To imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by Warmduscher, you have to appreciate the personalities that accelerate the pulse of their dazed-yet-savage sound. Whether their pseudonyms are surreal caricatures or self-portraits is a mystery that remains unsolved. Ever on the edge of an inside joke, these guys make you feel like you’re sitting at the funniest lunch table at school, minus only the slingshots and food fights. With each other, they exchanged raised eyebrows and deadpan expressions, trying to resist whispering side quips in punky UK slang that was lost on my recorder anyway. With me, though, they were kind and brotherly, satisfying my longtime-listener curiosity with thoughtful and thorough responses. There was an alluring mischievousness to the group; like they might moonlight as very-sweet foils of the droogs from A Clockwork Orange – dishing out disco-punk-pop-funk jams instead of violence and swigging beer instead of milk.
To my right was guitarist Adam J. Harmer (“Quicksand,” also of Fat White Family), who dropped gems with his riff-filled skull cradled calmly in one palm. Bassist Ben Romans Hopcraft (“Mr. Salt Fingers,” also of Insecure Men) sat directly to my left and kept the conversation anchored when we all slipped in and out of hilarity. Tucked into the corner was keyboardist Marley Mackey, who remained silent. Even so, he supplied an inscrutable chill aura that makes his synth wizardry seem mystic. Frontman Clams Baker Jr. (“Craig Louis Higgins Jr.”/“Mutado Pintado”) sat to his left and smiled with more soothing encouragement than a skydiving instructor. He’s the type to frequently post comically freaky AI-generated art – making one wonder exactly what search terms occupy the mind of such a clever lyricist – and that sense of humor was a blast in person. Bookending their side of the booth was drummer Bleu Ottis (“Bleucifer”), who was inclined to punctuate his bandmates’ statements with gratitude. There they were, the minds behind “Midnight Dipper” – that daily repeat with the flip-flopping lyrics of “with her finger on his zipper” and “with her finger on his trigger” – and so many other catchy ragers. I got deep right away: is the finger on the zipper, or the trigger?
Next came “Ohhh!”s, chuckling, and a coincidence. “When you said that, I had just started touching this zipper on my jacket,” Ben observed with the tone of a paranormal investigator. In a matching otherworldly voice, Clams proclaimed, “The zipper is the trigger.” So we started discussing the complexity of their lyrics, which aren’t often easy to memorize, and whether that’s intentional. “That’s what we’ve been doing wrong,” Clams joked. “I really try to simplify most things. We always just come up with ideas and themes for songs, and then go through a process of writing the words. And not even consciously, trying not to spell things out too much. Obviously that one [“Midnight Dipper”] is pretty spelled out though.” Ben chimed in, “Clams writes most of the lyrics. When I first met Clams, he was very good at saying whatever phrases came to his head. There were phrases coming at him from a lot of different angles, it seemed like. I think that’s his style: like a collage of different phrases that all maybe have the same feeling.” “Sometimes,” explained Clams, “I’ll have something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. When I come back to the states to see my family once a year, I usually do a lot of lyric writing and then just bend it around to whatever they make musically.”
Confirming that he’s always jotting things down, Clams commented, “Yeah, yeah; in phones, notebooks. Just always thinking in my head like little phrases or whatever.” Ben said cheerily to Clams, “You would make a sound when you’ve got a concept. Like ‘aaaaaaghh!’” he imitated, making everyone laugh. “So we know when you’ve got it. You’ve got, like, the vision of the song.” “We all start throwing puns around and that’s usually a good way to start,” mentioned Clams. “And we used to have the names of the songs before we’d start the whole album.” Adam shared, “It’s usually stuff that has nothing to do with the actual content of the songs. Something that’s just an interesting phrase or something. You know a lot of the Osees’ songs seem like that. I only know like four of their song titles because they’re always really odd.” Suddenly, a big collective “Whooooa” broke up the chat as beers were brought to the table. Those “oat sodas,” as Clams called them, got us talking about the classic P&W question. Warmduscher sorted out their top whiskey picks. Clams: Maker’s Mark. Adam: Woodford Reserve. Bleu: Jameson. Ben: likes anything peaty like scotch.
