Mods of Your Generation catches up with Paul Eustice from The Viewers following the release of the band’s fourth album entitled ‘Unstoppable’. We named the album our ‘Album of the week’ with vocally extravagant lyrics, Punchy guitars and driving rhythms. This album takes the listener of a journey back to the nostalgia of the 60’s and 70’s, They have taken the music that inspires them from that period and given it a new lease of life. Creating original music which is relevant & current. We discuss everything in this exclusive, raw, no holds barred interview.
Q. You’ve worked with Grammy award winning record producer Nigel Gray who produced the first three albums by ‘The Police’ amongst others. What was it like working alongside a man with his expertise?
Nigel produced the band’s last album, ‘Universal Sky’. It was a difficult time for The Viewers as we went through some personnel changes back then. He’d previously produced the first three albums for The Police, produced Siouxsie And The Banshees and had a string of hits with many other bands and artists. He was great to work with. The finest producers coax out the very best from the artists they work with. They help you maximise your true potential. He wanted to work with us and us with him. Brilliant experience. He helped us focus on creating what ‘The Viewers’ were really all about… what we wanted to sound like, where our strengths lay, how to use our influences and how to keep arrangements tight, simple but always interesting. We discussed stuff. Talked about the artists we really wanted to be. Kept it real. Then we did it.
This was also the first album where I took to the front and became the sole front man. I’d never been in that role before ‘Universal Sky’. I engaged a vocal coach too which was a revelation and I now appreciate singers in way I previously didn’t.
The band has always been lucky when it comes to working with engineers and producers. We’ve always had good people around us. Colin Hannah has been with the band from the off some ten years ago. And as both studio producer and live sound engineer; Col’s previously worked with just about the very best people imaginable, from The Beach Boys to Tom Jones, U2 and even Michael Jackson.
During the making of Universal Sky sadly, Nigel passed away quite suddenly just before we completed the album. His son, Thomas Gray stepped in to help us at Nigel’s studio and Colin took all of Nigel’s masters and attempted to recreate what he’d done as close to how he had set it up as possible. As any producer knows, that’s a huge ask. Colin did a terrific job though. Burned a lot of midnight oil.
It was great to have Colin help us again on the current album ‘Unstoppable’. He’s a real inspiration to us. Love the guy to bits. My personal mentor (musically).
Q. How do you approach writing new material and how does the process start?
I’ve talked to a lot of songwriters over the years. Quite a few of them tend to write when they are ‘in the zone’. They sort of binge-write. I’m not like that. I gave up music for about twenty years once and having reignited my song writing passion with The Viewers about a decade ago I write now constantly. Maybe it’s because I’ve realised how much I’d missed it during that twenty years… I dunno. But anything can spark it off. Half-heard conversations, natural rhythms, high open places, distant sounds, TV? Movement’s good too. Driving always helps. I am always whistling into my phone and recording little melodies the moment they happen in my head. My phone is littered with them. For example, next time you are on a train listen to the sound it makes… it’s usually in 6/8 time. I know that sounds fucking nuts but even windscreen wipers have a natural beat. Song writing is just something I do. Some people paint, some exercise, some tell jokes… we all express ourselves in different ways. Mine is working with music. Money and success are not the drivers. With real artists, it never is. Makes me sick when I hear people say that they play music to be famous and earn shed-loads of cash. Philistines.
So far as The Viewers material goes; these days, I am still the main writer however, Mark Watson (guitar) is a superb groove creator. Mark writes and records music. That’s what he does. He sends me recorded grooves he has been working on and they can fire up the imagination and send me off into different directions. We’ve done a bit of co-writing too and aim to do more.
Usually, I’ll work on demos at home, bring them to the band and we jam them. We take things a section at a time and jam each bit til something happens and we click. We deconstruct and then put it all back together again. If it doesn’t happen during rehearsals we park it and move on (I write prolifically so material is never a problem). The band works as a compositional team in that sense and everyone brings their thing to the table. It’s a proper band. I think about my most enjoyable time in The Viewers (apart from playing live) is when we are in the rehearsal studios creating something out of thin air (and my initial demo as a guide). Sparks fly… in a good way.
