MUSIC INTERVIEW: Fidget and The Twitchers
At Manchester Punk Festival 2023, we had the amazing opportunity to sit down with the seven-piece ska-punk band from Bristol; Fidget and The Twitchers. Although one man down, six of them was plenty enough to get all the gossip. Asking questions they most certainly have never been asked before, meant answers we have never seen or heard. Read on to find out how it went!
Hey guys, thank you for coming and having a chat with me. As you know, this is my first ever interview so instead of something formal, I’d just love to have a chat!
Danny: Don’t worry, this is only our second, maybe third interview ever! So yeah, you do you!
Thank you! So, the first question is one that has always intrigued me. As someone who is always in the crowd and watching bands, I’m always looking up at the stage wondering what it feels like to be up there. Could you describe it?
Danny: Well, it depends. I have a tendency to stare people down. If I notice that someone’s looking at me, I’ll look at them and sometimes, I’ll just keep staring at them. It’s terrible but you’re always gonna win because you’re on stage and they aren’t. But that’s part of the fun for me, I think that if you’re making eye contact with the people, that’s a way of communication. Or it’s just a staring contest [everyone laughs].
Anna: Often, when you’re on stage, the lights are really bright so you can kind of only see shadows of people.
Tom: Sometimes with smaller gigs they’re more nerve-wracking because, you know, you’re either standing on this little tiny stage or no stage at all and you’re looking directly into the eyes of everyone and you’re like, “I wanna impress these people.” Then sometimes when you’re playing like, I don’t know, like a medium stage in a nightclub or something, you can’t see anything.
Hex: The crowd kind of becomes like an entity. Rather than it being individuals who are looking at you making a connection, it’s like you’re performing to this one orb of human excitement and like, it’s quite fun. Exactly as you say, with a good lighting gig and a big stage, it’s actually less intimidating and easier to be yourself on stage.
Anna: But when you look down and people are grooving out, it just feels like the energy is a two-way thing.
Tom: As a fan, we’re all fans right, we spend more time watching bands than playing in our own band, right and as an audience, you get really energetic and you see the band vibe off that.
Oana: In my opinion, sometimes when you see the crowd, it’s not great when it’s not our fan base and they’re all like this [pulls a straight face with arms down to the side, jokingly]. It’s so great when you have people who are really dancing and enjoying the music and you look at them and it’s that exchange. But sometimes even if we’re having the exchange of energy between us on stage and you see those people like [previously mentioned]. I struggle sometimes but Danny is the one looking them in the eyes and like, calling them out [laughs].
Danny: I’ll be like, “Do you not like dancing?” [sarcastically, everyone laughs].
Oana: Do you remember that time you asked that person to start dancing and they were not having it?
Danny: Oh when we were in Wales. There was a skinhead in the corner like [previously mentioned], with a really, really mean face on and I tried to like, coerce them. I knew I wasn’t gonna get it but I tried to coerce them and he just gave me this really unimpressed shake of his head. But I looked back in the next song and he had this beaming smile on his face, so I think I won him over.
Anna: That’s the thing, people assume that you get on the stage and you’re performing and you’re in an established band and you’re gonna have all this confidence, but sometimes you’re having an off day or you’re feeling really anxious and when you can tell people are enjoying it, it really helps.
Hex: Absolutely, but on top of all of that, it is important to remember that everyone expresses themselves differently and some people may have a mobility issue which prevents them from being able to dance a lot. Perhaps they’re more comfortable being seated at a gig than standing. It’s important to remember that and sometimes if you’re playing to an older crowd, they’re not gonna be looking like they’re really getting into it. Like, some of the gigs I’ve played have been to a crowd of people who are all sort of, half are sitting down, and I’m like, “oh god they hate us, we’re bombing, this is going terribly”. But then the gig ends and like 20 people come up to me and are like, “That’s the best show I’ve seen in years” and I’m like “What? Was it? I thought that was horrible” [laughs].
Danny: Actually, can I follow up on that? That very thing happened with the skinhead, he did actually walk up to us after and said they really enjoyed it.
Ben: I kinda move my head around a lot when I’m playing so I don’t always focus on the crowd.
Danny: Ben’s always in his little bassy world [laughs].
Ben: But I do like picking out people in fancy dress. But yeah, maybe I should look at the crowd a bit more.
Anna: I’m normally cross-eyed looking at the top of my saxophone [everyone laughs].
Speaking of stages, who is most likely to go missing just before heading out?
Tom: Ironically, probably be Danny.
Anna: Danny turns up like 30 seconds before we go on.
