Boasting an immaculate Roger McGuinn haircut, Michael Murphy leads THE WICKED WHISPERS out on to the stage at The Kazimier.
Opening with the uptempo Odyssey Mile, the track immediately focuses the audiences’ attention stagewards. YouTube hit Amanda Lavender receives the biggest response of the set, with Poison Ivy following close behind. After what then feels to be roughly ten minutes, Michael introduces the final track. It then becomes apparent that the band have raced through their entire twelve song set in thirty-five minutes. Michael explains the band’s live brevity a few days later over a pint in The Shipping Forecast. “When I go and watch bands, when you’ve got a riff, a verse, a chorus, I get the point. I don’t wanna hear it again and again, I get bored.”
The ‘leave ‘em wanting more’ ethos also applies to the band’s recorded output, the quartet of tracks on their new The Dark Delights of… EP clocking in at under twelve minutes. Shoehorning a wealth of sixties influences into short bursts of sound, the 10” vinyl release is surely set to become a coveted item. “We want exclusivity for the listener,” Michael says of the disc. “You go and buy the EP, it’s yours, no-one else’s. You can’t hear it on MySpace or Facebook, it’s for you.”
Formed twelve months ago, the Wicked Whispers have created a sizable profile without playing many gigs in the city. After backing Bunnyman Will Sergeant at his Fiction nights, the band quickly coalesced. Michael ensured all of the players where on the same page musically before being recruited however. “Things were kinda all prepared previously” the singer explains. “After the last band (acclaimed rockers Whiskey Headshot) finished, I spent a lot of time recording on my own, all the arrangements, all the instruments. I put thirty songs down, it took me about six months.” “There was already a template there and we all just slotted in,” Organist Ste offers.
The mysterious Amanda Lavender (the group’s fictional online persona and heroine who also has a song taking her name) initially caused confusion, yet the Emma Peel-esque figure only added to the intrigue. “The amount of people who said ‘I thought it was a Sixties’ clothes shop,’” Michael grins, shaking his head. “We had guys dropping her messages saying ‘Hi, do I know you?’” Ste laughs. The song’s video, shot by photographer Mark McNulty, was filmed in Snowdonia, at the world’s largest garden maze, the mist-shrouded affair featuring model Charlotte Cooper in the title role.
In view of the band’s adherence to 1960s music and imagery, do the group mind being tagged a ‘sixties influenced’ band? “I’m happy with it,” Michael responds. “I need to keep into my old stuff, I need my writing to be where it is.” Michael says. Aside from garage rockers The Keys, Michael steers clear of modern music. “To be fair, we really can’t hide the truth at all,” Ste shrugs. “It’s deep rooted within all the band members, whether it’s something they inherited from their parents, or it’s something we’ve learnt ourselves.”
“We’re not doing it to be cool, we’re doing it ‘cos we’re obsessive about the music and we have been for a long time” Michael adds. “We’re not trying to completely recreate something, we put our own spin on it, there’s a modern element to it as well.” The band’s signature sound aside from Michael’s Syd Barrett-like vocals is Ste’s Vox Continental organ. Made famous by The Doors and The Animals, another esteemed composer was the previous owner of Ste’s keyboard. As he recalls, “After I bought it I took it apart to make sure it was all OK and I found a servicing date, signed by (The Specials’ songwriter) Jerry Dammers.”
One aspect where the band differ from their sixties forebears is in the way they conduct business. Where many sixties bands were managed by Svengali figures employing dubious business practices (Don Arden, Alan Klein et al.) the present band’s modus operandi is more in keeping with punk’s DIY aesthetic. With releases on the band’s own label Electone Records, the group’s management and PR are also handled in house. “The music industry’s fed up of bands saying ‘We think we’re really good, we want a record deal’, because to be honest with you, you can do it yourself.” Michael says. “No matter what happens we can always keep on releasing records and do whatever we wanna do. This is what new bands should wake up to. You don’t need a manager, you can do it all yourself, you really can.”
The Dark Delights of The Wicked Whispers EP is out now on Electone Records.