Playing in drag and swinging


More than friends, Willard de Witt and Dan Hills play in drag and are soon to swing

When you’re young, finding Friendship can be as simple as who you sit next to in Maths. As you get older it evolves into a jumble of work mates, uni mates and those people you drunkenly ramble to at parties whose names you can’t quite recall. Search hard enough and you’ll find the two-man unit Friendship. Cramming ourselves into a busy Leeds bar we discuss drunken antics at Abbey Road, Ringo versus McCartney and the logistics of playing the drums in a dress.

With the theatrically named Willard deWitt on guitar, bass and loops, and Dan Hills on drums and vocals, the band met for the first time in Dublin when Dan’s old band, Redjetson, supported Bloc Party.

Will fidgets while Dan pauses constantly to fiddle with a ring of a snarling wolf on his right hand, bought from a shop frequented by Nikki Sixx. He smiles: “I was a bit of a metaller when I was younger,” adding “the first band I ever saw that got me excited about rock music was Alice in Chains. They looked so cool; they had long blonde hair rocking out in front of the stage. I thought, I gotta get into rock music!”

“Gotta get long blonde hair,” Will interrupts.

“Then I got some little crappy guitar for Christmas and that was it,” continues Dan.

Will takes his influences from the grungier end of the spectrum, courtesy of Nirvana and “loads of horrible skate punk bands like NOFX and Blink 182.”

Their latest release, ‘Lifeguard’ (a split single with New Zealand band Die! Die! Die!), was mastered at Abbey Road and they made the most of the fanboy experience.

“It was really exciting!” says Will. “We got pretty pissed afterwards, broke into a couple of the studios and ran around.”

“We did all the pictures on the zebra crossing,” says Dan.

Will: “The wrong way round!”

You could always Photoshop yourselves onto the original.

“Shotgun John Lennon,” laughs Dan “you can be McCartney.”

“I’d rather be Ringo than Paul McCartney,” moans Will.

“Well, then shotgun Paul McCartney,” decides Dan “he’s definitely got more money!”

Live, Friendship are a chaotic whirl of drums, hair and insanely catchy, melodic hooks, stretching themselves from ‘Graveyard Shift’’s macabre mix of thrashing guitars and frenetic loops to ‘High Horse’’s swooning drone. They rehearse by night below an abandoned photographic studio.

Currently hard at work, writing their debut album, they also make occasional appearances as party band Peanut Rutter. Dan explains: “I’m playing guitar and singing and Willard takes drum duty so we swap around. It’s shockingly bad, so we rarely come out of the woodwork.”

They are also about to take part in the Great Drag Race raising money for Prostate Cancer. It’s not completely altruistic though…

”I’m going to race it,” says Dan “I swear to god. I’m going into the gym, I’m going to start training.”

Will squirming in the background: “How far is it?”

Dan: “10K, It’s like an hour’s run.”

Will: “An HOUR’S run?! I don’t think I could run for 5 minutes.” Will pauses. “Alright, I’ll do it,” he says. “Only you know what, I’m going to beat him! It’s on!”

“We’re playing a gig that night,” explains Dan “but we have to play in drag. I’ll have to make sure my skirt’s not riding too high, sitting on the drum stool. I’m hoping to wear nice underwear!”

Will: “Yeah crotchless!”

“I’m going the whole hog,” says Dan. “Nice little peephole bra.”

Currently the pair play and record as a two-piece, with Dan as the main songwriter, though they are considering adding to their lineup soon.

“There’s a lot of limitations for bands that play as a two-piece,” explains Dan. “They’re kind of strapped down to their instruments. Check back in a years time we’ll have something.”

Over the past year, Friendship have sat in support slots for a wide range of bands, from The Futureheads and Future of the Left to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Youthmovies last ever show.

“Youthmovies were my favourite band for so many years,” says Dan “cos I used to go on tour with them with my previous band. It was the first tour we’d both ever done, so we really connected.”

“The Yeah Yeah Yeahs was our 14th show and was pretty much peeing your shorts time!” says Will.

Dan: “They got all the set times wrong. We thought we’d got loads of time and then all of a sudden some guy knocks on the door, and is like, ‘You’re on!’. We had to literally run onto the stage not knowing what we were doing, quite embarrassing.”

More embarrassing than playing in a dress?

Dan and Will: “Yes!”

By Kate Parkin


Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010

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