Dean and I were in London in 2004, the Screamfeeder tour was winding up; somehow Darek and Kellie were leaving the country before us – we had another week or so up our sleeves. We got offered a gig and decided to do it as a 2 piece, and it was one of the most fun gigs of the whole tour.
We came back to Brisbane and started writing songs together, and it was really fun and liberating. Not to take anything away from our experiences in Screamfeeder, but when you’ve been in a band for 15 years things can start to get a bit repetitive.
We recorded the album and did a bit of touring. it was hard, no-one knew who we were and it didn’t exactly shoot us to superstardom. ha! We actually cleared the Pony one night in Melbourne, there were two people left by the time we’d finished, and one was Mirko, our mixer that night.
We went on tour to Japan in 2005 (with Screamfeeder, it was an obvious decision) and then we went over and played in England again. We’d been accepted at Manchester’s In The City music conference and we played a couple of weird little gigs in London too.
Next we came back and started writing songs with less guitar; both of us playing drums, or using backing tracks etc. These were great fun but a massive pain in the ass to set up for at gigs – it’d take us so long to set up all our shit, and we’d get all stressed out too!
Still, we managed to record the results: 4 songs, released in 2011: A Bit Of Everything With THE WHATS.
All Mouth No Trousers was used as the opening track for the 2008 movie Crooked Business (and Screamfeeder’s I’ve Got The Knife closed the film)
As for the future, we’ll keep it open.
Here are our bios so far.. again, a mixture of self-written hype and more honest appraisals by other people (Ian at Reverberation wrote the big story on the later bio)
Here’s the original blurb we used to tote around:
From Brixton to Brisbane..
THE WHATS are Tim Steward [guitar / vocals] and Dean Shwereb [the drums].
Their other band Screamfeeder were on tour in the UK in 2004 when their friend Jane Gazzo (ex recovery / JJJ) called up and said “do you want another gig?”. They agreed to the show [at Ladbroke Grove’s The Neighbourhood ] without even thinking that the other half of Screamfeeder were flying home to Australia that very morning.
However after you’ve been playing in foreign countries for a month anything goes, and it was agreed to do a Screamfeeder show as a 2 piece. Tim and Dean caught the tube from Brixton to Ladbroke Grove with all their gear and had the best gig of their whole tour.
When they got back to Brisbane they decided it had been too much fun not to do it again. The also realised they’d better write some new songs.
Unlike most two piece bands who feel the need to play more to make up for their lack of personnel THE WHATS keep the music minimal, tight, economical and punchy, veering sharply towards the “less is more” philosophy.
Over the following 12 months the duo wrote and recorded their debut 13 track album “All Mouth No Trousers”.
Simple repetitive rhythms and melodies dominate, two minute two chord songs, no drum fills, clean dry recordings. The lack of bass and / or any other instrumentation except for a very sparsely used keyboard may deter a few, but The Whats carry on with a minimalist principle and a punk rock foundation paying homage to bands like The Clash.
Tim, vocalist and guitarist, fails to reserve his honest and deliberate vocal approach. The melodies clearly stem from a lifetime of running home from school with worn-out Chuck Taylors and an unwashed Sex Pistols t-shirt to listen to old punk and indie music through oversized headphones. The lyrics spill out naturally and sometimes rushed, showing that Tim may have more to say than he has time to do so.
Dean’s drum approach mirrors the band’s general mindset – less is more. As the son of an eclectic drummer, he lets a variety of genres seep in during the songwriting process. The amalgamation of the two create a standard that is far too often overlooked in today’s music world – three-chord rock can still make for a sound deemed worthy of rock’n’roll.
The title of their debut album, All Mouth No Trousers, may be all too sarcastic. The band plays with less of a ‘no action’ mentality and instead substitutes it for a ‘shut up and play‘ attitude that can still reach out to a crowd of new teenagers, still wearing Chucks, still keeping music a secret in their bedroom, still walking, breathing, and rocking out to the music that might just save the world, one disgruntled teenager at a time.
A lot of these were taken by Kellie in 2005 and 2007 at her place in Red Hill. There are some from the joint Screamfeeder / WHATS Japanese tour we did in 2005, and some from our UK trip immediately following that.
“The best part of The Whats’ set is when Tim leaves his guitar and pop conventions behind and picks up the sticks for an art rock drum duel with band-mate Dean..”
Rave Mag, Brisbane July 2006
“The Whats – two thirds of Screamfeeder – are mostly about no nonsense rock’n’roll. Tim Steward is so assured in his role as a front man, and in his onstage dynamic with drummer Dean Shwereb, that the first few songs are comfortable and energetic. Sporadically, they shy away from straight-up indie rock, and Steward sets aside his telecaster for a lone snare drum to deliver atonal, stream-of-consciousness lyrics over programmed bass and dislocated drumming. These moments just highlight that it’s the strutting machismo of songs like ‘All Mouth and No Trousers’ that exhibit their abilities best.”
Time Off, Brisbane July 2006
“The Whats channel the spirit of the stooges, the rockin attitude of the MC5 & the killer hooks of the who. They are are two piece, like the white stripes but with a drummer more like Keith Moon than Meg White and a singer who can’t stand still. They played a short but very sharp set of choice covers and very inspired originals that had the audience engaged right from the first note. This is rock n roll the way it should be – great tunes, killer riffs and a show that could set the world alight..” Adelaide
“..the first time I’d ever seen The Whats play – I found myself practically singing along to all the songs before they were even finished. Infectious energy.” – Adelaide
“..they don’t come over like your typical new two piece band – less studied, more raucous, yet tighter at the same time… a great surprise” – Brisbane
“..someone said “the What Stripes” – no way! They used less to create more…Sparse arrangements and space in the songs made them rock supreme on the night..” – Perth
“Apologies to Tim Steward, as I’ve never been able to get into Screamfeeder or The Whats, live or otherwise. It must be something personal, because I can objectively see that both bands are really talented. The best part of The Whats’ set is when Tim leaves his guitar and pop conventions behind and picks up the sticks for an art rock drum duel with band-mate Dean..”
