In November 2020, we got on Zoom with Oliver Wilde of the British band Pet Shimmers to talk about roughing it on the road and the unique challenges of being a seven-piece. You can listen to the interview here!
Before everything shut down, you went on tour with Alex G. What were some highlights from that tour?
Oliver: Highlights? Well. Tour in Europe, they have really good infrastructure for touring artists. There’s really good opportunities to meet interesting people, but also like, sit and have dinner, and have places to stay. In the UK, you get fifty quid, and you have to sleep on someone’s corridor or something. But in Europe, it’s not like that. There were lots of opportunities to meet really cool and interesting people.
We turned up to this venue in Switzerland and they said, “You’ve all got vouchers to this restaurant just over the road.” And we went over the road to this beautiful restaurant and it did all this amazing vegan food. We ended up going back to somebody’s house and having a bit of a party. Tour in Europe is just wonderful, and hanging out with Alex and all of the guys was wonderful. Just a holiday with all your mates!
You released two records this year, Face Down in Meta in January and Trash Earthers at the beginning of October. Did you have any apprehension about releasing an album during quarantine?
Oliver: Not really. In a lot of ways, the albums were products of quarantine. Usually writing is a product of stimulation and information being absorbed into your spirit and soul and mind. But with lockdown it felt like there was going to be none of that. But in actual facts, there was lots of things happening around the world that informed lots of interesting things that we felt really compelled to say and talk about. So, making a record actually became a very obvious things to do. The fact that there’s two probably is a result of us being in lockdown and quarantine.
What are some of your non-musical influences?
Oliver: I really love films of Harmony Korine. I know he’s from the States. I think he lives in Miami. I like his approach to kind of deconstructing what films are meant to do, and what narrative is meant to do. I like to try and apply that in a musical realm. Making things interpretable but in such a way where the people listening to the music or reading the lyrics kind of invent their own reality within the art itself. I really like that about Harmony Korine.
I also really love Werner Herzog, the German documentary filmmaker. I like his approach to writing. His approach to making documentary films is less about observing and capturing things and more about stealing, stealing stories. I quite like that. I feel in music sometimes, I like to feel like I’m stealing sound and stealing emotions and then putting back into it. I also really like that he talks about documentaries as not being factual, even though that’s what you’re meant to think a documentary is. In fact, it’s like a presentation of his own truth, rather than “the truth” that you’re sort of expecting to experience. Again, trying to put that into our music is really important.
And just people in general, I think. Movements, people, things that are happening around the world, have been very inspiring. In fact, it’s almost impossible to name musical influences. It’s been more people in general. I think people are inspirational.
When you’re on tour, what’s your go-to gas station order?
Oliver: Oh, we’re too poor to order things. Here in Europe and the UK it’s like, gas station food and stuff is very expensive. I would say probably a cigarette outside of the gas station. Not too close to be a problem. But I would say a cigarette, a glass of water, and stretch your legs. That’s my order for a gas station stop.
What do you usually eat on tour?
Oliver: Oh my god, what do we eat on tour? Whatever you get at the venue is usually a good one. Actually, touring around Europe, there’s amazing food. We ate really well around Europe. Around the UK though, maybe the odd piece of fruit. Nothing great. When I was much younger, I did a tour where I cooked a huge saucepan of pasta to take with me in this huge Tupperware box. And I ate some every single day, but I had it for so long that it started to go rotten. It gets a bit feral on tour. The rest of the guys are much better than I am. They’re much better at looking after themselves, I’ve gotta say.
What were your first impressions of your bandmates when you met?
Oliver: Funnily enough, I knew quite a lot of them already. But, when I met Will I was struck by his incredible enthusiasm and he also had this really big mullet that was quite amazing.
When I met Ellie, who’s sort of multi-instrumentalist, she’s definitely from another universe. I think there’s a universe where like, Björk came from. And she’s probably from that place. She just doesn’t realize, but she’s not with us on planet earth.
The first time I met Lexi, she had some headphones on, and she was listening to Sparkles. And I said, “Oh are you listening to Sparkles?” and she said “Yeah!” and we struck up a conversation about music. It was a musical love at first sight, so to speak.
They’re a great bunch, I love them all very much. They’re absolute sweethearts.
Pet Shimmers is a seven-piece, which is a little more than most bands. What unique challenges or advantages does this bring?
Oliver: I think it certainly makes creative processes more collaborative, in terms of the way you communicate. I do feel like being in a band with seven people rather than two or three people has made me a much better communicator of ideas. That’s something that I definitely took for granted, but now I really appreciate that one of the biggest challenges is trying to express, and then receive understanding of, and idea or a feeling. When you’re dealing in the realms of art, these quirks and resonances are not necessarily so tangible that you can explain them in language or whatever.
So I think, between the seven of us, we’ve developed quite a good little means of communication and creative processes, which is becoming better and better. It was quite intense on Trash Earthers. Our creativity was very intense. The album happened quite quickly. I’d have guessed one of the challenges of making an album in lockdown is that you have to have quite a positive attitude towards Facebook Messenger, you know? We essentially made the album over Facebook Messenger in a lot of ways. We met every week over Zoom and stuff like that. That was challenging, but, if anything—this is a saying in England—“the more the merrier.” And that’s definitely applicable in a band.
The more interesting and creative people you have to bounce off each other, the more chance you have at writing something really cool and unique and unexpected. Which is the minimal obligation of an artist, essentially.
Do you have any pets, and if not, what’s your favorite kind of pet?
Oliver: I did have a cat called Sparkle Horse. But Sparkle Horse is in cat heaven now. I was just explaining that I’ve chosen to do lockdown II in England. I know things are different in the States, but here we’re having another lockdown. And I’ve decided to go and do it in the countryside. We have a little black Labrador called Bernard. He’s my absolute favorite. He’s just full of love, absolutely unconditional love and joy. So, we go on lots of little walks and he makes me laugh all the time, constantly. Which is wonderful. I like all the animals, to be honest. Dogs are just fantastic, absolutely the best.
What have you had on repeat lately?
Oliver: I’ve been listening to this English band called Penelope Isles, which you may have heard of. They’re amazing. I’ve been listening to lots of Frank Ocean. I’ve been listening to this band called Knot, I think they’re from America. I’ve been listening to Shy Girl, who’s like a London rapper. She’s absolutely amazing and incredible. Lots of Sophie, who’s a really interesting kind of plastic pop producer who makes truly otherworldly music. I’ve been listening to a lot of that stuff. I have a Spotify playlist, and if I’m ever just sitting around, I listen to all kinds of bits and bobs. A band called Spirit of the Beehive.
They’re absolutely amazing, I’ve been really enjoying those guys. There’s this English band called Happiness, they just put out an album. They’re great friends of ours. Really great record. Obviously, the Alex G album is wonderful as well. I got to hear it live every night, so that’s definitely a repeat. Yeah, so loads of stuff.
Our last question is, what upcoming plans does Pet Shimmers have?
Oliver: So, we’re making another record, now that we’ve kind of gone into lockdown again. We had a tour booked with Happiness that unfortunately can’t happen, due to what’s happening in the world. We’re certainly looking to tour. We’ve been selling lots of records in Japan for some reason, which is wonderful. We’d love to go to Japan. But for the immediate future, we’re working on a new record and seeing where we can take ourselves. We’ve been listening to a lot of really early 2000s English pop music, like Sugar Babes. That kind of stuff. And feeling sort of inspired by the plasticity and that kind of sound. You know, early chart-topping pop production. And seeing if we can put our own little emo twist on it. We’ll see what happens. But yeah, making a new record hopefully.