Since Warmduscher’s music features so many colorful characters, you’d figure that Clams must be an avid people-watcher, and it turns out, he is. “Well it started here from the pier. I used to do that all the time when I lived here in New York. You just meet crazy people. You have inspiration as soon as you walk out of the apartment. I used to live here in Chelsea on 17th between 8th and 9th, in a rent-stabilized apartment for like ten years, and it was really cool. Like the minute you walked out of your door, there was something happening. So I stick to that. I love to watch people.” When asked if Wilma of Whale City staple “Big Wilma” is based upon a real person, Clams grinned. “No. That’s kind of like a recurring theme,” he said, referring to fictional personas. As we dug into the levity of their music, Ben stated, “I think the idea is to definitely not take it too seriously. But it’s also that kind of thing where we don’t want it to seem like we’re not taking it seriously, because we do take it seriously. The way I feel about it is, everyone here is in different projects. To one or another degree, they’re very different in their tone and attitude, you know? Their style. So I think this band is quite a good excuse. It’s like a safe haven from taking anything really seriously. I’ve personally been in loads of projects where the whole infrastructure is based around making money to the nth degree. And it’s always been such a nice alternative. Weirdly enough, this has actually been one of the most successful things I’ve ever done, and we’ve always taken those things quite lightly. So there’s definitely a method to that kind of madness in terms of its approach. Not trying to be too serious all the time. Trying to actually have a good time as a way of getting through being in the band, you know?”
“I think we just don’t put too much pressure on ourselves to be really concerned with every development that the band takes. So many people are trying to control their destinies so much and then you kind of overwrite songs. It’s quite loose with the way that we approach the attitude toward writing and being together so I think that’s kind of the ethos. Just keep it quite loose and it usually works.” Adam continued the thought, “It’s a rule of thumb that the less pressure you put on something, the more it works out. You know when you’re not really that bothered? I’m not saying we’re not bothered, but when you’re just sort of messing around, sometimes, the best stuff comes out. So when you’re in that kind of space in your mind where you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself, that’s where instinct is more involved. And if you’re any half good at writing songs and tunes and stuff, then the good stuff will come out.” When asked if they spend a lot of time jamming together waiting for ideas to materialize, Adam teased, “No, we hate each other,” and Ben shared, “There’s no real waiting. That’s just who we are, so that’s the reality of doing it. There’s not a lot of manicuring. I think the more we manicure, the worse things get. Some people work like that; people like very detailed things or they require it to have a bit of fine-tuning to it. We find that the more we do that, the more bored we all become and the less energy we put into it. And I think for us, the most important thing about Warmduscher is that the energy needs to be there all the time, physically and emotionally. So whatever allows that to happen is the route that we take.”
Clams piled on, “I think that’s pretty much what we do: that raw energy.” Then Ben revealed, “If there’s a lack of energy, it’s usually sort of a trick to galvanize more energy.” Changing their recording process over time, Warmduscher have shifted from catching long uninterrupted takes to investing more time into individual tracks. On that topic, Ben divulged, “I’d say we spent too much time with the songs on the last record. Most people would think it’s a very normal amount of time; we only spent two weeks on the album. But I think, ‘cause we come from the culture of doing albums in like three days, two weeks seemed like an ocean of time. For this project, for me, I was like, there are so many options now, it was kind of almost freaking me out. So I think it’s the happy balance of having a good amount of time to take it seriously enough to do it in an efficient way. And I think efficient generally means fast, for us. Efficient means a lot of different things to other people, but I work really fast. It’s usually pretty fast. I think how we come together is quite fast too. We get it quite instantly. If it takes ages to get, then it just feels too laborious. I like not having options in life, these days, with music. I like it being very, very minimal these days; that’s my ethos at the moment. With sounds, just having a very basic amount of options, and then having a very obvious amount of time to do it in, which is very short. I’ve just spent so much time in my life twiddling with possibilities, and it usually ends up with me just having an existential crisis, so now I’m just like, ‘Keep it simple.’ That’s my kind of thing.”
