Funny how things come in fits and spurts, isn’t it? At the moment Sheffield seems to have an endless conveyor belt of top notch indie acts lining up to follow in the footsteps of the Arctic Monkeys (think Milburn, Bromheads Jacket, the Long Blondes).

Cut to the Boardwalk, the Steel city’s musical nerve centre. It's Friday night and I'm sat back stage with Sheffield's latest hot tips, Little Man Tate. It's an hour or so before doors open for the sold-out Sheffield leg of their national tour. The atmosphere is relaxed and four more affable chaps you could not wish to meet. Roundly tipped by many to be the next Arctic Monkeys the band brush off the comparisons with unabashed modesty.


Lead singer and guitarist Jon Windle : Yeah, I can see the connections. We're from Sheffield and they're from Sheffield. We also recorded our demos at 2 Fly Studio. Plus we work at the Boardwalk....but they're better than us!

Bassist Ben Surtees : I don't think we sound anything like them.

I think I'm inclined to agree with them (about the not sounding like them bit!). On the eve of the release of debut single 'The Agent' on their own DIY 'Yellow Van' label, the number of pre-orders received by distributor Cargo records has reached frightening levels (in excess of 1,800 for what initially was going to be only a 500 pressing).

PB : That's impressive, eh?

Jon : I can't believe that!

Ben : People were saying "Oh, your releasing it on a limited edition" but we weren't. We just didn't think that many people would want to buy it.

Jon : The people at Cargo said "Look we really think you aught to do some more singles".

PB : How many are you doing now?

Jon : I honestly don't know. The pre-orders are up to 1,800.

PB : Presumably you will do enough in order to satisfy the demand?

Ben : Hopefully to finance another one - that's the idea.

PB : Are you particularly worried about whether you get signed up or not?

Ben : We're not really looking.

Jon : We honestly haven't looked. We think there are a few people who've had a sneaky peak at us but we've not looked.

Ben : Hopefully the plan is to release another single on our own.

Lead guitarist Maz : We're on a bit of a high at the moment, so it would be stupid just to leave it.

Jon : Even if we did sign a record deal there's no guarantees these days.

The lack of national record company backing has not prevented them from building up a fervent and loyal on-line fan base, known affectionately as the 'Master Taters', mainly off the back of some top-notch demos doing the rounds on the internet.

PB : Was it part of the master plan to put the demos out on the internet?

Jon : No, not at all. Basically it's down to this kid called Q who has come around with us on this tour. What happened was at our very first gig we did down here [at the Boardwalk], Q was in the audience with his girlfriend. We were supporting this metal band that went to school with her. We had this mailing list and were thinking "Let's try and build up a bit of a fan base" so we did it and he signed our mailing list and we gave a demo out that we did at Yellow Arch [Studios] and we gave it him and Q put it up on the Arctic Monkeys forum and then put it up on myspace.com and then we recorded another demo and we gave him that too.

Ben : It was a Tuesday and we were first band on and it was like a complete stroke of luck because he [Q] was there to watch his girlfriend's friend's band.

Maz : It has helped - all this file sharing and that.

PB : Is it a bit strange that you've not even released your single yet and you've got people in the crowd singing your lyrics?

Ben : Yes it is. I first noticed it in Stoke [last December] and a kid with a hat on was singing along and about half way through the set I just bent down and shook his hand and said "How do you know all the songs ?" and he said "I've been waiting to see you and been listening to you".

Jon : Manchester [Bierkeller] was weird. The stage was this high [not every high] and it was packed and the crowd went forward onto the monitors and then crowd surfed onto the stage. Once they were on stage we couldn't get them off and everything got broke!

PB : It's extremely refreshing to see a band that so visibly enjoyed playing live.

Jon: I just think "Why do people want to come and see us looking miserable?" We go out and we just want to have a laugh. We laugh 90% of the time."

PBM : You're not that different off stage to on stage are you really?

Dan the drummer : We just take our personalities onto stage with us.

Jon : I like that. He's [Dan] been thinking about that for ten minutes.

Dan the drummer was the last member to join the band. Previously Jon, Ben and main guitarist Edward 'Maz' Marrriot had played in bands together, getting through drummer after drummer.

PB : So was Dan the missing piece of the jigsaw?

Jon : I hope so. He's a good laugh and a good drummer.

PB : How did you find him?

Jon: Mel [Jon's girlfriend] gave me a ring and said "I've found you a drummer". It must have been late - about 11 o'clock or something, because she was out drinking.

Ben : I thought it was just some pissed up kid in a pub she'd met who'd said "I'll have a go on the drums".

Dan : Well, it were a bit!

Jon : He fits though. Whatever he's got, we've got the same things in common.

PB : Was it difficult for Dan coming into a band of three mates who've known each other for a long time?

Mazn: We've known each other since we were about nine.

Jon : And we've played football together since we were about seven or eight. He's a good laugh and a good drummer.

Ben : That's all that matters really.

Fans now travel from all over the UK to see the boys play. The band's wild live shows haven't gone unnoticed by the national music press and BBC Radio 1. They've now notched up major air-time on both Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq's shows, along with some very complementary live reviews in the NME.

And so to the music itself. Combining the lyrical wit of fellow Sheffielders Pulp and the duelling guitars of the Clash, Little Man Tate also bring to mind the likes of 'Parklife'-era Blur plus a whole host of other great British guitar bands. There's songs about cross-dressing footy hooligans ('Court Report'), arsonists ('Young Offenders') and fame-chasing bands ('Man I Hate Your Band').

PB : So do you know any cross-dressing footy fans?

Jon : it was like a headline in 'The Daily Sport' "Skin head cross dresser" or something like that. And it was like "Oh, let's mess about with that, let's make him a hooligan, a Leeds United fan."

Ben : We were walking down the Moor [in Sheffield] and we walked past these kids. They must have been 30, with tracksuit bottoms on, and one of them goes "As thou heard about Geoff, he's only gone and got himself Asboed". And we thought it would be great to write something about that - and he [Jon] had just read something about a skin head cross-dresser.

PB : What do you think has been the key factor that has brought about the massive change in fortunes compared with your previous bands?

Jon : I used to try and sing a little bit like John Power [of Cast and the Las fame].

Ben : We've also dampened the guitar sound down a bit too. I just thing Maz has got worse!

Dan : And obviously the drum patterns and rhythms are a lot better!

Jon : That's the thing that people notice straight away

Maz : The guitar sound is a bit rawer now. Also I think we're just listening to better music. We've got into things like Half Man Half Biscuit and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. We've also grown up a little bit.

And with that the interview's over and the band saunter off to get ready for tonight's gig. First time you've heard of Little Man Tate? Mark my words, you'll be hearing a whole lot more of this likeable Sheffield four-piece in the not too distant future.

Post script: since the interview was conducted, Little Man Tate have signed to V2 records and embark on an extensive UK tour during April and May culminating in a sell-out gig at London's 100 Club on Tuesday 23rd May.

The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Denzil Watson













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