By Georgina Langford

Avid readers will be well aware of As It Is, Brighton’s pop punk/emo quartet (now quintet, having officially confirmed Alistair Testo as their new bassist). After premiering the song ‘Horoscopes’ from their forthcoming EP ‘This Mind Of Mine’ here on Punktastic, they’ve just completed their first ever tour – not only as a band, but also individually. Punktastic caught up with guitarists Andy Westhead and Benjamin Biss backstage at their Islington Academy show as they wrapped up what turned out to be a momentous week in the early days of As It Is.

Everyone has expectations of what their first tour is going to be like, so what ended up being your most unexpected experience over the past week?

Andy: The people waiting outside.
Benjamin: Definitely. People queuing for shows, that was the most unexpected thing. We’re playing London tonight and people have been waiting with blankets since 9am. We’ve turned up at every show and people have been waiting outside. None of us expected that.
Andy: Noooo [shakes head disbelievingly]. No, no. Why would we?

Aside from all the fun and japes and silliness of tour, what have been the biggest challenges so far?

Andy: Organising a group of drunk men to get to the same place is very tough.
Benjamin: Actually not even organising drunk men, getting [the straight edge] Patty Walters up on time has been the hardest.
Andy: Us drunk in the evenings, but then Patty grumpy in the mornings.
Benjamin: But yet he is still the one who gets up the latest. Last to bed and last up.

Your frontman is just operating on a different schedule to the rest of you. What’s been the ‘in the van on tour’ soundtrack?

Andy: Cher.

Actual Cher?

Benjamin: [Drummer] Foley has been screaming along to Cher.

Just to clarify, why the fuck have you been listening to Cher?

Benjamin: ‘Cause it’s fucking A. [Benjamin and Andy start screaming/singing “DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER LOVE…”] Ali just put her Greatest Hits on one day and then it just kinda stuck.
Andy: Foley lost his shit every time.
Benjamin: We’ve had a bit of Tina Turner as well.

We’ll be honest, that’s not what we were expecting.

Andy: Well it’s not what we would have expected at the beginning of tour either.
Benjamin: When we left we were listening to ‘Dookie’ by Green Day and as more people piled in the van the playlist got significantly more varied.

More Cher-ish, clearly. So you’ve been on touring with two bands that you didn’t know before, Miss Vincent and N I G H T L I F E. Although N I G H T L I F E have been supporting you, they’re an older band and have been doing this a bit longer: have they given you any good advice?

Benjamin: The main thing is they’ve been turning to us and saying “For this to be your first tour and you’ve got this many people at your shows, this is good”.

So they’ve been encouraging you?

Benjamin: Yeah, very encouraging and they’ve told us about previous bands that have had downfalls or things have gone wrong with labels, given us some warnings.
Andy: Which is really nice to know, maybe what things to expect.
Benjamin: What’s inspiring about N I G H T L I F E is obviously they’ve been around and each been in a few bands but they still do it because they love doing it.
Andy: Hang on, they’re not that old.
Benjamin: No, that’s not what I meant…

Getting back to As It Is, this tour is in support of the new EP and this is the first time you’ve been playing the new songs: how have they been received? How have you enjoyed playing them?

Andy: Better than the old ones.
Benjamin: The ‘Can’t Save Myself’ video came out two weeks ago and people know all the words – I think that’s the one that people know the most.
Andy: The scary one was people knew the words to ‘Relive The Story’, which had only been played once on Kerrang! Radio, the night before we performed it for the first time. We were in Glasgow on the Monday with it having been played the Sunday night before and people were singing it.
Benjamin: They must have been rinsing the playback.

Anytime you take new songs out of the studio and into a live experience they evolve, so how have the ‘This Mind of Mine’ tracks translated? Any changes?

Benjamin: I don’t think so, because we write them in a live setting. We write them all together so they’re kinda already written in a way that we know how to play them in a live setting.

What’s been your favourite track to perform?

Benjamin: Definitely ‘Can’t Save Myself’. It’s the most fun, it gets the biggest crowd interaction. People really seem to dig it and I think I, for lack of a better term, get off on people having a good time.
Andy: I probably enjoy playing ‘Bitter, Broken Me’ the most, just because I like my guitar parts.
Benjamin: I like your guitar parts too.
Andy: Cheers.

This feels like a significant point for you as a band with the new songs about to be unleashed on the world in a few weeks’ time. How would you say that this EP reflects where you are at right now? How do these four songs mark this point in your lives?

Benjamin: Lyrically – not to speak on behalf of Patty too much – they reflect the previous few months to writing the EP, what we were feeling, what we were going through. Which is funny because the songs are really sad and depressing but at the moment things are going really well for us. They’re kinda conflicting in that way but at the time that we were writing them they were definitely very honest.

The lyrics on the EP definitely seem to reflect a very unhappy band! But from the outset, yes things are looking good for you. What are you most proud of at the moment?

Andy: The fact that we’ve managed to do a successful first UK tour off the back of having one EP out and a music video up is ridiculous. Our first EP, ‘Blenheim Place’, came out less than a year ago, then we’ve posted a few new songs but this is just like what?!
Benjamin: To have that many people turning up to shows when you haven’t actually got that much material out in the world is just bizarre.
Andy: It feels to me like the band hasn’t changed that much, music-wise, but there’s just been this sudden shift of people actually taking notice of us.
Benjamin: Four months ago when we played Brighton and London there was barely anyone there, now the Brighton one seemed packed out and London’s looking to be pretty damn similar.

So aside from things going swimmingly, what is the silliest, most disastrous moment you’ll remember from your first ever tour when you look back in 10 years time?

Benjamin: After two shows we realised we needed to order more merch because we’d really underestimated how much we’d sell, so we had to get merch printed in a day and delivered to Manchester. Then it got delivered to us in a hearse.
Andy: A white hearse.
Benjamin: We actually went to pick it up from the address that was on the invoice and when we turned up it was this old, really drunk guy.
Andy: I don’t know whether he was drunk, he wasn’t making sense though. He told us to sit down a couple of times but we stayed on our feet, not feeling too comfortable – then he told us to “sit down and shut up!”
Benjamin: At which point we got the fuck out of there!

 Anything else?

Andy: There was also an incident on the first night of tour. Our bassist Mr Alistair Testo may have got a bit carried away with the drinking, but we managed to get him back to the hotel all safe and sound, just about. Everything was alright until Patty woke up in the middle of the night and sees said Mr Testo, boxers round his ankles, going to the toilet – on Ben, whilst Ben’s asleep.
Benjamin: All I remember is Patty woke me up after this had happened saying “Ben, Ali pissed on your bed” and I was like “Ahhh fuck”. My jeans were soaked. That was one day in and I was already down a pair of jeans and a pair of shoes, so I’ve been wearing shoes a size too small the whole tour because I only took one pair. That’s one thing I’ve learnt, take more than one pair of shoes with you.
Andy: You’re an idiot for not taking more than one pair.

The ‘This Mind of Mine’ EP by As It Is will be released on March 17th.


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