Warmduscher then described how the public WiFi stations around so many modern cities – and the seedy behavior they invite – inspired 2022’s At the Hotspot. Their latest hard-grooving record, it’s strengthened with wordplay wit like song title “Hot Shot.” “Me and Adam were talking about the hot spots in New York,” remembered Ben. “I was saying how you see a lot of junkies on the street scoring via these hot spots in New York. And then Adam’s like, ‘You know they’re in London now?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I had no idea.’” “Yeah,” recalled Adam, “‘cause you can hear them literally across the road from me as well. You can hear their order on the phone, and it’s three in the morning; there are no cars around or anything. You can hear the guy like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be like five minutes.’ Like really loud.” Ben concurred, “It’s not contained in a phone booth.” “Everyone can hear exactly what he just ordered, and how long the guy’s going to be, and probably where he’s going to meet him, as well. Clandestine,” Adam said sarcastically. Ben expounded, “It’s conceptually so funny because, for our generation, it’s basically like they’re having a Bluetooth business meeting. It seems so officiated, you know? And then Clams just ran with the concept.” “The interesting thing about it is that these things are put there essentially to sell advertising by people,” noted Clams, “and what it actually brings is something that’s not advertising-friendly or anything. It brings the heart of the city, which is always a recurring thing that I’m interested in. Whether it be a movie or anything, that old underground culture of people going out and doing whatever they’ve got to do. The fun of the city; obviously it’s not all fun, and the irony of that. It’s just funny. As soon as you put in anything free, it just gets abused.”
Since this became the whole album concept, they laugh every time they see one of those sketchy glowing hotspots now. “Well, we tried to sticker them,” snickered Adam, “but they always get cleaned real quick, don’t they? I tried to do it as well, and they have this like sheen on it. And the stickers – maybe we have cheap stickers – they just kept falling off, or they wouldn’t really stick that well. But Clams stickered where I live and I didn’t know he’d done it. So I was walking around like ‘Hey!…Hey!…Hey, there’s another one!’ and it was really funny on my route.” Ben added amusedly, “My little brother and sister noticed one of those in Brixton, and that’s when the penny dropped that they thought that I might be famous. I mean obviously, I’m not, but it took years of me going, ‘Hey, I’m playing some big shows now,’ and they were like, ‘Whatever.’ And now they see one sticker in Brixton at a McDonald’s, and my sister and brother are like ‘What?!’ And it was literally put up by us.” Warmduscher all cracked up, and Adam mused, “That’s probably because they think it wasn’t us. Like, ‘Someone’s promoting your band!’” to which Ben declared, “If that’s what it takes.” “In Brixton, in the tube,” Bleu reminisced, “We had a massive poster on the wall promoting our gig. It was insane. And even after we’d finished, for weeks, it was still up. It was sick. So I had loads of people taking photos like, ‘Oh my god! You’re on the tube. You’re on the tube.’” Adam noted too, “That was a good feeling.” Ben commented, “Yeah, the great thing about that poster was that there was some weird fuck-up with the advertising company, so they had just left all the posters for fucking ages. And ever since then, months and months after the gig had even happened it was like, ‘It’s still there!’” he chortled. “Our promotion is very rogue.”
We also talked about how their latest slick record, At the Hotspot, has a modern, urban soundscape that ties right in; maybe even some chime-like tones evoking phones and messaging apps. Pleased with that happy accident, Ben said, “Wow. I don’t think that was intentional, but we actually used a lot more synthesizers than we have done. And we used a studio which was extremely synthed-out, like everywhere. You couldn’t even eat lunch without having all these things from the seventies poking you in the face.” He made piano finger jazz hands high and low around his head to set the scene. “So it was pretty impossible to not get on that side of things. There are a lot of those top-end frequencies.” Adam remarked, “It was, like Ben said, a mix between the people who we recorded it with – their musical sensibilities – and the place. It was very electronic-based. So there’s less kind of dirge and the sort of band side of stuff. So, slightly, I took a little bit more of a back seat. It’s good to try different sounds and stuff, but I’m always thinking, ‘Where’s the dirge? Where’s the filth?’” Finally, I’d been handed the perfect descriptors for their uniquely-heavy sound. I had to know how they technically approach the creation of dirge and filth. “Don’t remove anything,” answered Ben with a wide smile. “We always try to make the guitar and the bass like the same instrument, if that makes sense. And I think there’s a lot of intentionality in the fact that they are kind of finding each other frequency-wise. They kind of occupy the same space in different ways. It’s weird. We just try to make it like one instrument, so we usually play the same riffs, you know? Exactly the same. So I think that gives it a lot of punch and a lot of character – for want of, maybe, better character. I don’t know. But it’s definitely our kind of style. I don’t let a lot of things ring out. I usually try to keep it as punchy as possible.” Then he really surprised me when he explained that they hadn’t noticed the bass and guitar were matching until it happened spontaneously. “We didn’t realize that we did it until we actually were in sync, one day, and then we were like ,‘Oh, hey, alright!’”
