A couple of weeks ago I had the joy of spending time with half of UK country-rock band Boxes. I spoke with David (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Josh (electric guitar) to find out more about how lockdown is treating them, their unusual talents, biscuit-eating habits and – of course – what made them country.
So what have you been up to?
DAVID: We’ve just released an EP called Why Don’t You Listen at the end of March, this has come off the back of a year of being a solid group – Boxes has been in existence for two to three years but in its current form it’s been a year. It’s an amalgamation of some old songs and some newer songs. It’s the first five that I ever wrote, which means it’s five of the classics, but it also means that if you enjoy this stuff, then you’ve got a lot better music to look forward to!
JOSH: we’re already writing stuff that we’re keen to record, it’s obviously a long process but the new stuff is sounding really exciting.
DAVID: Evolution-wise we’re getting more into Americana and the country-rock elements; on the last EP you’ll notice there are some more Americana songs such as Fragile and Electric Lights, but then there’s some which have more indie-pop elements like Let Me In. The new music coming out probably has more of an Electric Lights vibe to it. The idea was to release this EP and get gigs from it but due to COVID-19…
JOSH: we had a lot lined up, but what happened, happened – it was shaping up to be quite an exciting few months but now we’ve got a lot of time to work on other stuff so it’s not all bad.
How has the enforced downtime been for your writing and creativity?
DAVID: I’m not very good at concentrating on anything in life, any distraction which comes up I’ll just do it so writing for me is – well, I don’t really force myself to write. I guess everyone’s different but I’ll never just sit in my room and be like ‘right, I’ve got to write this song, I’ve got a day or a weekend’ – I just let them happen.
Writing has happened in this period but I’m not forcing myself to finish anything or to write any new stuff, just if it happens, it happens.
JOSH: we’ve also recorded some bits as well, haven’t we, just some basics.
DAVID: yeah we’re not wasting time as such, we’ve recorded demos for next time we’re in the studio. Josh is a sound engineer so it helps not only being the lead electric guitar player in the band, so if we need to do any rough recording we’re well versed!
Do you have a process for writing songs? Or do you just let whatever happens, happen?
DAVID: Well I know you’ve got to continue writing songs, but I don’t force myself to a deadline, I never give myself a deadline to finish a song. So we released the EP, there were already a few songs in my head during that period and I’ve completed those songs. Since the EP’s come out I’ve had a few people ask me if I can help them write songs or join writing sessions but I don’t really have a structure!
JOSH: “It happens when it happens” – we’ve had stuff like Fighter that we’ve played live for some time and that’s been a very gradual process of adding bits incrementally, seeing if we like them and if they work, and going back or expanding on them further.
DAVID: I think that’s the one thing I’ve tried to improve on, the ones on the EP, apart from Why Don’t You Listen, they need the other instruments for it to feel like a real song, whereas the stuff I try to write now, if I play them solo or if we play them as a duo, you could still entertain with those songs. That’s come across in the virtual singer-songwriter rounds we’ve been doing, we’ve been playing some new songs there and they’ve always gone down really well.
JOSH: it really depends on the song as well; each one is a different process and we take influences and inspiration from all sorts of places but yes – it’s always fun, it’s interesting seeing where it goes.
Where does that influence and inspiration come from? How did you get into making country music?
DAVID: A few people have asked this, people of our age probably don’t look to go into country music. It’s probably heavily guided by myself, I’ve always been in bands. I was in bands at university, I’ve always sung songs in loads of different genres. When I was really small I was a swing singer! As I’ve got older I’ve moved away from doing stuff I never wanted to do; the first generation of Boxes was very indie but I was always worried that if we went fully into what I wanted to do we wouldn’t get any gigs or be able to draw a crowd. As I’ve aged I don’t really care what people think, I just want to do music that I enjoy!
I come from a country music background, my mum was a country singer. She’d sing songs like Blanket on the Ground by Billie Jo Spears, Crystal Chandelier by Charley Pride, she didn’t sing but she introduced me to all the classics like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, all the greats. My favourite song growing up was A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash just because it was a funny song. She’d always sing at all the family get-togethers. She’d sing all the classic songs and it kind of sticks with you.
Moving forward you’ll probably see a lot more of those traditional elements in the music. Going forward a lot of our songs are more stories which is kind of the roots of country music.
