Spitfire Bullets are a Three-piece punk band from Sunderland who cite their influences as The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Iron Maiden and Ac/DC (to name just 4), we caught up with Robert McDonald (lead guitarist and vocalist) and chatted about crap online videos of cats, new bass players and why he's no fan of Simon Cowell, here's how we rolled....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
Hey! We are Spitfire Bullets, a Punk Rock band!!
You’re called Spitfire Bullets how did you come about choosing this name?
It started back in 2011/2012, originally the old band was known as 'Prying Eyes', a sort of heavy rock band beginning in 2010, it got to a point where I felt the band needed a new image, name and style. Punk rock was something I have wanted to do for a while. Also having an interest in WW2 aircraft, most notably the spitfire, I knew it would be a name that would stand out, it was fierce and sounded fast like a bullet. so playing about with the name we knew there was already a band called The Spitfires and also a local punk band called HiFi Spitfires. Deciding on the name “Spitfire Bullets” came by as luck and asking some of our friends what it sounded like to them, it was a name that sort of stood out and sounded speedy and raw, so we bit the 'bullet' and stuck to the name.
How and when did you decide that you wanted to be in a band/performer?
It wasn’t really a decision at the time, I took up guitar back in 2008 just wanting to learn a few chords as a hobby really, but I thought about putting a band together to jam with since I knew a few friends who played as well, I put the band together in June 2010 a week before download festival 2010, and we just jammed in the practice room for a bit of fun. We were offered to play a showcase at a local pub and it took off from their, playing the first show, it wasn’t that good but I knew it was something I wanted to do again and again. Band members changed over the years before Spitfire Bullets, myself (Robert) has always been the original member.
Are you still on the lookout for a bassist? If so what type of bassist are you after and what happened to the last one? If not, what is the new bassist like?
We have a new bassist! We took him on a few months back and performed our first gig with him (19/07/2014), he’s a metalhead and a good friend and he offered to join and he plays well. Whenever we are looking for a bass player we sometimes drag anyone off the street, it’s quite hard to get a bass player and also someone who is willing to play in a punk rock band, a lot of musicians are very picky on genres these days. Our old bass player (Claire) left in April, she had told us she didn’t feel like playing anymore and she didn’t feel in the mood for it. It was hard for us to understand but it was her choice to leave and we let her go.
In your opinion, what is the BEST album/record ever released and why?
The Ramones debut album released in 1976, it's one of my favourites, it was a sign things were changing it came out way before the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks. The album had fast drums, guitar and bass with simple lyrics that said you don’t have to write a long song to get to the point, just say it there and then and get them jumping and singing within 2 minutes, it’s just Rock and Roll sped up with a Mohawk or Ramones style long hair on it. I have the original vinyl album and it still sounds as good as it did back in the 70’s. I wasn’t about then but I really wish I was, it was a good year for music!
Being an unsigned band how hard is it to get noticed and how has social media aided your music?
Being an unsigned punk band it’s very hard for us, we are a genre that is still looked at as if we have no talent and want to cause a riot, there is a lot of indie bands about in Sunderland which seems to be the craze these days. A lot of bars prefer indie bands to other genres. Most of the times when we play in a bar, hardly anyone comes to any of our shows, the least number of people we have had at a show was 2....that was it. We still played, but it’s very sad knowing this is what the local music support has come down to. The local music scene is dying, there aren’t that many places to perform and it's mostly nightclubs now, no one goes out to see bands. Now, a lot of people (sheeple) just watch the X-Factor to see who they should listen to next then go and buy the CD, everyone thinks this is how music is made these days, you go on some TV show, tell a soppy stupid story, sing a few lines with a karaoke machine and hey presto, you're One Direction (Wand Erection - MM) or some other money making machine not knowing anything else but how to work a karaoke machine and how to use a microphone. This is what made us prefer to perform in Newcastle more than Sunderland, they support local music more and there are a lot more bars that welcome unsigned bands by the millions! The social media has helped us to advertise our shows and keep in contact with fans and promoters but a lot of people just ignore the bands adverts in the newsfeed, so it isn’t very good. Also thanks to Facebook’s annoying settings, trying to hide the pointless crap (E.G. mostly cats and vine videos) is nearly impossible, meaning that unsigned bands find it really difficult to advertise their shows on Facebook. Twitter is very good for bands, we can post tweets nonstop, we can follow other bands, fans and bars etc. We use Buffer to send out tweets automatically when we are asleep so we pick up new followers and get our music heard across the globe. Did I mention we get airplay as well thanks to twitter? we are regularly played on Radio Northumberland on Monday nights, over on radio Boise in Idaho USA, also on Monday nights on the 'frankenbryan' unsigned show and EGH Radio on Sunday, all 3 radio stations support local and unsigned bands.
What is a Spitfire Bullets live show like?
I’d say it's very fun, we try to get the crowd involved and have a laugh with the band, while keeping to a strict time of a 30 min set, we play covers while chucking in our original songs so there’s a mix in the set of old 70’s cover with our modern originals.
Who designed the artwork for your EP cover?
