Llama Drama – Just Gimme Indie Rock!
The Llama Farmers chat with Roofdog
Words/Pictures: Karl Cremin
The curse of fame, your average rock star of today would say through gritted teeth whilst swigging a bottle of obscenely expensive bourbon, is that everyone knows your name. Everyone knows your business, the contents of your rubbish bin, the brand of underarm deodorant that you use, and even the exact way you like your kebab on the way home from a star-spangled London premier. There’s no escape; once you’re famous, everyone wants a piece of the action, even if it is covered in chilli sauce.
That’s why, our half-loved, half-loathed B-list celebrity will continue, it’s better not to be famous in the first place. Or at least, not to have to be. To remain true to your roots, enjoy the gigging, ligging and swigging that is part and parcel of band life, but without any of the rock-star pretension, grandeurism or spoilt-brat posturing that has sterilised a league of our most loved bands. Oh, yes; to enjoy a career on the stage, but to remain unassuming enough to saunter into your local record shop without the manager tying you to a chair for three hours to sign 3000 copies of your latest LP.
On the basis of this theory, the Llama Farmers must be having a whale of a time. At a first glance, you wouldn’t recognise these dudes from any gang of rapscallion students in the street. The occasional raised eyebrow and the odd shared joke is passed round as conversations rapidly become more obscure and surreal, but it’s refreshing to discover that this once ‘worst band in the school’ have received adulation from the music press and have seen out hugely successful support slots for Green Day and Foo Fighters, with album No.2 only days away.
Evening has spiced the air with an icy chill, and the modestly sized venue that is to be the Llamas’ home for the night is beginning to pad out with roadies, meandering this way and that in search of that elusive wire, cable, or blatantly excessive rider. Meanwhile, the stars of the show shuffle up the club’s ‘secret’ back staircase, a unique little flight of stairs that very probably hasn’ t seen a vacuum cleaner since the days when Ken Dodd could fill a stadium. Twice Over.
Staircases aside, it must be pretty daunting for these guys returning to the limelight after so long, All members of the group are on the less depressing side of 21, and it was only a day or ago that guitarist Will was hooked up to a drip in hospital with a throat infection. Our humble dictaphone (the journalists best friend for many a year) is switched on to a flurry of whoops and yells, and the inquisition begins.
To pose a predictable question, it is a great name…
Brook (Rogers, drums) looks to the floor with a smile. “It was this kid at our school who was chilean, and he used to bring in all sorts of weird sandwiches and stuff for lunch, and we called him the Llama Farmer.”
Bernie (Simpson, guitars/vocals) interjects; “We saw him the other day, and he’s fine; he never even thinks it’s about him!”
Will (Briggs, guitarist): “We didn’t see it ourselves, but apparently someone was saying our name was really racist on the internet. What a load of bullshit!”
Psychotics aside, the experience you’ve gained musically over the past three years is bound to change your style. How do you think you’re developing as a band?
Will, desperate to answer this little gem, struggles to speak through a mangled and delicate throat, much to the amusement of his fellow band members.
Jennie (Simpson, bass): “I like some of those really old bands aswell, like the Mamas and the Papas…”
Brooke: “The Pommers and The Choppers!! I have to get that joke in as many times as I can tonight.”
Jennie: “Yeah, you and your F**k Manchu!”
Bernie: “All of our influences are very disparate, and different from when we first started…”
Will: “We’ve played Glastonbury twice; the first time we managed to blag a gig at the outdoor theatre stage! They’ve got jugglers and knife throwers and things, and we had to use tiny amps and a child’s toy drum kit. And Bernie had no amp so he was just going through the P.A so he just sounded f**king stupid!”
Bernie (shocked at Will’s outburst): “I had no idea! We’ve basically got the same outlook towards gigs as we had three years ago – just turn up and play.”
Jennie: “It was like when we supported Green Day. We’d just be about to board the stage and then we’d be like, ‘What the f**k are we doing..??!?!?’. There were so many people there… and there’s us with our mattress in the back of the van, and Green Day would turn up with like a double decker bus each!! They were really nice blokes…”
Bernie: “Really nice millionaires…”
Brooke: “I’d be really nice if I was a millionaire..!!!! The drummer, Tre Cool, came into out dressing room one day moaning about their rider, and they have like unlimited beer, a bar, three bottles of whiskey, nine bottles of vodka, and just everything, and we have just eight cans of beer or something, and he came in and said (adopts slacker-rock American accent) ‘Oh man, the rider’s so shit!!!’ and we were like ‘what the hell are you moaning about?!?!?’ ”
Jennie: “..but Bernie did burst in on Dave Grohl when he was on the toilet!!!”
