Last month, the inboxes of the music press got a gracefully worded goodbye from Let’s Wrestle. Wesley Gonzalez, Louis Scase and Mike Hankin were splitting up after ten years. The beloved North London band, if you missed the farewell show at the 100 Club last Friday, are out of your life forever.
Early singles and a debut EP were devoured by a Libertines-primed public’s craven lust for young male guitarists. They signed to Merge still barely shaving. In that context, flights of wild abandon and monstrous creative egos were forgivable and, clothed in a precociously developed sense of ironic distance, they fueled extensive US tours, three albums and a blog called ‘Let’s Wrestle Explains it All.’
Before Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, the DIY group’s singer, songwriter and leader, now twenty-four, leaves to become a serious grown up artist in his own right, I have juiced him for these extremely candid reflections on a decade doing the indie rock trip.
“The thought of Let’s Wrestle is just the taste of Lynx in my mouth.”
I remember Louis [Let’s Wrestle’s drummer who also went by the name Darkus Bishop] buying three cans of Special Brew before his first GCSE exam, to see if he could smuggle it in. I think it was music, because we both got so pissed before we did the music exam. We were so cocky, like, ‘We’ve got this down! We’ve released a single.’
We used to go and see bands like Part Chimp and Hunting Lodge at the Barfly when we were at school. My main memory is being at Mike Hankin’s house [aka Mike Lightning – bass], at about fourteen, drinking three litres of White Ace and realising you could get high from huffing aerosols. The thought of Let’s Wrestle is just the taste of Lynx in my mouth. It was fun but it was horrible.
It wasn’t until we went to see Dinosaur Jr. at one of those ATP shows – we had been doing stupid, fucking folky songs that were bollocks – we decided, ‘Oh, fuck it – we’ll try and do it like that.’ The only thing I ever wanted to do was to release one seven-inch. Then we did that and just carried on. I sort of expected I’d go to university but I never did.
“This is a fucking psychopath thing to do…”
Of everybody I know who’s a musician, Let’s Wrestle is the only band I know that got kicked off a tour, really properly. It was this tour with Bromheads Jacket. We were fucking everything up. We would go and drive to the venue early. This is a fucking psychopath thing to do: everybody knew that we were there but we wouldn’t leave the car until five minutes before going on stage. We’d pull up, and we had a TV taped to the dashboard, and we’d watch TV, drink and drink and watch TV until somebody came out from the venue and went, ‘you need to play.’ We’d load all the stuff in, in five minutes, then play, load it all out, and fuck off.
They didn’t like us either. We all realised it was a really big mistake and, I can’t remember what it was, but Bromheads Jacket phoned up and went: ‘They’re dropped from the tour; we’re not doing anything more with them; they’re complete fucking nutcases.’
Because I was always in charge I had to keep some scope of it but my view of things was very askew. I let stuff happen where it really shouldn’t have done, like the time Mike Hankin stole two-hundred-and-eighty-eight beers from Sainsbury’s in Camden. It’s ludicrous, the shit we fucking did. There’s one thing that I can’t say – I genuinely can’t, because they’ve already got in contact with me, and it’s like a criminal investigation – Hahahahaha! They’ve already got in contact and I managed to fob my way out of it, but I can’t bring it up again.
I think that was the only time I genuinely ever thought it’s gone too far, and that we needed to calm down. That was just before the first record, so the first record is really well done. After that it was always more serious, but it was also still fucking very poorly run – I was in charge for such a long time!
“America is so weird’
Mike Holsworth [the Secretly Canadian and former Matador UK bigwig] got involved and helped us out when we signed to Merge – did all the contract stuff and got us a lawyer and stuff like that. He got involved because I was being uncontrollable and I was trying to do it while also being off my nut. Then, yeah, we toured shit loads in America – it was fucking horrible. Fun but also fucking weird. You know how everybody in England does American accents, like in every conversation, everyone does an American accent at one point, it’s just a given thing. And nobody ever says, when you’re at a party, ‘Can you do an Irish accent?’. But at American parties they’re always, like, ‘Can you do an American accent? Can you do my accent? Because I’ve never even bothered trying your accent, because you’re tiny and who gives a shit?’ But: ‘Wow, you can do an American accent?! You should just speak like this all the time!’ Like, what the fuck? It’s mental. America is so weird.
We went to SXSW and met up with the people from Merge, just after we signed with them. The first day I got sunstroke, instantly, as soon as I walked out of the fucking plane. I spent the rest of the week in the hotel. Texas at ten in the morning, they were showing Anchorman and, not like it’s my favourite film ever, but when you could go out and get more sunstroke or you could sit in bed… That’s where that song ‘I’m So Lazy’ came about. They were all going out and I had to stay in the hotel the whole time. They’d come back and there would be piles and piles of shit around me, while I was just watching TV, doing fuck all.
