Bobby West has released new single All My Years. It’s a must listen. Rogério Simões had a Zoom date.
A native of North Liverpool, Bobby West grew up in Anfield. His first foray into music came by forming the band Broken Men, a following grew quickly leading to tours of England and Russia, and later Europe, supporting Echo and The Bunnymen.
West now embarks on his debut solo project. His meticulously crafted songs paint authentic depictions of his world; a dark gritty world he ruthlessly laments, yet like a man in the gutter reaching for the stars Bobby gilds the edges of his reality, creating something truly beautiful.
All My Years was formed after his writing partner showed him a rough demo consisting of just some chords on a Hammond organ with a glockenspiel melody over the top, and has gone on to become the template for everything he and his band have come to create.
Rogério kicks it off.
So, Bobby, you’re releasing a single, All My Years.
Tell us a bit about it, when did you record it? It’s been a challenging year to get a band together, to record…
Bobby West – Yeah, it has been a bit difficult. When the restrictions were eased, we could meet up and have a jam and write things. But over lockdown, my partner – I write with Dan [Daniel Allen] – would come up with something and WhatsApp over, send a voice recording over, and I’ll send voice records back, and that’s how we’ve been writing songs at the minute.
But ‘All My Years’ we recorded over a year ago really and didn’t know what to do with it.
We did release a single prior to this, called ‘As the Morning Crept In’, which again is quite a slow, crooner type style song. I don’t know, we just thought of giving it a try.
[And] give ‘All My Years’ a shot at releasing it. Dan had like a Hammond organ sound and a glockenspiel and he sent it over to me, and I just came up with this melody, and that’s pretty much it really.
The song is very basic, with the lyrics, it’s basically me apologising to my girlfriend for being a miserable bastard. That’s pretty much it.
Rogério: It’s been such a complicated year for artists like yourself. Tell us a bit about your 2020 experience. Has it affected your music? Have you come up with different feelings and ideas because of the sort of year that we’ve just had?
Bobby West: I’m constantly, constantly busy, working. If anything, this year slowed me down. It made me able to think more. With the song-writing, it’s just improved so much over the past couple of months, just because I’ve had time to actually sit down, sit on the end of the bed, get paper and pen and just start writing down songs. In a way, being such a miserable year, that has been a positive outcome, it’s allowed me to slow down and write more songs.
Rogério: I was looking at the video of As the Morning Crept In, it looks like a bloke under lockdown… Do you think there’s an element of your music that sort of connects with the experience that people have been through?
Bobby West: The way I write, and I don’t do it on purpose, there’s a lot of loneliness. Maybe I’m just set up to write miserable love songs, I don’t know. Or songs about being on your own, I don’t know [laughs].
Rogério: I saw you live twice, and your performances really impressed me. How much do you miss playing live?
Bobby West: Oh, so much… In that aspect it’s been quite a dull year, because everything’s just been going to work, coming home, going to sleep, that thing on repeat. When you’ve got gigs going on, you don’t mind the monotony of day-to-day life, the usual stuff, because for those brief periods, when you’re on stage, you just become a different person, a different individual to the person that goes to work, comes home, goes to sleep.
So, yeah, I miss it terribly. Cause it stopped me from being who I like to be the most, which is up on the stage, singing.
Rogério: So I assume you very much look forward to be back on stage, but do you have any plans in terms of the way you’re going to feel, if it’s going to feel different?
Bobby West: I’m really, really excited about that prospect, but it’s a very uncertain question. I don’t think it’s ever gonna go back to the same for quite some time, especially with all the venues that have been shut down, promoters that have just given up and stopped promoting.
It’s gonna be very slow, I feel, before it gets back to the way it was. Obviously they’re gonna cut capacity. A lot of venues in Liverpool are gone, The Zanzibar… I know an awful lot of places that have completely nosedived. It is quite sad. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but I don’t feel it’s gonna be the same for quite some time.
Rogério: Do you see yourself, other musicians and what you do as even more crucial now for 2021 and 2022, because basically the future of live music in Liverpool, and in England, is in the hands of people like you?
Bobby West: Yeah… I know a lot of bands now, especially friends that we’ve played with, they’ve stopped. Because there’s no sign of a gig soon, there’s no sign of anything coming up soon. So a lot of people have got pissed off and stopped doing what they were doing. We’re very online really, we’ve got social media, we have to do those things, but I hate it, I absolutely despise it.
But it has forced our hands into having more of a go at the social media and that style of plugging and promoting yourself. We’ve got no gigs to get on with, no one has no gigs to get on with, so everyone has been focused on writing, recording and releasing, and being more present online.
We’ve even discussed setting up a camera in the studio and doing live gigs, I know loads of people who have done that. Again, I don’t like it, I hate the thought of it, because I feel like it cheapens what you do as a musician.
Rogério: But are you somewhat hopeful for 2021?
Bobby West: Yeah, ‘cause we have tons of songs to be released, and if we can continually release songs and be more present online, we’ll hopefully build a bigger fanbase anyway. And when we finally do more gigs, we’ll have more people at the gigs, because of the promotion we’ve done ourselves online.
Rogério: Enough of 2020, then. I don’t know much about your work with your previous band Broken Men. Could you tell us a bit more about that experience and how you decided to embrace being a solo artist?
Bobby West: We played a few gigs, and we’d done a tour, we played over in Italy with Echo & The Bunnymen. And that was a great gig, we enjoyed that. When we came back, we got an email from Rolling Stone magazine from Russia, ‘cause they’d seen us in Italy. So they said, “Can you come over to Moscow and St Petersburg and play over there?”.
So we travelled over to Moscow, done a few gigs, got an overnight train to St Petersburg, and when we got back the drummer decided that he wanted to do his own solo project. And sort of everyone got a bit too busy with other things.
