After ten years of blissful guitar noise and hazy melodies, Edinburgh shoegazers Wozniak are calling it a day.
But before they go, they’re leaving us with a final album, ‘Memory Disorder’, and a farewell show in Edinburgh on 2nd December.
Ahead of the release of the album, itm? caught up with Wozniak mainstays Sarah and Simon Cuthbert-Kerr to discuss the new record, that final show and have a look back over the band’s career.
Last things first though and the couple explained why they’re calling time on the band now.
Sarah: “I think that ten years is a nice point to stop. We officially released our first single on Halloween 2013, and ten years feels like quite a good run.
“I guess when we started, it was at a point where shoegaze maybe wasn’t a thing that people were thinking about and all the big shoegaze bands were not active. So the torch was really passed to lower level bands across the world who were just doing their own thing in their own little communities.
“And then over the time we’ve been active all of those big bands have come back. And, I sort of feel we’ve maybe done our bit in terms of contributions to the shoegaze milieu – for lack of a less wanky term!”
Simon: “My much more prosaic response is that it’s just so much hard work now and everybody in the band is so busy with other things.
“We were also all geared up in 2020 to do loads of stuff and then obviously the pandemic happened. We did manage to put ‘Bruises’ out, but we only played one gig in support of it and that just burst the balloon a wee bit.
“I don’t think the creative well has run dry or anything and I’m still noodling away on my guitar thinking, ‘Oh that’d be good.’ But not for Wozniak anymore!
“But I think it’s quite good that we’re ending it while we‘ve still got something to give. And musically, I’m quite happy with what we’ve managed to achieve. There’s nothing really, I’m thinking, ‘oh, if only we’d have had a little more time’.
“For me, there’s also a sense of wanting to actually finish it while it’s still meaningful and that we’re not all sitting thinking ‘oh fuck this band!’ So, it just felt right for a lot of reasons.”
Before finishing, the band have release their third album ‘Memory Disorder’ through their own Morningside Young Team label. This album was recorded over a longer period than their previous records.
Simon: “We had recorded the first batch of the songs by March 2022 and we were working on the next batch. But then there was a period of 12 or 14 months, when it was kind of on ice. So, it’s taken quite a long time to come together, but I don’t think it shows. I don’t think the songs feel stale and they’re still good songs.”
Sarah: “Sometimes I’ve found in the past when we’ve been on quite a short timescale, I lose sight of whether a song’s any good or not because I’m just listening to the component parts in that really detailed way. So, having that time meant I got a bit of a brain break from it and then when I came back to listen to it again, it was like, ‘oh yeah. that’s a good song and this is what I like about it’. Usually, I can’t see the wood for the trees, so that’s been an interesting difference for me this time round.” The couple believe the new album is another step forward for the band.
Simon: “I think it’s still the same basic ingredients. I always talk about Wozniak being a mixture of Slowdive atmospherics and Mogwai dynamics, with some moody textural stuff. So, I think that’s still present on this album.
“But there’s a couple of tracks which are a wee bit different. One song is an acoustic guitar track with Sarah reciting poetry but done in a Wozniak style.
“But, there’s a maybe a wee bit more space on this one. In the past I felt like I was thinking let’s put more guitars and more guitars and I’ll do this, I’ll do that.
“I don’t want to say it’s a bit more mature, but it feels like a band that’s still growing. And that’s quite good again because you don’t want to be getting into the odds and sods that are left over and you just chuck those out as the last record.”
Despite changes in personnel, the basic Wozniak song-writing approach has essentially been consistent over the years.
Simon: “I think the biggest difference is with our bass players. James, our original bassist, played in a very riff-based way and that lent itself to a particular sound whereas Kev plays in maybe a more melodic way.
“And I think that’s still where we are with it, even on this one. I think that at least half the album started off as something that Kev came up with on the bass. So, it’s quite interesting to see that it’s not just me and Sarah having been the dominant force throughout. I think it feels like the band is still in quite a healthy place because everyone’s still contributing.”
Sarah: “I think that diversity of thought is a strength and but it still feels like Wozniak because of the sort of sonic aesthetic and the way that we all play together. That kind of thing is what makes it the band and cohesive, rather than it just being like a random collection of songs written by different people.”
Looking back on their career, the pair acknowledge how crucial the worldwide network of like-minded individuals has been in getting their music heard.
Simon: “That shoegaze scene globally was really a thing that we were able to tap into.
“It’s a really tight knit thing and one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve got from Wozniak is the fact that we have linked in with people all across the world.
“When we first had a band in the mid-90s in Dundee we could barely connect with people across Dundee, let alone connecting with people globally so that’s absolutely fantastic.”
Sarah: “It was amazingly helpful. Stations like DKFM and the now defunct Primal Radio really championed Wozniak from the very first record.
“So the scene was integral to us getting to know other bands and building up those connections, particularly at the start when we were learning how to promote ourselves and release our stuff for sale.”
If the scene helped get the band attention, it never quite managed to push them onto the next level.
Simon: “There’s a handful of influential labels like Sonic Cathedral and Fuzz Club. But we never ever really kind of pushed ourselves to labels, basically because I always assumed that we were a bit too old for it. I think we were quite happy in our own wee niche.
“The fact that we’ve always done it ourselves to a large extent has also not helped us in terms of making connections with the big bands.
“But ‘The Space Between The Trees’ was mastered by Simon Scott from Slowdive. So if 2020 had panned out, we would probably have pushed the Slowdive connection a bit more. We were planning to do gigs with another band that he had worked with called Toothpaste who had also supported Slowdive.
“That was part of the grand plan for 2020, but it just fell away.”
Looking forward to the final gig at the Wee Red Bar, Simon and Sarah have some regrets that they won’t be able to play further afield.
Simon: “We’ve got quite a vocal wee online Wozniak fan group, and we would have loved to have done some stuff for them, but just getting gigs organized is really, really difficult. So, I think it’s Edinburgh and that’s it.
“But we’ll probably try to do a decent quality recording of the show and we might be able to release it for people afterwards.”
In terms of the show itself, the band have a number of things they want to achieve.
Sarah: “We’re trying to showcase the new record, because this is going to really be the only chance we’ll get to play them to an audience. But we also want to play some of the older stuff as we’ve never really played anything off ‘Bruises’ live.
“But I think we’re not going back to the very start as we don’t want to overstay our welcome!”
The end of Wozniak is unlikely to be the last we’ll hear from the current band members.
Sarah: “Simon and I have always played music together and we’ve been together 30 years this year, so I don’t see that as being something that would ever stop for us.
“But I think we might do something quite different and a bit less “bandy”. But we don’t know what yet.”
Simon: “Kev and Drew from the band have already got a side project on the go called Signal Weak and in fact they’re the opening act for the December gig. We thought that was quite a nice way of, not handing on the baton, but giving them a chance to make the next step.”
Looking back the couple have a quiet satisfaction at what they’ve achieved over the last ten years.
Sarah: “When we started Wozniak, I don’t think we started it with any grand ambitions, or really a plan – we just did what we thought came next.
“So we wrote some songs, we thought we’d do some recordings and we thought we’d put the recordings out.
“We took gig opportunities as they presented themselves and even went to Dublin and played a gig.
“We’ve done a lot of cool stuff and met a lot of great people and we’ve got connections all over the world through music.
“So, I think that’s a really positive place for us to finish.”
‘Memory Disorder’ is available on CD and download through the Wozniak Bandcamp.
The band’s final gig, with support from Canaan Balsam and Signal Weak, is on Saturday 2nd December 2023 at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh, tickets available now.