Inform, Educate and Entertain: Public Service Broadcasting in profile

"It's all a bit 'Heath Robinson' at the moment"

Photographer: Trevor EalesFrancesca Perry on 10 June 2013

Third time lucky. VF get a voice down the other end of the line, a warm and modest voice keen to both educate and entertain us today. This is J Willgoose, Esq. one half of the London-based, corduroy clad duo Public Service Broadcasting, who have been behind a quite unique musical collision of past and future. The pseudonymous pair, completed by Wrigglesworth, have taken to old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material with a futuristic zeal for musical reinvention.

Willgoose is humble when he admits he “didn't think public information based electronica could go very far commercially.” How the tables have turned. Once the punters, and now the performers, Willgoose recalls his comical nightmare at Glastonbury Festival 2005, just weeks before the band return to play the festival for the first time in 2013. “I remember waking up with our tent basically in the middle of the river. Me and my friend were stood outside in our pants in about 6 inches of water. We thought this is Thursday morning at Glasto, what the hec are we gonna do?!

Public Service Broadcasting began, innocuously enough, as a personal project without visual aids, "just playing a bit of the guitar, banjo and pressing a few buttons.” So what was first considered “something extremely niche” has been, for the band at least, a surprising success. All of which was capped when they saw their debut album peaking at number 21 in the charts.

Eager to know how the idea first came to fruition, we asked frontman Willgoose why he chose archive footage as the vocal basis for his music? “It just kind of came through mucking around with things.

“Poking around online, I found some BFI films being released on the internet for the first time. It wasn't particularly with anything in mind, it was more because I liked the quality and sound of the voice. But then after I made one song, two songs, three songs, the concept of PSB started to come to me."


A big fan of early DJ Shadow and Jurassic 5, Willgoose became naturally intrigued by the power of samples and vocal work. “Listening to that kind of stuff is what made me seek out these types of voices myself. Musically, influences come from all over the shop, the older I get the more I'm listening to loads of different stuff.

Influences aside, PSB have forged on with originality in avenues, none less impressive than a huge stage set, littered with antique TV sets and projectors. “Having booked a week at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010, I realised that the competition was insane and I needed to do something in an attempt to stand out. That's when I got the first TV set which we call 'Old Faithful' these days."

As the venues have got bigger, so too have the stage set-ups. From the lone duo in the studio to a group of five on the road, it becomes a joint effort to transfer the stage set, as the frontman bemoans, “It's a bit on the fiddly side. It's all a bit 'Heath Robinson' at the moment, very much homemade. We arrive with masses of wood and home made 8ft TV sets.

Now the stage set, and crew, will be battling some green festival fields. The band, all Secret Garden Party virgins, are readying themselves for one of their largest festival sets to date under the gaze of the Gardeners next month. “The stage we're playing on sounds great and we've got a really good slot.

I love the atmosphere you get at festivals, a lack of pretension and general friendliness."

So, are PSB restricted in where they can go with just archive footage? The band certainly don't think so. “The range of archives is a song writing tool, you don't just get stuck on your own voice in your head, you've got all these different styles and voices.

Securing the support of the British Film Institute, PSB found a great expanse of samples on offer, and some inadvertently amusing footage, such as 'Signal 30', and decided that they wanted to make a serious piece, hence the debut EP, 'The War Room'.


It didn't come from any sort of nerdy, obsessive history of it all, although its getting that way now. It's more about a subject that is going to stretch us to write and hopefully provide a bit of emotional depth. Something to get your teeth stuck in to.

'London Can Take It' from their EP 'The War Room' certainly uncovered emotional depth in Willgoose. “It really resonated with me. It draws the parallels between then and now,and is a useful thing to look back on. London has been through a terrible time in the past, but it will come through at the other end. People's reactions to the Blitz were very stoic and brave, I find that quite affecting.

Their single 'Lit Up' had its own take on one of the BBC's earliest crises, so are Public Service Broadcasting sympathetic with the most recent plight put at the door of our most valued broadcasting institution? “They do have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot but I think what they offer to this country and what we get from them is immensely valuable. I'm glad that in a small way by calling our band what it's called, we're indirectly sticking up for them.


So as the debut finds favour with critics and fans alike what's most important to PSB? To inform, educate or entertain? “Our main emphasis is to entertain. I think people may have misunderstood us a bit, thinking we're genuinely trying to sit people down and teach them something. I just hope people enjoy it and pick up on the positivity running through.

"The key quote on the album for me is 'I believe in this world to come, I think it's gonna be a pretty good world', I hope that is the message people can take from this.

Public Service Broadcasting play Secret Garden Party which takes place at Mill Hill Field, Abbots Rippon, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire from 25-28 July 2013. Regina Spektor, Django Django, Soulwax, Bastille, Modestep, The Strypes and many more also play the independent music and arts festival.

Click here to see the full Secret Garden Party line-up.

Click here to buy Secret Garden Party tickets.

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