The guitarist got married and had a son, and it just sort of disbanded that way. And I thought, “I want to keep going”.
I got in touch with some old friends I used to play with years ago – I met Dan, my writing partner, six years ago. So we just sort of got together, and they were like, “Just call the act Bobby West”, and I was like “OK, cool, we’ll go with that”. Just sort of stuck with it. I don’t like calling the act Bobby West, ‘cause I feel it’s just very… ‘off your own arse’ kind of thing. I don’t look at Bobby West as me, I look at Bobby West as the entire unity of the band.
Rogério: I had that feeling, seeing you guys live, that the band was very important. You have the saxophone, the guitars, it’s bluesy but it’s quite heavy as well, it’s a fantastic band. So it was easy for you to gather that group of people…
Bobby West: Yeah, we met up, and I played a couple of songs that I’d written, and they really, really liked the songs, and they were like, “Yes, let’s do something with it, let’s work something out”.
Rogério: In the gig with Ali Horn [Arts Club, December 2019] you played “Lonely this Christmas” [Mud’s 1974 hit, sung in the style of Elvis Presley]. Is that where it all comes from, from the 1950s, 1960s, that Elvis thing?
Bobby West: Oh yeah, I absolutely love it. Elvis Presley is my hero. And I also love Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Bing Crosby, David Bowie. I especially love when David Bowie does all that real crooner stuff. I’ve just always enjoyed that type, it just feels more like… It’s quite sentimental.
I just like something that makes me feel something as well. When I’m singing on stage, I want to be able to feel it in myself, in my chest. When you listen to Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra or Matt Monro, you can really feel what they’re singing about.
Rogério: You said that 2020 kind of forced you to slow down a bit. I’d use that same description about your music. Compared to other stuff, when we go out and see other acts, your music seems to slow things down, slow people down. Is that an impact you search for?
Bobby West: Yeah, I enjoy that. Because we played with bands who have really big, thrashing songs, and when we come on, the crowd seem to go quiet. And they actually listen – I like to hope they are, anyway.
I like that feeling of them actually listening to a) what you’re singing and b) what the band is playing. I like that as a concept. It’s all well to go dance around, but at the same time you need those bands like us, so everyone can listen, mellow, and hopefully it has some form of impact on people.
Rogério: You’ve already said you hate social media. When it comes to romance and love, do you think there’s room for feelings in the same way we had in the past, in times of online dating and social media? What’s happened to love in the time of Tinder and apps?
Bobby West: There’s no such thing as fucking love anymore. I don’t know, for me love nowadays seems to be like a swipe thing, isn’t it? People are just swiping along.
Those online dating things are like filling out a fucking mortgage application. People have just lost the way, I feel. I don’t mean to sound all hippie-dippie, but I just feel that people have lost the way with love, romance and relationships.
No one’s got any time for fucking anybody anymore. I just find that extremely sad.
I work in a college, and you’ve got a lot of young lads, and they’re constantly on the phones, on Tinder. And the derogatory way in which they speak about women, girls and relationships is just fucking abhorrent, it’s absolutely disgusting.
To be honest, social media, dating apps and Tinder, and all those kinds of things have scuppered the way people view love and relationships.
Rogério: In the same way that your music slows people down, would you say that, when they listen to you…
Bobby West: Yeah, hopefully you sing those songs, and it’s all about love, sex, the Church, Christianity, hopefully those kinds of subjects will help people remember who they are, who they love and what they should be doing instead of mindlessly fucking wander through loads of shite on their phone.
Rogério: Are you on a mission to save love?
Bobby West: [Laughs] Yeah, you can put that in. I’m on a mission to save love, that’s it, man. Love and romance, that’s what I believe in.
Rogério: I’d like to touch a bit on the music industry and the future, because it’s not just 2020, things have been changing so much because of technology, venues closing down all over the country. How do you see the future, putting aside 2020, taking into account the technology, the streaming, Spotify, YouTube?
Bobby West: I remember being a kid, I’ve been into music since I was 12, 13, as soon as my dad gave me ‘Ocean Rain’, by Echo & the Bunnymen. And I remember walking into the supermarket to buy a CD, it was The Zutons, the Liverpool band. I used to love physically holding the CD, I can imagine the joy it must have been when [it was] LPs, vinyls, it must have been a joy to actually hold the copy of the artist that you adore and you’re into.
I just feel that bands nowadays have to really fucking pull the tripe out just to win a wage. There’s no such thing as bands breaking through anymore.
The only way to make a living is just touring and touring and gigging and gigging. I don’t know how Spotify works and things like that, but I’m sure as hell that artists don’t earn half enough money as from actual physical sales. The music industry has actually been on its arse, isn’t it?
Rogério: Do you think that initiatives like Record Store Day, and grassroots movements related to record shops – and Liverpool has some great record shops – do you think that’s the way, that’s where the resistance lies?
Bobby West: I think it’s such a noble effort. There are a lot of people out there that are still devoted to finding the vinyl that they want, finding limited edition vinyls, and going into the shop and actually physically buying it.
It’s such a noble effort, but it’s gonna have to be a more of a large scale thing to actually take off. All those grassroots things, the initiatives, that’s tremendous, but we need to have more of them, there’s just not enough of them.
Rogério: So, after this single, are you looking to an album, do you have other songs recorded? What can we look forward to see from you in the next one or two years?
Bobby West: We’ve got a ton of songs recorded, and we’ve written a ton more songs to be recorded. Yeah, I’d say maybe release another one or two singles, record an album, have that ready. And, as soon as we’re allowed to gig, just get back out there and work our arses off.
Rogério: And save love?
Bobby West: And save love, yeah man, save love. That’s the way, the only way.