Synth'n'scowl rockers The Automatic have appeared at more festivals in 2006 than The Levellers, Howard Marks and Peaches Geldoff put together. From belting out karaoke hits in Japan to facing stage invasions in Cambridgeshire, Wales' proudest export since 1970s rugby have been kicking up a storm on every stage and in every tent they've touched down at, often thrashing them in the process or getting their mates to join them dressed up in a variety of randomly chosen themes.
Before this year, the only festivals they'd been to were as paying public, dreaming of playing in any piss-stained corner of Reading that would have them. But with their summer single 'Monster' becoming one of the year's most recognisable live anthems, 2006 was capped with a packed-out set in the Radio 1/NME Stage Tent at the Carling Weekend, as well as huge gigs at T In The Park and Wakestock.
Who better then to take us through the highs, the lows, the shambles and the man-showers than The Automatic. As if the festival season had never ended, VF got soaked legging it through torrential storms so that Rob, Pennie, Frost and Iwan could take us through their's...
P: This was our first year playing festivals as a band. Before 2006 we’d only really done Reading. It’s generally consisted of camping, smelling and being surrounded by shit.
F: Great times indeed but always covered in shit.
R: Random mystery brews in the morning.
P: Smelling bad but not caring because everyone else smells worse.
First Festival As The Automatic...
F: The Full Ponty in Wales was the first one we did. It was very wet but there were loads of people and we headlined that one, which was pretty mad in retrospect because it was the first we’d ever done.
P: Playing in front of a Welsh crowd was cool - but it did piss it down!
Best Festival Crowd...
I: It was another Welsh one, a wakeboarding festival called Wakestock. It was amazing. They had a motorised wakeboarding pool on the site which was pretty cool but we weren’t allowed on it sadly.
P: The crowd were absolutely mental that night. We listened to our version of ‘Monster’ on the way home and it was huge. It was quite fitting because it was a year to the day that we got signed.
Best Overall Festival...
I: Reading was amazing. It was a really big deal for us because that’s kind of our festival, the one we’ve been to together as punters.
R: When we used to go we were always ‘wouldn’t it be amazing to play that tiny tent there’. And suddenly here we are playing the Radio 1 / NME Stage.
P: We probably got a bit too psyched up for it though. It wasn’t our best ever performance by any means, but the crowd were definitely with us.
P: We got a bit nervous and went a bit mental on stage. Once we’d calmed down a bit it went pretty well and the crowd were incredible. A lot of the time when you’re at a festival, or supporting a bigger band, there’s a massive crowd but they're not necessarily there to see you. At Reading there were loads of people who were there just to see us. It was awesome.
Reading Vs Leeds?
P: Compared to all the other festivals Reading and Leeds are something else, but between the two I reckon Reading narrowly comes out top.
I: Saying that though, we were pretty hung over at Leeds so we probably didn’t appreciate it as much.
P: Yeah, maybe there was an element burn out.
R: It is called the Carling Weekend, what do you expect?
Best Festival Performance…
P: T In The Park was our best performance. I took a big potted plant on stage and smashed it into pieces at the end. I never intend to break things but sometimes, y’know, it just happens. Afterwards, all our technicians came on and told us off and made us clear it up.
R: You always knew you were going to smash that up!
P: That ‘Monster’ has been doing fairly well on the old campaign trail.
R: I don’t know though, ‘You Shout, You Shout, You Shout, You Shout’ has been getting a really good reaction too. It’s got a chorus which gets a similar reaction to ‘Monster’.
I: Yeah, that has been a real singalong tune. We were really surprised by the reaction at festivals and now there are plans to release it as a single.
P: We want it to be the anthem of the autumn. We want to cover all the seasons.
P: Secret Garden Party. It would have been great being there as a punter because Coxon was headlining, but being in a band it was a bit difficult. It was fairly disorganised and the sound guy didn’t have a clue how to use his desk.
R: It reminded me of that scene in Apocalypse Now where they’re going down the river and they find that place where all the leaders have died and they’re all running round naked in the mud.
F: It was full of people who reckon they’re alternative but actually they’re just middle class twats.
