Fulfilling the stereotype of a Rock ’n’ Roll musician perfectly, it took Bobby Anderson – band member of Yes Rebels – quite a while to respond to the doorbell and open his door. With a boyish appearance, he could still easily be asked for his ID card. Stepping outside the door of his three level building on a big quiet street of Hotwells, an area close to Bristol’s trendy center Bedminster and Southville, he smiles sheepishly. Wearing black trousers, a white narrow shirt, and smart leather shoes, his eyelids twitch as they get used to the bright daylight. It was early, half ten. Later, Bobby would explain that he was out the night before, at the Windmill, a Pub and Club, where he works and also sometimes plays with his band. My text message sent an hour earlier woke him up.
As a singer and guitarist of the homegrown Bristolian band Yes Rebels, Bobby has soaked up music since his birth. Born and raised in the quiet town of Guilford close to London, it is a place according to Bobby, “that everyone wants leave”. His mother was a successful jazz and soul musician and he spent most of his childhood and teenage years around music. As a result, music was something he wanted to move away from and he never thought he write music himself. However, when coming to Bristol 15 years ago he did just that. Bobby started performing and gained impressive successes with his first band Fortune Drive, signing a record deal and touring throughout Europe. In this interview we find out about Bobby’s newly founded band Yes Rebels and how he is aiming even higher, while discussing music, life in Bristol and everything in between.
Your mum was in a band Young Disciples, a was a quite well known musician in the acid jazz scene in the early 90’s. How did you experience that during your childhood?
It was quite cool. Because she had no babysitter, most of the summer holidays I was on tour with her. Mainly I went to Europe. I did not see much of the cities because you spend most of your time in the hotel, in concerts or in the bus. I got bored, massively bored. I can remember being outside the stage or alone in the hotel room a lot of times. I can remember the first time I discovered adult channels in the hotel room. Wow, that was amazing, but obviously in a hotel room you need to pay for it and of course when the bill came through, my mum could see what I was watching.
Do you think you have something of your mother’s musical talent in your blood?
I hope so, because she is amazing. Her music is totally different, but I really like it. But I am not sure if I have something of her talent in my genes, but maybe just growing up around her and her music had an effect on me.
You didn’t start playing an instrument and making music until you were 16. Why was that?
I was never into the band thing, because while I was living at home I think I had too much of it. When I moved out of home my mum got me an intern job with a label she had a contract with. While working there I got a bit into music, but it was only when I was injured and I could not play football anymore that I started to play the guitar. I immediately got hooked and started quite quickly to write songs. I sent the tapes with a recording to a friend of mine. He really liked it and he suggested to start a band with him. Then we got the other boys in and everything took off from there.
This band was called Fortune Drive, you had a record deal and it was pretty successful. Why does this band not exist anymore?
Fortune Drive did well. We did kind of Rock ’n’ Roll. Not entirely different from what I am doing now. But we were younger. None of us could really play, so we learnt together as we moved along. In 2006, four years after founding the band, we got signed by a really young label Shy Records, which was part of a much bigger group called 19. The guy found us by being randomly at one of our gigs. He really liked us and asked if we would join his label. But you know, record labels invest a lot of money and you need to sell a lot of CDs to pay the money they invest back and we sold a lot, but for them it was not enough.
When the label dropped us after two years it was a bit of a heartbreak. I guess, you put so much time and energy in it and after such a moment you need to make a decision if you want to pick it up again or do something else. A couple of guys left the band. I decided, shit happens, but you can just live and learn.
And then Yes Rebels came along?
Yes, after that I decided I want to have another band. A band that was mine with music I have in my mind. When Fortune Drive stopped I talked with the Des Rodgers, the drummer and Steve Handover, the bass player, and both were keen to join. This was 2010, but actually we just started with Tom Kuras last August. Before that we had a lot of different guitar players. It was when Tom came that we really kicked off.
How is your music going?
This summer we performed at a lot of local festivals, such as dot-to-dot, harbourside festival and then we are doing something at The Fleece. In March we recorded some songs in our studio. It had the kind of idea of The Mixtapes. But instead of making old fashioned mixed tapes and sharing them offline we put them online and asked the public to share the video and in exchange getting a link to a free download of our music. This worked out really well. After the first release of the video you could see immediately how much interest increased by looking at our Facebook likes or YouTube clicks.
Why is music nowadays so important for you?
I think for me as a songwriter it gives me a release to articulate what is going on in my head. To be able to express yourself is a great feeling. It is also a nice way to connect with people, and of course I love everything about music. I love rehearsing, making music, and having gigs. When I wake up I think about music until I go to bed.
How do you work on your music?
