“We’ve kept our cards close to our chest,” asserts TICKS guitarist Alex Walker as we chat at the band’s HQ. “We’ve had the demo since Christmas last year but we wanted to hold back until we could offer the full package,” he extends.
His voice is one of affirmation and poise and it connotes, without a whiff of arrogance, a firm sense of experience and pragmatism. Indeed, experience isn’t something Ticks are lacking. Alex, along with lead singer Lee, bass player Lacey and keys player George have been writing and playing together for almost half a decade, most notably in their previous incarnation as ASbos. When time was called on ASbos early last year, the quartet were quick to distance themselves from their previous efforts and start afresh with new songs, a new name and a new line-up.
With the addition of Ferg behind the drums, the line-up was complete. The five-piece were quick to outline their plan of action, and unequivocally focused on recording new material, a strategy sifted through experience. “In the past we might have gigged relentlessly. There’s no need for that now. One good gig is better than ten average ones,” says Alex before Lee adds, “It took us nearly a year to record and get everything ready. Costs and time meant we had to do it in three blocks, but it’s worth spending time on a new start.”
True to say, Ticks’ careful and deliberate approach to making music wouldn’t agree with everyone. There are the romantic, excitable types who would prefer to immediately take their show on the road in the hope of being heard. And it does, sometimes work. But how often does an unsuccessful string of shows spell the end for a new band?
Whilst the fundamentals of making music remain the same in our modern-day, quick fix obsessed world, Ticks understand that there’s more to it than just playing songs. Alex, “There are so many naïve bands who think Alan McGee will walk past one day and hear them. Bands come and go, we want more than just the songs we play, we’ve made videos and worked on our stagecraft, that’s why we’ve held it back, it makes sense to work one step ahead of ourselves.”
It’s refreshing to hear such a methodical approach. Despite its huge reputation and big heart, it should be remembered that Liverpool has a relatively small music community. So many of the city’s bands fall into the trap of playing the same gigs for the same people week in, week out. New bands seldom have a modus operandi behind them. Ticks can feel safe in the knowledge that no matter what happens for them commercially, their enthusiasm and principles will remain intact. However, if you thought the band’s declarations of independence and dogged single-mindedness would hold them back from responding to opinion, you’d be very wrong. Lee, “Critical acclaim is very important to us. There’s a lot of financial and personal upheaval involved so of course we like to hear positive feedback.”
Upon hearing Ticks’ music, it’s a relief to find that the band’s sense of fun hasn’t suffered as a result of their discretion. The span of their creativity is flagrantly evident in That’s Not Mum, a song documenting the horror of finding your Dad in bed with an unknown woman; the nightmarish scene is vividly portrayed in the song’s accompanying video… I neglected to ask if the song was written through first hand experience.
There is a believable charisma to their sound. There are echoes of Orange Juice and Devo, albeit with a more unyielding rhythmic framework. Lee’s vocals evoke David Byrne and Black Francis. Above all though, it’s the band’s energy that really endears the listener. There isn’t a dull song to be heard. The choruses are instantly memorable through their lo-fi nonchalance. “There are no egos in the band, none of us are virtuosos,” Lee confirms. “We rely on each other, we’re very close knit,” he explains. “We do each other’s ties before gigs,” quips George
Adorning themselves in white shirts, burgundy ties and school trousers, the band appear comfortable in giving their name an image. “The best bands wear uniforms,” Alex assures me.
With everything seemingly in place, I suggest it can’t be long before we get to experience Ticks in a live capacity. “We should be playing regularly around Christmas time,” Alex tells me before adding, “that’ll give us a chance to work on new stuff.”
‘One step ahead’ might just be the understatement of the year.