Danny: Yep. It’s because I know that when I’m about to spend 45 minutes to an hour singing, which is a lot of jumping and compression on your own stomach and therefore messing up your own vocal chords as well. So like, I’m aware that if I haven’t drank enough beforehand, or gone to the toilet enough beforehand, one of those things is gonna have to happen in that next hour [everyone laughs].
So would you be the same person who also goes missing when it’s time to pack all the equipment up?
Danny: Ha! Well I provide some of the vans, so no.
Hex: But I think in this band, more than any band I’ve been in before, everyone pitches in with everything and everyone’s really present and as you say, it’s quite a common thing in bands that the singer will finish the set and immediately they’re gone. Like, what we’ve started having to do is I’ll go up to Danny and say, “Danny, your audience wants to speak to you, let me pack up your gear, you go, get out of here” [everyone laughs], so it’s totally the opposite problem to most bands. But yeah, because we’re all such good friends and we all wanna spend as much time together and speak to each other as much as possible, everyone just ends up helping each other out. It’s a good feeling.
Danny: And we don’t like watching each other struggle anyway. Well, maybe a little bit.
Oana: It’s funny because in our band, in a way, Tom is like the vocalist with a microphone, because you can just put your trumpet in and you’re done. But instead, Tom always helps me with drums.
Tom: You know what, I don’t mind helping you at all, it’s just something you do. I think the other thing with us is we’ve got quite good at this because when you’re a seven-piece ska band with loads of different instruments and, you know, keyboards and flutes and thing like that, you’re a pain in the ass for the sound engineer [laughs]. So when you’re finished, it’s like we wanna bugger off as quickly as possible so they can get on with the next band.
How did you guys feel when you found out you were going to be playing Manchester Punk Festival?
Oana: Really excited. I was contacting Andy back and forth because we’re good friends. I was telling these guys about it, how I really like the festival and we have lots of friends in Manchester as well.
Danny: We were also a tiny bit surprised because I had already poked Andy this year when we were doing our festival application and he said “You’re on the list but we have too many backups,” so we thought that was the last of it. But then a month after, Oana was like “We’ve got Manchester Punk Festival” and I was like “No way” [slams hands on the table].
Anna: Coming here it’s just been from day one, so fantastic and progressive with the bands that represent so many different things. It’s just really exciting to see such a bright present and future for punk and how people are taking it to be united, and to keep pushing for the change we want to see in society.
Danny: It feels like you’re in your tribe.
Absolutely. Have you ever played anything similar to MPF?
Danny: We played Rebellion last year. It is very different and I’m not even gonna attempt a comparison. But this seems like more of the right place for us to be.
Tom: I mean, we gig more frequently than what you’d think for a ska band. We’ve played with some quite heavy bands like Migraines and we’ve played the Insider Festival, that was a punk festival. We’ve played Wreckage in Exeter. So yeah, it’s not really unfamiliar to us to be the fun band of the evening.
Danny: The novelty act, so to speak [laughs].
Tom: But yeah in truth, it would be nice to get on tour with a ska band.
Well, that leads to my next question, if you could tour with anyone, who would it be?
Anna & Oana: Streetlight Manifesto [shouted in unison].
Danny: I’d like to tour with Faintest Idea, I think that would be fun.
Oana: Sneak Eazies as well.
Tom: Yes, we are heavily influenced by them. When I joined this band I said to Danny, don’t ever expect me to play anything like Streetlight Manifesto cuz I’m not that good enough, and like maybe three or four years later I’m like, getting there [laughs].
So you’ve chosen the band you want to tour with, now what’s your dream venue?
Tom: Europe. All over Europe. I mean America would be cool.
Danny: I mean, I don’t know anything about Australia but I’d like to go there and play some music. That sounds amazing. One thing I’ve always had as a little fantasy if you’d like would be to tour the French Alps during the ski season, because I’ve done many ski seasons where there were lots of bands touring. They were all cover bands who all played the same songs and it was quite boring by the end, and it’s just an amazing place to do a tour I think. Probably very difficult to get around though [laughs].
Hex: But yeah do we have a dream venue that we’d like to play?
Danny: I think the Underworld in Camden would be awesome.
Hex: Wow we are not aiming as big as I expected [everyone laughs].
Oana: The Eden Project [everyone agrees].
Danny: Or Whiskey A Go Go, that would be incredible.
Anna: Somewhere in Tokyo supporting Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.
Hex: That would be a show [everyone agrees].
Anna: I think we’ve got our eye on some European festivals or maybe Slam Dunk.
Danny: That would be great.
Tom: Basically if you’re reading and run a festival, we’ll play.
I know you’ve mentioned Streetlight Manifesto being an influence for your work, but who would you say is your biggest?
