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Wouldn’t want to meet this lot in a dark woods…
This is Sandweaver, a rock band that has been on the verge of a breakthrough for several years. They’re a nice bunch of lads who hope that a new album released in April, Making Maps, will be successful.

Who do we have then?
There’s drummer John Hickling, bassist Tom Pople, singer/guitarist Matt Sweet and guitarist Johnny Stubbs, who kindly let us tear apart the garden at his Ashington home for the photo shoot!

Did you say Sandweaver have had some minor success already?
They have. They’re well known on the local circuit, but they also have fans in Canada. That all came about after their song ‘Mending’ was used in a popular TV show called Degrassi, a sort of watered-down Skins for Canadian teens.

I’m guessing it’s a tear-jerker…
It’s a searing anthem and comfortably the most immediately infectious song on the band’s first album, Invasion. ‘Mending’ has picked up more than 25,000 listens on YouTube. The most ‘liked’ comment is ‘Who’s here because of Degrassi?’

Must be a nice feeling…
It gave the band real encouragement. Matt said: “We had been trying to get out there and be heard for so long so it gave us a real boost when someone said one our songs was good enough for television.  It triggered a trend and we got a few more little bits – Back into the Middle was used by the Tommy Hilfiger website in New York.”

Is that a new track?
Back into the Middle was released on iTunes as a taster single for the second album, which will be launched at Worthing Pavilions on 20th April. You can view the excellent video of the song on YouTube.

What’s the story of Sandweaver then?
It goes back to 2003, when Johnny and fellow ex-Brighton Institute of Modern Music (BIMM) student John went to a gig in Brighton. They saw Matt playing some of his own songs. Matt recalls: “I was in a band with someone else, but all he did was play Jimi Hendrix songs. Then I got together with Johnny and John. We had a different bass player at the time, also called John, so it was confusing for me for a time!”  Then Shaun Ryder changed everything…

The Happy Mondays singer?
The one and only. One of Sandweaver’s first gigs was a support slot for the ‘Step On’ singer at what was Rutherford’s nightclub in Worthing. From then on, Sandweaver began working more as a collective force, rather than it being effectively Matt and his backing band.

What kind of sound do they have?
Johnny said: “You had bands like Coldplay and Snow Patrol that were big at around that time, but I remember Matt was really into PJ Harvey. That was a big influence on his writing early on and I think he has carried that through. We all draw things off  many different bands. I learnt a lot from bands like Coldplay. I don’t think much of their music now, but at the time Parachutes was out I could hear the melodic lines going through the songs and that gave us an idea of what we eventually wanted the band to sound like.”

Then an album followed?
The band’s debut, Invasion, came out in 2008 with Tom now having taken over on bass. Highlights of the album
included Shot Down and Mending. Tracks were recorded at Northbrook College in Worthing, but it took a long time to complete, because of tinkering…

Was the producer a perfectionist?
No, the band just couldn’t leave it alone! Matt said: “We kept going back individually to add new parts and in the end we had a good sound – we are all happy with Invasion – but it was over-produced and that was down to our inexperience. Now we write as a band and the sound is more complete.”

Sometimes less is more…
Indeed. Tom said: “It’s difficult to know when to stop recording and realise that enough is enough. Because we weren’t paying for studio time we kept changing Invasion and there are times when the songs are a bit overcooked. For Making Maps we’ve sorted that and it’s been great having a producer who is able to give constructive input.”

So they are happier with the new album?
Matt describes it as a patchwork of styles, with the album touching on a lot of different genres. Recorded at Black Wookie Studios in Lancing, it’s again a well-polished record with a distinctive guitar-driven sound. Coldplay remains the most obvious reference point, but there are nods to bands such as Muse and The Enemy too.

But are they bringing anything new to the table?
When listening to the album, it is obvious that Sandweaver are very good – it’s clean, neatly produced, excellently played and if it came on the radio you wouldn’t think anything was amiss. But you may ask yourself if they have that extra something needed to make a breakthrough. Where’s that hook that might persuade music lovers that Sandweaver are worth investigation? For us it arrived on track seven…

Folk Disco? Techno Harp?
Track seven is Closing Up, an excellently executed slice of American country rock, the likes of which Jack White has made a good living from with The White Stripes. Bands like The Civil Wars are picking up a fanbase on such sounds. Other than it not coming with a video of a man in jean dungarees on a swinging porch chair, it sounds like a hit.

Now the band just needs a break…
Which is not easy, and nobody is handing out many deals to rock bands at the moment. Tom said: “It’s all changed in recent years. Bands can now record a song on a PC at home, and you have channels such as YouTube where you can get noticed without even gigging. But whilst it’s easier to get a song seen there are so many more bands now that it is so much harder for anyone to take notice.”

That must be frustrating?
As Johnny points out, if every one of the 25,000 people who watched ‘Mending’ on YouTube bought the record, the band could have a career in music! He said: “Many times we have felt we were at a level that was close to being able to go out there and play with some bigger bands. It’s quite frustrating because every time we play we get good feedback, and not just from our mates and family.”

But they’re not giving up?
Not in the slightest. The band recently played a support slot for Turin Brakes and now they are looking to play a number of gigs this summer. Johnny said: “We’re hoping to play Beach Dreams in Shoreham, which is growing each year and is a great day out.” Matt added: “Primarily, we have to do some more viral campaigns and promote ourselves on the internet.”

Maybe their time will come yet…
Time will tell, but already they look to be heading along a more acoustic route, having recorded unplugged sessions at St Paul’s Church in Worthing. Matt said: “If we had more money, then we could devote more time to the band. But we can’t, so I think for us it’s going to be a longer story. We’ve just to keep at it and see what happens.”

How can I find out more?
The band has a good website at www.sandweaver.co.uk and here you can listen to the first song on Making Maps, Protest (one of the highlights of the record). There is also a video of the band playing a promising new track called All of You at St Paul’s Church. If you like what you hear, the band would love to welcome you to the Making Maps launch night on 20th April.

Sandweaver (Pic: Toby Phillips)

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