In a Salford pub jammed with suits sipping their after-work pints, Warmduscher are telling me about the time they were thrown out of one of their own gigs. “This PTSD ex-Marine bouncer tried to box me, saying ‘you and me big boy’,” says guitarist Adam J Harmer – who is not, by anyone’s standards, a big boy. Adam says he’d pissed off the security team at the Butlins gig, who removed the band from the site while fans cheered and shouted their name from nearby chalets.
Frontman Clams Baker Jr then throws in a story about falling out with a bartender at Berghain in Berlin, which ended with the club banning him (possibly because he was shouting out stuff into the crowd like “Who here has been fucked over by this bar? Who is sick of the way they treat you? You guys don't need to take this, fuck these people!"). We’re killing time before the band play a BBC Radio 6 Music live session down the road, and I’m starting to wonder if DJ Marc Riley should be preparing for a ruckus. As it turns out, Warmduscher – a side project of sorts, with members who all play in other bands – rattle through their set like total professionals. But I’ll come to that in a moment.
First, let’s understand some of the basics about this five-piece. People bandy the word “supergroup” around a lot, so consider Warmduscher more of a ragtag collective instead. Clams is also a member of the dirty house outfit Paranoid London. Guitarist Saul Adamczewski notoriously flashes his tooth-missing grin in Fat White Family (“big boy” Adam steps in for Warmduscher when Saul’s not around). Bassist Ben Romans-Hopcraft fronts the soul-rock outfit Childhood and plays bass in Saul’s ostensible solo project Insecure Men. Ex-Fat Whites and current Insecure Men drummer Jack Everett rounds the band off with Paranoid London’s Quinn Whalley on all things electronic.
Together, they sound like a mutant hybrid of Butthole Surfers and Funkadelic. This translates to a wild live show where guitars buzz like pneumatic drills over melodic lines varying from soul-pop to discordant mayhem. To get a sense of how a band who rarely rehearse and often get kicked out of their own gigs operate, I’ve tagged along with them for a day in Salford, in Greater Manchester. They go from the pub to their radio session to a gig later that evening, buzzing on acid all the while (which it takes me a minute to realise). Along the way, we find the time to talk about the new material you’ll soon be able to hear on their upcoming album, Whale City, and what particular itch this band scratches for musicians who already clearly have other creative outlets.
It all started for Warmduscher almost by accident. They formed spontaneously for a New Years Eve party in 2014 for a laugh but kept the party going. Their improvised debut album, Khaki Tears, followed in 2015. The best way to describe it would be sounding like a group locked in a pitch-black basement while gorging on homemade speed for a weekend, making music to capture their increasingly diminished mental state. Guitars twitch, electronics sputter and Clams sings in a style probably not far off from a kidnap victim’s attempts to shout through duct tape.
It didn’t take long for hype to build, bringing with it industry people at one of the band’s shows. “We were two songs in and I just walked off stage and got the train home,” remembers Jack – it turns out taking six Quaaludes before a gig wasn’t wise. From what Ben can recall, “Saul could barely stand up. He had a guitar around his neck but he was just plucking air.” Clams adds: “The whole thing got shut down. It was supposed to be the gig where all the industry came to see if we could actually be a proper band.”
You might be noticing a bit of a theme here. The band aren’t troublemakers as such; they aren’t trashing places or starting fights. It’s just their idea of inebriated fun can… well, it can bleed into the territory that constitutes other people’s nightmares. Over time, though, their gigs have grown more coherent, loaded with the fleshed-out songs that fill second album, Whale City. The record opens with woozy electronics as a spoken word track sets up the fictional city. Once inside this world we’re introduced to “Big Wilma” – “a call-girl who started killing unsuspecting johns with a flick-knife” – via frenetic garage rock. Then there’s the noisy funk-pop strut of “Standing on the Corner” which begins with a story of a man held at gunpoint. Tracks like “1000 Whispers” then almost act as palate cleansers, mellowing out into something that wobbles close to doo-wop.
Soon, I witness this live. After the band drain their drinks, we head inside a BBC waiting lounge, where gold discs and radio awards line the walls. The session that follows in the studio is not a get-thrown-out kind of set but a professional, charming, profanity-free one blending soul, pop and gritty garage. Riley gives the band a standing ovation and they in turn record him a jingle for him to use on the show. It seems the mayhem of Warmduscher is manageable. For now.
The band immediately move to play old man’s pub the Eagle Inn, where Clams comes across as much evangelical preacher as he does traditional frontman crossed with old-school showman. The crowd is a mix of beardy psych dudes here to see the next band, Here Lies Man, and teens keen to hear the next potential “hip” south London export.
Warmduscher don’t really associate with that part of the capital’s rising guitar scene, beyond proximity and playing Brixton pub-venue, the Windmill. “I don't really pay attention,” Clams says later. “I don't mean to be rude, I’ve just never really thought of what we do as guitar music – although I suppose it is.” That said, the band say they find an affinity with the likes of Meat Raffle, Black Midi and Good Sad Happy Bad (FKA Micachu and the Shapes). As the gig wraps up, Clams grins widely. How refreshing, I think, for a frontman to look so elated – then I hear him ask Ben: “You feeling it?” Ah, of course. They all dropped acid before the show.
Over pints, as Clams gets higher, he tells me about Whale City, the fictional backdrop for the new record, based loosely on 1970s New York – where he grew up – back when it was nicknamed Fear City. The album is an exploration of the squalid, sleazy and twisted. Yet while the band may capture a seedy underbelly, their music also feels joyous. Making Whale City “was the most fun recording experience I’ve ever had,” Ben tells me. With producer Dan Carey (Kylie Minogue, Franz Ferdinand, Bat For Lashes), the band bashed the album out over two days at mate’s rates. They did so with almost zero rehearsal (and a healthy amount of ketamine, according to Quinn) and unsure if Saul was going to turn up.
Warmduscher and this record really shouldn’t work. The project is the hurling together of a bunch of people who don’t rehearse and basically write their songs off live jam sessions. But it’s as though a chemical reaction occurs when each element collides. Unshackled from the expectations tied to many of the members’ other projects, Warmduscher is an outlet for their own personal experimentation. “When you're thinking less and just putting energy into it,” Clams says, “you end up having fun and that comes through on the record. We click through the sheer adrenaline and uncertainty of it all. There's never been any set motives or plans for the band.” He thinks for a moment, sipping Guinness, and adds, “I don't know why it works out. Maybe it's because we're a bunch of assholes and reprobates.”
The acid soon peaks and Clams decides to talk business with his record label boss but keeps making it halfway through a sentence before getting muddled or laughing hysterically. The droning Sabbath-like rock of Here Lies Man grinds away in the background and the driver is trying to round the band up to get them all in the van and back to London; it’s like herding lost, acid-fried sheep. Eventually they are all caught and bundled into the van as they disappear into the cold, dark Salford night – leaving behind them a trail of beautiful chaos.
Whale City is due out on 1 June via the Leaf Label.