Living in a small town in the North-East of Scotland could prove to be difficult for aspiring musicians – but Forres band Be Like Pablo continue to prove it can be done as they release their new single and they gear up to open the main stage at this year’s Belladrum festival.
With a shiny new line-up introducing two of their childhood friends, they now finally have a complete band and are bursting with enthusiasm about their new projects. The band now consists of Ewen Watson [vocals/guitar/synthesizers], Ross Watson [guitar/vocals], Karen Johnston [synthesizers/vocals], Jamie Murphy [bass/vocals] and Andrew Stepien [drums].
I met up with them ahead of their hectic summer including Belladrum, Wickerman, Speyfest, a Summer Showcase at the Ironworks, and Jocktoberfest.
They recently launched the video for their new song ““Without the Pain”” which captures the band enjoying a fairly lively house party. As with all of their other work to date, they kept everything as true to their personalities as possible, including using their own friends as extras.
Karen: It was traumatising, it was my house!
Ewen: We spent a day setting stuff up, and taking it down. We managed to keep everything from getting destroyed – apart from the wall. It got completely wrecked.
Ross: After every take it was a mess but we had to make it look like there hadn’t been a party. There were a few takes that were getting quite risky, like out of hand.
Karen: The flamethrower was on the ground at one point…
Andrew: Someone tripped over all the lights and pulled them all out.
Ewen: I pretty much missed the whole video shoot, because I just had to sit and face the camera I had no idea what was going on behind me.
Karen: Did you not get drink poured down your back?
Ewen: I got a drink poured down me and I was very close to the flare at one point. I think it was probably the best video we’ve got though. It didn’t feel forced in any way. Everything from the posters, to the people in the background – they’re our friends. It was very personalised.
They describe their music as being “power pop” or “punk music for nerds.” They noted that some people have criticised them for making music that just appears to come across as “fun”, therefore could lack any depth. In today’s industry there are a lot of bands who take themselves very seriously; Be Like Pablo bring something fresh and truly unique to the table.
Guitarist, Ross Watson explained “our music is very accessible and can appeal to so many different people. With a lot of us working in schools and stuff, the kids in my class love it. Whereas if I were to be in heavy metal band or something, not so much.”
With an eclectic range of influences including The Beach Boys and Weezer it seems only fitting that lead singer, Ewen Watson, has a unique manner for writing.
Ross: Don’t you write a lot when you’re driving?
Ross: It say’s a lot for your driving. One time Ewen decided he wanted to write a summer song, in the middle of November. So he got on the shorts and t-shirt then turned the heating right up to recreate the summer feel.
Ewen: It worked! Another time I decided I wasn’t going to shave until I had written a song.
Ross: Two months later, he still didn’t have a beard or a song.
Ewen: One day I sat down and wrote one of our “big hits” as we like to call them, ‘Julianne’ so I could shave!
After a lineup change they’re set for one of their busiest summers yet, they discussed the introduction of Andrew and Karen and the effect this has had on them as a band:
Ewen: We always wanted Andrew in the band. His first gig was live on Radio Scotland for Vic Galloway’s show.
Andrew: I hadn’t played drums in three years and they gave me a month to practice! I didn’t eat for ages.
Ross: Karen’s gone from never even thinking about being in a band, to playing the main stage at festivals…
Karen: Yeah, considering in the beginning I was told there wouldn’t be any festivals, it was going to be a quiet summer.
Ross: It’s really good to have a full line up now, we’ve always had a session drummer before so it makes it easier for recording and gigs.
Andrew: I’m surprised it took you so long to ask me into the band actually. I knew you were going to…
As a band they don’t really set major goals, other than to promote themselves and get their music heard by more people. Ewen explained: “I think our only goal really is just to self improve. I think if you get to that stage where you can’t better yourself, that’s a bad thing. There should always be room to better what you’re doing.”
Despite coming from a town in Moray better known for its beautiful landscapes than its musical talent, Ross notes: “The opportunities up here are actually really good, we have Rockness and Belladrum on our doorstep. A lot of places don’t have such high profile music festivals. Also, we have the Ironworks in Inverness which is kind of like a hub for all music up here – it’s quite good that it’s all centred round there. Terrible access to Glasgow and Edinburgh though in terms of travelling, so I guess that’s a disadvantage.”
Jamie added: “With having everything online as well, there’s just as much opportunity up here as anywhere else – in terms of promoting and marketing. There’s not many bands round here so we stand out. Although, when we say we’re “Be Like Pablo from Forres” they don’t ask about the band they say ‘where’s Forres?’”
It’s less than a month now until Belladrum, where they have the honour of opening the main stage on Saturday. They have previously played the festival on a smaller stage but are looking forward to the step up and soaking in the festival experience. Make sure to head along to see how they party in Forres.
Wickerman Festival (goNORTH Stage)
Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival (Main Stage)
Ironworks Summer Showcase (Inverness)