“The first early gigs of Warmduscher were just so fucking hectic that we used to try to call it jazz, just to get away with how hectic it was. I usually say ‘party music,’” he laughed, alluding to Warmduscher’s inception as an impromptu band for a house party back in 2014. “I just say ‘party music’ now because it kind of sounds like disco a bit, and punk, and a bit of funk, and a bit of pop. To me, it just makes you ultimately want to go out and enjoy yourself.” Then Clams welcomed, “Whatever you want to call it.” Since they were just about to get started on the next album, which they’re currently recording, it was an interesting time to catch their aspirations for the new work. “We’re really going to go back to basics more, as a result from the last album, I think it’s going to be a bit more straight down the line rather than getting all tied up in knots over what to add; overdubs and stuff.” “Yeah, exactly,” shared Ben. “We don’t want to do too many overdubs; just keep it really raw. I think, basically, we don’t need to change our sound constantly every album. Sometimes, it’s quite easy to think that you need to re-revolutionize the concept of what you do. But with what we do, the spectrum of it is actually really vast, so it’s more about enhancing what we already do rather than changing what we do. So I think that’s the goal for the next record, in the most basic terms. I think we had such a good time on tour, last album, that we wanted to just go straight into writing as soon as we finished the tour. So we wanted to take that live energy into the demoing process. Sometimes, we’ve taken a big gap and then we kind of lost the vibe a bit – the playing chemistry and stuff. So we just decided to try to use that enjoyment and those chops to make a new album from it.”
It’s exciting to think of them whipping up new material while on tour, and Ben made it easier to picture how it happens. “Yeah. Sound checks are very good for a lot of throwing phones on the other side of the stage and recording things to backup. It’s good though, because that’s kind of how we’ve written our funnest songs. There’s always been a certain immediacy and instinct to it, so it’s a good place for writing, for us.” Predicting the speed at which they’ll be working, Ben foreshadowed another U.S. tour in the near future when he coolly hinted, “Well, we’ve got to come back to America while our visas are still intact, so, yeah.” Before they were set free to run up a pre-show generosity tab for all their buddies at the bar, Warmduscher made sure to thank their fans, particularly for the monetary support for this U.S. tour. Bleu remarked, “I would say, big ups to everyone that supported the fundraiser. Because it was very interesting and when we were doing it, I was telling most people, but I was thinking, ‘Oh, they’re not gonna fuckin’ do it.’ And the support we got was really cool. It was extraordinary.” Adam added, “This wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t chipped in, so it was really good. Most of the people who put in wouldn’t be able to see any of the results from their money, so it’s a great thing; it’s really nice. It wasn’t a self-serving gesture. It wasn’t like, ‘I’ll help them do some shows in England,’ because most of those people are English, I assume, who put that money in. And it’s for us to not even play for them, so it’s really nice.” Bleu chimed in again, “The people who have put in who have been out here have been so thankful. And just like, ‘Oh my god; I can’t believe you’re here.’”
“Yeah,” said Ben, “It’s been great. It’s genuinely been really surprising because we felt like, ‘When are we going to go to the states?’ And we just didn’t really have that much traction, because, I don’t really know. I think it’s a different thing for a lot of people, sometimes, to imagine us. Because we’re quite a mixed bag of people, and we come together and then we go away and do our own things; he’s associated with one different thing, he’s associated with another thing, I’m associated with another thing, you know what I mean? We all are. So I think some people, especially on the industry side, they’re like, ‘What is Warmduscher and who are they?’ So it was nice to get the opportunity to come and show that we are actually serious about being a band and want to do it. And it was nice to feel like there were actually people here waiting to see us as well. So nothing has been disappointing so far. It’s weird. Warmduscher is one of those things we definitely didn’t have to do, but it’s become the most significant part of my timetable. I think it’s just how it works: the more energy you put into something, the more it becomes your life. It’s like, if there’s an opportunity for it to do that – rather than be too tactical about it and try to spend equal time on everything – in life, go with the thing that is providing you with the most opportunities. And I don’t mean opportunities as in gigs or whatever; more like good feelings. The opportunity to feel good is playing with Warmduscher. So just run with that. That’s it.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley