Album release: A Little Blood by The Whybirds
A Little Blood: The Little Red Recording Co.
Release date: Nov 4 2013
Listen: on official site

When a band with such a unique concept – four people, four singers, four songwriters – loses a member, it’s like losing a limb. Following the amicable departure of Taff Thatcher from the group, the remaining Whybirds – Dave Banks, Ben Haswell, Luke Tuchscherer – had to decide whether they even wanted to continue. Taff could simply not be replaced. Not only as an incredible bass player, wonderful singer and formidable songwriter, but as a friend – after all, the band had been playing together since their early teens.

They solved the problem when Haswell moved from guitar to bass and the band decided to continue as a three--piece. As Ben says: "It was quite a shock to the system. I started playing guitar when I was about 12 and since then I'd always played with Taff next to me on bass. So not only did it feel weird playing a new instrument after so long, but also pretty strange to be playing without Taff. After a while I started to get what I needed to do as a bass player. Playing next to such a good bassist for so long, I guess I must’ve picked up a few things from him.”

With the change in instrumentation, also came a change in sound.

Luke explains: “We couldn’t be the same Alt-Country band with just three of us. The way we write songs would survive, but the way we approached the arrangements had to change.”

To do this, the band enlisted the services of Nick Mailing, who produced their eponymous first record and was instrumental in helping The Whybirds find their sound at the start of their career.

“The truth is,” says Luke, “that it was like starting again. We were essentially having to relearn how to be a band, how to play together, how to communicate with each other. And, like he did before, Nick helped us think in a new way.”

The record is a very different album from their previous releases – 2008’s The Whybirds and 2010’s critically acclaimed Cold Blue Sky – and not just sonically. Thematically the songs are darker, meaner. As Dave says: “Everything good we thought would happen to us leading up to and after Cold Blue Sky just didn’t. The new record is about three guys crashing into their thirties, and realising it isn’t what they thought it would be.”

This universal theme of dreams hitting a brick wall is a thread throughout the album. There are stories of broken promises, battered hearts, and choices having dire consequences. Tales of the dejected, the down and out, the desperate. “A lot of the characters in these songs don’t necessarily have a lot going for them,” Dave laughs. “But for some of them, there is still a little hope.”

The band’s whole methodology in making the record changed too. They worked on arrangements in the studio, rather than testing them on the road. They also launched a crowd-funding scheme through Pledge Music – which saw them reach their target in less than half the time they’d set for the campaign.

The resultant record – A Little Blood – is a monumental step forward for the group. While the stripped back rawness of the arrangements, the heavier music and the darker themes may sound like a different band on paper, in reality it still sounds like The Whybirds. The harmonies are still there. The musicianship. The brotherhood. The songs.

What doesn’t evolve, dies. But it’s not The Whybirds’ time yet.

Reaction to date

"The Whybirds look and sound like The Jayhawks did at their best. All the band members write and all sing their own compositions, and when they harmonise, it's even better... For a while you think they must be fluking it, that the cracks will start to show; but they never do.” - Classic Rock

"Sounding like Bruce Springsteen meets The Who, this English group can ruffle the hairs of both you and your father..." – Rolling Stone (ES) –Top 10 Bands To Watch

“Refreshingly authentic, uncompromising and gutsy” - Rock N Reel

Well written songs played to near perfection, sung and performed with passion, driving each song to a high standard. If the passion and focus remains with these guys, their third album is sure to be a big hit.” - Maverick

“Like Pearl Jam having a fist fight with The Allman Brothers in Don Henley’s back yard” – Americana UK

For some bands, a lineup change is just part of the process. For others, it can be fatal. The Whybirds nearly fell into the latter category.

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