Not many people can say that…! You started your career with a release on the infamous Fierce Panda indie label. Do you think that helped your indie cred back in the beginning?
Brooke: “Yeah, the cool thing with Fierce Panda is that when they release a single they sell half of their copies because of the band, and another load just because it’s a Fierce Panda release. And the beauty of them is that you don’t actually have to sign to them; they just release your product. It may have changed by now..”
Bernie: “There wasn’t any moving of pens..!”
You played the hotly esteemed NME Premier tour aswell…
Brooke: “I remember, we played warwick Uni and everyone just stood there, it has a weird balcony over the stage aswell which is a bit strange.”
Will: “If you give something to the audience you expect something in return, and there was just nothing there. I think personally that we’re a lot better now than we used to be. I think that maybe we got too much attention early on.”
Jennie: “They were all trying to pigeonhole us and even we can’t pigeonhole ourselves.”
Brooke: “We won best live band and we’re really really not. Best live band in the world? Bollocks!! We also kept winning stuff like best live punk band in the world, and we’re about as punk as Stevie Wonder!”
Will: “I think all journalists are just after the next big thing really.”
Looking back, what is the one gig that you remember as your greatest moment?
Brooke: “Last year’s Reading was wicked, and the Barrowlands (Glasgow) supporting Green Day…”
Jennie: “We just went on stage and there were over three thousand people there..before we went on they turned the lights off and I was like ‘shit…’ I was so scared..!!”
Bernie: “That was ridiculous; we didn’t have a clue what was happening..”
Can you sum yourself up in one sentence?
Jennie: “We is a good band..!!”
You're also pretty unique in having a fully fledged parent in charge of proceedings. What's it like having Will's Mum as manager?
Will: “It’s alright… (sniffs)… a bit annoying sometimes.”
Jennie: “It’s a bit like when you’re a kid at home though, because you somehow always manage to get your own way..! (Jennie and Will exchange glances) Oh no no, not you personally!! The brother and sister thing is OK too; Me and Bernie are quite eerily friendly for a brother and sister in a band!”
Which one of your songs are you most proud of?
Brooke: “El Toppo, the first track off the new album, I really like that one.”
Bernie: “I’m not really sure, there are quite a few. But I’m kinda proud that I’m doing something that’s totally different to total of my friends. And we haven’t got any showbiz friends..”
Brooke: “The most famous person I know is Bob from Idlewild!”
How do the songs on your new album differ from your past one?
Will: “It’s much better than the last one” (laughter from rest of group)
Bernie: “The first album was all just live, just going in and recording what we’d been doing for the past three months..”
Will: “We’d been playing the songs from the first album for over a year in one form or other and so we just went in and did it..’ with the second album we’d never played them live and we tried them once and it all f**ked up!”
Bernie: “…It’s just a little bit more crafted and different, and a little bit bolder and braver. It’s got subtlely and it’s got rock. There wasn’t so much subtlely last time.”
What's it to be; He-Man or Thudercats??
Brooke (immediately): “Oh, Thundercats!!!!”
Will: “No, He-man…”
Brooke: “F**k off! Sing me the Theme tune. (Jennie starts to sing the Thundercats tune…) Can you remember the theme tune to He-Man? (shaking of heads in unison). Exactly!”
Will: “Yeah but how many Thundercats toys did you have?”
Brooke: “..All of ‘em! Tiger, Wyliekit and Wyliekat, Snarf…”
Will: “I had the He-Man Castle Greyskull house thing which was cool, and you could pull up the drawbridge as you went through..”
Brooke: “It has to be Thundercats. That is our unanimous vote.”
You find yourself stranded on a desert island for a week and you’re allowed an inexhaustable supply of one type of food and one type of drink. What would they be?
Brooke: “I’d have to have Dr.Pepper for the drink, and kebab meat and pittas for the food!!”
Jennie: “..hmm… not marmite!”
Brooke: "I could catch some fish..."
You see a dog on a roof – how do you get it down?
Brooke: “Simple. You get a ladder, you go up, grab it, put it in a fully equipped harness, stroke it til it’s happy, then climb down again. And then boot it!”
Bernie: “To the kerrrrb!”
..and that's where we leave our grungified friends, giggling and swigging beer, and glowing with anticipation to get back on the stage.