An Interview With: Ethan Tate of Tate
"It was the most phenomenal show I've ever seen in my entire life."
Essex trio Tate deliver an optimistic approach to contemporary indie, and with frontman Ethan's admirable work ethic, their ambitious demanour doesn't seem so unrealistic. Fans of Coldplay or Keane should take a look, for they may find redemption in the group's new 6-track EP, I Found A Place.
I hurry to the Half Moon pub in Rayleigh to find Ethan Tate grinning in the corner. I curse my poor time management but I am grateful for his relaxed nature. He notices my phone background of Ian Curtis and we quickly obsess over Joy Division, and how Curtis has influenced Tate to become more energetic on stage. “It’s like he’s actually being electrocuted,” he starts. “It’s awful, but fascinating to watch.”
We begin by discussing the singer’s heavy, alternative background. “I didn't like the response of the crowd to an unsigned, post-hardcore band. When you're not famous in that genre, no one turns up to a show,” he says. “I was quite young then, about 13 or 14, so people that age will come along, but they're not interested in the music or what the show is about. They're more interested in getting drunk underage with their mates.”
I ask about the rest of Tate and their history, which unravels surprising influences in Ryan Adams and John Mayer. “They like the guitar stuff but they love playing our music and they love the genre. They don’t have the same taste as me though.” I also mention that Tate is similar to Bon Jovi or Van Halen in terms of name, although not in genre: “We’re Tate mainly because I got the group together and I write the songs, plus it's a punchy name and I didn't want flaky band members to come and take a piece of my hard work. That being said, having Huw and Guy with me is what makes the journey possible - we're Tate in name only. Maybe I would have had ‘Ethan Tate’ and have a backing band, but I don't like my full name that much!” He jokes.
It’s apparent now that one of the local drunkards has queued about six Rod Stewart songs on the jukebox, and we are conducting our little interview right by the speaker, much to my dismay - I despise Rod Stewart. Not only that, but I woefully know I’ll be forced to listen to him again once I begin transcribing. My interviewee finds this particularly amusing.
I pry into the group’s composition. “I met Huw on joinmyband.com because I couldn’t find anyone local - it was really hard to find musicians that were on the same wavelength. We met up in London and actually got quite pissed, and he was completely onboard with everything. I sent him some demos and he loved it, so I told him I would get the rest of the band together first, so he was sweet; he was in the book.” He pauses to sip his beer. He’s driving, so it’s all half measures. “I found Guy maybe a month later. I'm going through Gumtree and see this bloke with a bass guitar, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, Guy… he looks pretty cool, I can see him being part of our lineup’ so I messaged him and we went for a pint. But he came from like an Americana background, so it was a proper change for him.”
Tate do not sound anything close to Americana, nor do they feel like a solo act with a sheepish backing group. Their latest EP, I Found A Place, features an interesting collection of alt-rock guitar riffs, uplifting vocals and millennial whoops. “I found a drummer and a piano player as well,” he continues. “The drummer came to one practice and then was like, ‘Oh, I'm in another band now’, but the piano player; I fired him a week before our live session at the Broom Cupboard because he kept fucking up the piano on really crucial bits. But in the practice in London, we played a couple of tracks that haven't been released, but we played ‘Future’ and we all stopped like, ‘Something's going on here!’”
It seems clear that once the three got together, interplay was abound. On the topic of how that worked with the EP, he says, “It was a long time coming. Tracks like ‘Breathless’ and ‘Chase Me’ were written maybe a month before recording, but the others were already done. I like to set big challenges, like with the Broom Cupboard session - that was filmed after just four rehearsals of being together. We were shitting it, but it came out alright.”
Of course, we get onto the inevitable topic of current influences, which leads us down a slightly embarrassing and yet somewhat justified revelation, at least for the frontman. “I reckon I'm probably the only person that will say it, but Coldplay. They are a massive influence. Foals too and there are others as well, like Bonobo with their downtempo beats. That sort of vibe is shown in our own ‘Let It Out’ and also on an intro of one of our unreleased songs, which has a downtempo, almost house-like beat. But yeah, I definitely owe it all to Coldplay.” Intrigued, I press further. “I saw them two years ago, at Wembley Stadium. It was sold out with like 90,000 people and I was right at the front and it was the most phenomenal show I've ever seen in my entire life, and I've seen so many shows. I went home and I wrote ‘Future’ in like an hour. That's why it’s the one that will get slated for sounding like Coldplay. I wouldn't be ashamed of that influence if I was a bit bigger!”
While it’s clear Coldplay’s influence is stemmed from performance, I ask about the songwriting process within Tate, having noticed a lot of their lyrics revolve around time, progression and reflection. “I've probably written about 500 songs with that ideology. I mean, I've been through a lot of heavy shit just like everyone else has, but I'm quite lucky to still be alive, so I’m glad I realised at a young age that I needed to get out of doing stupid shit. I want to appeal to everyone, but also to younger people or people in trouble, with the message that no matter how much is going on, there’s always a positive somewhere. It's about realising that before it fucks you up.”
As the echoes of Rod Stewart thankfully fade out, I pick apart the reasoning of I Found A Place as the EP title. “It's the only name I could think of!” he laughs. “Every track is about finding a better place, whether it's for someone else or for me, like in ‘Future’, towards the end of the song it’s about seeing you with a loved one and ending up in a positive place. You’re tangled up in your thoughts thinking, ‘Will this train ever stop?’ But you get through all the shit and find a better place. I really wish I saved it as an album title though - I'm a bit gutted about that! I think it's a good name, but I've got a plan up my sleeve for next time.”
Speaking of what’s next, Tate’s ambitions are loud and clear. “I’ve had hundreds of goals set up in my mind since I walked home from Coldplay. I want to sell out stadiums. It’s so ambitious, but you've got to set big goals. I've got small goals too, going from getting the band to do a live session within four practices, to getting 500 T-shirts pressed, even asking myself, ‘Can I host our debut show all by myself with no support?’ And I did. Money is not a motivation whatsoever - I couldn't care less about how much money I get. At the minute, I’m thousands of pounds in debt, but with our very first Chinnery’s show, I broke even in the end.”
Tate return to Chinnery’s in Southend this Saturday with their ‘Summer Party’. The frontman laughs when I bring up the name: “Well, who doesn't want to go to a summer party! It's exactly that. It’s summer, so everyone should get involved, we’ve got a DJ; it just brings more of a friendly atmosphere to us and the venue and it opens doors to a wider audience.” We finish up just before the last bell rings, and wrap up the conversation informally in true pub fashion with comments on Joy Division, politics and the UK’s education system.
Despite a turbulent past, Tate is bringing an optimistic touch to indie music, and with recognition from radio DJs and his evidently tireless work ethic, his name is sure to become known to many in the underground music scene.