Interview: Naked Six at Exchange, Bristol – 14/11/2018

From left to right: Tom Witts (drums), Seb Byford (vocals & guitar), Callum Witts (bass)
Photo courtesy of Holly Beson-Tams

Manchester alt-grunge trio, Naked Six, put on an explosive set opening for The Vintage Caravan at Exchange, Bristol, in November. After loading up on pizza and packing up their gear, the band invited me up on stage (it was the only free space…) for a chat about what they’re all about.

What’s the story of Naked Six so far then?

Seb: Well, Tom and I met in school, four years ago. We were a three-piece before, and then we were a two-piece for a year, and now we’re a three-piece again.

Cal: Gone, full-circle hasn’t it?

Seb: Fairly complex, but here we are! Yeah, we’re on tour with Vintage Caravan at the moment – just jamming, which is cool, and having a good time.

Tom: But yeah, it’s been a great tour so far. Well it’s the end, actually, haha.

So, tell me more about your new EP, No Compromise. Does it have a theme?

Seb: Kind of! I guess, we’re touching on quite personal topics. I mean, it’s sort of talking about mental health, mainly anxiety. You can take what you want from it, really. To us, there are loads of quite personal things. We recorded it quite a long time ago, and have been waiting on it for a while. It’s nice to get it out – now we can move on to the next step.

Would you say that the EP is a good taster of what Naked Six is all about musically then?

Tom: Yeah, it’s a good taster for the album.

Seb: Yeah, this EP’s kind of laid down the sound that the album will be. Yeah, so it’s opened the doors to it, really.

Nice! I’m excited to hear it when it comes out. So, of all the dates on this tour so far, which has been the best show?

Tom: I’d say London.

Seb: Yeah, I’d say London and tonight. London was probably the best one that stood out, but tonight was good: good vibe, good atmosphere.

Cal: Both gigs had really good sound as well. In London we had really good sound, and tonight, at this venue.

Tom: Yeah, we’ve had Sabina on tour with us, doing the sound.

Seb: Yeah, she’s been really great.

Cal: She really crafts your sound, and we can kinda trust her to do the job out front.

Yeah, I feel the job was definitely really well-done tonight, for both bands.

Seb: The sound was probably the best tonight. Yeah, it was really good.

Definitely. So, what are your main influences, would you say?

Cal: I mean it ranges from the ‘60s to now.

Seb: I guess, sort of, with the stuff we play live, and the stuff we’ve recorded, like Queens of the Stone Age, kinda; Jack White, Radiohead, and stuff. But, in terms of what we listen to, I mean we listen to all sorts: it goes from kinda, as we say, Queens of the Stone Age to Chet Baker. Yeah, jazz stuff, Django Reinhardt…

Cal: Yeah, we like our funk, man.

Tom: Yeah, and punk – like The Stooges.

Cal: And even folk music and stuff – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young…

Seb: Dylan… Anything that’s got passion, really… And a bit of grit.

Cal: Yeah, a bit of Hendrix is always good.

Seb: Yeah, guitar-wise, I think Hendrix is a big influence.

Tom: Mhmm, yeah, and Mitch Mitchell’s drumming.

Cal: Yeah, and a bit of Chili Peppers.

Seb: Just a bit of everything, man!

Cal: Cream… All the legends.

Seb: Yeah, Cream were great.

Cal: A bit of classical here and there, maybe…

Seb: Mhmm! A bit of Beethoven!

Cal: I mean we’ve got some classical vinyls – some Mozart and s**t… Maybe we should start bashing that on for the crowd, haha… At the end of the tour, put on some Mozart and chill out.

Would you say each of you has a particular idol for each of your instruments that inspires your playing?

Tom: I’m gonna go straight away and say Dave Grohl. I know it’s a very stereotypical thing to say, but he’s a beast. You know, the power he’s got is nuts. I’ve also been really into Mitch Mitchell – how he brings jazz into the rock is a route I definitely want to take.

Seb: Guitars again… A bit cliché, I’d say, but Hendrix. I like John Frusciante and stuff… Yeah, I like Robin Trower. Just stuff that’s got passion. You don’t need to be that technically fast, as long as it’s got soul, and it’s got feel.

Yeah, I agree with you there. It definitely annoys me when people approach guitar as a sport with ridiculous amounts of shredding and tapping all over the place!

Seb: Yeah, I mean you can play three notes and sound better, as long as you put passion and soul into it. That’s my favourite type.

Cal: Yeah, for bass, I mean Flea – more the way he moves. He’s a phenomenal player, and, you know, his rhythm’s really good, but just the way he moves on stage and his presence in that band – you know, I kinda look up to that, man. Running around… He’s got a lot of energy to give, man. He’s the boy!

Seb: Mhmm, he is.

