how to start a band according to the ninth wave

From fanboy SoundCloud accounts to working with Placebo’s music-maker, Glasgow-based The Ninth Wave tell us why they’re switching up the path set for bands north of the border.

by Douglas Greenwood
08 August 2017, 8:10am

With their post-emo aesthetic and a love for dark, despondent lyrics, you might be fooled into thinking that The Ninth Wave have used Glasgow's murky history as an inspiration for their sound. But if you listen hard enough, you might find something else -- something lighter -- lurking in there too.

Bonding over their infatuation for 80s post punk, The Ninth Wave are an eye-catching, 20-something quartet hailing from Glasgow; a band who've hustled hard enough to have their name make waves (sorry) south of the border too. But as much as Scottish groups like WHITE have achieved similar runaway success, this group want you to know that they've got their own distinct style.

"Glasgow was voted the most friendly and the most violent city in Europe in the same year," the band's synth player, Louise, reminds me. That acts as a nice allusion to The Ninth Wave themselves: a bit steely on the surface, but they're still Scots underneath, armed with banter, strong opinions and a formidable sense of humour.

Made up of lead vocalists and guitarists Haydn and Elina, with Louise and Lewis (perhaps music's coolest new couple) on synths and drums respectively, the band has spent the past year or so honing their music and making some minor line-up changes before winding up where they are today: sat side-by-side in the corner of their favourite old man's pub around the corner from their studio, chatting to us. It may have taken them a while to set everything out, but this ensemble seem to gel pretty well, whatever the setting.

Perhaps you can lend some of the credit for their path so far to the city they were founded in. Known for its tight-knit art circles and cheap rent, Glasgow has less of the responsibility that the lurid lure of London carries, where the constant pressures of draining cash can kill a band as fast as they are founded. "Being in Glasgow means that you have a great place to grow as a band," Haydn says. "You can hide from everyone else from a while, doing what we've done, and when you're ready you can fly the nest."

"It's easier to grow when you're not under that pressure," Elina adds. "When we started, of course we wanted to become bigger and be successful, but we didn't start [the band] for that reason. We started playing gigs and writing music because we wanted to." But the band aren't quite ready to share all of their hopes and dreams with the rest of the Scottish scene. "Most bands here have the goal of getting that Topman sponsorship," Lewis laughs. "We're trying not to do that!"

Their commanding debut single Reformation sees their self-destructive lyrics bleed into pop melodies. "I'm looking for a resurrection / You could save me, I need reformation", Haydn and Elina harmonise, before a wall of guitar strings and tinkling, 80s synths take hold. It's a strangely liberating track, considering the subject matter, but it didn't always sound like that. Reformation started out as one of Haydn's demos when he was still studying music at university. "His SoundCloud URL was literally "HaydnLinkinPark" -- that's how long ago it was!" Lewis confesses. "It was like a gothic, Nine Inch Nails-sounding demo. We would open with it when I first joined the band, and then we realised we really needed to do something [different] with it."

The final version is the one you hear in its technicolour trip of a music video. Shot on film in an abandoned munitions factory, it loosely tells the story of a man (played by model and one of i-D's new faces of menswear, Jacob Collins) falling into the clutches of a cult against his will. It's a bold visual statement for a debut single, born from a concept the band themselves were inspired to make, but it says a lot about their desire to distance themselves from the slew of new bands that try their hand at making it in the music biz. "It's art," Elina says. "It's impossible for us to have a song that wouldn't have a visual attachment to it. From our style, to the videos to our music, everything comes from the same place." Later, Haydn confesses to having watched Gregg Araki's The Doom Generation "for the fifth time the other night", while Elina says she's deep inside the mind of David Lynch and his semi-dreamlike Twin Peaks universe; both are visualised synonyms for their own sound.

The band headed to Bath to record the single and upcoming EP with Dan Austin, a producer and music engineer who's worked with everybody from Placebo to Pixies. "When we first met him, we thought he'd be some big scary producer man," Lewis says with a little naivety, "but he's actually the loveliest man ever!"

"He was so into it," Elina adds. "I couldn't believe how excited he was about our music. When we were listening back to the tracks, he'd just be jumping around!" Lewis chimes in again with a line that sends the band into a group of a fit of awkward laughter: "You really feel him in those tracks."

The EP is like taking a sonic dip into the band's mix of haunting lyrics with soaring, dare say it, sugary pop production. I wondered if The Ninth Wave were a sweet, which one did they think would the band would be?

"A blackjack!" Haydn says without hesitating. "I choked on one of them when I was wee."

"Or a brainlicker," Lewis suggests. "Brainlickers last for ages," he reminds me, with slightly raised eyebrow and a nod. "None of that Hubba Bubba shite!"

Some advice on HOW TO BE A COOL BAND IN 2017 from The Ninth Wave

Elina suggests that you… Embrace whatever you love about music and wear exactly what you want to wear. You can rarely get anywhere with pretence.

Haydn says that it's important to… Be genuine. There are too many people posing in front of an idea without any reason or sometimes even no idea why they're standing there. I'm not saying you should be militant about it, but I think it's important to know, at least in your own head, what it is you want to achieve or where you want to get to.

Lewis says that if you… Try and make unique music, it will happen.

Louise thinks that it's best to… Just be yourself. Try and put as much of your personality into your music as you can. I think people like and can connect to the honesty. Uniqueness is important. Do what you want to do and don't try to be like or compare yourself to anyone else in the scene.

The Ninth Wave's debut single Reformation is out now on Distiller Records


Text Douglas Greenwood
Photography Trackie McLeod

the ninth wave
music interviews
connor macleod
scottish bands