I designed it myself, my girlfriend drew the bullet (which is also the band’s logo) from a picture after I was looking up WW2 nose art for ideas on the cover with a green riveted back ground it gives the idea it’s on the left side of a spitfire.
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
Nope I can’t think of anything, I think I have told them already hahaha
What classic song would you have liked to have recorded and why?
Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols, whenever we play it, we play it fast we have been told by a few people that they like our fast version because it’s edgy full of energy and makes you want to do the pogo.
Where did you record your debut EP and what made you choose that studio?
We recorded it at The Bunker, it’s a place we hold rehearsals, there is a recording studio called Room 3 Recordings, we couldn’t afford the high prices of the recording sessions as we are pretty much a poor band haha, but The Bunker did have their own recording studio and we took the cheapest option of doing a live recording session for £50, all four songs on the e.p. were recorded in one night. We had a £100 budget to use, half went on the recording, the other half was used for the packaging. The album cover printing was done at a printing shop in the city. Everything else was done by hand over 2 days, cutting out 100 cd covers and putting them in wallets and burning 100 discs, it was cheaper doing this ourselves rather than paying a lot more to have it done for us.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask the readers of musicmuso to look out for?
I’d tell your readers to look out for proper musicians, not the X-Factor TV ones. Look for the buskers on the streets and listen to their songs and toss a coin or two, they could be poor or maybe were once a famous musician but they are writing songs which people can relate to. That young band that’s trying their best to play covers in the local pub, talk to them, they could be the next big rock band. Just go out on the street and listen for live music coming from a pub or even a basement or garage, it could be the next big thing, lots of bands started out like that and look where they got! all they ask for is support and want to have fans and friends. Listen to unsigned radio shows, Radio Northumberland on Monday night is a good one, we are on it regularly!
Who is your track ‘Psycho Girl’ about?
Psycho girl is about a girl I once hung out with, I won’t say her name, she was a good friend but was also a crazed stalker. She fancied me and wanted me to hook up in a relationship, I refused (bad idea) and then spent a lot of months hiding from her. She would come to my house almost every night looking for me and would call my phone and text me day and night. The lyrics are basically true about the girl, she signed on all the time, she never wanted a job and did a lot of shop-lifting, she got caught once I remember that haha, but she was indeed a psycho girl!
Who would you like to know has your music on their iPod, MP3 or cassette walkman?
I would like to know if any old punk musician’s had our tracks, the likes of Marky Ramone and Richie Ramone come to mind because I did tweet them both the Soundcloud link a while back but I’d be shocked if a few modern bands have our tracks. Having them on cassette?? Well that'd be cool, I still play cassettes and did tape the EP on to a cassette as a trial, I’m old fashioned I don’t even own an iPod!!
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Vyvyan Basterd of The Young Ones haha...
Do you think we can ever live in a world where a chicken can cross the road without having its motives questioned?
Well I don’t think farmers ask their chickens the question in the countryside, I’ve witnessed many chickens crossing the road and I have asked them myself before I was sent to see a psychiatrist, about talking to chickens, but yes I believe we can live in a world where chickens can freely cross the road without being questioned. If they start walking out of KFC with chicken buckets then I think we should question them, what is it like eating their own kind?
What are your plans for the remainder of 2014?
Play as many shows as we can and work on more original material
Have you had any ‘Spinal Tap’ Moments? If yes, please share!
I remember one time when we were just starting out as Spitfire Bullets in 2012, I was writing the set-list out and mis-wrote the numbers on the songs so number 5 was God Save The Queen for me, my bassist had Blitzkrieg Bop and the drummer had what I think was Teenage Kicks! So we ended up covering God Save-Bop-Kicks, we stopped after a few seconds in and just stood there trying to work out which song we should do, I think we did Blitzkrieg Bop in the end!
Now I know for a fact that chickens do indeed 'eat their own' but the thought of them casually strolling into a high street branch of KFC and coming out with a Zinger Tower Meal or a Bargain Bucket does intrigue me.....whilst debating how the chicken would pay for their poultry based goodies, I asked Robert a few quick fire questions....
Coffee or Tea?
Coffeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!! Weeeeee caffeine
Coke or Pepsi?
Drugs are bad mmkay Coke is bad mmkay - Nah its coca cola for us
Drum machine or the real deal?
The real deal, you can’t throw stuff at a drum machine and not get an ape like reaction
Mac or PC?
Roy Keane or Steve Bruce?
I don’t know, I don’t follow football can’t they fight to the death??
Sex Pistols or The Ramones
Oh tough one but it’s gotta be The Ramones
Fry up or Sunday roast
Fry up. Love them
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)?
Lemmy! He is god, all hail Lemmy
CD or Vinyl?
I like both but I’d have to say Vinyl
Car or Motorbike?
Car, I love both machines but cars can carry amps and guitars to shows
Acoustic or electric?
Shower or Bath?
Stop swearing!! We don’t use those words! (shower)
Tattoos or Piercings?
I don’t have any of both but I'd choose tattoos
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?
Al Pacino “Say hello to my little friend!!"
God or Google?
Well it’s hard to contact Lemmy (God) so Google will have to do!