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Interview with Dan Bibby & the Aesthetic Knobs
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I think the task of creating something out of nothing is always something that has appealed to me. With music, it takes things that one step further, and you’re creating something that you can’t even lay your hands on when it’s done. My dad is also a huge music fan, and he would always put Bon Jovi or Queen on in the car and crank the volume. It’s possible that that was my introduction to rock music, and seeing how passionate someone could be about it really spurred me on.
If I’d never started making my own music, then I’m sure I’d have ended up filling my time with at least something creative. I was (and still am) fascinated with a lot of media-based things as I was growing up, so I more than likely would have gravitated more towards one of those.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I love a good story. The medium it comes in almost doesn’t matter. I read books/comics, watch TV, play videogames – any way I can consume a story then I’m willing to give it a try. I’m currently having a go at some creative writing of my own.
I’d say all of these things contribute towards my lyric writing. It might not be a direct influence, but the structure and delivery of a narrative or message, no matter how loose, needs to be compelling. I think we live in a golden age of storytelling, and we’ll never be able to experience every tale that’s out there. But it doesn’t stop me giving it a try.
How long has your band been around?
We’re coming up to 5 years. I’m really happy with our progress, especially with losing over a year to covid. It sucked that live music was taken away during that time, but now we’re trying to make up for lost time.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We’re split between counties, but we’re in the North West of England. It’s tough to say whether or not where we are has had an impact on our sound. What I will say is that of the few music scenes that we’ve been able to dip our toe into, it often felt like it didn’t run too deep. I think that lack of a sense of musical community may have motivated us to make the best music we can – to make something that made us proud without caring too much about what our peers thought.
We’ve been playing shows further afield lately, and weirdly we feel much more connected now to bands halfway across the country that we ever did to the ones closer to home.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
It came from our first rehearsal. Jay was trying out on bass, as he was the last one to join. He couldn’t work out how to turn on the amp in the practice space, and all the knobs and dials weren’t doing anything to help. One of us called them aesthetic knobs, and we laughed that it sounded like a band name.
Our name is pretty wordy, but the fact that people in some circles have just started referring to us affectionately as “The Knobs” makes us feel quite welcome and accepted. I think shorthand does that for a lot of things – it breeds familiarity.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
We’ve never had a bad show at Outpost in Liverpool. The sound guy is so talented, the room itself is a great shape, and the beer and pizza contribute towards a stellar night and atmosphere. North Shore Troubadour was also a random find in Liverpool, down by the docks. The stage was probably the biggest we’ve played so far, and we could see the entire crowd – that was cool.
The Old Courts in Wigan also deserves a shoutout. A beautiful venue, and everyone there does an awesome job of running it.
Bigger venues are something on our horizon, I think. We’ve had a few grazes with bookings for the one of the Academies in Manchester. Playing there would be amazing feeling – performing on the same stage as many of our heroes have too.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
This is a very tricky question! There’s that whole never meet your heroes adage to consider when you think about this kind of thing. For me, and anyone who knows me at all will know the answer to this, but a show with Green Day would be the ultimate dream for me. I just love those guys.
There are obviously others, but for me, the main thing is that I have Hagrid, JB, and Pete there with me. I love my band, and that’s when I have the most fun.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
It depends what their goals are. If it’s something they want to do with the rest of their lives, then the answer is simple. It’s the same thing as with any creative endeavour.
Do the work. It won’t do itself.
It’s all well and good dreaming of the finished product, doing all the fun stuff at the end of a long journey. But none of that is possible without hours and hours of hard work, second-guessing yourself, going a little insane. It’s all part of the process, and without it, nothing happens.
My younger self was probably told that by someone or other, and to be honest I wish I’d listened more. How receptive you are to advice differs from person to person. It’s easy to think you know it all, but it’s vital to be aware of the fact that you damn well don’t. And probably never will.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Defeat Dance is a big one for me. It’s the first “new” song that we worked on as a four-piece. Yeah, it was a hangover from my previous band, but we made it our own. Everyone put their own stamp on it immediately, and it was easy to see that we were going to work well together. It was the cornerstone of our first EP, and the reason that the other 3 tracks on there were written. It was a song that didn’t deserve to be alone.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Try To Keep Up is a super fun one to play. There are mixed emotions about it amongst the band because it can be quite tricky, especially after a few beers, but it’s so full of raw energy. I think Warning Shot is probably the song that’s most-awaited in the set. It can be difficult to decide where to place it sometimes. It makes a great opener, closer, anywhere you put it, it works. It was the first song we’ve put out as a single ahead of a release, so it tends to get a little more attention because of that.
I don’t think there’s a song in our set that I don’t enjoy playing. That makes it hard, because we’re getting to the point where we have too many songs to play all in one go, so we have to cherry-pick them each time!
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Our process has evolved over time. It used to be that I’d bring in a demo into practice that I’d spent ages refining. I’d basically say to everyone, “play that.” However, they’d always improve what I’d recorded, so I that kind of fell by the wayside. I have this running joke with Jay (bass) that he’s basically like that meme from Always Sunny where Dennis is throwing away the Mac & Cheese that Mac hands to him. I’m Mac, he’s Dennis, and the Mac & Cheese is the bassline I’ve written for him to play.
Now, more often than not, a song will start off as a really stripped back acoustic demo that gets sent around. Then we all add our own parts to it in the practice space. That has led to much more creative freedom, and a better end result overall.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Mental health struggles are a big talking point lyrically for us. I’ve also noticed that I write a lot about feeling like I’m short on time, or that I wish I had more time to achieve what I want to achieve. I find it semi-ironic that I then spend a lot of that time working on something as all-encompassing as being in a band. I guess the overall message ends up being that all the barriers you throw up for yourself are possible to overcome, it just takes a little extra brainpower.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Yes. To be honest, they tend to crop up more and more recently – and I see that as a great thing. Mostly. It shows that we’re all passionate about the projects we involve ourselves in, and that we care about the end result. The topics we quarrel over can range from anything between how long a chorus should last, all the way to what colour the poster should be for an upcoming show.
Things can get pretty heated, but never they never get anywhere near the area of us falling out over it. We’re all friends first, and I think that’s why there’s such an open atmosphere of discussion in the band when it comes to creative direction. We tend to just hash it out until we come up with a solution where everyone agrees it’s as close as possible to the objectively best choice.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We have a really busy year. We’ve been working on our first full-length release since late last year, so we’re getting on with that. It’s sounding great, if I say so myself. It’s an awesome opportunity to spread our wings a little more, rather than cramming all of our energy into 4 or 5 songs.
We’re also going on tour this summer. One of those shows is our 5-year anniversary at Outpost in Liverpool. We’re reuniting with some of our favourite bands we’ve played with for each of those gigs and I can’t wait for the party we’re going to find ourselves in the middle of.