Q. Tell us about some of the venues and festivals you’ve played at.
We still play small venues, pubs and clubs etc. However, we’ve played at bigger festivals too. To be honest, being an older band (we’re not kids) just playing together anywhere these days is a buzz for us. “A rehearsal is not just a rehearsal… it’s a fucking event!” So you can imagine how fired up we get when we play live. When I was in my twenties and playing live a lot of the time, I’d get nervous. I’d worry about all sorts of things that could go wrong. I’d pace. I’d pace a lot before a gig. And just before going on, there’d be a moment when I’d convince myself I could not remember a single chord. That doesn’t happen anymore. I think we’re all the same in this band. It’s shear undiluted joy. Being in a band, playing music which expresses the way you feel (with our own music) and, with people you respect and get on with; it’s enough. We don’t need drugs and we don’t need to be shit-faced to go out and do what we do. It’s real for us. Everything’s in the music.
As for venues themselves; it’s always great playing at The Cavern Club, Liverpool. We’ve played there quite a few times now and it feels like home even though it is a long way from the West Country (where we come from). We’ve also enjoyed playing at the SVF (Stone Valley Festival) which we’ve done both in County Durham and North London. Back at home, we can sometimes be found in local haunts. ‘The Harbourside Inn’ at Charlestown in Cornwall is always good fun. We cram our five-piece set up into the tiniest space but always have a great time. We give 100% no matter where we are.
Q. The band are mostly inspired by music from the 60’s and early 70’s – what is it about that era?
I was a little kid growing up in the 60’s (I’m 59 today). The first music I ever heard was The Beatles, The Who and The Kinks etc. In fact, all of us in the band are of a similar age range so we share that.
I remember as a little boy sitting crossed-legged on the dining room floor in front of a tiny black and white TV watching The Who smash up their instruments on stage. It was on the early evening news. My dad came in from work, walked over to the TV and switched it off. “You don’t wanna be watching that my boy,” he said. I realised that day that me and my dad were quite different. I did wanna watch that sort of thing. That’s exactly what I wanted to watch. I had a little transistor radio with a single earpiece when I was about 8-9 years old and I’d hide like so many kids did back then under the bed blankets in the dark listening to music on Radio Luxembourg.
Growing up with music from the 60’s to the present day I think qualifies you to make a decent judgement call on what was the most exciting time. For me, there’s little doubt that the 60’s through to the mid 70’s was just an awesome period. As a songwriter, I’d say that the quality of material from that time surpasses anything current. I know fashions and tastes come and go but everything was so stylish back then in a way that today’s ‘hybrid/throwaway’ era cannot match. I look at how some young bands set themselves up these days and so many of em just don’t seem to give a shit. Dull music and crappy clothes. A lot plug into midi sync ups live so that some of what comes out front is pre-recorded. And that’s not live is it? Might be perfect but it isn’t what bands used to do. In the 60’s bands made an effort. Their audiences made an effort. Going out to enjoy live music was an experience… not just something you do before getting so hammered you cannot remember what sex you are.
And there was a romance about music back in that time which there doesn’t seem to be much of anymore. Music was a passion. The way you dressed… behaved, presented yourself and acted. You had to work at it to even remotely be considered ‘cool’. These days you can fake your profile image, fake your music, wear lifeless clothes and have no style whatsoever and then expect everyone to think you are cool without doing a single thing to actually earn it. Not for me.
I know I’ll be labelled a ‘farty’ for this but I’d challenge anyone to take an average cross-section of the top twenty from any time circa 64-72 and compare it to an average chart today. Go on… I dare you.
I feel privileged to have grown up and experienced all that great music. Only one other time has matched it and that was from around 76-79 when there was Punk and a revivalist movement. That was a much-needed kick up the arse for a lot of people (myself included). There was a moment in the 90’s too when Oasis cranked it up to eleven. Plus the odd genius along the way like Bowie.
Q. What has the band’s radio airplay been like following the release of the current album ‘Unstoppable’. What stations have you been played on?
