02 January, 2018

[INTERVIEW] with... Public Access T.V.

Public Access T.V. - L-R Max Peebles, John Eatherly, Xan Aird and Pete Sustarsic                 Photo: ©Jonah Freud

Having toured the world with some of the most celebrated alternative and mainstream names in music, Public Access T.V. remains one of the most eclectic bands around and the New York four-piece has big plans for 2018.

The band will return to the UK in February to tour their second album Street Safari.

Despite being the centre of record company bidding wars, press hype, a string of sold-out tours and high-profile international festival slots, the band still feels there is a lot more out there for them and more than a few pointers suggest they are right.

Their outstanding debut Never Enough came out in 2016 to widespread praise and critical acclaim and very quickly it became a classic album of our time.

NME declared “The New York new wave reprobates debut delivers instant gratification via boisterous choruses and loveable melodies.”

The Guardian enthused “It’s absolutely fantastic: Eatherly’s ear for melody and arrangement – albeit in a very specific way – is impeccable.”

Mixing punk-rock, disco and sheer pop music with ease, fans in Britain and the States took an instant liking to the band, and Never Enough definitely is the sort of cool timeless album craved, desired and required by music fans and press every now and then.

They visited the UK in November 2017. Vocalist and guitarist John Eatherly, bassist Max Peebles, guitarist Xan Aird and drummer Pete Sustarsic are due to return to the Britain this February when they embark on a tour, stopping at London’s Oslo Hackney (22 February), a date which also happens to be an NME Awards Show.

The band has been releasing new material. Metrotech is the title of their recent single release, marking a crucial step ahead, the band is showing significant signs of musical development, and their increasing ease of experimenting and playing confidently with genre is just one of its strong points. 

And what is more, the band will be releasing their second album early this year. If Metrotech is a taster of what is to come, then Street Safari demonstrates even more excitement and innovation from the four-piece.

Coolly, yet expertly produced by Patrick Wimberly of the band Chairlift, his other producer credits include Beyonce, Solange and Kelsey Lu. Every track on Street Safari is as a vibrant part in the selective collection of infectiously catchy, well-crafted melodies.

Street Safari is different to Never Enough. Not only is there plenty of eclecticism on display, there are elements of funk, 80s British electronic music and more disco.

John: it is not even nearly as discoey as we had talked about. When we were conceiving it, it was more crazy and electronic-led than it is now. It would probably have been a little too drastic but we really needed to discover ‘the other side'.

Despite its high critical acclaim, the band members were conscious of the need to explore new musical territory with their second album and not repeat the sound of their debut.

John: it is like a new chapter. We felt very inspired after touring Never Enough for so long. Street Safari was written in a very condensed amount of time by comparison.

There is a sense that each song is given more creative space, every song has a stronger identity.

John: we just wanted to bring the guitars down a bit. Let it breathe more, have a little less crammed into one song, less crammed into three minutes. There is a lot more breathing room on the new record. That is one of the biggest differences as far as the sound goes.

If the album echoes the sounds of 80s Britain including Tears for Fears, OMD, Pet shop Boys and Georgio Moroder it is no coincidence, they are artists who mean a lot to the band. Similarly, they love The Velvet Underground. 

Recording in an old pharmaceutical building, the choice of producer Patrick Wimberly was natural as much as well-considered enabling smooth and efficient work in the studio lasting no more than three weeks.

John: Patrick just brought the magic. These songs are actually very close to the demos, they are just amplified. Some producers just want to take things and change them but this experience felt very different.

John: he is really good, super-easy to work with and there was a great vibe.

The members of Public Access T.V. are not just really strong grafters of music, they also happen to be hard-working and very personable experts on all things music related. They possess an incredible knowledge of genre and have reference points covering several decades. 

Having previously toured the world with the likes of The Pixies, The Strokes and Dinosaur Jr clearly is major in itself. With a music career lasting more than ten years, the band members find themselves more determined than ever before to make it really big. The aim is to be headlining bigger venues and experience even greater levels of freedom than they have just now, that is what is next on the American four-piece’s wish list. 

Just a couple of weeks before they can start to prepare for their next big live outing. Their up and coming UK tour will see them cover multiple locations, some key European dates before they head back to play some essential locations around the States, a couple of dates in Canada before completing the tour in their hometown New York, at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

John Eatherly at BST Hyde Park in 2017                                                                      Photo: © Jeff Moh
New York means a lot to Public Access T.V. Downtown Manhattan is where the band members reside and they live very close to each other. This is, after all, the band, whose frontman famously declared ‘I don’t wanna live in California, I’d take New York any day’, there is definitely a purpose in place.

But they want to see even more of the world. Having lost count of the number of times they have played South by Southwest, it is clearly time to move on and ahead. It is time to be big on their terms and not only go on tour with acts bigger than they are.

John: we are lucky to be doing any of it, it is awesome. But I have been working on achieving that next step for some time, even before this band. It feels like I have had the same goal for about 10 years but there is going to be a tipping point and then we can play to bigger audiences and that is what I want to get to.

Public Access T.V. will get where they want to be, there is no doubt about it. They have great songs, drive and ambition and are still young.  There will be tipping point soon and perhaps it is destined to come when they least expect it.                

Being friends for many of years and knowing each other well makes things easier. The sense of friendship is evident when it comes to their songwriting, it is a democratic process.

 John: everybody’s voice and opinion is very thought about and considered. It is not like ‘I wrote something, you wrote something’, songwriting is not meant to be split like that. It is important that the end picture is something we can all agree on. If I write a song then I would like Xan or Max to tell me if it is good.

                                                                                                                                              Photo: ©Jonah Freud
The band still gets excited about going on tour and releasing their second album represents an obvious opportunity.

Max: just excited to tour this new record. It feels like it happened very quickly. I just hope we can get over to Europe and tour it for a long time and play great shows that is what I want.

They really like Glasgow, they have a lot of friends there but they also enjoy coming to the UK capital.

Max: it is always cool to be in London, to play shows there. We have a good fan base here.

Street Safari is due out on the 23rd February 2018

Public Access T.V's NME Awards Show is on the 22nd February, Oslo Hackney, London

The awards show is part of the band's UK tour; commencing on the 14th February, Broadcast in Glasgow, finishing at Brighton’s Green Door Store on the 24th February 2018