British synth-rockers CYMBALS are about to embark on their first ever U.S. tour. For many, coming to visit the good ol’ U.S.A., visions of tall cowboys, thick hamburgers and monolithic shopping malls are ubiquitous. But we thought we’d ask these blokes what their particular stereotypes might be, and the things they’re excited to see that just might warm them up to us loud, arrogant bastards.
Top 10 American Stereotypes
1. Dan Simons, keyboards: Americans are forward. I think a lot of Americans have a level of confidence when talking to strangers, flirting and so on, which is admirable and less common in the UK, at least when we’re sober.
2. Simons: American service. I think I’ve experienced both extremes, with a lot of bar staff being incredibly friendly and helpful, and also some pretty brusque taxi drivers and New York subway staff.
3. Simons: Americans are generous. When we played at SXSW, our friend David was almost ridiculously generous, putting us up, giving us lifts at all hours and keeping the fridge stocked with great beer, wanting nothing in return but the sense that he had supported the festival.
4. Simons: Americans don’t understand irony. I think this is outdated, if it was ever true. TV shows like Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm have a very well-attuned sense of irony. Simon Pegg said something about how Americans understand irony perfectly well, but don’t feel the same need as the British to use it all the time to bury emotion and avoid earnestness, which may be where our confusion comes from.
5. Simons: Americans are arrogant. There’s probably just less of a tendency towards false modesty. It’s not a strong part of British culture to talk ourselves up, so we’re surprised to hear anyone admit to being good at anything.
6. Jack Cleverly, vocals, guitar: You sometimes hear that Americans are stupid. Given that our new record is inspired by a book by an American academic, it’s pretty clear we don’t think this. I think there’s just a supercharged media in the U.S., so a few real idiots get a lot of airtime. But it’s pretty much the same in the U.K. The U.S. is just bigger. More people = more idiots per capita. But then clearly as the U.K. is smaller—less intelligent folk per capita here. Sorry this doesn’t sound very good.
7. Cleverly: Americans think it’s important to self-improve. I live in London, and this is seriously true where we are as well. I guess there’s maybe a Walt Whitman thing about singing yourself, with you as a person being at the vanguard of humanity and creating something new and independent. So maybe there’s some element of truth. Maybe in the U.K. people are more like this in a self-hating way, like really keen to make themselves better because “everything’s shit.”
8. Cleverly: Stereotypes are dumb when applied to the U.S. This isn’t really a stereotype, more of a comment on how hard this exercise feels. The U.S. is so huge and full of so many different ways of being that any kind of stereotype can’t be backed up or rejected in whole. You’re all different—there’s one I guess?
9. Cleverly: Americans can be quite loud. There really is a bristling hair thing on the underground when American tourists are talking quite loudly to each other and everyone else is staring angrily at their feet in disgust at the universe and everything in it. It’s like the crushing pain of how shit everything is really needs silence to make it bearable, and American tourists disturb that delicate calm. Or something.
10. Cleverly: Here’s one of my own. I tend to think that U.S. bands can grow over a longer period of time. In London it’s like one release or you’re out. We’re kind of travelling against that grain, and who knows, perhaps this is what has led us to your cities this summer?
Top 10 Things CYMBALS Wants To See In The U.S.
1. Cleverly: The road. For all Europeans, there’s a romance associated with driving between American cities. I’m hoping for wide horizon lines and some good evening light out the tour bus window.
2. Cleverly: People at shows. Even during our one very brief trip to SXSW and NYC, we felt like there is a different atmosphere at shows in the U.S. In some European cities there seems to be some terror involved in facing up to a live band for some reason, some weird coolness pressure I don’t get. During the shows we played in the U.S., people seemed to give less of a shit about getting involved.
3. Cleverly: The food. The food was incredible at SXSW. Food trucks are better in your country. In the UK there are some great ones, but they tend to be either way too expensive or gross.
4. Cleverly: L.A. I have never been to L.A., so we’re looking forward to going there to play a show. We met the promoter at SXSW through a DJ at KCRW called Travis Holcomb. Travis has been a great supporter of the band and the promoter (Franki at iHeartcomix) is doing exceptional things that we like generally, so this is likely to be a fun one.*
5. Cleverly: Seattle. Similarly in Seattle at KEXP, John Richards has been a great support to us (I think there was some talk at our session of him taking a cut from our first show as he’s probably had a big hand in getting us there). It would be great to meet, and the festival sounds really fun (plus we get to see Chromeo).*
6. Cleverly: A gun shop. It’s such a foreign thing to us, a bit like a zoo with exotic animals. This one is probably more motivated by some weird horror fascination, as the concept itself is so weird to us.
7. Cleverly: Pancakes. The only problem with last time we went for pancakes is that there’s so much food served and there’s the internal pressure to finish it and then you know you’ll feel gross.
8. Cleverly: The bands. We are getting the opportunity to play some shows with bands we’re keen to check out. It’ll be great to see Wunder Wunder, Uma, Donovan Blanc, all those at the festival in Seattle, Astronauts, etc. and more.
9. Cleverly: The experience of constant motion. We haven’t done many long tours (we tend to max out at around three or four dates at a time) because of the practical circumstances affecting us (mainly financial). Being in motion and knowing that you are not settled in a given city is therefore new. Personal anonymity dulls many concerns that can arise in a city where you are known.
10. Cleverly: Repetition and immersion in the songs. Another not exclusively “American” thing, but something that will occur on tour. As I said above, we have never got to the point where we were playing the songs so much that they became boring. So we reach a sweet spot after several days of shows where you can relax, close your eyes and buy into what you’re singing.
* Clearly we’re looking forward to all the cities, but as there are “people on the ground” in those two I’ve mentioned them. Portland, Vancouver, San Francisco, New York and Brooklyn—we can’t wait to see you.
Tour Dates For CYMBALS:
07/18 – Pianos – NYC
07/19 – Glasslands – Brooklyn
07/22 – iHeartComix – Echo – Los Angeles, CA
07/23 – Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco
07/25 – Bunk Bar – Portland
07/26 – Capitol Hill Block Party – Seattle