What’s in a name? There’s a phrase about Roses or Quality Street or something that just escapes me – can’t have been written by anyone too spectacular anyway, it’s not exactly Shakespeare. But this seemingly aimless pre-amble is all part of further dragging out the build up to an interview which has been stood outside my door for so long that the police keep coming in to check if I’m alright. But I did manage to have a pint with the excellent Tweaks at one of East London’s finest (read: priciest) bars to find out a bit more about one of the bands who had most pricked up my ears in the last year.
My first encounter with Johnny Drain and Aman Singh dates back to September 2014 when they went by the name Pin Tweaks and tickled my ear-drums in a rather different fashion to the way they do now. Since then they’ve had a ‘very long and drawn out’ rebranding. Johnny notes ‘We went through about 350 names – we were thinking of making a song with the lyrics just made up of these abandoned band names’. He explained that with the rise of Twin Peaks and the return of the cult TV show of the same name that the pair felt that the name needed a little… tweak. ‘It was pretty tortuous,’ Aman says. ’10 months of searching for it.’
Despite all this work, Johnny admits he’s still not 100% sold on the name.
The pair have just been out on the road for the first time and they seem to be finding their feet rather quickly, starting out on the same bill as Algiers. ‘I think we did pretty well,’ Aman modestly notes.
There’s an interesting dynamic evident from the off between the two – while Aman remains stoic, conscious and thoughtful of every word, Johnny has an open approach and in the hour we were together there was barely a minute where there wasn’t at least a hint of a grin on his face.
Johnny tells me about how he played Green Man Festival as an acoustic act and went down so well that he was asked to return the following year. Second time around he brought Aman, the rest of their previous iteration and a rather different sound with him. ‘We were pretty under-rehearsed,’ Johnny admits. ‘The first song we did we didn’t have any lyrics and we didn’t really know when to stop playing.
‘I just remember looking at the woman who asked me to play and she just looked a bit concerned and modestly upset.” They’ve not been back there since, though they did provide music at her wedding so it can’t have been all bad.
After a while the former outfit went their separate ways and the rekindling of these two musically aligned gentlemen came about once more without any particular intentions. The brand of music that they seem to have finally settled upon isn’t the sort of thing that can be labelled too easily – one of the terms they’ve opted to use lately is ‘nocturnal pop’, though this doesn’t seem to entirely do justice to the impressive, almost cinematic aura of some of their sounds.
The Birmingham heritage of the pair is present in their accents but they admit that they don’t feel as though they’re a part of a particular scene from the city. Somehow they’ve managed to keep things going while spending plenty of time apart – much of their work, especially the earlier offerings, saw them making their sonic contributions independently before uniting to add the finishing touches. ‘When the germs of the idea is created it’s all done miles away from each other,’ Aman concedes. While it might mean that sounds take slightly longer to come together it does give them the benefit of space and time to reflect on ideas.
So where do they see themselves headed? Well they’ve recently been experimenting with new visual ideas thanks to Johnny’s experience with video production so upcoming gigs are likely to contain some fascinating visuals. Aman quietly states that the pair are ‘pretty ambitious’ while shying away from any arrogance. They hope to keep everything coming together organically and it seems as though they’re on a steady track with no unnerving surprises to knock them off the rails.
Then, without warning, Aman turns to Johnny and asks: ‘Do you want to mention the police incident?’ Well, they had to after that.
‘We hired a steady cam rig that’s handheld – it looks really serious and intimidating if you don’t know what it is,’ Aman explains. Jonny concedes that it looks like it could be ‘a drone or a missile or something’. So the pair headed out in the early hours one morning to start getting some video footage near the Thamed Barrier with a third man Colin – who apparently is also of Indian heritage with a beard.’We suddenly see these two figures in black walking across the park and think it’s the park wardens and that maybe we’re not allowed to film here,’ Johnny continues.
However he was a tad mistaken and the found themselves deep in conversation with police officers who had been alerted to the men by sceptical residents. ‘I think their exact words were two or three suspicious looking guys with a drone,’ Aman states with a grin plastered across his face.
And then another squad turned up…
Fortunately enough Aman spotted a familiar face in this new bunch of officers. From a booze cruise in Vietnam. Where the officer got up to some ‘pretty dodgy behaviour’. This officer just stood sheepishly with his head hanging low until the story came out which meant it ‘all simmered down a bit’.
So the lesson for any budding young musicians here is probably that it’s never a bad idea to go on a booze cruise. I think.
There’s a genuine charm about Tweaks – they don’t seem full of themselves in the slightest and they have a desire to learn about the music industry that so often passes by other musicians keen to just skim the surface. Musically they’re equally as sophisticated and their sounds have more than enough about them to prick up ears across the country.
Two people as positive and hard-working as this deserve as big an audience as they can get.
Want more Tweaks? Go on then. Their EP Sisters is out now – hear it in full below. Catch them at The Pickle Factory in London on 5th May.