They say we make our minds up about people in the first 10 seconds of meeting them; rarely do they change after this time has expired. Those casting eyes over the three members of Let’s Wrestle for the first time could easily jump to the wrong conclusions, pretty quickly.
Made up of Mohawk-sporting, 90’s nu-punk-looking drummer Darkus Bishop, the grunge-lite looking singer and guitarist Wesley Patrick Gonzalez and the immaculately groomed, and equally charming, bassist Mike Lightning, Let’s Wrestle do not look, sound or act like your everyday run-of-the-mill band.
Sat in the back of their tour van on a tiny Brighton street, talk turns to how they arrived at this point. There is some deliberation as to when they exactly formed, Mike offering a splintering, “We’ve said in so many interviews that it was 2006, but now suddenly everyone’s saying 2005”, only for Wesley to follow with a half sure, “That’s what it says on Wikipedia so I think we formed in 2005… I don’t know anything about us really, I had a brain haemorrhage a couple of years ago and now all I have is Wikipedia to rely on,” he jokes, half tired of being asked about Let’s Wrestle’s formation. It’s upped further by Mike continuing, “We had to make a Wikipedia site just for [Wesley], so he can go on it and it says your friends are…, this is where you live, you’ve got two dogs, that kind of stuff.”
So you can probably already tell, this is a band unafraid to laugh at either themselves or at others. They probably have an over fondness of speaking their minds, which occasionally lands them in hot water. It was during their first ever tour alongside Bromheads Jacket in the final third of last year that things became a little uncomfortable.
“They were bastards,” says Wesley “the only reason was boredom really – we were so bored of them and what they did, so we decided to muck about. We mucked about a bit too much really, Mike got arrested, we got kicked off the tour,” outlines the singer, who now realises that these actions have long-term consequences. “I didn’t realise it came across as more rock’n’roll than it was. Now I see on forums, Bromheads Jacket fans going “Those c**ts who tried to be rock ‘n’ roll”.
“When Mike got arrested it was quite funny. He stole 288 beers from Sainsburys. That’s quite funny. I’d want to keep that person on the tour if something like that happened. I remember we waited outside a venue, having got there early, and waited and refused to sound check; waited for 8 hours outside this venue and just made the soundman really pissed off and keep on coming out”
As he sums up Let’s Wrestle were “major brats”, Mike admits that if the tables were reversed he’d have been equally as unimpressed – “If we had a bratty little support band for the whole thing we’d kick off,” he says. “We’d say we don’t want to play with you.”
Shortly after, travels on the road with Fucked Up were a little different and went “surprisingly well”. With Wesley explaining, “we even had a hardcore song on that tour, just to fit in, called ‘Our Drummer’s A Fucking Punk’. We’ve stopped playing it now, it wasn’t really a hardcore song, just a little bit faster and louder.”
Earlier this year the band headed into the studio to start work on their debut album ‘In The Court of Wrestling, Lets’. Though its title takes inspiration from an old King Crimson record, the music found on it is the anthesis of everything prog stands for, recorded in less then 27 hours.
“[We did the album] under a Ukulele shop,” discloses Wesley “the only Ukulele shop in Europe, FACT! The only shop dedicated to Ukuleles,” he exclaims. “They’ve got a couple of Banjo’s and a couple of acoustic guitars. They’ve got a piano but you can’t buy it. Whenever we had to record the piano we had to close the shop for half an hour and bring all the microphones and stuff up. The sound is more lush than the EP [‘In Loving Memory of…’], which took 3 days to record. And there were quite a few tracks that we hadn’t played before we went in – pretty good for 27 hours work.”
“We only paid four hundred quid for the whole record,” Mike quips. But despite this the band had big ideas that needed to be realigned.
They adamantly say: “This first record, no matter how lo-fi it sounds, we wanted to have an orchestra on it.”
“We were talking for about two, maybe three months about putting horns on it,” remembers Wesley “but we don’t know any horn players really… the second album is going to be better though, it’s written and we’re going to start recording it pretty soon.
“The main instrumentation is from Mike, who does most of the other stuff, so Mike pushes us to put synthesisers on it, ukuleles and I remember we did a song and there was a honky tonk piano. I hate all that boogie woogie shit but Mike pushed it and it sounds really good actually.”
The props have come flooding in since ‘In The Court…’ was released last month. We gushed about its good humour and understated emotion in our previous issue, and many others have paid attention.
“We’re proud of the record, but weren’t expecting that many positive things,” says Wesley. “It’s really weird to have that. I don’t want to say we are the only band fighting a cause, but there is so little going on which is doing music positively, it’s more generic and drab, it’s become a very grey thing indie music, so when you do something a little bit different it gets picked up on.
