Birmingham three-piece TABLE SCRAPS are a band to watch out for, if you haven’t already heard of them. With a tongue-in-cheek manner embedded in the two albums they’ve mustered to date – More Time For Strangers and Autonomy – they seem to encapsulate what iconic garage acts such as The Gruesomes and The Gories created, but skewed with a dark and doomy undertone that has their sound bordering on metal and has garnered attention not only from the indie press but also publications such as Metal Hammer. Ahead of their return to Liverpool, Georgia Turnbull asks TJ, Poppy Twist and Scott Vincent Abbott about what makes them stand out from the growing garage scene and their involvement with Liverpool’s premier garage fest.
Your most recent album Autonomy is an album firmly rooted in heavier, garage rock roots. With contemporaries creating that similar vibe all around the globe, what do you think sets you apart from them?
Poppy Twist: I don’t know what sets us apart, to be honest. It’s quite a cheeky album. It’s eclectic and dips its toes into a lot of things without falling into pastiche or parody. I think there’s quite a lot of humour to it and it doesn’t take itself too seriously even when it’s at its most bleak, which is probably us all over. It’s quite hard to see rock music that’s very straight-faced these days; it may be too easy, but stuff that is so straight down the line – ‘this is rock music’ – doesn’t feel like it serves as much of a purpose as someone who goes to gigs and buys records. I think you’ve got to have a lot of self-awareness about it because, unless you’re pushing boundaries, you’ve got to be aware that somebody’s always going to be there to point out what you’re doing isn’t that original. What matters is your delivery and the way you do it. A lot of the ‘garage’ bands that [we] get lumped with is just four chords and rehashes of the first Black Lips album – if you’re having fun with that there’s nothing wrong, but you can’t be walking around acting too serious when you’re doing that. Especially when everyone is more skint than they were before: like, who are you kidding? You’ll be blagging for a bus fare home from the coolest venue in town either way, no matter how seriously you take yourself, so just have fun with it. Liverpool’s quite well set up for this sub-genre, not necessarily in terms of the bands we’ve seen, but also the understanding of it from gig-goers and listeners. It all seems in tune with how we approach it.
What were your main influences during recording and writing songs for the album?
PT: It’s pretty hard to reference other things. Like I say it’s a quite eclectic album, but, with creating Autonomy, getting Tim in the band and becoming a three-piece, it started to become more noticeable that I was writing songs that sounded distinctly like us – in the way that somebody else would listen to a track and go “that’s a Table Scraps song!” But in terms of influences, I can’t even begin to list the amount of things that we’ve ripped off. Everyone rips off and everyone has to. When we were on tour with Monster Magnet, Dave Wyndorf came up to Scott and asked, “Where do you get the ideas for your songs?” and Scott goes, “I just ripped them off.” And Dave Wyndorf, who has been there, done that, toured with Metallica, toured with Marilyn Manson, goes “Same!” It’s something everyone does, it’s how it’s always worked, so why would you try and go out of your way to say, “I’ve created something truly original”? You can try creating something original, but then you realise that you’ve still accidentally ripped [someone] off. I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly ripped anything off, it’s always just been part of the process of writing that is subconscious. Even if you wrote a song that you wanted to sound just like Nirvana, someone would come up to you and say, “That’s really good, sounds like The Velvet Underground.” It doesn’t end up what you set out to do in the first place, so don’t let the ‘ripping off’ process be a limit because you’d never write down a note. You see a lot of people that are so anxious about it so they end up never releasing anything and playing few gigs because they’re so conscious of what they’re doing, saying, “This isn’t right, this is too much like X. I need to change it up to match what cool bands are doing at the minute.” Bands like this end up never doing anything. You’ve got to forget about all the external stuff and hunker down.
What inspired you to reissue your debut album More Time For Strangers?
Scott Vincent Abbott: The original pressing that we released ourselves had sold out. There was still quite a demand for it, and the boss of Zen Ten [the record label] was a big fan of the album anyway. Touring with Monster Magnet was the catalyst for the re-release really, because we needed stuff to take as merch to sell to rabid Germans. They’ll try and buy all your records, all your stuff, maybe even the clothes off your back. So we were in this position where we’re about to go on a big tour and all of the touring party from Monster Magnet were like, “Bring as much vinyl as you can, get it sorted,” so we were like, “Shit, we better get this done.” Fortunately, the stars did align in that aspect, we managed to get it turned around in less than eight weeks which is a miracle considering how much of a nightmare it is to get vinyl pressed these days and how expensive it is. We also got to revisit the artwork, which was great. We had better hair on the cover, longer hair; Poppy doesn’t have a vape pen in her hand, which pleases me [laughs]. It used to be a trademark that she’d be clutching her e-cigarette, but now she’s gone back to just smoking.
You’re part of the Strange Collective All-Dayer next month. Any special plans for your set, and how do you feel to be involved in such a unique event?
TJ: We’ve been treated really well by the weird side of Liverpool. All the places who have taken us on, such as Bristol Psych Fest and the Acid Box guys down in Brighton, are part of a close-knit garage-y psych collective. Meanwhile, Liverpool have really taken us on and never questioned it. Because we’re from the Midlands, we’re always really suspicious of people’s motives, [thinking that] any help is an elaborate plot somewhere down the road [laughs]! But we did Sound City and Wrong Festival, and the guys behind Wrong have always been very supportive. And so were the Strange Collective lot, who we hadn’t heard of until they dropped us a message saying, “We really want you to do this, we think you’d be a perfect fit on the bill.” We dug into the line-up a bit and it was like, “Where has this been all our lives?” It’s perfect and we’re really psyched not just to be on it, but headlining it. It’s big shoes to fill, but we’ll fill them. And we might stay over and hang out in Liverpool, too.
Autonomy is available now via Zen Ten.