Up until the last album ‘Universal Sky’, The Viewers had only enjoyed a limited amount of localised airplay. Nigel Gray’s name carried some sway for us publicly after that album came out and we enjoyed our first airplay outside the UK. We lost our minds getting airplay over in California USA. We still do.
‘Unstoppable’ however has been really well received. Our radio airplay exposure consists of a mix of local stations, specialist online stations and huge FMs in many of the world’s capital cities. We wrote the new album especially with radio in mind. Ten tracks which all scan well on air. And to be fair, what we discovered in the course of all of the interviews we now undertake is that radio presenters share the same passion for music as we do (those who create it). That’s why we’ve paid tribute to radio presenters on our new album. We’re one and the same as people.
Some stations have championed this band. The BBC have supported us through ‘Introducing’. Local stations such as RSAB and Source FM also. Other stations such as the excellent new music finder station ‘The Sound of Spitfire’ have been huge pluggers. More recently, Radio Caroline have got behind us as have The Face Radio (Brooklyn NY), KDUB (Ohio) and not forgetting MOD Radio UK and Target Radio. The list is too numerous to single out and keeps growing. We feel we are doing our bit for the type of music we love to make and suddenly, others are beginning to notice.
Q. It’s clear that the 60’s/70’s have been a huge influence but how about MOD Culture. How does that work for The Viewers?
It surprises people when we say that we never set out to be a ‘MOD’ band. But, we just haven’t. In our humble opinion, anyone who says, “we’re this type of band or we’re that” does so on the premise they’ve already won acceptance from that cultural group or audience. For us, that’s a fucking insult. It’s pretentious to the point of deserving a slap. We’re a band. We’re influenced by things we’re proud to be influenced by. If people from a certain sub-culture adopt us then we’ve clearly earned that right to be adopted. And it’s a privilege not a right. We’re prepared to work for it. It’s respect. I hope people who read this will acknowledge that. Here’s a band who mean it.
And the thing about The Viewers is that we take our influences right back to the 60’s. I mean, it wasn’t one dimensional then. Not at all. The music from that period was hugely diverse. Racial discrimination too was pretty much eliminated in music (so far as musicians were concerned) for the first time ever during those days when The Who and The Small Faces’ music sat alongside everything which came out of Motown and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama. Our music today, we hope, has that same spirit. No ‘one-trick pony’ tunes. We never want to be pinned down to one type of song but rather, reflect the diversity of a period in time which was also not afraid to push the envelope a bit.
I can see a lot of how that period has influenced so much of what’s around today. From the design of furniture, cars, clothes and music. Even some of the language from that scene has come full circle and back in vogue. I am not sure there’s much culturally today which will endure with such longevity. Definitely not the clothes.
Q. You’re an older (new) band. Does being mature and experienced as musicians sometimes work against you on the current scene? Is age an issue?
It’s true… we’re getting on a bit to be doing this with such undiluted passion. You’d think the five of us would know better wouldn’t you? But when our music reflects the era we favour then it is done with real know-how. We didn’t become famous in our twenties and have been riding that fame train ever since. We’re nobodies who’ve met up later in our individual lives and formed this band which just ‘happens’. We’ve led lives. We’ve all lived through quite a lot of stuff… births, marriages, broken relationships, illness, money issues and deaths. We draw upon these things and write from experience. “Good music’s got nothing to do with how old you are.”
I’d argue that I am a much richer songwriter today than I ever was during my twenties because of my many life experiences. I listen to music I produced when I was that age and I wanna get hold of that young man and tell him to ‘get more real’ with his music. And to chill out and relax with it. Stop being so uptight and calm your crazy ass down a bit. Be yourself. Admittedly, I wish I could run on empty like I did back then but there are advantages and disadvantages. The bits that creek today suck but the occasional glimpses of wisdom gained from a lifetime of messing things up… well they are a comfort.
On the downside, The Viewers have definitely been overlooked publicly on more than one occasion and in differing circumstances, some, age-related. If we were hyper-sensitive we’d say, “we’re offended” and, “it’s ageist”. But like I said earlier… just the five of us getting together in the same room with some musical instruments is enough. We rise above it. With age comes dignity. Always hold your head up. A new, older band? It’s never been done! ….About time it was.
