rest of the band see you as the leader?
Yes. In every band there is a go-to person. I’ll be honest, I’m extremely sensitive with even being looked at as not necessarily a leader but as the boss. I hate that term. I’m the go-to person because I did start the band, but because of previous experiences and things like that I’m extremely sensitive and I want to make sure every single person in the band feels as important as the next. Nobody is more important than anyone else. If Higgy broke his leg, we’d be fucked. If Phil broke his hand we’d be fucked. If Stevie lost his voice we’d be fucked. Yeah, I am kind of the go-to guy but everybody always knows what’s going on. Everybody’s just as important as the next one. I couldn’t get through a gig without everyone else so I think there are some bands that still haven’t learned that. We need to be a team if it’s going to work. You can get so far not being a team but inevitably it will implode. So I’m very, very conscious of making sure even with little decisions, everybody knows what’s going on, everybody knows how much the CDs cost to get manufactured, everybody knows how much money we take at a gig, we decide what we want to do with it – where it’s going and if it’s going back into the band - decisions on doing gigs, decisions on music videos, decisions on photo shoots. It’s a team effort, it has to be and I want it to stay that way.
As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a truly exciting time this is. Of course, it’s a very exciting time for the band as they prepare to release You Need This, but more importantly it’s an exciting time for the rock community more generally. It would be almost unjust to limit the praise for Deever’s debut album to a statement simply reporting on what an incredibly strong record it is. The fact is that You Need This could actually be a game changer. When we overlay the band’s huge focus, the wisdom from life’s lessons learned and a team spirit perhaps only rivalled by The Three Musketeers, we anticipate outstanding success for Deever in 2019.
Preorder You Need This at www.deever.uk. In the meantime, enjoy the video for Deever’s debut single Fire At Will below.