Danny: I think we’re all too ADHD and short-term attention span to pick one thing and absolutely stick with it, which I firmly believe is a good thing.
Anna: I think that’s what makes our music spicy, is that we’ve all got really different and varied influences with a lot of crossovers, which means we can put them all together.
Hex: I mean like, you listen to a lot of jazz [points at Anna], you listen to a lot of metal [Tom], you listen to punk [Danny] as do you [Oana]. I listen to a lot of electronic. Your taste [Ben] is very difficult to describe. It’s like a fusion of all these different influences that brings music together to make it more interesting and add more layers to it, and I think that’s something that we are very privileged to be, born in a time where we have access to generations and generations, decades of music from all over the world in all different styles. Like, if you’re looking at the punk scene of the 70s, there was a very unique kind of sound to that, because most of what people listened to was quite limited by what they had access to. Now if I’m like, well in the morning I could listen to some Mongolian throat singing and in the evening I could listen to some Berlin techno, so the fact we’ve all got access means we can combine that and create new music which is very hard to define.
Danny: At the end of the day, if all you listen to is one kind of music and you’re trying to make music, that’s what you’re gonna sound like.
Anna: Historically, ska punk and ska is kind of a genre that borrows influences from all kinds of music anyways, so it’s an easy fit to be able to bring those in.
[Whilst I was checking back at the questions, the band were talking about a time when someone mistakenly misspelt their name…]
Danny: So our name has been misspelt a couple of times by some people. Naming no names, a certain festival when they put our photos up, named us as Fidget and The Spinners and it was quite funny because we had at least fifteen comments on it saying “Have you not even read the name of the band before you posted the pictures.” [laughs]
So from here on forward, you’re now going to be called Fidget and The Spinners. Speaking off, that leads to my next question, where did the name come from?
Danny: Well I’m Fidget. I was in between names because I thought of a couple of bad ones and then I was like I need to find one that’s gonna solidify and seems right. I was driving to work and I was on about an hour’s drive and I was sat there in some traffic, not going anywhere, thinking about it over and over in my head, not that one, not this one… and all this time while I was thinking about it I was like I wish I could stop fidgeting. Then I was like what goes with that, that the rest of them could be and then it was like, ta-da and then literally as I thought of that, I texted all of you like this is what we’re called now and that’s it, done [everyone laughs].
Tom: It was the one time where we all agreed on something like straight away. But what I didn’t know at the time was, well I told my dad that we’d finally settled on a name for the band and he said “What like bird watchers?” I didn’t know that a twitcher was the old slang for bird watcher, but we didn’t know that when we actually started calling ourselves that. Funnily enough, not that many people mention it so it’s fine.
Danny: Most people that mention the name actually, they’ll go “Oh Fidget and The Twitchers, I love that name, it’s really great” and I’ll go “Have you got ADHD?” and they’ll go “Yeah” and I’ll go “That’s why” [laughs].
So, did you have any other names for the bands, ones that never made it?
Tom: We were first called Captain Enthusiast because our first show was in Bristol, in fact, we were called Not A Clue when we were playing our first gig. There was this guy, bless him, who’d had some substances that were clearly effecting him very heavily, because I got my trumpet case out, I opened the case and he was like “YEAHHH MUSIC” and he was like three centimetres away from my face, screaming in my face. Then at one point, he was on our side of the microphone, videoing us and I look up at the screen and there’s someone in a hospital bed sat there and it was just crazy. So we named that guy captain enthusiastic so we briefly called ourselves that, we played about three shows as Captain Enthusiastic and then we went to something else I’ve forgotten.
Danny: I’ve been asked to think of an alternative name for us for a compilation CD we might be doing and the one I thought up was Fister and the Twiglets, which has stuck a little bit [doesn’t sound like the band agrees].
What is the songwriting process like for you?
Danny: It starts with me most of the time, because I was writing songs before I even met any of these guys and I’d write them on an acoustic with a general feel for the song in mind. Then we would fatten it out. That’s generally how it works. We’re trying to branch out like we’re planning on all being more involved with the songwriting process, but I’ve still got a lot of backup of songs that I’m like “I’ve already written these, we should do these ones,” but that’s generally how it works.
Ben: We all come up with a lot of structural little ornaments, like the other day I was trying to come up with a bass thing and I couldn’t figure it out, but we actually ended up using it for a horn part.
So do you come up with the lyrics first or the beat first?
Danny: Every time I write a song, it’s different. Some songs will come to me as a hook and I’m like “That’s kinda cool let’s see if I can pick up the guitar and play along to that,” and then sometimes those are the real magic ones, because the rest of it writes itself in my head. So like once I’ve come up with that bit and where the music goes, the rest of the words just fall into place.