“I got up and tried to push him off a roof”
Fucked Up had their own stage at SXSW and we’d been on tour with them, so we went and saw this covers band that Thurston Moore did with J Mascis, Jonah from Fucked Up and a few other, like, punk celebrities. There was this concrete floor. Mike was getting a drink by the side or something and me and Louis were really going for it, and somebody knocked me and broke my glasses. I smacked my head against the floor and Mike, on his way back from the bar, had gotten into a conversation with Bill Murray – taking photos with him, drinking margaritas, trying to get Bill Murray to phone his Dad.
I was really fucking out of it, really drunk but also concussed, and I went up and was like, ‘Can I have a photo with you, Bill Murray?’ and he’s like, ‘NO. You can have the rest of my Tequila, Bye!’ like that, and fucked off.
I think me and Mike, by this point, were on a knife edge; could go either way, be the best friends or fucking hate each other. We were driving through somewhere in Oregon where the tour manager’s parents lived. I was vegetarian at the time, and they cooked this big beef stew and I was like, ‘can’t eat it’, and it was instantly awkward, and they were talking to Mike. They wouldn’t stop saying he sounded like Alan Rickman, and Mike was going, ‘Oh, you can’t understand how much this means to me, you saying I sound like Alan Rickman, this is amazing,’ to which I was like, ‘Oh fuck off, you cunt.’
We played the Bowery Ballroom in New York and he got off with this girl, and then insisted that we all go back to a party at her house and we went onto the roof. Me and Mike were having such a bad time and I heard him talking about someone I knew to somebody and it pissed me off, and I got up and tried to push him off a roof. The tour manager grabbed me and put me in a cab and took me to this apartment we were staying in and I was so full of adrenaline I read three books in one night, avidly trying to get my mind off of what had just happened, that I’d just nearly pushed one of my best friends off a roof. Obviously, Mike ended up leaving around that sort of same time, like just after we finished the record.
“I’m fucking Brian Wilson, you will do what I say!”
The third [eponymous] record was weird because I had decided I needed to make some sort of mature music or something. I suppose it started me thinking that I need to do my own stuff, but I didn’t realise it then. The third record is the most my own. I could control everything else but Louis was his own thing. I’d go ‘Can you play with towels on the drums?’ and he’d go, ‘Can you shut the fuck up, you cunt?’
I came in with a Sound Map, which is what I was calling it, I think. This A2 piece of brown paper where I had done every song: what I wanted on it, what I wanted it to sound like, references that I had. Everybody, when they’d played their part or sang, had to tick it off afterwards. Shit like that, it was really regimented. It was insane. You do your part, you tick it off, done! It’s done. Incredibly sort of particular about everything, which I’m sure had a lot to do with me getting really into coke at that time. I was like: ‘That’s done, that’s done, that’s done – you do what I say. I know what I’m doing. I’m fucking Brian Wilson, you will do what I say!’ I really like that record but it doesn’t sound like a Let’s Wrestle record I don’t think.
“Rain Ruins Revolution”
I think I sort of knew the whole time I wasn’t going to do another record after it. On the new [solo] stuff, I’ve stopped playing guitar completely and I just play piano and synthesizer and it’s got loads of saxophones on it – like fucking Todd Rundgren pop music, like fucking full on. I want the genre of my new music to be – The Tory’s Second Term. That’s what I want it to be called, I’ll be playing my music and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, he’s playing Tory second term music’
I wrote ‘Rain Ruins Revolutions’ after the riots, when they kicked off in Tottenham and Brixton and Hackney. I was staying at my Mum’s for a few days, and me and my stepdad were talking, going, ‘If it rained, this would just stop, they would stop and be like, ‘Oh, it’s raining. Oh no!’’
They’re going around looting the place, thinking they’re the bee’s knees. The thing is both those riots, one by a bunch of middle class cunts and one by a bunch of working class cunts, they’re both shit – they are both completely shit. Both of them completely achieved nothing and both sets of them, if it started raining, would’ve gone, ‘I need to go home.’ That’s the generation we live in. It’s a moribund state of affairs. ‘Oh yeah, big shot! I’m gonna go and fucking smash up JD sports!’ or ‘Big shot! I’m gonna go and knick all my books from the library.’ The knob heads.
Every option is shit, and there seems like nothing I can do, in any way, to express my opinion on this stuff. I would go on a protest if I thought I could physically do anything to fucking change it. I’ve just decided to not give a fuck about anything. Part of me is like, ‘oh it was a lot better when Labour were in,’ and I know that, but it wasn’t ideal. I don’t understand how I could help it in any way. I’ve got no idea, because I’m one of the people who’s like, ‘Oh no! This is fucking terrible! This is terrible!’ and I don’t know what the fuck to do but I’m just so fucking furious all the time. There’s nothing more I can say than that.