I am the writer and the singer. If there is something in my head I write it down. Sometimes something somebody said the night before becomes a random lyric. The last song I wrote is inspired by a friend of mine, who told me about a girl he met at a cashpoint and the following night with her. At the end of the story we were just saying “Did you just make this up mate?” Out of this experience we developed a story about this guy making up a story about his night and an imaginary girl. Sometimes a melody just gets stuck in my ears and I need to work on it. When I write it down I bring it to the band and then it becomes slightly molded.
Any musical influences?
The Strokes are quite a big influence nowadays. When I was younger it was Jimi Hendrix and The Jam. I listened to them a lot. Also Snoop Dogg and The Notorious B.I.G.. Nirvana was a massive influence on me in the way I thought about writing music. Radiohead are the same. They are not overly obvious, they don’t overstate anything so you can make up your mind and develop it further.
Where would you like to see your music going in five years from now?
It is good if you are financially fine and earn your money with music, but more important is for me that our music means something to other people. I would really hope our music can connect with the audience and they hear in our music how much we love it.
What is the best gig you have played?
Oddly enough the best gig we had was a pub called The Old Bookshop at the beginning of the year. It is a pub and café in North Street, a quite fashionable street in Bristol. For our gig 200 people came and the space was just big enough for 70 people. It was sweaty and sticky and you couldn’t move. It was far away from the biggest stage, but it felt amazing. One place I would like to play on day is Madison Square Garden because it is just so big and really cool.
What do you like about going on tour?
I like being in different places. Maybe it is also from the time where I was young and being on the tour bus. You really get to know the people you travel with who are also into your sort of music.
Bristol has something like the biggest density of musicians in the whole of the UK. Why is Bristol so special for musicians?
I don’t really know. It doesn’t have such a great musical historical like Manchester or Liverpool, but the way it is set up reinforces creativity. Not just within the music scene but the art scene in general. Maybe the size of the city is responsible for that. Bristol is a bit like a little village and you can easily bump into like minded people. There are so many people doing similar things, everyone within and outside the scene is really supportive and so it is easy to get involved creatively. It also sets up an infrastructure.
Bristol is pretty famous for hip-hop and electronic music, but is this also true for Rock ’n’ Roll?
When you first come to Bristol you associate the city with electronic music genres such as Trip Hop or Dub Step, but there are a lot of guitar bands and the scene grows everyday. In the next five years Bristol will be associate with Rock ’n’ Roll as well, I am sure.
Any favorite places in town?
The famous jazz pub The Old Duke of course, because it is my second home. When I was working in the Old Duke my mates and I found out about the spare abandoned second floor. Because we were searching for a place to live we asked the manager if we could make up the place and live there, and he said yes. So we totally renovated the place. My friend and I were living there for seven years and it was great.
In those days I played with my band Fortune Drive in The Old Duke, worked there, partied there and lived there. Most of the times we woke up in our place and had always other people sleeping on our couch. I also like the areas of Bedminster and North Street. I really like the vibe down there. It is similar to Stokes Croft: a little strip with bars and venues and a lot of creative people living around there. There is also The Old Bookshop, one of my other favorites.
Describe your perfect Saturday.
I probably wake up around 10 or 11, have a shower. Maybe I watch a movie or watch a silent football match, while playing some music. In the evening I might go to a friends place and cook some food and then go and play a gig. If I am not playing I am going to see a gig at places such as Golden Lion or The Old Bookshop.
Why do you live in the area Hotwells?
Honestly… it is cheap (laughs). But also Hotwell is close to Southville, where there is everything I need.
Do you have any favorite things here at home?
My piano. A mate of mine saw it in an advert. It was free. Which is great, but it took four guys and one hour to bring it upstairs. I got it tuned by a professional tuner. I called her two weeks after the piano came. I booked her for 9am and I totally forgot about it and when she rang the doorbell in the morning I was totally hanging. She was a very old lady and when she came into my room she just said, “Young man open the window and offer me a tea.” She told me off, but she also told me everything about where the piano came from.
There used to be a factory in Camden and this nice old piano apparently from there. I am slowly teaching myself the piano. It is cool. Another favorite thing in my room is a sign made by a friend of mine for my birthday. It is a light and has the name of my band on the front.
Outside of your music what do you do?
To be honest, nothing really.
What are some of your favorite bands in Bristol?
The Radio Nasties, Idles, The St Pierre Snake Invasion, Peter and the Harmonics, Beyond Rivers, The Cadbury Sisters, and Death Force. There are so many, which I do not even know off the top of my head.
Can you imagine living in Bristol living forever?
I was in a few different places and really like Barcelona, but I can imagine Bristol becoming my home forever.
Photography: Evi Lemberger
Interview & Text: Evi Lemberger