Hex: It’s the same for some of the melodies. Like sometimes Danny will come to us with the bare bones of it and we’re like “Okay we’re thinking of maybe having a riff here” and then immediately, or even sometimes, all three horns will go “I know how this goes,” and it can often feel, not like we’re creating a song, but like we’re discovering a song like it already exists out there and we’re just like channelling it in some way.
Tom: It’s quite fun as a trumpet player to work with something that kind of already exists. You know like, in general, horns can be quite a lead instrument, but having a song that’s already got vocals in it helps you to think, to look and step back from a song and think “Right, what can I do here that’s gonna really make this pop or exciting.” But if you give me a blank canvas, I’ll come back like 24 years later with some crazy, multi-genre piece.
Danny: I’m also getting a bit better at realising that. Like if I’ve got a song with some specific bits in mind, I will try and funnel it in like “This is what we wanna do.” I won’t always tell everyone exactly what to do, but sometimes I’m like “Sorry it has to be this way” [laughs].
Oana: But at the same time, I really like that Danny has always been really open with stuff. Like even as a drummer, sometimes I’m like “This needs a breakdown right here, it could be amazing” and I’ll say “Can we just try it once?” and they’re like “Okay okay let’s try it” and then they say “Actually this is good” [everyone laughs].
Danny: Yeah, I’ll never outright just say no. I’ll at least say let’s give it a go, because there’s only one way to find out.
Anna: I mean, we usually write out our own part and Danny mostly writes the vocals.
Danny: Yeah, I don’t know how to make saxophone noises like Anna.
Ben: Sometimes there’s like a voice note on the band chat and it’s just a bunch of noises [everyone laughs].
Danny: Yes, decode my hummings.
If you guys had the opportunity to swap with another member of the band, which instrument would you pick?
Tom: I’ve done vocals before. If we were doing a little swapsies, I would steal the vocals because that’s easier [Danny’s face said otherwise].
Danny: Would you know all the lyrics though?
Tom: Nah, but you just say the same verse over and over don’t you?
Oana: That’s actually something I really wanted to do like, if all of us changed instruments on stage, maybe it would happen, maybe not, but I would probably just pick guitar.
Ben: I think drums look like fun. I would probably swap to that, but I don’t think I’ve much skill there but that’s one of the things I’d enjoy.
Anna: I think I’d like to pick up the bass because I’m a big fan of groove, groovy music and Ben’s got so much of that like, can I absorb some?
Danny: Hex, you’re not allowed to answer this question, because you basically play three or four things anyways [everyone laughs].
Hex: I think we could use a hurdy-gurdy player [laughs]. I don’t know actually. I mean, I am currently trying to learn the bass for the songs, because Ben is a very very busy person so having a backup bassist could be quite useful, so that’s what I’m working on at the minute.
Tom: Hex is the type of person to always be carrying at least one percussive instrument on them.
Hex: I’m actually carrying a harmonica [plays the harmonica]. I like to always have music with me, it’s nice to be able to play whenever I go and because I’ve got such a short attention span, if I’m left alone for 5 minutes I’m like “AHHH.”
Now you always will be musicians but if you weren’t, what would you be?
Tom: When I was a teenager, the main thing I like to think kind of saved me was, well we’re all outcasts, we’re all weirdos right? And most people in this music scene don’t feel like they fit in and you hear this music and you’re like “Yeah that’s what I feel, I’m pissed off at the fact I don’t fit in”, so as a teenager, music was always the one thing that helped me but sport was another. Like, playing rugby, running into people twice your size made you feel empowered.
Danny: I would be a miserable chef. In Cornwall, hating all of my friends [jokingly]. No, I would definitely be a miserable chef though.
Oana: I will be doing conservation of historic buildings because I study architecture anyway.
Hex: Well I’m sorry we got in the way of your dreams [everyone laughs]. It’s impossible for me to think of what I’d be doing if I wasn’t doing music, because I accidentally do music all the time, even if I’m not trying to. So I can’t imagine a world where I’m not constantly making music. I guess other forms of art could scratch that itch to some degree.
Ben: I still don’t really know what I wanna do or would do. I’ve trained to be a nurse just in case the world ends. Good to have some skills [everyone laughs.] I’d probably work with animals, something helpful.
Anna: I’d be doing research in biology, that’s what I studied as well, but this is just too much fun.
Speaking of the world ending, if there was a zombie apocalypse, what’s your weapon of choice?
Oana: Drum sticks [sighs of disapproval from the others]. A broken drumstick that’s sharp.