Q. The new album sounds slightly different to the previous albums. Was this intentional? and Is it important to reinvent your sound?
Touched on this earlier in the interview. The new album was inspired partly by radio presenters and their enthusiasm for The Viewers’ music. That’s why the songs on that album scan well on the radio. Or at least we hope they do. We wrote about 37 songs to get to the final 10 which appear. So we worked hard.
The sound of the album is also down to the fact that The Viewers are pretty much a new line up since ‘Universal Sky’. Myself (guitar/lead vocals) and Dave Stone (drums) are the original members but were joined by Mark Watson (guitar), Kevin Procter (bass) and Carolyn Bruce-Spencer (backing vocals). We went out and played live a lot in the first instance. We’re a lot grittier than The Viewers Mk I and that’s been a factor on the new album.
Having gone through the process of making an album together we’re now starting to work on the next and it’s coming a lot easier. We know each other now and understand how the band ticks.
Q. Can you explain some of the lyrics on certain songs and generally what you like to write about?
It’s mostly life experiences with us. I like writing about life’s underdogs. I think I have often felt like one from time to time. I think we all do occasionally. There’s an empathy in that subject matter we can all relate to. It fires you up. It’s good to actually care about something. Anything. But have a passion. Never expect it. Earn it. Strive for it. D’ya know what I mean? How can you ever know the value of something you’ve never truly worked for?
I hate explaining lyrics because they can mean so many different things for the listener. But seeing as you specifically asked, here are a couple of examples I hope people might find interesting. May even encourage em to buy or download the song?
‘1234567’ for example is about how most of us work all year just for a few days off. A few days where we can be who we really want to be. And through the banality of life, you can find a little bit of space and peace to make sense of it all. There’s a line in the song which goes… “And these bright stars for the masses, there’s just so much shit to fill you up.” I was taking a dig at judgemental, Saturday night talent shows we all love and loathe at the same time.
‘Search For Pearls’ is a band favourite without doubt. We love playing it live. Lyrically it kind of sums up how we all feel really. That it’s OK to maybe not quite get to where you planned on being just so long as you give it your all on the way. That’s what it’s about really for all of us. Being real and honest with your journey… not what you accumulate at the end of it. There’s a line which concludes… “If you’ve climbed high, on the way back down take a look at yourself at least you tried.” I meant that. I mean it every time when I sing it live too.
Q. When not working with The Viewers what are your main interests?
I love my family. I have just become a grandparent for the first time. That’s awesome. The best thing I’ve ever done is raise two fabulous daughters with my wife. It surpasses everything… and music takes a lot of surpassing. Ask my missiz.
I’m a bit of a nerd on the quiet too if I am honest. I am fascinated by space, the night sky, astronomy and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Also interested in ancient civilizations and human de-skilling. To be alive at a time when, for the first time ever in human history, we’ve watched a man walk on the moon, have the capacity to find possible life-supporting planets elsewhere in the cosmos via radio telescopes and will no doubt be sending a manned mission to Mars before too long… it’s mind-blowing. I recently went to visit the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire and on the guided tour, took control of the Q and A session by bombarding the guide with questions. Lost my shit… He was a Centre Scientist. A French guy. When he’d finished his tour he came back to speak to me and answered loads of my questions. I mean who needs mind-expanding drugs when there are uber-clever people like this around that know stuff you can only begin to imagine. Intelligence…. It matters. It really does.
Q. What’s up ahead for The Viewers? Are you working on anything new post-lockdown?
I am working on a few new songs at home. Really pleased with what I have thus far. I know Mark has been knocking out some grooves at his home studio too. The whole band has been busy through lockdown. We released the new album just as it hit so we’ve been promoting that.
We’d like to follow up ‘Unstoppable’ as soon as possible. It took three years in between the last two releases. It won’t take that long this time. We want to get another done as soon as possible.
Live-wise, we have to wait for gig offers for 2021. The live scene has been devastated. We can’t wait to get out and play to people again and we have the new album to promote live too. So if anyone wants to book us up then get in touch… we’ll come.
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