LICE’s method of writing is a little unconventional, especially Alistair’s approach towards lyrics, which, he explains, was borne out of the writers’ block he experienced when he first joined the band.
“What I do isn’t really melody based,” he says. “It’s more about kind of, like, rhythm. So originally, in the early days, I didn’t really know what I wanted to write about; I didn’t really have any ideas for lyrics. I’d try writing lyrics and they were always fucking terrible. Like these guys said they were good, but they didn’t fit properly. And so for a long time I was so discouraged. I’d turn up to practices and wouldn’t want to be like, ‘sorry I don’t have any lyrics’ – I didn’t want them to find out – so I’d hold the microphone dead close to my mouth and just slur and make phonetic sounds, and add loads of reverb and stuff because there was a mixer in the practice room. And these guys didn’t know.
“I’d always record on my phone and afterwards these guys were like, ‘Oh I couldn’t really hear what you were saying but it sounds good man.’ I’d get back home and literally just have noted down in dots and dashes where to put the syllables and stuff. So I’d be like, ok, if that line has seven syllables and I add the stress there and there, it doesn’t really matter what I say. As long as it fits in there it’ll sound good. I was really, really into the Teasers and I wanted to have a go at writing satirical stuff, so after months of not having lyrics for this song I wrote the lyrics in half an hour. And ever since then that’s basically been it. These guys play a song, I record it in practice, go home, work it out, come back.”
Silas nods. “In terms of music in general, Gareth will have an idea for a bass riff, I’ll have an idea for a song and we just give it time. We don’t tend to jump in straight away. Obviously with Bruce we’ll jam out a bit, but we don’t tend to jump in straight away. I find if I walk away from a practice and I hear an idea and I’m still thinking about it when I get home, that’s the point where ok, maybe I want to do something with this. We’re good at letting things sit.”
It’s an approach that appears to be working. Their first single, ‘Human Parasite’, received airtime on Radio 1 after its release on new label Big Score and was described by the music blog Vapour Trail as “one of the most exciting things to happen in the history of Western art.” (“And we don’t even think he was taking the piss! He fucking loves our song.”)
“What I’ve learned is that you can spend months honing a song in your bedroom and think it’s perfect, and you release it and no one will listen to it,” Silas shrugs. “But if you know people who know people it’ll get played on Radio 1 and it’s fucking awesome. And you kind of think it’s amazing but do I deserve this?”
After graduating university in a month or so, the LICE boys plan to spend a year working on music. They’re touring the festival circuit this summer and then they’ll be gigging and writing, although they are circumspect about making any big plans. “We’re gonna try and do the band basically. I didn’t think we’d even play a gig or write a song, so it’s a constant surprise that anyone wants to come and see us.”
After our interview, Silas, Bruce and Gareth will head home to revise for their final exams, and Alistair, I presume, will sleep off the remainder of his hangover. “Anything else?” I ask, draining the dregs of my drink before we leave. Gareth smiles, lifting my dog from his lap. “Yeah,” he says. “Shout out to Edna for keeping spirits up today.”