Danny: I always really liked the baseball bat with the nails through it, because not only are you never gonna run out of ammo but it looks awesome.
Tom: I mean what sort of zombies are we talking about here is it like slow, dumb zombies or are they sprinting fucked up zombies?
Tom: I’m gonna stick with my trumpet then, I’ll try and distract them. I’ll be like the pied piper of zombies. I’ll get on like a bike and cycle around.
Danny: I’ll always make sure I’m around you then cuz they’ll chase you and then I’ll get away nice and easily.
Ben: Maybe just a sword.
Hex: Flame thrower. 100%. A flame thrower.
Danny: But you’ll run out of ammo.
Hex: Well you can make flammable liquids out of things.
Tom: Maybe let’s not give a recipe for that [everyone laughs].
Anna: I was gonna say if you can’t beat them, join them.
Danny: You never know what it’s like being a zombie, it could be lovely. Maybe it’s all just one big social club, “And tomorrow, brains”.
So this is my favourite personality question, I truly believe your answer says a lot about you. If you were a flavour of soup, what flavour would you be?
Tom: Probably minestrone, because it’s just got a bunch of random shit which doesn’t make sense in there.
Oana: I don’t know enough British soups, but I had one from Asda it was I think mascarpone it was a combination of tomato soup and like cheese? I can’t remember, I’ll just go for mushroom soup instead [laughs].
Hex: Straight-up, miso soup.
Ben: Cheese soup. Like a fondue.
Anna: I’d probably be a lentil, slightly spicy soup.
Danny: Has everyone else answered, cuz I’ve got mine [uncontrollable excitement], because you’ve asked a chef this question so you’re gonna get a chef-y answer. So I would be a consommé. Which is a soup that appears very simple when you first look at it because it’s a clear broth, but it is actually very difficult to make and it contains a lot of ingredients [everyone laughs].
Oana: This makes me realise how little I know about soups.
Danny: Don’t worry, it’s all obsolete knowledge.
Hex: Yeah it’s soup-erficial.
One last question and then we’re all done. Is there anything you’d like to add, anything you feel needs to be heard?
Anna: More diversity in punk, which is a beautiful thing that we’re seeing here but we’ve still got some way to go. It’s amazing seeing bands like The Restarts.
Danny: I also didn’t intend for this, I mean maybe I kind of half did, but I didn’t intend for this to be part of our message at the time, but I feel like every time we play this song we kind of preach a bit of polyamorous positivity, which doesn’t seem to be a subject I’ve seen touched on much by bands or art in general. It’s something which three of us are in and I feel it’s something quite close to our hearts.
Tom: Sexual liberation for everyone.
Anna: One thing, it doesn’t matter what you chose to be but whatever you choose for yourself, in gender or sexuality or relationship styles, should be a decision and not just the default that society tells you. Empowering people to make those choices is a beautiful aspect of what music can bring.
Tom: And I think speaking as just a generic, cis-gender male, who recently got into a polyamorous relationship, I think it’s up to us to try and make those changes. The whole point of this music is that we don’t fit into moulds, we’re all weirdos.
Finally, can you leave us with any words of wisdom?
Anna: Don’t be a dick.
Danny: Everything in moderation, especially moderation.
Oana: Don’t mix too many beers this weekend.
Ben: It’s beetle month next month so watch out, they’re really scary.
Tom: If you wanna play in a band and you’re not in a band, just make a band.
Hex: You don’t need to know how to play, to play. You don’t need to know how to sing, to sing. You don’t need to know how to dance, to dance. These are activities that are fundamental to the human experience and are a way we can celebrate joy and be together in a community, and engage in creative expression that should not be reserved for “artists.” It is something that everyone needs to do in order to have a fulfilling life in my opinion and I hate to see people come up to me and say “oh I can’t sing”. Everyone can sing. You can. Allow yourself that freedom and stop scrutinising yourself to such a degree that you’re preventing expression.
Danny: I think what some people mean when they say that is “I don’t think I can do this to a standard where I can sell it” and that’s not the point. That is not the point. You do it to enjoy it.
Hex: It’s expression first and anything else comes after.
Anna: Also big up Emily, our best friend and manager who makes all of our merch by hand, screen prints it and supports us and keeps us all sane. She’s amazing.
Danny: She has spent the last three days printing and ironing, I couldn’t tell you the actual amount, but she’s got a pile of about 500 looming over her that she’s just chipped away at.
Hex: We would not be here without Emily.
Well guys, thank you so much for spending some time with me today and if you get a chance to enjoy Manchester, go to Afflecks.
All of them: Absolutely.
Interview by: Sian Connolly