Rave Mag, brisbane July 2006
“The Whats – two thirds of Screamfeeder – are mostly about no nonsense rock’n’roll. Tim Steward is so assured in his role as a frontman, and in his onstage dynamic with drummer Dean Shwereb, that the first few songs are comfortable and energetic. Sporadically, they shy away from straight-up indie rock, and Steward sets aside his telecaster for a lone snare drum to deliver atonal, stream-of-consciousness lyrics over programmed bass and dislocated drumming. These moments just highlight that it’s the strutting machismo of songs like ‘All Mouth and No Trousers’ that exhibit their abilities best.“
Time Off, Brisbane July 2006
“..It is this spontaneity, intensity and enthusiasm that oozes out from this debut release. Make no mistake; this is genuine, original music like nothing Tim and Dean have done before ..It is unashamedly bold, a little bit pop, genuinely rough and a lot of fun..” fasterlouder.com.au read more
ALL MOUTH NO TROUSERS PRESS
“..All Mouth No Trousers is one of those albums that contain what are best described as unpolished gems. The instrumentation is basic and bare, the songs extremely danceable, and the vocal delivery harks back to the day of cutesy indie pop bands – rushed, imperfect, a little cheesy but most appealingly, overtly earnest and honest. Ultimately, it’s a heady, uplifting piece of work that will probably be played until it’s broken.”
Rave Magazine, Brisbane
A two-piece departure from Tim and Dean of Screamfeeder, All Mouth No Trousers has a garage rock aesthetic mixed with Tim Steward’s catchy songwriting. The more immediate standouts from the album are the punchier songs like “Boys & Girls” and “Trouble” which make best use of stop-start dynamics (“Trouble” being my favourite from the album). However, Steward pushes the limits of the two-piece sound more with songs like “Always”, which has a more slow-building structure.
The biggest statement from the 34 minute album comes from “Slumming”, which expresses Tim Steward’s unhappiness with the fashion-conscious people who now frequent Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. With Screamfeeder being a pillar of the Brisbane music scene since the early-90s, Steward sings of a “changing of the guard” in the psychographics of Brisbane’s once-indie, DIY entertainment district to one of dress codes and people following a fashion ‘rule-book’ instead of tearing up the book! Although I have only been been of going-out age in Brisbane for a few years, I completely agree with these sentiments and really resent being prescribed what to wear when I go to certain venues in this town. “Appropriating culture is like picking flowers / but is a vulture what it devours?”
“I went around the corner, there’s no room to move / the Valley’s full of fucking wankers with something to prove”
Imagine this: you are part of a major Australian band, on tour in the UK. You play your final date, wave all but one of your band-mates off at the airport and start looking forward to relaxing in London. Suddenly, you receive a call asking the band to do another show, but with only yourself and one other band member in town what do you do? This is the situation that Tim and Dean from Screamfeeder found themselves in last year. What did they do? Well, they formed a two-piece, called themselves the Whats and took it to the stage. For the next few weeks they spent time gigging around the UK and the US, before returning to Australia.
It is this spontaneity, intensity and enthusiasm that oozes out from this debut release, All Mouth and No Trousers. Make no mistake; this is genuine, original music like nothing Tim and Dean have done before. You could be forgiven for thinking that it would sound like a Screamfeeder rip-off, sans bass and keyboards, but if you did you would be really off the mark.
You could also be forgiven for thinking that this album probably sounds like a cross-between the Black Keys, the Mess Hall and any other two-piece around at the moment, but the truth is that band are not about stereotypes or the blues. It is unashamedly bold, a little bit pop, genuinely rough and a lot of fun.
As you would expect with a two-piece, the songs are short and punchy. There is a certain minimalism that invades the songs, but it is something that adds to the overall atmosphere. The rhythm and melody is the only focus, and it is clear that the band relish the challenge and thrive in the new-found space they have created for themselves.
Opening with Oh, Honey, I Ain’t Made of Money (which will hopefully be picked up by radio stations as the first single) and Trouble it is a remarkable introduction. The songs burst with energy and reveal some accessible, erstwhile lyrics about money, getting on with everyone around you and joining the army.
Slumming bounces along and almost feels like a Clash song in parts (…almost) as it talks about bad hair and fashion and the fickleness of trends “…don’t put the same saddle on the horse/pissing on the past wont get you ‘round the course”.
Uneducated Guess follows a more typical verse/chorus song structure, and even though there are only two instruments there is a tremendous depth to the song. The vocals and the guitar work around each other in the lead up to a great sing-a-long chorus.
Some of the songs, take Boys and Girls and Where Was I? for example, seem to be possessed by the spirit of the Melbourne rock and roll scene from years passed, and would not sound out of place on an Albert Records release.
The album has already shifted through several gears before it hits Always. A subtle, subdued track it highlights how well the Whats have embraced the concept of a two-piece and moulded it into a new form. However, the highlight is the last track. Ziney Anecdotal is a terrific song. It shimmers and sparkles in all the right places. The guitar chords seem to cascade around you during the chorus. The drums don’t merely mark time, they add colour and emphasis to the song.
This album is a reminder that honest, three chord rock can still be entertaining and engaging, and relaxed but passionate. Clearly, the Whats have stumbled across something right. It would be a shame if this were the band’s only release. It would be criminal if they didn’t tour on the back of the album.