A lesson in music, life and everything from Wille and the Bandits

Wille and the Bandits are coming to Preston
Wille and the Bandits are coming to Preston

Don't know your djembe from your bougarabou? Or your slide guitar from your rhythm guitar? Then look no further than Wille and The Bandits.

From deepest darkest Cornwall, this marauding band of likely lads - Wille Edwards (vocals/guitar), Matthew Brooks (bass) and Andy Nauman (drums/percussion) - will provide you with the very best education in genre-defying music, featuring instruments rarely seen in western music, and almost never in the blues/rock scene.

Wille, leader of this band of merry men, explained: "Basically we are a roots/rock band. We mix a lot of different genres, but predominately we are called a rock band. We use a lot of world music, and blues and sort of Latin. We use a lot of percussion and slide guitars. Like when we are playing live we have various forms of percussion, and I play a guitar on my lap with a steel bar on a slide guitar. It's quite an unusual sound. And it's quite unique but people seem to love it."

But these guys take it even further - sometimes they can be seen at points playing instruments simultaneously.

Will said: "Sometimes I will be playing slide guitar with a lap steel and then be playing a normal electric guitar behind it, and I'm almost playing two guitars simultaneously.

"Matt's the same with the bass. He's plays a lot of double bass with a bow, like the classical way of playing, like a cello and he'll play bass as well. Matt also plays the keyboards on his feet as well.

Wille and the Bandits are famed for their unusual sound

Wille and the Bandits are famed for their unusual sound

"And then Andy's mixing, playing a drum kit, and he mixes in percussion. So he sort of plays percussion with what he's doing live as well.

"It's very much a live thing, you know. When you hear a record, it's easy, because you think they've done all that in the studio, you can just layer up instrument over instrument, but when you do it live, we sort of manage to try and get that sound live with three people and it generally means some of us doing two jobs at once."

And how did Wille meet up with his fellow Bandits? "Like all rock bands - in the pub!" he laughs.

"I was introduced to Andy through a mutual friend and I dragged him up with us that night - we didn't even have a jam. He just brought his djembe along. Cos he's got like millions of djembe and bits of percussion. And he started jamming with me on stage.

Wille and the Bandits on their previous visit to The Continental

Wille and the Bandits on their previous visit to The Continental

"Then I used to invite people up to play with me. And basically that's how Wille and The Bandits came along really, it was just whoever came along to play.

"But it has been mainly me and Andy from the beginning. Then we were introduced to Matt, who is actually Andy's landlord. He is a phenomenal bass player, like one of the best bass players you are likely to see. And we persuaded him to join the band and it has just gone from strength to strength really. It's fantastic."

Wille and The Bandits don't just rely on their unusual sound to create waves in the music scene, the use of eclectic influences in song writing also delve deep. Some of the songs lead you on a journey of self-realisation, others paint a picture that unashamedly draws on global issues such as climate change and immigration.

"We are definitely quite socially conscious, the way we write. You know, we're not like a straight up rock band in that respect. There's a lot of social commentary in our songs, and we try and talk about bigger issues, global issues.

"I wouldn't say we were a sort of politically active band or a protest band but we do have quite a lot of that in our music because we feel quite strongly about it.

"No way are we a band that just writes about falling in love every song, you know. It's about trying to make a difference with our lyrics, and trying to make a change. You know hopefully people will read into them and understand what we are saying, or if they don't, start to look at the other side," he said.

It's not just Wille who comes up with the song-writing ideas either.

He added: "We write together. Someone comes up with an idea and we bring it to the band and we jam through it. Some of them come from percussion ideas and bass ideas as well.

"We just love writing and playing new stuff. We've got plenty of that on the road at the moment as well. We've been playing a lot of new stuff. We're just really, really looking forward to it."

This unusual sound and interesting mix of lyrics has brought them some impressive critical acclaim, with The Daily Telegraph describing them as "one of the countries best live acts" and being voted in the top ten must see bands at Glastonbury 2014 by BBC Radio 1. But they haven't let this go to their heads.

Wille said: "We're really pleased actually.

"We are lucky enough we're up for another award now for, I think, innovation and the blues, which is quite good because it's always been what we've been like. A lot of people say we play blues, because we've got slide guitar and I've got a gruff voice, but we're not really a blues band.

"We are very different as well, so it's nice for people to really sort of notice the innovation we put into it. Because we are trying to do something different and trying to move it forward into the modern sort of realms.

"It has been nice to be nominated for that accolade and hopefully many more will come. But we don't play music for accolades really.

"It's nice to be appreciated, but the main thing, you do it because you love it and you feel like that's what you wanna do. And I don't think awards or strong press would change what we do. I think we know what we like doing and what we enjoy doing and that's the main thing."

This latest tour sees them play a lot of smaller venues, but the size of the venue makes little difference for Wille and The Bandits. He explained: "It's difficult really. It's all about the people. You can play a massive hall but if the people aren't vibing with you, you know, it's not as enjoyable.

"It's always about the audience really, rather than size. And if they are with you, it's such a good feeling, you know, you really, really enjoy it. I mean most of the time we generally have that and people enjoy our shows.

"But yeah, it's more the quality of people, rather than the quantity of people."

So where do the band see themselves in five years time?

"Wow. Five years. It's funny actually, because you look back five years and think we have come on quite a way.

"I mean I hope we are still touring. I hope we are doing bigger venues and we're also touring different places and visiting different countries. And just still living the dream really.

"You know, in 10 years, I hope we're still going, which I'm sure we will be, and making more exciting records, meeting new people and travelling the world. Then happy days!" he chuckles.

Wille and the Bandits will be playing at Preston's Continental pub and they will have a couple of tricks up their sleeve for the tour. "You can expect a few new songs. We're writing a few new tracks for the new studio album. We've also got a brand new live album which is coming out, which will be available at the Conti.

"It's a double-disc live album, which will be available at the show. People in Preston will have the first opportunity to get their hands on it.

"We're trying to capture what we do live on record and I think we got sort of quite close to that. We're all pretty pleased with that."

And Preston feels like a sort of home from home for Wille: "It's a nice feeling up there in Preston. The people are really friendly and nice. It reminds me a lot of down in Cornwall.

"It's always a good night up there. It's always packed and everyone has a good time. We really enjoy it."

Catch Wille and The Bandits on Friday, February 23 at The Continental on South Meadow Lane, Preston. Doors open at 8pm and admission is £12 advance or £14 on the door. Support on the night comes from Blackballed.

To book tickets visit www.newcontinental.net