Manchester quartet Weimar stand out from the current wave of Manchester guitar bands by creating an ambiance that harks back to a time before alternative music or even rock and roll itself existed. Mining a time period in Europe’s history that saw great sociological, cultural and artistic turmoil and innovation for their musical inspiration, the band fuses and Art Rock sensibility with the raw passion of an accessible yet spiky indie-infused sound. We asked Aidan from the band to tell us more about what makes them tick.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What’s the story behind Weimar and how would you describe your sound?
Overall, I’d describe us as an Art Rock band, we value experimentation and spontaneity above everything. Weimar is Johann Kloos on lead guitar, John Armstrong on bass and Anthony Edwards – best known as ‘Eddy’ – on drums. And, of course, me on vocals and rhythm guitar.
I couldn’t really describe our sound in one definitive way as we experiment with quite a lot of different sounds and styles – we’ve got some songs with a post-punk feel, others which are influenced by European cabaret and French chanson, some with a funk sound and bits of reggae, some with a blues feel and some that are almost prog rock in sound. We let the songs guide us; play what the songs want rather than start with a particular formula.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
We’re very inspired by the Weimar Republic era in 1920s Germany – hence the band name! It was a period of history when art and individual expression really flourished in between totalitarian states, and although Germany was in severe financial crisis at the time (“Dancing on a Volcano” as Gustav Stresemann famously described) and facing all manner of hardship and the threat of war, artists and performers had a freedom of expression they had previously lacked, and as a result music, cabaret, film, theatre and all other art forms really flourished, giving the era a reputation for decadence, hedonism and rebellion.
That is the centrepiece of our aesthetic really – artistic freedom and rebellion in the face of hardship and governmental oppression. It’s something we need more than ever in our current times, with the rise of the far right, Trump in America and censorship running amok; the music industry has been seriously homogenised by the X Factor mentality and big business, so our central aesthetic is a big retaliation against that with a nod to history.
How did the band get together? I know some of you have solo projects both in music and in other fields.
The band had its roots in when Johann and I began jamming together five years ago, exploring our musical chemistry by putting together ambient jams. We recorded a few of these and played a few gigs under the name The Bus Pass with Brian Benson on drums. These were purely ambient psychedelic instrumental jams; we would feed entirely off the crowd at each show and as a result things were very spontaneous – each gig took us somewhere completely different.
A short while later I began writing new songs and was regaining my songwriting inspiration for the first time after the split of my previous band (The Bacillus) and Johann and I began to look towards doing something based around more concrete songs as opposed to jams. We worked on these together in his flat and later John came on board to play bass after he and I met at a Manchester Music Industry Networking Event. We played some acoustic gigs as Weimar, and later Eddy joined us on drums to complete the line-up.
We all have other projects on the go and have been in numerous different bands – I played guitar in Black Light Mutants for a while and play the occasional solo acoustic gig, and also do writing and poetry. Johann is a prolific solo artist with many albums to his name and he also plays in The Sandells and does some painting. John is lead singer and guitarist with The Speed of Sound, whose most recent album Everything Changes gained rave reviews, and he’s also a radio presenter and occasional music critic. Eddy is a very prolific painter and does some amazing visual artwork.
What’s your usual song writing and production process like? Are there specific roles assigned to band members, or do you swap and change roles more organically?
Usually I write the bare bones of the songs on my guitar together with lyrics, and then I bring them to the rest of the band, and we build on them and improvise, adding something new in each rehearsal. It all feels a very organic process as rehearsals are usually very spontaneous; each of us adds something new and suggests different ideas we can try out.
The songs usually wind up sounding quite different from my initial outline, and that’s what I really like about working with Johann, John and Eddy as they will all bring out new dimensions to the songs that I wouldn’t necessarily have envisioned at first. So far, we’ve stayed within our set roles in the band, but it’s quite likely that we’ll experiment with switching roles from time to time as we progress, bring in new instruments, adopt different songwriting processes, etc.
For me, your music fits in with a different, more artistic and literary strand of Manchester’s guitar based musical heritage to the current never-ending glut of Oasis and Stone Roses clones. Is song writing as a craft an important element to the music you make?
Absolutely – we really throw ourselves into each song as a group entity and explore everything we can do with it. It’s a fun, creative process – we do indeed have a very artistic approach, but at the same time we don’t take ourselves overly seriously and try to avoid being too arty-farty; we like a touch of deadpan humour in our songs and stage performances. Like the Weimar Republic era itself, it’s very artistic but entertainment is our ultimate goal at the end of the day!
What’s up next for Weimar? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
We have recorded our debut single, which will be a double A-side – John Doe and Curse the Songs. We are planning to shoot the promo videos over the summer with Harri Shanahan of ILL directing, then we’re looking at most likely a November release. We will probably hold a launch gig with some of our friends supporting, when the single comes out. We have more than a full album’s worth of material already, so we do intend to return to the studio fairly soon to begin recording for our debut album.
Photo by Matt Davies