The Rifles' lead singer Joel Stoker talks to eGigs

about the new album, inspirations, aspirations, and live filming on Tuesday 10 February 2009

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Indie rocker The Rifles hail from Chingford, in London. Their debut album 'No Love Lost was was produced by Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and released in 2006. The Rifles have finished the recording of their new album 'Great Escape', which was expected in October of last year, however it was held back until the end of last month. eGigs got on the phone to lead singer Joel Stoker, for a bit of a chat.

The Rifles
What are you up to at the moment?
We're just trying to get our van started in the middle of Birmingham! We're all in it and we're just on our way to Covent Garden to do an in-store. I think you must be a lucky charm, he's just got it started now.

What got you into music and playing the guitar?
A kid at my school, a year below me, was brilliant on guitar, and I wasn't really into playing guitar at all, until I saw him one lunchtime up in the music room playing, and just after that... He could play anything, Jimi Hendrix, anything, any style. That weekend I went out and bought Jimi Hendrix greatest hits album, and then I got a guitar for my birthday. So it wasn't until the fourth year at senior school, that I decided I'd learn how to play.

What about singing? Were you already doing that?
Just at home really, the first time I ever sung in public was the first time I met Luc (Crowther - guitarist), at a music college, we started a little thing, we were just messing about at lunchtime in one of the rooms, I think it was something like a Bob Marley song, and I just started singing it, and that was the first time.

So is that how The Rifles got together?
Yeah, me and Luke met in a college, like I just said, and then Grant (Marsh - drums) and Rob (Pyne – bass) we've known since school, they were from around our area, where I live.

So when was your first gig?
I think it was me and Luke again, we played in Romford, just down from the college, and the first gig as The Rifles was The Bull & Gate in Kentish town in London. We thought it was brilliant, until we watched the video of it on our last tour, as it goes, and it weren't as good as what we had in our head. But if I'd never watched that video it was a brilliant gig.

What about the first gig you went to see?
I'm trying to think, one of the earliest gigs I went to was Rage Against The Machine at Brixton Academy when their first album come out, and that was a good one, it was brilliant, I've still got all the tickets on the wall, of all the gigs I've been to.

So are you still able to get to many gigs these days or does The Rifles take up all your time?
Yeah, it's hard, because most of our time is spent playing music, and being around that environment, I think when we do have time to do what we want, we tend to sit in doors.

What was the last band you went to see?
Last band? Kings Of Leon, I think that was the last band I went to see, apart from obviously when we play at festivals, or anything like that, because we see bands then. Kings Of Leon were probably the last gig I went to, last year, when the third album came out, at The Hammersmith.

You had Paul Weller join you for a gig, how did that come about?
Well, we supported him about year and a half ago and then stayed in touch after that, and we asked him if he fancied doing a song with us at our gig at The Forum and he said "Yeah!" It was brilliant, it was a bit of a blur to me, but we've got that on film, and I don't mind watching that one again.

The Rifles
Do you have a lot of your gigs on film?
Nowadays you can go on YouTube and other people do it all, but big ones we have. My dad usually comes to the London ones and has his camcorder out. We've got some old ones that my dad filmed, they're quite funny.

Who have you shared bills with that has been particularly memorable?
Madness, obviously Paul Weller, if you don't count the festivals, you could add a lot there, I'm trying to think now, but they're the two that actually stick in my head, that we've actually supported.

If you could pick anyone to perform with you on stage who would it be?
What live? I suppose it would have to be a Beatle, whatever one, well there's only two of them now, it would have to be Paul McCartney then I guess. But I don't mind, either of them. I don't want to upset Grant so I'll say Paul McCartney.
With your previous album, you worked with Ian Broudie, what was that like?
Yeah, it was really good. Well, at the time everything was new to us, but once we got in there (the studio) Ian was a lovely fella, so straight away, it wasn't so nerve-wracking after the first day. It was really enjoyable to work with someone like that.

Did you have anybody like that working with you on this album 'The Great Escape'?
The album that we've just released we had two producers Dave McKracken and (Jan) Stan Kybert and they were both brilliant, two different types of producers but we used a bit of Dave's stuff that he'd done with us and mostly Stan's stuff.

And who puts the songs together?
The lyrics I write and the music, a lot of it, well most of it was just in the practice room all together. People would just chip in with little bits, Luke used to come in with guitar riffs, and things like that, then we'd work out the structure of the song, and then go home and put some lyrics on it.

And where do you draw the inspiration for your lyrics from?
I don't know, a lot of the time the music can effect what the song will be about. So I've found that helps a lot, this time around. With this album the music came first. With the first album the music was more acoustic based, and then we put the band around it. But this one was done a different way. I don't really prefer either way really, if there was a set way to write a song, then I'd sell it.

The CD of 'Fall To Sorrow' had strings on it, was that the first time you've used them?
Yeah, that was the first time we'd ever used strings. Basically, that was just the live take of the strings that are on the actual track, on the full band. That was the first time we'd used strings and the first time I'd been in a room and heard a quartet playing strings, and it was an amazing sound.
So will you be putting the strings on your live performance?
Well we've been asked that a couple of times, but our crowd can be a bit rowdy, and I don't really want someone walking up to a 200 year old, two hundred grand violin, and spill beer on it. Yeah, that tends to happen a lot with our kit, so we don't mind getting our mate Deano in to play strings on keyboard, we don't mind beer getting thrown at him.

You're off on a European tour soon are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, yeah, definitely, I like going, Europe's lovely, Germany and Holland the people treat you really well out there, and the reception you get out there is really good. We've been out there quite a bit as it goes, we've got a good little following out there, and it's a bit of a second home out there really. They might not jump around as much, but you'd be hard pushed to jump around as much as some of the people do over here.
What was your favourite festival appearance of last year summer, and why?
It would have to be V really, just because the one in Chelmsford is not too far from where we all live, so we get a lot of friends up there. It was boiling hot in Stafford the first day, we played, and literally the second after we came off stage, it just rained all day. We got lucky there, and we came to Chelmsford, it was a lovely hot day. We were on quite early so it was nice to get the day done and have a look at some bands in the sun.

We got the chance to see bands at Stafford but we didn't because it was hammering down, but at Chelmsford once we were done we did a couple of interviews, and then we were free to do whatever we wanted which was nice. It was one of the advantages of being on early.
Did you go to festivals before you were in the band?
Not me personally no, some of the other boys used to go quite a bit but I'm not much of a festival lover. I like to go and see an actual gig.

Have you got any festivals for this year lined up yet?
Not as yet, no. But I think within the next month I think we might have an idea of what ones we will be doing. I think Glastonbury would be a good one that's the only one really that we haven't played. That might be a good one for us to do I think.

The new album 'The Great Escape' has just been released, what will be the next single?
We're not sure yet, it could be a couple.

What's your favourite track on the album?
Erm, could be 'The General', yup 'The General' just because it's quite a big step for us that song, the style of it, and the changes, and the different parts in it. But it's always a different one every day.

How do the crowds take to the new material?
Pretty well, it was hard, because we did a tour at the end of last year, about October, that was set up for when the album was due to come out. So we ended up having to play some of the new stuff with no one knowing it, so it's hard to gauge it when no one knows the song, because a lot of people stand there and take it in rather than jumping about. But this next tour I think we'll be able to gauge how much they like them, because they'll have them at home, and they'll have had a chance to know the song before they get there.

I'm sure they'll be jumping around, thanks for the interview, have a good summer.
Cheers, take it easy.

The Rifles

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article by: Scott Williams

photos by: Brian Konstantinou

published: 10/02/2009 10:51


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