“They’ve all been good reviews, but a lot are saying we are pretending to be bad musicians, but I think the musicianship on the record is good, of a high standard, we’re not pretending. All those punk bands that got big could play their instruments. It’s baloney when they say that they couldn’t. I could always play guitar and I think the second album will be a bit more self-indulgent.
“The other thing I don’t get is how people are saying it’s so lo-fi when there’s stuff like Daniel Johnson and Lou Barlow recordings which are really fucking lo-fi.”
Mike: “The first thing you wouldn’t say about a Daniel Johnson record is about how lo-fi it was. We really tried and got some good catchy little riffs and some really nice melodies.”
Though these are two of the hallmarks of indie music, the band don’t feel aligned with any such bracketing.
“I don’t feel like we fit in,” says Wesley. “It’s a really hard question, when people ask ‘What kind of a band are you?’ I’ve just been saying a punk band, as I won’t say Indie band now.”
“It means something else,” offers the quiet Darkus, regarding the ever-shifting meaning of the ‘indie’ tag. And with that his bandmates speed off on a passionate rant.
“Technically, Coldplay are an indie band,” begins Wesley “and they sound like Pink Floyd. Like Radiohead; I really don’t like Radiohead, they sound like fucking prog music! That’s not fucking indie! I don’t like them, bloody hell, I don’t like them.
“So we tried to come up with a few different names for us – one was Flaccid Jazz, one was Scuzz rock. There’s nothing, I’m not saying that we aren’t describable, but I don’t want to be put in a category. We were at this festival yesterday – Hop Farm – and I was looking round and was just like, ‘I hate Indie music, I just fucking hate it!’”
Mike’s turn. “In the true meaning of the sense we make Indie music,” he justifies. “Indie in the eighties, punk in the seventies and we’re grunge in the nineties, but if you say we’re an Indie Punk Grunge band, it just looks like Razorlight mixed with Greenday, so it’s really fucking hard to describe”
To put the heated tirade to an end, Wesley quips, “when we were at school it was ‘Grunger, grunger, you’re a fucking grunger’, so we’re a grunge band.”
Like with any bands inspired by the original grunge/slacker movement, Let’s Wrestle have a DIY ethic, even though Mike maintains that a lot of the time this was born out of necessity, purely as they “can’t afford to do it any other way”.
There are no big backers trying to shove Let’s Wrestle into the spotlight as tomorrow’s next bright young thing, but despite the restraints, Wesley maintains that they do have high ambitions.
“There is a time when we’d like to have lions on stage with us or something, we have a lot of ideas like that. We did a gold 7” for the single before the album and I remember going to the label and saying we wanted it in frames, like how you get gold discs. We wanted a hundred gold vinyl in frames that you couldn’t listen to unless you broke the glass and it coming with a little hammer. That was the original idea, it was just an idea, we never thought they would go for it and they turned round and said they’ll do gold vinyl.
As they’ve already said (sorry, ranted) though, it’s never one thing or the other with Let’s Wrestle. It’s all bling releases one minute, and confessions of self-management the next.
“We’ve only just got a manager,” they say “we’d always done it ourselves, never had an agent. We’d always work out sleeping on floors and stuff. I find it more interesting to do that anyway. If you’re in the same hotel room in a Travelodge every night, I think you’ll find it a lot easier to get really fucking sick of each other as well. In a lot of ways being a DIY band is a lot more fun.”
“Even if we got huge all of a sudden, I’d rather do something like this, sleep in a shitty van with beds built in as opposed to going to a hotel every night,” says Mike. “I watched The Fratellis at Hop Farm festival. They had a revolving guitar rack with loads of guitars in it, if we ever got to the stage where we could afford a guitar rack, we’ll just fill it with the same guitar ten times.”
Wesley: “We’re trying to break through, we’re going to be the next Lily Allen, a melody monster. We’re going to go back to America quite soon, hit the euro scene, try and do another tour over here, set up a label, start doing the second album, do an EP before the second album, a lot of stuff … For the two years before this album came out, we were just stumbling along, not having any plans whatsoever. We had a meeting before this tour where we worked everything out that we’re going to do over the next year. It’s going to be fucking huge.”
Loud And Quiet needs your help
The COVID-19 crisis has cut off our advertising revenue stream, which is how we’ve always funded how we promoted new independent artists.
Now we must ask for your help.
If you enjoy our articles, photography and podcasts, please consider becoming a subscribing member. It works out to just £1 per week, to receive our next 6 issues, our 15-year anniversary zine, access to our digital editions, the L&Q brass pin, exclusive playlists, the L&Q bookmark and loads of other extras.