P: People were getting on stage with us, which we’re usually up for especially in a stage diving capacity, but these so-called cool people were only there to wave at their mates and get their photo taken, like ‘Wow, look at me, I’m on stage’. Yeah well done mate, you’ve learnt how to climb.
I: At Reading we hooked up with Goldie Lookin’ Chain to do ‘Gold Digger’ by Kanye West. We had Adam Hussein playing the trumpet and trombones and Jake from Capdown on the saxophone. It was a pretty cool moment for us and it even sounded pretty cool.
Other On-Stage Antics…
R: We had some wombles on stage with us at the Surfers Against Sewage festival.
F: And we got some of our mates to dress up as mummies at one gig. Well, I say ‘dress up’, really they just covered themselves head to foot in toilet roll.
P: Whenever we do our cover of ‘Gold Digger’, anyone who wants to get dressed up and come on stage can. We’ve had wombles, mummies, chavs, Mike Myers look-alikes and at Ibiza Rocks we had the Manumission girls up with us on stage.
I: One was dressed only in mesh!
P: I didn’t look, I was too busy concentrating on my music because I’m very hard working and dedicated.
Best Backstage Party…
F: Maybe T In The Park because the World Cup final was on. Everyone was crammed into this room backstage watching it and getting drunk and rowdy. The Strokes were there and the Arctic Monkeys, all standing on chairs trying to see the TV. It was quite surreal actually but there was an amazing atmosphere. T In The Park has definitely got the best backstage artist area. It’s like a celebrity playpen because all the portacabins are facing each other so everyone's in each other's faces.
P: Apart from The Who. They had their own area all cordoned off. They turned up, played and left. They were almost treated like royalty.
F: If I was Daltry I’d probably be quite smug as well.
Drink Of Choice…
R: Alcohol! Basically whatever we’re given, we’re not fussy.
F: We got friendly with the guy running the Red Bull bar at Reading and he gave us lots of free drinks. Cameron. Top guy. He does a mean Red Bull cocktail, which taste like slush puppy.
P: Board Masters. In fact, all of the surfy festivals had amazing women. They’re all beautiful and tanned and blond and they do stuff with their lives rather than just sitting in pubs moaning. I can’t remember if it was Board Masters or Surfers Against Sewage but one had this man shower run by Lynx where bikini clad babes would sponge you down and give you a good wash. Quality.
R: Muse at Reading.
I: We were on the same day as them so we saw them twice, at Reading and at Leeds.
P: At Leeds we were right over the other side of the site and you could still hear them and they still sounded amazing. It was crystal clear, in fact it almost sounded better because you could make it out so well. It just fitted together perfectly.
P: They are the ultimate festival band. Their sound is amazing.
I: For me it would be Eels at T In The Park. There was this mental guy on stage with them bench pressing, not doing anything but really getting into it. That was the best set of the summer for me.
P: We haven’t played any foreign festivals.
R: Yes we have, we did Fuji Rocks you mong!
P: Oh we did, didn’t we? I don’t really remember that weekend.
F: It was a long five days with not a lot of sleep. Carnage.
R: Karaoke and saki kept us going. My song of choice was ‘My Sharona’ and I think Iwan’s was ‘Stars’ by Simply Red.
I: Playing in Japan makes you realise how cool festival crowds in the UK are. In Japan they don’t cheer, they only clap.
P: They applaud you if you say something nice in between songs as well. As soon as you finish a song they all clap in unison for about three seconds and stop at exactly the same time. There’s no ‘yeahs’ or ‘woos’, just a kind of joint ‘waaah’. The worse thing is when you finish the gig they just leave, they disappear in seconds. Maybe atmosphere and cleanliness have an inverse relationship. At Fuji Rocks everyone’s polite and it’s clean, at Reading the atmosphere’s incredible but the place stinks. There’s rubbish and shit everywhere.
F: America. The world.
I: Over here hopefully Glastonbury. It’s the only one we haven’t done. Oh, and the Isle Of Wight and Bestival look like a laugh too.
F: And Benicassim.
Final Festival Thought...
R: Surfing festivals are always quality. They’re quite relaxed and there’s always loads of other stuff going on other than the music. The usually only have one stage which makes the whole thing more of a party and they attract the right kind of crowd for our sort of gig.
The single 'Recover' by The Automatic is out now.