Five songs to define you as a country fan:
Do you have any hidden talents?
DAVID: I can hula hoop!
JOSH: I’m a really good sleeper, I can sleep for about 16 hours a day, get up and still be tired. It’s probably my favourite thing in the world apart from playing music.
What’s your best purchase?
DAVID: I don’t purchase that much stuff! I’d have to say my guitars. I actually played a wedding gig – I’ve stopped doing it now but occasionally I get asked to play people down the aisle; last year a girl I who used to live in the apartment next to ours used to hear me singing all the time and we passed in the corridor and she said as a joke, ‘if I ever get married I want you to sing me down the aisle’ – and then she got married and I sung her down the aisle, which was nice.
But I dropped the guitar case when the guitar was in it, a proper hard case, I dropped it and snapped the head off it. I think that was the closest I’ve been to crying.
Other purchases? I like my laptop.
JOSH: Football Manager. Investment.
DAVID: Football Manager is good for songwriting! It’s not like an intense game, it’s kind of like a background game. I guitar-slash-Football Manager quite a lot.
JOSH: I buy lots of random stuff. I never really spend a lot of money on one thing, I just buy a lot of tat. One of my favourite things – I’ve got a guitar pedal called an Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork and I like to use that on everything, probably too much. It’s a great pedal. That was money very well spent.
A lot of my guitars have been gifts, the good ones have been bought for me so I’m not going to count them! I bought a really junky guitar for about £100 so that’s my project guitar. I’ve realised at every step I’m going to have to spend more than I paid for the guitar to actually get any one bit of it sorted out, so that’s still in the works!
DAVID: I’m thinking about material things that I’ve bought but I’d say some of the best things I’ve bought have been things you can’t really touch right now, like plane tickets. The last two years I’ve been to America, I’ve visited Nashville, so I’d say the best thing I’ve ever bought was just the chance to jump on a plane with a couple of friends and go over to New Orleans and Nashville.
What about the worst purchase?
DAVID: probably something I’ve broken straight away. I bought some (gig tickets) I can’t use because of COVID-19.
JOSH: What’s the worst takeaway we’ve had? I’ve bought a few things drunk that I think why did I get that.
DAVID: We bought SkyQ as a flat and then we realised our flat couldn’t get SkyQ. I don’t really play online games either, but I bought Playstation Plus where you can play online. I only bought that last week and I’ve not played on it yet, but I just know I’m not gonna ever play on it.
JOSH: Oh I’ve got it. Gym membership!
Pineapple on pizza:
DAVID: I do like oreos. I don’t eat a lot of biscuits because I don’t drink tea or coffee. I’m just not really a biscuit eater.
3 Things you never leave the house without
JOSH: keys, wallet, phone.
DAVID: I never leave the house without my backpack. I don’t mind leaving the house without my phone so I’d say backpack, money, keys.
JOSH: my weird one would be hand sanitiser, plectrums and bottle opener.
Favourite Disney princess:
JOSH: Ariel’s pretty hot. Is she a princess?
DAVID: I might go Ariel.
JOSH: to be fair, Star Wars is now a Disney enterprise so I’m gonna say Princess Leia.
DAVID: the cowboy hat. I always use that on all of our posts. I’m a fan of the side-eye as well.
Who would you rather hug – Voldemort or Gollum?
DAVID: Gollum, probably. I’d give him a little hug.
JOSH: Yeah, I’d go for Gollum.
DAVID: I think Voldemort would scare me.
JOSH: You could overpower Gollum.
Android or Apple?
DAVID: Android for me.
JOSH: I’ve got an Android but I’ll go Apple.
What’s next for Boxes?
JOSH: We’re gonna do some livestreaming.
DAVID: We’ve got some more interviews and podcasts. We’ve got some streams coming up, so on 8th May we’ve got a stream with Bring Country 2 UK on Instagram. And after all this, we are just gonna try and gig gig gig.
Do you have a message for fans?
We’ve gained quite a lot of fans since the EP has come out, so thanks for following us, stay engaged, and we’ll be back live gigging soon so come and say hi!
You can stream Boxes’ EP (featuring the lead single, Electric Lights) on Spotify, and you can follow them online on Twitter @BoxesUK, Instagram @boxesUK and on Facebook. Their 8th May livestream will be with Bring Country 2 UK on Instagram.