Obviously, there are three of you right now, but could you ever see yourselves bringing in more members, or is three firmly where it’s at?

Cal: We’d definitely like to work with other musicians, but I don’t think we’d necessarily bring them into the band.

Seb: Yeah, I think, live, the three-piece works great. And even in recording – like, Cal’s a really great keys player…

Cal: We’d really like to get some saxophone in there.

Seb: Yeah, sax would be great.

Cal: Yeah, that’s something we’d really like to bring into the recordings, and even live, man.

Tom: Yeah, it’s such a sexy instrument, haha.

Cal: We’d just like to collaborate with musicians, really.

Seb: But yeah, at the moment, I think our plan’s just to stick as a three-piece, but who knows what the future holds? Maybe in the future, there might be someone else.

Tom: Yeah, six of us naked on stage!

Seb: Yeah, for now, we’ll stick as a three-piece, and keep jamming.

Do you feel that your sound has changed much since you started out?

Seb: Yes and no. The roots of it are still there, I think, passion-wise. But I think, naturally, whatever you do, you will grow and change. It’ll always be the same, but you’re gonnachange as well, for the good. It’s just growing up, essentially, because we’re still young.

So how old are all of you?

Seb: Tom and I are twenty, and Cal’s twenty-four.

Cal: So I’m in charge! Looking after the kids.

So he’s the dad of the band?

Seb: He like’s to think so… No I’m joking, I’m joking!

Tom: Yeah, Cal and I are cousins.

Seb: Mhmm! Yeah, family, blood! But yeah, I think our sound’s changed quite a lot, but I think naturally it will. I think you need to do that – to me that’s what a band needs to do.

Cal: Well if you’re not developing and growing…

Seb: Then there’s no point doing it. I mean, if you’re playing the same s**t for ten, fifteen years, it’s boring, you know? You’ve gotta release stuff of the vibe you’re in then, and then move on and just keep releasing stuff. If people dig it, they dig it. If they don’t, keep still doing your thing.

Tom: I think recently, we’ve honed down our sound for the debut album. I’m so excited for that.

Seb: Yeah, we’re really confident about that.

When’s that due?

Seb: We don’t have any dates in mind yet.

Cal: It’ll be next year, sometime

Seb: We’re just hinting – cos it’s coming, but don’t want to talk about it too much as we don’t know what’s going on, but it is coming. But yeah, it’s good! We’ve really honed down the sound – it’s quite a young sound as well, which is good. So, yeah, we’re just really proud of it. It’s been a while since we’ve been actually proud of what we’re doing. Cos you’re always proud of what you’re doing, but now we’ve really… Like it’s happening now.

So you feel you’re really nailing it now?

Seb: Yeah, exactly!

Cal: Yeah, we’re excited to get into the studio now. We need to have a couple of weeks to get these songs down that we’vebeen playing, and kinda see where we can take them. Cos in the studio, there’s a different vibe from playing live and stuff. So we’ll kinda see where we can take these songs, and go for a bit of a live edge with it. Keep it raw and loud and unhinged.

So how are you going about it? Will it be self-produced by you guys, or will you bring in a producer for it?

Cal: I think we are gonna get a producer in.

Tom: Yeah, we’re been looking up some producers.

Seb: Yeah, we’re looking for someone who can push it further. We could self-produce it, but it might be nice to get someone in there, hearing their opinion and that sort of thing

Yeah, I guess it can be easy to get set in your ways, can’t it?

Seb: Yeah, you can. Sometimes it’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing.

Cal: Just another perspective… You know when you listen to and record tracks, you go over and over them a lot, and you kind of form your own judgements on them. Sometimes, having someone else just be like, ‘Try this’ or ‘Go in this direction’, can kind of open up more doors outside the band, and keep creativity flowing.

Tom: Yeah, and help inspire you.

Are there any current bands at the moment that are inspiring to you guys, or do you mainly look back bands from the past for that?

Cal: I think there are some really good young bands, man, especially in Manchester, where we’re from. I mean, we could name quite a few guys that are out there, playing hard. I think that’s what I’m inspired by at the moment: bands that are going out there and putting on a really good show. I mean, Strange Bones put on a killer show, and obviously The Blinders from Manchester. And Black Waters.

Seb: Yeah, we’re just trying to do our own thing. We don’t want to get too involved in a certain scene. Make your own scene, I think, instead of chasing someone else’s. The UK isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, and neither’s Manchester. I think we want to just play anywhere and everywhere we can. We’re gonna have to go to Europe at some point.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Seb: Just stay tuned!

Cal: Keep an eye out. There’s a lot of stuff to come.

Seb: There are good, big things coming up.

Well thanks very much for your time and letting me interview you.

Cal: That’s fantastic. It’s been a pleasure.

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