If you read up about Wot Gorilla? the main points about them are that they are a four piece comprised of Matt Haigh, Jonny Hey, Ben Farnell and Si Marks from Halifax, take their name from a Genesis song and are frequently described as being part of the ‘math’ genre. Once you meet them, you find that they are from Sowerby Bridge, only like early Genesis and are indifferent about the description of math rock.
We met in a popular former tax dodging coffee chain away from the cold chill one night, and after grabbing a few beverages Jonny, Mat, Ben and I sat down, used a chair for a table and begun.
Speaking to the band you quickly learn not to mix up your Genesis years, after asking them if they would do homage to the ‘I can’t Dance’ walk. Mat immediately sprang to their defence, “no can we not bring this up, can we not talk about this. I’m steaming up now”. (His glasses did actually steam up, blaming it on the coffee, sort of). Jonny warned, “Don’t talk about late Genesis, this is what you get, the fury”.
The band as they are today formed after Johnny saw an advert to join, “I thought it probably isn’t my kind of thing. Si said he-ey why don’t you come jam with us. He didn’t say that, he said why don’t you come play”. Jonny appreciates that where they’re from is not on everyone’s radar, “we’d like to fly the flag for Sowerby Bridge but, no one knows where it is, so we just started saying Halifax”.
They began playing there before taking their sound all over the country, Mat has always been passionate about performing live, “we just wanted to play gigs and we played them everywhere for nothing. Just to see how we got on, it was the love of playing music I suppose. Whatever happened along the way was a bonus”.
Their music style is unusual and difficult to categorise, Ben tried to explain, “it’s patchy in places and there’s drag and drop pieces”. Mat continues, slightly tongue in cheek, “I don’t know how to write a proper song. We come in and patch the songs together, and that’s what probably makes it sound so unusual”.
I wanted to go in a warm house and instead I had to spend the next four hours in A and E”.
After a quick lesson on math rock lesson “stop starty, very technical”, Mat lets his feelings known about the tag,” I think if we weren’t pigeon holed in that genre, not that I’m saying we’re really massive or anything. We wouldn’t be as popular if it wasn’t for that scene I suppose. Really I should be thankful that we are included in that. But part of me, isn’t sure. It just feels like a dirty word. Like emo, back when that became a dirty word, the same kind of thing”.
Ben thinks that there’s more of a positive aspect,” because it’s niche, the people who are into are really into it. It’s almost better”.
The band have a lot of accolades; being runners up to the 2010 Futuresound competition and through that they performed at Reading and Leeds festival (controversially slightly preferred Reading), playing with Cursive and The Get Up Kids but unfortunately due to the injury and sickness that seems to plague them they can’t add playing alongside Delta Sleep to the list, due to Jonny breaking his ankle.
“It was really unheroic I slipped on wet cardboard when running. It was after a gig in Nottingham which ended at about two in the morning and I wanted to go in a warm house and instead I had to spend the next four hours in A and E”. Jonny had his leg in a cast during the first recording of their album ‘Kebnekaise’ which was out in 2012, Si had food poisoning and when Jonny first joined Mat was sick off work.
As well as being lucky enough to play festivals and share the stage with big names, they have a lot of support from a very wide fan base, stretching from America, Canada and even Japan. Mat brings up the evidence of the Japanese fans, scrolls down his phone screen to show lots of Japanese twitter messages with Wot Gorilla? in them, including a man with an anagram of Wot Gorilla for his user name. Jonny thinks that their sound has helped appeal.
“I think that we’ve got quite a global influence. That sounds like we’re really into world music and drums and stuff like that (laughs). But you know we love North American bands, some bands from Europe and some from Japan. So it makes sense that people from there like us”.
Over Christmas the band has taken a little bit of time out and Ben excitedly asked if he could reveal that they have a new single and video out in March. The band may even be heading towards a different sound after Mat revealed he’d been listening to “r’n’b Drake, Frank Ocean nothing with guitars really in it at all”. This is quickly brushed off before an admission from Ben saying “we’re tinkling with a new sound; we’re heading in a new.direction”.